There is a tremendous amount of buzz surrounding content marketing and its need within a brand’s overall marketing strategy.
Doing content marketing is much more than publishing on your blog occasionally and posting your thoughts on social media. “Do stuff and maybe it will work” is not a strategy, it is a gamble. A risky and expensive one, at that.
Even so, many brands have yet to create an effective content marketing strategy.
What does such a strategy look like? Where are the examples of brands doing it well?
Here, I will show you examples of an effective content marketing strategy and offer ways for you to craft your own for your business.
What is Content Marketing
Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.
This generation of customers are taking drastic steps to avoid marketing messages. As consumers, we use DVRs to skip television ads, pay internet radio subscription fees to avoid commercials, mentally block out — or use plug-ins to avoid — internet click ads, and gloss over road-side billboards, rendering them useless and ineffective.
So how are marketers supposed to combat this shift?
Consumers are still buying and making purchases, but the way they go about making a decision has changed. With all of the world’s information at their finger tips, savvy consumers are doing enormous amounts of learning and self-education before stepping into a showroom or talking to a salesperson.
Knowing this is a huge opportunity for brands. If you know consumers are looking for information, be the source of that information. Not with sales-y content that puts your priorities before theirs, but information that the buyer really wants and needs.
The Marketing and Sales Departments must align to create a buying path for this new era of consumers that provides authentic and transparent information about a product or service (the mission of Marketing) and closing the sale (the mission of Sales).
Content marketing closes this gap by using brand-created educational content to satisfy the prospective buyer while helping the sales team convert anonymous visitors into buyers.
Thought leaders and marketing experts from around the world, including the likes of Seth Godin and hundreds of the leading thinkers in marketing have concluded that content marketing isn’t just the future, it’s the present (see the video below on the history of content marketing): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OHgMMpGLzk
The key ingredient to using content to attract new customers is in the advanced planning. The strategy.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy
A content marketing strategy is a roadmap; a “User’s Guide” to how your brand will do the following:
- Meet the customer at their specific point within their buying cycle
- Align the customer’s needs with your knowledge and expertise
- Use your brand’s assets to meet these objectives
Business-to-Business marketers who have a documented content marketing strategy are 66% more likely to consider themselves effective compared to only 11% of those without a documented strategy.
A content marketing plan helps you see the end-game before you have even started. Further, it gives a clear, articulable vision for your entire team and keeps you on track throughout the campaign.
Just like New Years resolutions often fade into a foggy memory, our intentions are good – but we allow resolutions to fail. To be successful in any strategy, we need to be intentional.
For proper sales and marketing alignment, and for the success of your bottom line, you must have a plan in place.
How to Start Your Content Strategy
The framework of a content marketing strategy is fairly straight forward:
- Who are you targeting? What are their needs?
- How are you going to reach them? (Attract new and nurture existing)
- What content do you have now to get started?
- What is your plan to develop and share more
- How will you measure your efforts
Take some time to consider who you are targeting. Are they male or female? Does it matter? Do they have a career? Children?
Are they affluent? Coupon cutters?
What are their goals? What happens if they do not reach them? Is their a monetary penalty for them? Will meeting this goal further their career? Will it make them happy?
Clearly defining your targeted personas will save you a lot of time, energy, and money as you continue your business. With this person in mind, your content marketing strategy will begin to fall into place and you will feel that you are having a conversation with this “person”, rather than blindly throwing stuff out there.
Content marketing and social media are often used synonymously. This is a mistake. Content marketing is a broad method of marketing whereas social media is a tool that complements getting your content seen.
Imagine your website as your online hub, where all of your brand-controlled content resides, your social media profiles are spokes that lead back to your home base.
Social media has the power to reach incredible numbers of potential customers, influencers, existing customers, and even the opportunity to convert customers from competitors. Social media, in and of itself, is not content marketing. It is one of your outreach tools.
3. Available Content
Next, take stock of materials you have on hand already.
Many of us sit in offices filled with brochures, flyers, handouts, manuals, and documents loaded with helpful information, but we do little to extend that information to potential customers on the web. Make a list of the content available to you immediately and start identifying which persona is most aligned, where they are within their sales process, and what pain point they are currently facing.
Getting started, you can use what you have on hand. But I recommend expecting this low-hanging fruit to run out. You should plan on developing your own, unique content.
For a number of reasons, search engines reward fresh, unique content. Further, your prospective customers will be looking for information that is not available everywhere. Your unique perspective and “voice” (the tone in which you talk, the way you communicate, and what you share) may be the first experience a prospective customer has with you. This is the beginning of a long business relationship.
4. Schedule and Share Your Content
After you have compiled your educational materials, grab a calendar. I recommend looking out 3-4 months to start. Mark holidays, special events, and milestones. Working backwards, prepare your marketing message for these campaigns.
For example, one client of ours hosts 4-5 annual sales. They all surround major US holidays (New Years, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving/Black Friday). By knowing this, it is easy for us to prepare everything from banner ads, Pinterest images, blog posts, Facebook Status, videos, and even newspaper ads (don’t shoot the messenger).
Once you have those events marked, consider a “theme” of the week for those 3-4 months. With that theme, and your personas in mind, write out the following for each week:
- 2 Blog Posts
- 8-10 Facebook updates
- 20-30 Twitter updates
- 4-5 product photos for Pinterest
- 3-4 Instagram ideas
- 1 Video
By no means is this list all-inclusive. It is a starting point to get you thinking about how to plan content. To get a specific content marketing plan designed for your brand, I need to interview you and understand your goals, personas, and timeline.
Finally, how are you going to measure your work? Remember when we set up our goals earlier? Were you specific in identifying how many leads you want to generate?
“Get more leads” is a horrible strategy, better is “Gain 50 new leads by September 1st” or “increase from 6% conversion rate to 12% conversion rate” These types of goals are easily measured and tracked.
Do you have a mechanism in place to measure, monitor, and gauge your efforts? Further, do you have the right people on your team to help you know what is working and what is not? Can you explain why certain marketing dollars are generating a return on your investment while others fall flat?
Just like runners know the course of the race before they start, your brand should know the route you will take to your finish line. Having a strong content marketing strategy in place will ensure your team is setup for success.
I'm happy to help and provide more specifics.
All the best,
Shaun Nestor has a great outline of things, but just to add a couple more points.
Your content that you build should be targeted at keywords to boost organic search. You can research competitors to find out what keywords they're using and find opportunities to get ranked quicker.
Be sure the Keywords you're targeting are valuable to YOUR BUSINESS. Some people make the mistake of trying to rank for keywords with large daily results, but you want to attract well qualified visitors that will convert. This may mean lower search volumes but better monetization of your visitors.
Lastly, be sure that your outreach plan includes things that will help build quality links like guest posting on popular blogs.
Content and SEO go hand in hand, keep that in mind when you do your research and build your personas.
I would recommend creating a meetup or networking opportunity for people interested in your space. This helps you do two things;
1) Get customer feedback from attendees and
2) Build brand awareness.
The other thing you can do is reach out to people who blog about the space and asked to write a guest post about a relevant topic. If you can become a thought leader this will allow you to build a brand while spending little capital.
There are more than 500 free and inexpensive marketing, communications, sales, e-comerce and CRM tools and a plethora of ways to reach the same goal; to increase awareness and, subsequently, sales. Pursue tools here: https://zapier.com/zapbook.
There are 21 tips in this "Guide to Maximizing Lead Generation" bit.ly/1i9XsNw.
As with ALL things marketing, be sure to narrow your target audience such that you know where and how customers prefer to engage. The latter ensures that you, for example, place ads and feature articles or that you are a guest contributor for waterfront and similar lifestyle living publications (These are just a few bootstrapping methods.).
Need more "clarity?" Schedule a call today!
I will stay away from Google rankings aspect. For that, check out the following link: "Busting the Top 15 SEO Myths of 2014" http://www.cio.com/article/2454224/seo-sem/busting-the-top-15-seo-myths-of-2014.html. Good quote from that article though "SEO is a driver of web traffic, not a driver of business"
As one SEO expert told me, search engine optimization is on-going exercise, not a one time event. I would separate efforts between new and returning visitors. Sites in general that get a high number of visitors on a monthly basis usually have a core group of returning visitors that leverage it for content sharing or expertise on a regular basis.
In the case of returning visitors, I suggest having forum/testimonials for people have who have leveraged the website's insights or are subject matter experts and discuss the benefits, challenges, or further application of the information or area. Blogging, linking to articles relevant to the user base, also curating news from social media feeds through sites like Paper.li or Rebelmouse provide an easy content option without much effort.
For new visitors, media exposure and references from top opinion leaders in the space can help. I would look to other portals in the same industry or that attract the same age group being targeting and request the site owners to write a piece, send out a communique and/or reference your service to the targeted audience. Getting local media in your areas to report on your service can also provide exposure. I would focus on finding the free avenues first and when you find the highest referring sites, focus any ad dollars there to get the best bang for the buck.
With any new on-line venture it is critical to build the user base before charging people for the service. The site has to be the go to place for this type of information and discussion to show the foundation value and then adding services that provide additional custom value add. Simple example is Wattpad with over 30M users sharing free stories, in over 50 languages, from any phone, tablet, or computer just recently raised $46M in venture financing
There are lot of options. I've seen some people swear by Reddit and other social media. I've never been able to crack that nut. I use blogging on my site and guest blogging on other sites. Other sites will typically let you post 2 links to your website in the article. If your passionate about your industry it's easy to write 500 words on a topic.
My agency and I have helped countless startups reach their target audience and get their foot in the door. There are many things you can do: social media marketing, google adwords, promotions, print advertising and even getting content published in residential magazines.
I would love to help you in more depth - I own a full service marketing agency that offers all types of design, branding, consulting, marketing and content services at reasonable prices that won't break your budget. http://www.bloominari.com I also can give you a project estimate for free: http://www.bloominari.com/contact/request-project-quote
It's all about researching your target audience, monitoring competitors to know what works, reaching your audience correctly and speaking to your audience in a language they understand. Let me know if I can help you in any way and best of luck to you!
You have an obvious advantage over other business types in that your product is something almost everyone aspires to. So, when you consider the importance of content, you're a leg up and I'd leverage the appeal and aspirational qualities inherent in your visuals to drive the behaviors you seek. I'm assuming you have the ability to use member profiles and visuals in your terms of service? I'd highlight several of the best....