Content marketing strategy: Why every business needs it, and why it’s as important as your marketing plans.

When I dine out, I often end up ordering an extremely bland choice on the menu that I would have never eaten in my right senses.

Why?

Because of the colorful way in which the dish is described.

You see, that is the power of words and marketing. That is how you can weave a magical story about the most boring thing and sell it to people who will be bought over by it.

The same goes for your business. If you weave a wonderful convincing story with words and put it out to your target audience, then you can easily convince them to buy your product and become sticky customers.

Let’s begin with why…

Why do we need a content marketing plan?

In this age of digital marketing and social media marketing, businesses are producing a constant stream of content to attract their target customers. The challenge here is to stand out in the crowd, and for that, it’s important to have a clear-cut content marketing strategy that acts as a guiding light when it comes to the planning, production, promotion and measurement of success of the content.

With that being said, let’s delve into the thought process involved in creating engaging online content. 

How do you decide on what content is worth creating, and what message is worth delivering? Every piece of content that you create should meet a goal in your marketing efforts.

What are you really trying to accomplish with your content? Here are some options to consider:

·     Increase brand awareness in key markets and verticals.

·     Increase sign-ups.

·     Drive readers to the landing page for lead generation.

·     Drive referral traffic back to your blog/events/landing page.

Notice how none of these goals include the vanity metrices of Likes, Favorites or Retweets. This is because your content marketing goals, just like your social media goals, should be aligned with the broader business goals of your company. This alignment will help you think of creating meaningful content that can be measured in terms of business matrices, like leads, sales and traffic that can be used by other cross-functional teams as well. 

The next question we need to address is: How will I measure the success of this goal? Whether it be traffic number, or a dollar amount, or percentage, it’s important to decide on a numeric target to track the progress towards your goal. If you can’t figure this out, then its best you go back to the drawing board and re-configure your content marketing plan.

Next up, break down every step involved in the process of reaching your goal. Not only will this ensure that the content that is being created aligns to the content marketing goals, but it can also inspire your marketing copywriters and storytellers. Having a clear vision of the desired result can actually help spark sharp and pointed ideas about what to create and how to create it.

Quick Tip: It’s best not to think this way: “How will this piece of content help me to achieve my goals?” Rather, it’s better to come up with great ideas and then tweak them to tie in with your content marketing goals. This way, you will not stifle creativity and free thinking of the creative team.

Let’s dive in now….

What exactly is content marketing?

To put it in simple words, content marketing involves the creation of any type of content- be it physical or digital, that demonstrates who you are and how you can add value, and put it out to your target audience.

A well-planned content marketing strategy will answer the following questions:

·     Who is the target audience? The answer to this question is based on market segments, and the types of content developed to target those specific segments.

·     What are the different channels that you will be using to promote your product?

·     What metrics will you use to measure ROI and success of the content?

·     What resources do you have?

·     What are some of the pain points you will be solving?

For instance, Mailchimp created a multi-media case study, and then reused the video for their LinkedIn post. It talks about how email templates were instrumental in increasing sales: a ploy that is useful for many businesses.

Types of content

There are different kinds of content, with new channels being developed every year. Moreover, a good content marketer will be able to learn the different kinds of content, and also be open to experimentation. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what companies can use for their content marketing plans:

·     Branded blog posts

·     Company blog posts

·     Videos

·     Podcasts

·     Case studies

·     User generated content like Instagram posts

·     White papers

·     Infographics

·     Webinars

·     Quizzes

·     Press Release

For instance, Mailchimp created a multi-media case study, and then reused the video for their LinkedIn post. It talks about how email templates were instrumental in increasing sales: a ploy that is useful for many businesses.

Types of content

There are different kinds of content, with new channels being developed every year. Moreover, a good content marketer will be able to learn the different kinds of content, and also be open to experimentation. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what companies can use for their content marketing plans:

·     Branded blog posts

·     Company blog posts

·     Videos

·     Podcasts

·     Case studies

·     User generated content like Instagram posts

·     White papers

·     Infographics

·     Webinars

·     Quizzes

·     Press Release

For instance, check out the Sprout Resources page, that gives visitors different content to choose from. 

Types of channel

 How will you get your word across? You can publish all you want, but no one will look at them if you don’t spread the word around. In some cases, the line between the channel and content blurs. For instance, email newsletters are an excellent way of promoting branded content. However, in some cases, some companies also include very unique content in the body of the newsletter. There are no hard and fast rules to get this right.

Some channels include:

·     Social media

·     Pamphlets

·     Email

·     Website

·     Search Engine ads

Nearly 82% of marketers’ report that email is the most common channel of content marketing, followed by social media (54%) and website/blog (51%). 

What resources do you have at disposal?

Are you a one-man team or a thirty-man team? What skill sets does your team possess? Do you have the finances to hire a professional content creator? These are some of the questions you need to ask even before you start throwing around ideas.

Choose a channel according to your team’s skill sets. For example, it’s best not to produce a video if you don’t have someone with video editing skills. As time is of the essence in this industry, it’s important to take these decisions carefully.

Apart from this, think about who can generate the content. Don’t just limit it to the marketing team. Customer support and sales teams will have an in-depth knowledge of the pain points of businesses or customers. Its best to involve other teams so that content ideas can be formed. 

Developing your content marketing strategy

There are different ways to develop your content marketing strategy, but I will focus on three aspects in this blog post:

1. Have clear goals and define the metrics

When you start strategizing, you need to have a clear goal in mind. It’s common to have multiple goals and different types of content and channels to meet those goals. Along with that, it is important to clearly define the metrics to measure the success of the content.

For instance, you may have a goal to increase trial signups for your new product. To achieve this goal, you will create a case study that will be published on the website as well as shared on social media channels. It will include photos, videos, and text. While the social media team can use different platforms and formats to spread word about the case study, your sales team can share the link with prospective clients to get new sign ups.

For a more detailed understanding of how to use content, you can refer to this content matrix from Ninetyblack

2. Audit all existing content

In case you have already created branded content for your company, its best to conduct a content audit to understand what is or is not working for you. The audit should include distribution channels and actual links to the content.

For instance, if you have produced YouTube videos, you must have tracked the user engagement figures. In case some of the videos have call-to-actions links that lead back to your main website, you can keep a count of the number of people actually clicking on that link to learn more about the product from your website. Given the figures of audience engagement, you can have more links leading back to your website in future video productions.

In case social media platforms were the main medium used to push content, then it’s best to run a social media audit to understand what failed and duplicate the success stories. 

3. Map the customer journey

Different types of content work effectively during different phases of the customers’ buying experience. A troubleshooting video will not be as engaging to someone in the awareness phase, as it will be to someone who has already bought the product. However, the knowledge that such a troubleshooting video exists might work as reassurance when the person is making the final purchase decision.

This checklist created by Boston Interactive shows the different phases of customer journey.

However, it’s also important to note that the customers’ journey does not end with the purchase alone, but support and retention to build customer loyalty also needs to be integrated into the content marketing plan. 

Implement and review your strategy

Once you have chalked out your strategy, it’s time to put it in action and document its success. This will help you what works well with your audience, and use them as reference points for future projects. For instance, if your strategy was to include blog posts through email newsletters and social media, and you find that the news letters are garnering more engagement, then you can consider increasing their frequency, or have a dedicated subscriber list for the blog posts.

Apart from this, content marketing calendars are a great way of keeping track of types of audience and content, customer phase, distribution channels and publication dates.

To get a sense of the topics that your customers care about, you can use social media listening tools, and do a keyword search about what might be of interest to them. Active social media listening will also give you a sense of how customers are reacting to your products, the pain points you need to address, as well as what your competitors are doing well.

To conclude, content marketing strategies differ from business to business. The framework drawn in this article can definitely to modified and customized to suit your own business model. As you travel down this road, you will figure out what works, and what does not work for you. But in the end, having a clearly defined goal or goals will certainly help you to design your content accordingly.

Let me know the best practices that have worked for you in the comment section below!! 

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