To succeed with content marketing you have to have a well thought out strategy
Your peers have been telling you for years that you need to invest in content marketing. They tell you it’s the highest returning investment you can make and that your internet presence depends on your company’s ability to leverage high-ranking publishing platforms and specific SEO techniques. Are you ready to listen? If so, you need a plan. This blog will walk you through the basic steps of getting started with your first content marketing campaign.
Grasping the True Value of Content Marketing
As a business owner or marketer, you probably like numbers. So let’s look at the value of content marketing from a quantifiable standpoint. And what better place to start than by seeing what your peers – who are already heavily invested in content marketing – think.
According to a poll that was conducted prior to the start of this year, 29.6 percent of marketers said content marketing was the most commercially important digital marketing trend for 2015. In fact, it blew away the competition. Coming in second was Big Data, with only 14.6 percent of the vote. Other important trends included marketing automation, mobile marketing, and social media marketing.
This isn’t an anomaly of 2015, either. This is the third year in a row that content marketing has topped the list – and the gap between it and the rest of the pack is widening. What this shows is that the businesses and professionals actually using content marketing are experiencing high returns. That’s substantially more valuable than any prediction or projected model you can study.
Furthermore, consider these consumer content consumption statistics that Content Marketing Institute kindly curated:
- 90 percent of consumers feel like custom content is valuable.
- 82 percent of consumers feel better about a company after reading custom content.
- 61 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that publishes custom content.
- Interesting content is one of the primary reasons social media users follow brands on popular networking sites.
If you want to tap into the power of content marketing, you can’t afford to take a shotgun approach. You need to spend time carefully crafting a strategy and developing rich, insightful campaigns that leverage existing resources and target new customers. While there are many ideas about how to create the best content marketing strategy, let’s take a look at a simple and streamlined six-step process.
Step 1: Develop Rich Reader Personas
Most companies with ineffective content marketing strategies mess up this critical step. If you want to experience success on the backend, you can’t forget to spend time diligently crafting rich reader personas for your content.
Much like buyer personas – and there should be some major overlaps between customer and reader personas – reader personas will guide your decision making process throughout the campaign.
While your first inclination may be to assume reader persons are the same as your customer personas, be cautious. Reader personas have some slight nuances that customer personas don’t. When building reader personas, you have to not only think about what type of readers will see your content and want to make a purchase, but you also have to think about which readers will see your content and want to share it.
There are tons of guides out there about how to create detailed reader personas, but the key thing is to identify the influencers. These are the 5-10 percent of social users who are responsible for 60-80 percent of all influence. Content marketing is all about sharing and you need readers who aren’t just consumers, but are also brand activists.
Step 2: Gather the Right Tools and Resources
You can’t forget about the tools. For starters, you need sophisticated content creation tools. These are the tools that are going to help you produce high quality content that reaches your readers and piques the interest of influencers.
Some of the top content creation tools include Word2CleanHTML, Storify, and Curata. You’re also going to need some content discovery tools that allow you to continually develop fresh and relevant ideas. Feedly, Pulse, and Alltop are popular – as is Quora. While it may not seem like a traditional tool, Quora is useful because it lets you see what people are talking about, what pain points customers have, and which questions remain unanswered.
As far as marketing and distribution go, you’ll have to do your research and determine which types of resources you need. Depending on whether you’ll be focusing on email marketing, social media, blogging, or any number of other mediums, you may find popular tools like Buffer, Yoast, or MailChimp valuable.
For content marketing, there are literally thousands of different apps, software, and services on the market. Be selective in the resources you choose and ask around to find out which solutions are the best. The last thing you want to do is get stuck with an expensive tool that doesn’t meet your specific needs.
Step 3: Create a Brand Story
Armed with precise personas and robust tools, you now need a brand story that identifies with your audience. The number one mistake people make when developing brand stories is that they confuse storytelling with selling; these are two distinct things.
Storytelling is a method for building strong relationships with customers. You’re trying to identify with your readers and cultivate trust. You’re not trying to cram some loud sales pitch down their throats. Eventually, once your brand story is developed enough and has had time to soak in with your readers, you’ll be able to incorporate specific calls-to-action. Keep these in mind when crafting a brand story, but don’t build the story around these calls.
Neil Patel and Quick Sprout have developed a fantastic resource about how to develop and tell a brand story – take a look. The major takeaways are that you need to be clear and conversational. There shouldn’t be confusing marketing talk – just real, honest content that clearly conveys who your company is and what it stands for.
Step 4: Identify Publishing and Sharing Channels
Now it’s time to identify your publishing and sharing channels. The first channel will obviously be an on-site company blog. While this likely won’t represent your largest readership, you can’t leave it out of the mix. People expect to see a blog on a company website and you need to populate it with quality content.
In addition to your blog, you should start building relationships with other industry blogs, websites, and publications. Leverage existing contacts and reach out to new ones. Attempt to gain as many guest blogging opportunities as you can and use these privileges to reach new readers.
Third, you’ll want to hone in on social media and select a handful of platforms that resonate with your audience. Facebook and Twitter will likely be two of these, but you may also find platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, and Pinterest valuable. You’ll be able to identify the right social networking sites by looking at your reader personas.
Step 5: Hire Writers and Editors
Unless you happen to have some excellent marketing writers on your team, you’re going to need to hire writers and editors to handle the bulk of your content. This can come in the form of full-time employees or freelancers. Ideally, you should hire ghostwriters, as they’ll allow you to publish the content under your brand’s name.
While it can be easy to skimp on editing, don’t do it. You’re almost done and there’s no sense in ruining your brand’s image by ignoring editing. It’s always good to have a couple sets of eyes review content before clicking the publish button – it’ll save you a lot of risk and embarrassment. Both editors and writers can be found at fairly cost-effective prices, but remember – you get what you pay for.
Step 6: Analyze the Right Metrics
Finally, it all comes down to analytics and metrics. After launching your content marketing strategy, you can’t just sit back and watch. You need to study the numbers and gather results. Using the right tools, you can uncover useful insights about who’s reading your content, who’s sharing it, whether it’s resonating with the right consumers, and how effective each of your publishing partners are. With this information, you can make tweaks to your strategy and optimize your efforts for long-term success.
Putting it All Together
Using this simple six-step process, you can build, launch, and reap the rewards of your first content marketing strategy. Take it slow, tackle each issue as it comes up, and don’t be afraid to invest time, money, and resources. Content marketing isn’t going anywhere, and you’ll be glad you jumped onboard.