Content marketing is big business. It’s become an industry unto itself, and with good reason. 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content per day and year over year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%).
We’re in the prime of the content marketing rush and using quality content to enhance the customer experience.
But before you can even hope to take advantage of the consumers generating more than 100 billion search queries a month for information, you need a content strategy.
You Can’t Go to War Without a Strategy
You’re not just fighting against your competitors out there. You’re waging a war against every distraction that takes the eyes away from your brand and your content.
That’s why you need a content strategy, and it must be made with surgical precision before you ever put pen to paper. You’ve got to know what direction you’re heading.
You may think you have a content strategy, but is it clearly defined and documented? Could you explain it right now if you were asked to do so?
According to a study by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, only 39% of B2B small business marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. The rest either have a strategy that they have only talked about (47%), have no strategy at all (12%), or are unsure (1%).
That same study also found:
- 39 percent of companies who do have a documented strategy are “more effective in nearly all aspects of content marketing than their peers who either have a verbal-only strategy or no strategy at all.”
- 60 percent of those with a documented content marketing strategy consider their organization to be “effective” at content marketing; only 33 percent of those with just a verbal strategy say the same.
- 62 percent of those with a documented strategy say that their strategy closely guides their content marketing efforts; only 29 percent of those with just a verbal strategy say the same.
- Companies with a documented strategy are more than twice as likely to be successful at charting the ROI of their content marketing efforts than those with only a verbal strategy.
Content marketing by itself isn’t going to suddenly open the floodgates of organic traffic. It has to be employed and deployed strategically.
Creating the strategy doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. You can quickly create your own documented and effective strategy by answering some simple questions, then breaking it down into simple steps.
1. Who is your audience?
This is first and most important component of your content marketing strategy – knowing your target audience. The whole purpose of creating content is to provide value and address the concerns, questions and needs of your audience.
It stands to reason that you should probably know who they are.
That’s why we create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a fictional, generalized representation of who you believe your ideal customer is. With it you’ll understand your customer better, and you can better tailor the content to their specific needs, behaviors and concerns.
It becomes easier to fill the information in as you dig into demographics and psychographics of your audience, representing only a small portion of what you really want to know about your ideal customer. A more detailed persona would look like this. (Note the tabs containing deeper information into the customer thought processes.)
Source: Buyer Persona Institute
You don’t necessarily have to go into this much detail, but it sure can’t hurt. The more you know about your audience the better you’ll be at creating and finding content they’ll love to share and engage with.
2. How does your audience find content?
Now that we’ve identified your audience you need to identify how they search in order to find information on the web. This includes the keywords and hashtags used online through search engines and social media.
Your audience defines everything about your content from the type of content you share, to the substance and style as well as the topic.
The topics you create should come directly from their interests.
- Your audience looks for something online
- You create content based on what they’re looking for
- They come to you for answers, and you gain the organic traffic.
The execution sounds simple because it is. You just need to find out what your target audience is searching for.
Think about your niche and build a seed list of keyword phrases. Avoid anything generic or “top level”. The competition would be fierce and to broad to do you any good.
For example: If you’re targeting an audience of new podcasters, you wouldn’t want to target a keyword like “microphones”. You want to get more specific. Think about the buyer persona and what they’re going through to get started podcasting.
“microphones for podcasting”
“USB microphones for podcasting,”
“cardioid podcast microphone”
You can begin to create silos for your keywords, breaking them into categories that will allow you brainstorm content topics based on the categories and keywords.
3. Discover what type of content works best for your audience
You’ll likely come up with more than one buyer persona. Most businesses have more than one customer type. The next step in setting up your content strategy is figuring out what types of content are best received by different segments of your audience.
Most businesses use a variety of content, evident by the graph below provided by Econsultancy. You can see that the most successful companies employ a varied mix of content.
According to Content Marketing Institute, the average is around 15 different types of content as part of an overall strategy.
That’s a smart move, but know that you’re not likely going to push each content type equally.
In fact, you’ll likely be leaning heavily on one or two mediums.
A good example of this Gary Vaynerchuk and how his company, VaynerMedia, relies heavily on video content (seen in their Facebook and Twitter feeds), though they mix in a hefty variety of content in their strategy.
Your audience will gravitate to a certain type of content, and that’s the type of content that you should focus on.
You might not know what it is right out of the gate unless your research shows you specifically, and if that’s the case you’ll be able to learn pretty quickly which resonates the most.
Keep these in mind as you’re digging into research to determine what type of content to leverage most:
- What is your audience searching for?
- What’s the intent behind their searches?
- What’s the problem they’re trying to solve?
- What type of content seems to appear the most for their searches?
- What type of content are your competitors serving for those searches?
- How is your audience engaging with the content types being shared?
4. Define the purpose of your content
You could start ticking off on your hands the purpose for content marketing.
I already know you want to do the following
- Drive sales
- Generate leads
- Build authority
- Increase search traffic
- Gain social followers
- Build a subscriber list
But you can’t take an “all of the above” approach to your content marketing. Every piece you want to product needs to (and will) accomplish a different task.
For example: An article you write is intended to drive traffic to a targeted landing page promoting your newsletter with the goal to gain more subscribers. The newsletter will deliver content that is intended to improve your relationship with readers and further educate them, with later content urging a special offer on a product or service.
As you create your content strategy, make note of your primary goals then break those down into milestones and smaller goals applied to each type of content and campaign you want to run.
5. What’s your personality?
You want to avoid dry, boring content at all costs. The most engagement will come when your passion and personality, the things that humanize you, are almost palpable in your content.
Every brand has their own style and personality. (At least they should.)
We naturally gravitate toward people that are like us in life. People who find they share similar views and passions with a brand will naturally gravitate to and want to engage them.
Red Bull is one of the best examples of this thought process at work. Their website isn’t a point of promotion. They’ve created a massive content hub with video and written content. That content is designed to speak to their high energy, active, athletic audience.
Define your brand voice and personality ahead of time to greatly improve your odds of connecting with your audience and standing out among competitors.
6. Set up your content calendar
You’re rounding the bend on completing your content marketing strategy. You’ve established your audience, what they want and how you’re going to deliver it to them.
Now we decide how often that content gets delivered by setting up a content calendar.
The frequency of your content is based largely on the type of content you’re going to product. While you’ll be posting to Twitter or Facebook multiple times per day, you may only be blogging a few times a week.
A quick way to look at it is from a cost perspective, both in time and money. The more a content type costs to product, the less frequently you’ll do it.
Curata’s content marketing period pants a clear picture of what this looks like.
The next point to consider is how often your audience accesses your content and how likely they are to see it. Are you targeting an active audience of college students who are unreachable on weekends but best engaged mid-day during the week?
Are your B2B prospects more likely to attend a webinar at the end of the week?
Combine that information and begin plotting out the type of content you’ll produce and on what days in a calendar. It’s not necessary to schedule a long distance out as your content needs and what your audience wants are likely to shift for a number of reasons.
Once your calendar is completed, you can work on kicking off the production of your content. As you begin to post, make sure you’re measuring results so you know what works and what needs to be refined.
Creating a content marketing strategy isn’t a one-and-done process. It’s a living, morphous thing that you’ll need to adjust regularly. You’re not going to suddenly see hundreds of thousands of visitors in your first few weeks as you test what works. Engage your audience, refine it, rework your strategy and continue to grow.
Perfect content strategies aren’t easy to come by, but are possible for anyone to achieve.
What suggestions do you have for achieving a perfect content strategy?