The best content marketing strategy will balance what your audience wants to know with what you want them to know (your marketing message).
1. Establish your goals.
While just about every brand can benefit from content marketing, your reason for putting time and effort into content can’t be, “Just because.”
“I think there’s a lot of brands out there today and even small businesses that are thinking, I need to get into content because that’s what everyone else is doing. But really you need to figure out why content is important to you and to the success of your brand.”
— Alex Kubo, VP of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing, Burrow
You should establish content marketing goals, align them to broader marketing and business goals, and determine the metrics you’ll use to measure success. If you do this at the very beginning, you can map all your subsequent efforts to those goals and make the best use of your time.
2. Know your audience.
You won’t effectively be able to generate content that resonates unless you have a clear understanding of who you’re trying to reach. Creating buyer personas is a popular method of distilling information about your target audience, like:
- Demographic information like gender, income, marital status, etc.
- Hobbies they participate in or communities they are a member of
- Where (or from who) they get their information about products and services
- What goals they are trying to achieve when they purchase your product
- How they make decisions about what products they will purchase
It’s okay to not have all of this information right away; just flesh out an image of your ideal buyer as much as you can, and make sure you’re creating the content they need. To learn more about your audience, you can conduct surveys or “listen” to conversations on the social media channels they frequent.
It’s also a great idea to have one-on-one conversations with customers and prospects — this will give you unrivaled insight into their motivations, and probably result in more than a few new content ideas.
3. Map the buyer’s journey.
Because serving the right content at the right time is so important, you also need to know how your customers move through the path to purchase. This will differ between B2B and B2C, and also by vertical.
Large, pricey purchases will likely have a longer buyer’s journey and include more research and product comparisons. These buyers will need more extensive information from you and have more questions that you need to answer. Small, inexpensive items may be purchased (or forgotten) in the blink of an eye, so bite-sized content may be more effective.
Once you have a clear understanding of how your customer makes purchasing decisions, you can map your content to their pain points and answer their questions before they have to ask.
4. Identify what differentiates you from your competitors.
One of the most important foundations for your content strategy is a clear understanding of what makes you different from your competitors. Competitive analysis can help you clarify what your competitors are doing and saying. Compare your messages and proof points to theirs. Find the areas that make you unique and give you an advantage and make content focused on that message.
5. Build your brand narrative.
Consumers identify with stories. One of the keys to a lasting brand and loyal fan base is a story that customers can connect with. Storytelling works because it connects facts with emotion, and it’s that emotion that will lead to loyalty down the line.
“Big brands are now under attack from smaller brands/start-ups who have a story…it’s a way of making your brand feel real and approachable, and so large brands need to connect with consumers too in order to make themselves approachable too. Therefore by going direct to consumers, brands are able to create and nurture relationships with customers rather than be this untouchable and unemotional behemoth.”
— Luigi Moccoa, Founder of Calashock
Line Skis knows the power of a brand narrative in connecting with its audience. The example below is from their About page, and in just two paragraphs and one image, they speak volumes about who they are and what they’re about. The line doesn’t need to sell to everyone — they have a target market, and they’re not afraid to speak directly to them.
5. Inventory and audit existing content.
If you’re working on a content marketing plan but already have a good deal of content, before you go any further, do a content audit to make sure you know what you already have. Then, review it for quality and relevance. (This should be done regularly, whether you’re developing a new strategy or not.) You can use Google Analytics or other analytics platforms to identify your most successful content.
6. Define your content mix.
My favorite marketing maxim is, “Just because you can — doesn’t mean you should.” But the reverse is also true: Just because you should, doesn’t mean you can. Identify the content types that resonate best with your audience and the ones you and your team can do well. Where there is overlap, those are the content types you should invest in.
“My recommendation would be to invest more time and effort into the main set of categories, build-out buyers guides, and other content that supports those key categories, and you are likely to see better traffic increases than if you were to build thin content across a wider range of categories and pages.”
— Corey Dubeau, VP Marketing, Northern Commerce
7. Plan your editorial calendar.
You may have heard of the concept of “Big Rocks” in the productivity world. You can use that concept as you start to plan your content calendar. By starting with the “Big Rocks,” or the most substantive content you have planned, you can build in everything else around it.
Your Big Rocks should be clearly aligned to your audience and goals, meeting their highest needs. You can then turn those substantive pieces of content into derivative pieces. For example — if you have a buying guide, maybe there’s a piece of information in it you can turn into an infographic or engaging social post. Maybe it can spin off into a couple of blog posts.
This not only contributes to a cohesive content marketing message — but it also maximizes the value of your team’s time and energy.
Make sure you don’t forget about timely events, holidays, and specials that are important to your brand.
8. Maintain your content.
Before getting too far along with your content plan, make sure you have processes and workflows in place to help you maintain it. You’ll want to schedule regular content inventories and audits, make sure you have a plan in place to update and repurpose content where possible, and measure performance.
“Once you create a piece of content, it’s not just a forever asset, it’s something that you need to continue and iterate on, just like any other part of your marketing strategy.”
— Alex Kubo, VP of Ecommerce and Digital Marketing, Burrow