How to Build a Strong Content Marketing Strategy Step-By-Step

How to Build a Strong Content Marketing Strategy Step-By-Step

It’s surprising how many companies with an online presence do not have an established and organized content marketing strategy. After all, content is what makes the Internet exist at all - content in the form of websites, blogs, social media platforms, emails, forums, advertising, etc. 

When businesses do not have a content strategy, they tend to just throw as much as possible out there and hope that some of it will “stick” and bring in customers. This is a total waste of time, energy, and money. 

Content marketing must be carefully and strategically planned and implemented. If you have not developed an overall content plan, here is a step-by-step process to get that done and make your time and effort pay off.

Set Your Goals

What do you want your content marketing to do for you? Obviously, your end goal is to get sales, but there are other goals to get to that point. Here are some that you will want to consider

  • Get more traffic to your site

  • Use traffic to nurture leads and convert them into customers

  • Show the value of the product/service you offer

  • Have an exceptional presence on the right social media platforms to drive targets to your website

  • Use email to convert leads and maintain relationships with existing customers

  • Improve SEO and thus search engine rankings

Identify and Get to Know Your Audience

How much do you really know about your current customers? If you have not developed a customer persona, this is an immediate necessity. Think about the difference between Gen Z’ers and Baby Boomers. And within those generational groups, think about the specific differences based upon income levels, educations, gender roles, urban, suburban, or rural lifestyles, etc. The audience for a Rolex watch or Cartier jewellery, for example, will be far different than one for an energy drink like Red Bull, or a female clothier like ModCloth. 

Once you have completed the proper research and developed your customer persona, you need to identify the following:

  • Where do they hang out online?

  • What is their sense of humor?

  • What are their values, past-times?

  • What are their spending habits?

These things will determine several things about your content. What will be the tone and style of your writing? What visuals and media will you use? Where will you publish your content? 

Identify the Channels You Will Use

The purpose of your content is to do one of three things – to educate, to entertain, or to inspire. And you will probably use different channels, depending on that purpose. For example, social media is a great place for humor and entertainment; your website and your blog are great places for education. Both can be good places for inspiration. 

And always remember this: you can cross-link your content, for these purposes. So, if you have a particularly humorous piece of content on Facebook, provide a link to a blog post that may have a more serious intent. And always provide a link to your website homepage.

Your website is the place where you will show the value of the product/service to your target audience. How will their lives be better; how will you solve a problem they have? 

Address the Values of Your Target Audience

All of your content should periodically address the values of your audience. For example, millennials and following generations want to do business with companies that exhibit social responsibility. If these are your audiences, then you will need to address this value. Do you support charitable groups or organizations? Is your production process eco-friendly? These groups also want a more personal relationship with the companies they patronize. What are you doing through your content to establish these? Email and conversations on social media are good channels to develop these relationships. Respond to posts and comments of your followers.

Use a social mention tool. Any time your company is mentioned anywhere on the web or a follower makes a comment, you will receive a notification. You then access that and respond accordingly.

Allocate Your Resources Carefully

Are you a team of one, or are there others working with you on crafting and publishing content? If you have a team, you have to make some decisions:

  • Who will produce the content for each of your channels? Will some of it have to be outsourced? 

  • What software/tools will be needed to produce and publish your content? You may want to automate a lot of your email marketing efforts, for example, and there some great tools out there.

  • How will you produce media content which is critical if you want your content to be competitive? Do you have the in-house expertise and tools to do this, or will you need outside help?

Some of your content production activities will require more than just staff salaries. Make sure you have enough financial resources to get the job done right. Scrimping here doesn’t make sense when the consumer economy is so content-driven. You have to produce the very best possible.

Set Up Publishing Calendars for Each Channel

Once you have determined who will be responsible for the content on each of your channels (in-house staffers or outsourced pros), you have to decide how often to publish content on those channels.

Generally, blog posts should be produced and published on some type of regular basis. Your followers expect to see new content according to that schedule. When you go long periods without new blog posts, they will leave. Set a reasonable schedule based on your resources – once a week, once every two weeks? Whatever the schedule is, stick to it.

Social media is a platform that you will want to publish on almost daily. It’s that important. The only exception may be LinkedIn, but, if you use this channel, then be certain that you continue to participate in discussion groups, post on its platform periodically, and publish any news or updates on your company, products or services.

Emails: Here is a tricky one. You want to stay in touch with current customers and you will want to periodically communicate with those who have visited but have not yet made any purchases. You need to find a balance between sending out messages that will provide value (e.g., discounts, new products, etc.) and harassing. Just make sure each email has only one message and that your subject line is compelling.

Creating the Content

There is an entire ocean of content out on the web. Much of it goes unnoticed and unread. Why? Because topics are not of interest or the content itself is not compelling. If you are going to master this whole content marketing thing, you are going to have to dig into some deep research, get creative, and engage your audience. 

  • Choosing Topics: There is any number of resources to find what is trending in your niche right now. Use them and access posts and other channels of content to see what your competition has to say. How can you make that content better?

  • Choosing the Medium: Today’s consumer is busy and in a hurry. He does not want to read a lot of text, especially on a mobile device. Deliver as much of your content via visuals and other media as possible. Research does show that people process visuals as much as 60K times faster than the printed word and that they retain that information better. 

  • Headlines/Titles: Upworthy is an online news outline that focuses on in-depth stories, mostly by video. According to the editor, the team spends as much time working on their headlines as they do on the actual stories. You must think like a journalist if you are going to grab the attention of your audience. If you or others on your team are not the creative types, there are headline and title generator tools you can use. 

  • Incorporating the latest Technology: Content that resonates often uses new technology. Consider augmented and virtual reality, for example. While this has been used in gaming for many years, it is now becoming commonplace for content marketing. Explore how you might use this too.

  • Interactivity: Activity engaging your audience will cause them to remember you. This can be done through surveys, quizzes, games, etc. Audience participation is always a winner.

Measure Your Results

Part of your content marketing must include follow-up on how successful it has been in reaching your audience and their responses to it. One easy and direct way it just to ask. When a new customer arrives at your site and explores your offerings, you can ask where they heard about you. You can also survey existing customers and ask them which of your content pieces and which channels do they find most helpful, entertaining, etc.

But you also want to dig deeper into how your content is received. For this, you will need the analytic tools that technology gives you. You will learn which of your content pieces have received the most play and resulted in all sorts of conversions, as well as those that seem to fall flat. You can use this to make decisions about both the types of content you will continue to craft and where you will focus your publishing. If certain types are not resonating, look at how they can be improved. Having this data means that you’re not just “shooting in the dark” with your content strategies.

Now You Have a Plan

If you follow these eight steps, you will have a strategic plan based on sound organization and good research. Further, you will be able to develop and publish content that will resonate with your target audience(s), and analyze its effectiveness.