Strategy, it’s key to any marketing campaign. That holds true when it comes to content marketing as well. After all, what sort of ROI will you get from tossing your content against a wall to see what sticks?
Nevertheless, according to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), 63% of companies who say they’re using content marketing admit to not having a strategy articulated. 63%! So if you’re looking for a quick and simple way to keep ahead of your competitors, developing a solid content strategy is a great option.
A good strategy will, at its core, demonstrate two things: how well you know your audience, and how well you know your subject. By taking the time and putting the energy into the creation of a solid, trackable, coherent content marketing strategy, you will also be showing your audience that you value their time and energy by not wasting either with irrelevant content. And nothing increases trust like proving you value someone’s time and energy.
Content Marketing Strategy Creation
To provide you with an easy to follow outline, we’ve condensed the creation process to 7 steps. Details will, of course, vary and you are, of course, encouraged to expand on this outline to make it fit your specific needs.
- Establish goals: This includes not only the goals for this specific campaign, but also how your teams goals will assist the larger business goals set by the company.
- Create Metrics: Once you have goals set, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to measure them. Creating metrics at this stage gives you the target to work toward with everything that follows.
- Develop target personas: These can be buyer personas or other targets depending on your specific situation. Either way, establishing who you are aiming your content at is crucial to knowing what content to create in the first place.
- Build your style guide: If the company marketing dept. doesn’t already have one, this is the time to put your style guide into writing. Solidifying brand voice; style items like what font and colors to use; and grammar baselines is critical before any content goes online.
- Determine channels: Deciding early on what channels you’re going to use to get the word out to your target audience will save time and energy later in the process, you’ll already know if you need be scheduling Tweets, creating videos for Facebook, or not.
- Fill out an editorial calendar: As a recommendation, we would say to shoot for a quarter at a time here. That way, you can work around things like vacations and have a content buffer built up in the event that someone calls in sick. It’s here that you will also need to determine your publishing schedule. The key is consistency, not frequency, so if your team consists of you, maybe go easy on yourself and stick with every other week until you get into a flow. If you have a team backing you up, you can be more ambitious and start with posting 2 times per week and see how that goes.
- Measure, then iterate: Remember those metrics you set up back at step 2? This is when you start analyzing them. Once you have a couple of weeks or months under your content belt, it’s time to see what’s what. Are you publishing at the best time for reads? How is the Twitter feed adding value? Make necessary adjustments then repeat.
Now that the content ball is rolling, what’s next?
OK, cool. You’ve got your content strategy laid out and are pumping out interesting, engaging, and relevant content on a regular schedule. Great work! Now it’s time to take stock of that strategy, figure out what’s working well and what’s not, and start planning the next phase. There are a couple of crucial pieces of your strategy that we want to be sure you have firmly nailed down before moving on. So at the risk of sounding redundant, here they are:
- Detailed target audience personas: These are absolutely essential. These fictionalized characters represent the members of the public that you want to read your content. Great content is written for individuals, not demographics, so knowing your personas inside and out is imperative.
- Fully fleshed out editorial calendar: Know what content is being published, on what channel, and when it’s going out. We cannot possibly stress enough how important this is. Without it, your audience will have no idea when to expect new content and can, and will, get impatient and leave you for your competitors.
- Style guide: Like the first two items, having a firmly established style guide is fundamental before moving forward. As you grow your content team and start additional campaigns that may be targeting completely different audiences, you want your brand voice to be consistent. This builds trust in your audiences, as they will likely be sharing your content with their friends, and if one of them is part of another target group and they’re seeing something completely different—well that doesn’t look good for you.
- Social media: This one comes with a big asterisk—”as appropriate.” We don’t want to give you the impression that you need a presence on every platform for every campaign. Do your audience research and focus on the channels you know your audience is using anyway. That way you’re guaranteeing that at least a good portion of them will see your stuff.
And one bonus item: a statement of purpose and goals. This is the best way to ensure your entire team, and stakeholders in whatever departments you’re working with, are on the same page regarding your content. Is the purpose audience engagement? Click throughs to a particular landing page? Lead generation? Each of these is a valid goal for a content marketing campaign; however, they each have very different means of being achieved. If not everyone knows the goal, time and energy will be wasted while people work at cross-purposes.
Strategy opinions: a dime a dozen
You’re bound to find conflicting advice about the “best” ways to do content marketing. There is also one thing that nearly everyone writing on this subject is bound to agree on—the need for a strong strategy. By following the steps we’ve laid out, you can be sure you’ll be off to a better start than the 63% found by CMI.