When it comes to increasing web traffic, brand awareness and sales, content marketing just might be the greatest thing since sliced bread. What you might not know is that it’s been around even longer. (Sliced bread was invented in 1928.) But it was another popular dinner table item, Jell-O that put content marketing on the map. Faced with lackluster sales at the turn of the century, the gelatin giant delivered recipe books door-to-door. Profits increased and wala! One of the earliest content marketing success stories, years before the internet, was born.
Today, content marketing continues in the digital era as a way for your brand to inform, engage and create relationships with your ideal customer well before they’ve made the decision to buy your product or service. If a sale is the finish line, content marketing is the training plan needed to win the race. Without further ado, follow these steps to create a winning content marketing strategy.
1. Set goals and a purpose for your content
Step one, before you do anything else, is to start with the end in mind. 72% of marketers say that content marketing has increased leads, so we know that success is possible. What are you trying to achieve? Are you looking to increase sales within a certain time frame? Want more visits to your website? Also, what is the higher purpose of your brand? This will help you determine the reason for your content. Say, for example, you’re a bicycle manufacturer. You’re not just selling a steel frame with two wheels. What is the end benefit to your customer? Are you providing an outdoor escape? The best way to stay in shape? Get clear on the unique selling proposition of your brand. Only after that can you decide on the topics of conversation your brand should lead. In order to measure the success of your content marketing efforts, before all else, make sure to set firm goals and understand why your content will be valuable to the people you’re trying to reach.
2. Define your audience
When investing time and resources into creating content, the last thing you want is for it to go unnoticed and unappreciated. It’s imperative you understand who your target market is. That’s where creating an avatar of your ideal customer comes in. To create a mental picture of this person, ask yourself if they are male or female. How old are they? What do they do for a living? Where do they reside? What are their goals? Dreams? Fears? As you create a profile of your ideal client, imagine sitting across the table from them at a coffee shop. What questions would they ask you about your products or services? What would you tell them? If they were to write down a few keywords on a paper napkin of what you’d discussed, what would they be? Then, think about what information you could share that they would find helpful and valuable. How would you write it as if you were speaking to just that one person?
3. Research your competitors
Next, it’s time to think about the other companies your customers might currently be interested in or buy from. Take time to visit their websites and social media platforms. What keywords are you seeing over and over in their messaging? What hashtags are they using? How do they speak to their customers? How would you describe their tone? Again, to help define your audience, do a little digging to understand who your competitors’ audience is. Another good way to do this is to read the comments from their followers on social media.
Also, consider that your content marketing will compete with sources other than your competitors. So, look for news, reference and entertainment sites that are covering the same content you might cover and take notice of their use of keywords as well.
4. Conduct topic and keyword search
After you’ve researched your competition and made note of keywords and hashtags seen in their content, type them into a search engine to uncover even more popular search terms and surprising results. To help you visualize even more search questions and suggested autocomplete searches, try this keyword tool, AnswerThePublic. Just by typing in one keyword, you’ll get lots more ideas on how to reframe your content. You can also use subscription-based keyword search services to discover what your audience is searching for online. At Hughes Media, our favorite keyword platform is SEMrush.
5. Review existing content and repurpose
Now that you’ve set goals, defined your audience, researched competitors and come up with powerful keywords, it’s time to go back and take a look at your existing content. Go through your blog posts to see what still has relevance. Next, take your newly acquired knowledge on audience, goals and keywords and see where you can edit and refresh those existing posts. For instance, with a better picture of who your customer is, you might be able to personalize your text to relate to your prospect better. Remember the conversation you had with your avatar at the coffee shop? Also, fine-tune messaging so it’s aligned with your newly established goals. Other ideas for repurposing content include combining several social media posts to make an ebook or turning an ebook into several social media posts. You could even take the blog post that you just updated and turn it into a video and infographic, too.
6. Make a media plan and plan your resources
Once you have a good idea of your target market and what you want to share with them, it’s time to figure out who will produce your valuable content and where it will live. Again, take inventory and make a list of your current platforms and content marketing vehicles already in place. Then, consider all the other ways there are to disseminate your communications. Websites, blogs, email newsletters, ebooks, interviews, white papers, infographics, videos, guest blogging, press releases, podcasting and of course, social media are all great places to start. You need not use all of them, but a mix is definitely the way to go. Consider which media options will appeal to your ideal audience. Then, brainstorm to make a wish list of communication pieces you deem worthy. Finally, consider how you will execute each of these pieces. Who will create them? Will they be done in-house or with the use of outside resources? Do you know anyone who can help you make videos? Will you need to hire an art director? All of these questions must be answered before you make a final decision of what you will produce on a regular basis.
7. Make a content calendar
With all of the aforementioned prep and planning, it’s time to set your plan in stone and create a content marketing calendar. It’s not that you can’t adjust your calendar as needed. Of course, you can and, most likely, will as your business evolves. But to get the results you’re looking for, it’s important to be consistent in your marketing. Having a content calendar is just the way to make that happen!
First off, select a calendar template from the web, a spreadsheet or even a Google Doc which is shareable and editable with your team. As you start the scheduling process, you’ll want to include the type of content, topic, keywords and reference links, date and time for publishing and the person in charge of making it happen. Finally, you’ll also want to leave a checkbox or space to write in when the content has been published according to schedule.
8. Create, publish and promote your content
Now comes the fun part! After you’ve done all the planning, the rest will practically write itself. To make the most of your online content, try SEMrush Content Template that generates a suggested word count, competitor reference links, keywords and more. Before you begin creating your content, remind yourself of who your ideal customer is and what you discussed at the coffee shop. Starting is sometimes the hard part, so just write your ideas down without being critical. Write like you talk. Let your authenticity come through! Then, review and rewrite. Tighten your prose by taking out any words that aren’t needed. Try to avoid cliches and be down to earth. Use light humor if it comes naturally and then, come up with a good headline – preferably with your top keywords. (Make sure to sprinkle them throughout your copy or graphics as well.) Last but not least, don’t forget to spell check and use an automated grammar checker like Grammarly.
9. Monitor, measure, and refine
Once all is said and done, you’ll want to see how well your content marketing efforts are paying off! If you don’t already, get to know how to measure traffic, conversion and engagement. Celebrate your successes. Then, refine your content and repeat!
About the Author:
Experienced President with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Integrated Marketing, Advertising, and Pay Per Click (PPC). Strong business development professional with a Bachelor’s Degree focused in Communications from Ohio University.