Since getting into business blogging, I give monthly workshops on the topic to entrepreneurs at the local business center. During these, I’m regularly gobsmacked at the varying degrees of understanding about content marketing. Publishing the odd blog post, sending a tweet now and then does not a content marketing strategy make. I find workshops get sidetracked into explaining the elements that constitute a good content marketing strategy.
#1: Chart Your Goals
Going anywhere without GPS or a roadmap is dodgy at best. Before you can create a solid strategy for your clients, you’ll need to know what they want to achieve and where they want to take their business. Start by identifying broad goals, then narrowing them to specific objectives such as:
- Increasing website traffic
- Building awareness of products and services
- Developing thought leadership
- Sourcing email addresses
- Generating sales/leads
You probably can’t do all these at the same time, so choose 2 or 3 and focus on making those the object of your content marketing strategy.
#2: Paint Personas
Ok, so who are you speaking to? In my workshops, when I ask this question I often get the answer “everyone.” Don’t waste your time marketing to people who aren’t likely to want what you sell; focus on well-defined targets and you’ll get a better ROI every time.
“Painting” your customer persona means creating a minds-eye visualization of your ideal buyer – who is s/he, what age group, residential area, career, income, needs and wants. Once you identify the answers to these questions, you can paint a picture of your persona that reads like this one for a costume jewelry store:
Jennifer the Jewelry Lover: Age 25 to 34 y.o., lives within 25 miles of central Illinois, employed full-time and earning around $40,000 a year. Single, looking for her soul-mate, loves to dress up and look glamorous and buys costume jewelry to complement her outfits.
#3: Choose Channels
Two questions a content marketing strategy should answer are “where” and/or “how” you’ll reach your audience. There’s no value in trying to be everywhere—you need to identify the channels your specific customer persona is likely to access and use those to speak to them. If, for example, you’re speaking to young mothers, you’re not going to reach them on a forum for construction workers.
Ok, that’s an extreme example, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t fine-tune their thinking on this issue. Remember, no-one’s going to read your blog unless they know it’s there, so you have to identify ways of telling them about it, such as social media, local newspapers, radio shows or public events.
#4: Map the Messages
Next up is “what” are you going to tell them? It’s great if you’re planning to communicate regularly, but how will you find content and what are your messages going to say? A solid content marketing strategy needs to include a Core Messaging plan that maps out what your main benefits are, your primary copy points and the priority keywords you need to include in everything you publish. Add to this any hashtags for your product, and even if someone else is doing your messaging the basics should be fairly standard.
#5: Create a Calendar
It’s just oh-so-easy to postpone writing that blog post for a day, then another, and before you know it, your last post was, well – last year! For a successful content marketing strategy you need to create an editorial calendar that outlines dates, events and seasons important to your business. Decide when you want to publish and add a topic to cover on each date, leaving space to pencil in ideas you get in the interim.
#6: Savvy Scalability
There will be times when you can’t deliver, and you need to have a flexible plan that allows for those. Include in your content marketing strategy options for repurposing, repackaging or curating content from other sources to give you a much-needed day off. This makes your strategy scalable, so you can do more or less depending on your resources that day.
#7: Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate
There’s no point in throwing good money after bad, or time for that matter. Ongoing evaluation is vitally important to ensure that you’re doing what works. Use analytics programs to find out which of your activities is producing results and focus on tweaking the others to fit. Examine the data in context of what you know about your client's industry and see whether your insights are true or not, then adjust the content marketing strategy accordingly.