Content marketing is essential to business success in every industry. But although content marketing has been the reigning paradigm for years now, many business owners – and even many marketers – still aren’t sure how to develop or implement an effective content marketing strategy.
Fortunately, content marketing isn’t really that difficult, and the basic principles can be mastered quickly. It’s all about drawing customers to you, rather than having to pay money to interrupt them via traditional forms of advertising. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to start investing in content marketing for your business:
Know Your Customer
Before you even think about content marketing, the first step you need to take as a business is to make sure there’s a really good market fit for your products or services. In fact, the number one reason that new startups fail is because the product or service wasn’t truly needed by the target market. You can prevent this by doing appropriate market research, and then using that market research to develop your content marketing plan.
One key to content marketing is using the language that your customers use about the problem you solve. Many times companies develop technical language around their product benefits, but they forget to use the customer’s language and focus on the customer’s needs. When you truly know your customer, you’ll be able to reach them using the phrases they already use amongst themselves.
Let’s look at an example to see how this all plays out…
Suppose you’ve got a SaaS product that provides specialized data storage – like Dropbox on steroids. In developing your product, you’ve convinced yourself that one of the biggest benefits you have to offer are your lower-than-average costs. So you advertise yourself as being the cheapest in your industry, but what you don’t know is that your customers have been burned before by low-cost providers. They’re interested in cost-effective solutions, but only if they’re trustworthy and reliable.
In this instance, knowing not just what your customers are looking for, but also the language they use to describe the problems they’re trying to solve, is crucial to being able to create content that connects. Without this valuable information – which you can only gain through proper market research – your content will be dead in the water.
Knowing your customer inside and out also involves knowing the platforms where they spend time and make purchases. Periscope is very popular right now, for example, but if that’s not where your ideal customer lives, you shouldn’t spend your time on it. Instead, focus on platforms that will give you better reach and better conversion rates.
Know Yourself and Your Message
The second step to content marketing for business owners is developing a consistent brand presence and brand voice on the platforms you choose to use. Think about how you want your company to come across. Are you acting as a rebel? A professional? A creative? Whatever the case may be, you want your voice to be consistent on every platform, including your website, social media, YouTube, and blog.
Secondly, you’ll need to line up your usage of colors and images so that you create the same “look and feel” on every outreach platform you use as well. Customers won’t connect your YouTube channel with you if it has cartoon images and a blue background, while your website has photographed images and a red background. Make sure your imaging is consistent across the web to prevent this conversion-killing cognitive dissonance.
Finally, make sure that every customer has a consistent experience with your brand, whether they come in via social media, your website, the telephone, or traditional advertising. Only after you know clearly who your company is and what your messaging should be can you ensure that every customer has the same A-level experience.
Create a Written Content Marketing Plan
Only 32% of B2B companies have a documented content marketing strategy, and only 37% of B2C companies report having one. However, companies with a documented strategy are significantly more likely to say that their content marketing strategy is effective. The lesson is clear – a written plan works far better than an unwritten one.
Here’s what your plan needs to include:
The involved stakeholders
When you write your content marketing plan, be sure to include all major stakeholders – from the individual creatives who will craft your content to the marketing and IT teams that’ll deploy it. Too often, a content marketing plan is developed by a single team or department, while others who need to be involved are not sold on the effectiveness of the effort. When all stakeholders help form the plan, they will be more bought-in and the plan will be executed more successfully.
Your available resources
In addition, you’ll need to make sure that your written content marketing plan is realistic based on the budget and staff available. If you’re only able to commit five hours a week or $1,000 a month to your content marketing campaigns, you shouldn’t create your written plan as if you’re able to dedicate forty hours a week or $10,000 a month.
(Oh, and as an aside, don’t worry if your available resources seem small. It’s possible to do good content marketing on all budgets, as long as you’re upfront about what you can reasonably dedicate to your campaigns.)
If you have the money to commit, but lack the internal staffing resources to carry out your content marketing vision, use this portion of your plan to detail how you’ll outsource your content creation process and where you’ll connect with freelance creators. The more detailed you can be here, the more time you’ll save down the road when it’s time to execute.
Your target channels
Remember that market research you did earlier? This is where you’ll put it into action, using the data you gathered to determine which channels you’ll leverage as part of your campaigns.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s generally better to have fewer content channels with a consistent presence than a lot of channels with an inconsistent presence. When a company doesn’t have a consistent presence, consumers see them as unreliable and unprofessional, which defeats the marketing effort up front.
Your editorial plan
Once you’ve identified the channels where you’ll publish, you’ll want to build out a written editorial plan that includes all of the following elements:
- The specific titles of the content pieces you’ll publish
- Which channels they’ll be published on
- When they’ll be published
- Who is responsible for creating, editing and/or publishing them
- Any important steps that need to be taken before publication
Finally, no content marketing plan is complete without a discussion of what you’re trying to achieve through your campaigns. Whether you’re undertaking content marketing to improve your brand’s reputation and perceived authority, or whether you’re trying to use content to drive actual sales and conversions, identify your target metrics, implement the processes needed to track them and set specific goals that’ll help you determine if your campaign is on the right track.
Once you have a written content marketing plan, make sure of your involved stakeholders meet regularly to review progress and ensure that the goals are being met. If things aren’t going as planned, don’t be afraid to update the plan and continue to move forward.
Investing in content marketing for business is more about understanding a mindset than it is about a specific platform or outreach strategy. When you understand who your target customer is, what brand image you want to convey, and how you can reach your market through the creation of excellent content, you can dramatically improve your business results in any industry.
This article was written by Sujan Patel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.