But hold on, isn’t a content marketing plan just for big corporations? You know, global brands like Microsoft, Rolex, and Coca-Cola? The answer is no, most definitely not – there are many benefits of content marketing for businesses of all sizes.
In this guide, we’re giving you the lowdown on the content planning process, including a few simple but expert tips for how to create a content marketing strategy that’s worth its weight in gold. But first things first: let’s explain the essentials.
What is a content marketing strategy?
You may be wondering, what even is content marketing? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. We’ll start with the building blocks and a definition from the Content Marketing Institute:
Content marketing is a strategy that involves consistently creating and publishing valuable and relevant content to raise awareness and gain the loyalty of your target audience.
In other words, it’s attracting customers – and retaining their loyalty – by telling stories about your products or services. You’re providing them with useful or highly entertaining information (something that adds value to their day) and not simply plugging your latest offerings in the hope of making a quick sale. Content marketing is about showing the personality behind your organization, about turning your brand into something recognizable and familiar that will have people talking about it and coming back for more.
And the content marketing strategy? Well, it’s your road map. It’s each piece of content mapped out clearly, so you know what you need to be creating and, importantly, when.
Why is having a content marketing strategy important?
Good content marketing takes a multi-channel approach. It’s the only way to target multiple audiences and to keep yourself in your customers’ minds. Nearly everyone has a short attention span these days, so to keep on top of your various channels and ensure your content pieces work with, not against, one another, you’ll need a watertight strategy. This allows for analysis, gradual development – after all, you don’t want to bombard people – and also future expansion into other types of content. For example, you might choose to turn an eBook into a podcast series or build a monthly newsletter inspired by your blog posts. But essentially, having a content marketing strategy is super important because it gives you a clear overview of the process and how it feeds into your goals.
How to create a content marketing strategy in five easy steps:
Now we’ve got the basics down, here are a few expert tips to make the content planning process a bit simpler.
Related: The Best Content Calendar Template
1. Understand your audience
If you’ve ever gone through the process of creating a customer journey map, you’ll already know what we’re talking about here. Before you can start deciding what types of content to use in your content marketing strategy, you need to define who you want to be reading it. Think of your ideal customer – and then think about who your actual customers are (hopefully, they’ll be fairly similar). Create a template for each buyer persona (including those you’d like to have in the future) and fill it with as much information as you can: demographics, personal values, information sources (books, websites, people they follow), and, most importantly, the needs and pain points your content will solve for them.
2. Audit your current content
The second stage is to have a good look at what you already have in terms of content. Starting from scratch? No problem – the content world is your oyster! But maybe you already have some content sources, like a blog or an Instagram channel. Analyze your efforts so far – what seems to attract attention, and what falls flat? Also, assess which part of the buyer’s journey you tend to be aiming at. The buyer’s journey can be divided into three stages:
- Awareness (getting prospective customers to notice your brand – this is where SEO and search engines come in handy)
- Consideration (earning potential customers’ trust – they’re aware you exist but are weighing up your offering against the competition)
- Decision (the deciding factor that will tip the customer in your favor, which is usually motivated by a pain point like cost or convenience)
Ideally, you need to be aiming at all different stages with different types of content. This brings us on to the next step…
3. Expand your content horizons
In this stage, you’re going to decide what type of content you want to produce. There are too many options to count, but you can narrow them down immediately by assessing your buyer persona(s). Some will prove irrelevant, some more interesting. For example, if you’re a visual brand that enjoys using Instagram, you might also like to start creating pinboards or incorporating giveaways into some posts. Prefer the written word? How about creating white papers or a newsletter for subscribers? Love vlogs and have a great YouTube following? You could start using live video to run Q&As, or switch things up a bit and get into podcasting. As you can see, there are many options – and don’t be afraid of a bit of trial and error. The aim should always be to push the content user from one stage of the buyer journey into the next, and that requires plenty of trust-gaining and engagement.
4. Implement a system
This will very much depend on the size of your business, but having a good content management system is always a good idea. You might prefer to take it back to basics and manage uploads yourself through a good old spreadsheet-and-calendar combo, but make sure you at least get it down on paper. Those with bigger aims might want to use a content organizer like CoSchedule, or an established CMS like HubSpot or WordPress, which can also help with integrated direct marketing and the analytics side of things.
5. Get creative
Okay, so the last step is obvious, but your content marketing strategy is nothing if it doesn’t result in some great content. There are many guides out there on how to create unique content, but the important thing is always to make sure it meets the goals of your strategy. Are you trying to raise awareness of your brand? Capture a new target audience? Or push more people from consideration into the decision phase? As long as your content is meeting their needs and fits the ‘valuable and relevant’ bill (remember the definition from the beginning of this article) rather than being too sales-y, it’s bound to be a hit.
Other types of content for content marketing
That’s a lot of information to digest, but before we wrap up: a couple of words on the benefits of user-generated content. This is one of the less controllable aspects of your content marketing strategy, but leave room for it – it could be important. Any content created by users of your brand (rather than you, your employees, or affiliates), typically comes in the form of social media, blog posts, videos, or reviews.
Why is this a good thing? Well, users are often seen as more trustworthy than brands themselves (sorry), so something as simple as good ratings on Amazon can make a huge difference to people’s perception of your organization. It can also make you seem more familiar and approachable or give people the feeling they’ve seen your products in action. Other good examples of this are GoPro’s user videos on YouTube, or photos of real-life buyers wearing their new purchases on adidas product pages. This kind of content can be very valuable, but be clear about what you do or don’t endorse – sending out free samples, for example, can have legal implications.
A few final content marketing tips
We’re nearly finished! Here are just a couple more things to think about before you start your content planning journey:
- Learn to repackage – yes, your content should be unique. To you. But sometimes great content is still relevant, just buried underneath all the other new stuff out there. Think about repackaging it in a different form, like turning your blog posts into an eBook, or making the results of a poll into a catchy infographic.
- Provide free resources – depending on your business, you can boost your authority and trustworthiness by providing users with useful resources to download for free, like a template, recipes, or guidebook.
- Don’t forget SEO – we know, we know, but it is really important. Include keyword research in your content planning: short-tail for awareness-building, long-tail for help with the ‘consideration’ stage of things. If you’re able to rank well for a variety of keywords, you’ll be higher up in the minds of your customers. Always.
It might sound complicated – and it can be if you want it to be – but a content marketing strategy is essentially about one simple idea: using relevant, informative storytelling to help you meet your business goals. Of course, it isn’t absolutely everything (you need to have a good product or service underneath it all) but being valuable and trustworthy for users will help you get ahead – and stay ahead – of the competition. And, you know what we think? Have fun creating one as well.