Inbound Rocket

How To Plan And Build A Successful Content Marketing Strategy

How to Build a Successful Content Marketing Plan

For you as a brand it becomes more and more difficult to get your message across to your targeted audience. Consumers are becoming blind for advertising, and otherwise they are installing more and more ad blockers to skip out on your advertising. Even offline, people are using their DVR to skip advertising on television, or they just ignore advertising in traditional magazines. As Marc Mathieu from Unilever says: Marketing used to be about making a myth and telling it. Now it’s about telling a truth and sharing it.

Smart marketers understand that the traditional way of advertising is less and less effective, that there has to be a better way.

Welcome to content marketing.

Content marketing is bigger than ever. However, as more and more content gets published, engagement per post declines. So how do stand out from the crowd, how can you make sure that your consumers are noticing and reading your content? You need a solid content marketing plan. In today’s post, we will look into the different steps that are necessary to get you off in the correct way and give you a head start on your competitors.

What is content marketing?

Let’s first start by talking a little bit about content marketing itself, what exactly is content marketing? According to the content marketing institute, content marketing can be defined as:

“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The goal of any company is trying to solve a problem that people are having; this can be done via a product or a service for example. Content marketing is about the same thing that your product or service is trying to solve, only then in a way of content.

Content marketing is an ongoing process that is part of your overall marketing strategy, but instead of renting or buying media (advertising space) you own the media. It’s the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without directly selling to them. Instead of just pitching your products or services you’re delivering information that makes your buyers more intelligent. Content marketing by now is being used by even the big players in the world like Unilever, P&G and Microsoft. However, it’s being used even more and more by small businesses and startups around the world. Why? Because if correctly executed it just plain works.

#1 Start with goals

As with everything you do with your startup, it begins with setting goals. It’s no use starting to spend a lot of time into the creating of content if you don’t set any specific goals. For some bigger organisations, settings goals can even be part of the justification process of getting the budget from your executives to start a content marketing program! But of course, it will also help you to quantify your results better later on.

Goals can be different for every organisation. For you it might be that you’re trying to grow your audience on one of your social channels like Facebook, or maybe growing your database with email addresses. If you set your goals right from the start it will help you focus on the types of content you’re creating, which will increase the chances of success.

It’s okay to have multiple goals. Every potential customer of your company is somewhere in the Buyers Journey. You should try to set goals that direct readers all the way through that journey. Goals for the awareness stage, the consideration stage, the intention stage and the conversion stage. By creating content for all different stages, you can make sure that your audience is moving down through the Buyers Journey all the way to the point of sales.

Try setting your goals the S.M.A.R.T. way. Make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based.

#2 Set a baseline

Establishing a baseline will help you in the future to track how you’re getting closer to your goals. Try looking at your current Google Analytics reports, for example for your website traffic and how that is performing. Try looking at competitors of yours and do some benchmarking on those. Who are the leaders in your industry? How are they performing?

Based on these numbers you can set yourself a set of concrete numbers as part of your goals.

#3 Determine your audience

If you’re just starting out with your company, it might be difficult to determine who your exact audience is. Begin by creating Buyer Personas around your customers, Buyer Personas are a kind of imaginary persons, with a name, a history and an individual story who have a way of doing things. They are an imaginary repristination about your ideal customers.

By using things like Google Analytics and your current presence on social media you can help make a better definition of your ideal customer. It’s not that difficult and in the beginning these are mostly still assumptions. Over time, when you start selling more of your product and when you attract more visitors to your site, you can better define your audience.

#4 Keyword Research

Of course, you know all of your products and services by heart, but do you know what keywords your buyer personas are using when they search for your product? Keyword research is a vital process to content marketing because by knowing what your audience is searching for you can determine which are the items to focus on in your writing. It’s important to try to find words with high numbers of monthly searches but with low competition.

Use Google’s Keyword Planner you can determine which are the “long-tail” keywords and phrases that are more specific to your needs and will get your better traffic results to your site.

For example, if you’re selling classic furniture, it will probably be almost impossible to rank near the top on the organic search for the word “furniture”. There are dozens of companies out there who sell furniture and are competing for that spot. (and the smaller your the size of your company, the more difficult it is to start ranking for these premium words) But if your specialisation is in contemporary art-deco furniture, then a keyword like “Contemporary Art Deco-influenced semi-circle lounge” is much easier for you to rank with and is easier to rank in the top searches for a term like this.

#5 Content types

Now that you know your goals, you’ve set your baseline, and you know your audience and the keywords to use in your content, you should be able to come up with different content types that will help you reach your goals. There are lots and lots of different content types you can use, for example:

  • how-to’s
  • ebooks/whitepapers
  • webinars
  • giveaways
  • explainer video’s
  • helpful applications or tools
  • infographics

This list is endless. It all depends a bit on what your goals are to get the correct content for your goals. Let’s give three concrete examples to help you on your way.

  • If your goal is to increase brand awareness, you want to create content with a bit of a broad appeal. Content which helps you show to your audience that you’re an expert in your domain and are willing to help not just people who are using your product. In this case, you can use video tutorials, case studies or explainer blog content to explain certain topics like we are doing with this blog post.
  • If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, you should focus on creating content that’s easy to find. You can use things like a guest blog post on popular blogs in your industry, email newsletters, SEO optimised blog content on your site, etc.
  • If you’re looking for lead generation, you can create landing pages as gated content to white papers and specific guides you created. You can hold webinars or do giveaways on your channels.

As you can see for each goal you’ve set for yourself, there are multiple content types you can use to reach your goals. Try creating a bit of a mix to see what works best for you.

#6 Develop a content calendar

Developing all this content can be challenging. Coming up with the right ideas to incorporate in all your content week after week can be difficult for a lot of people. Organising your ideas can be time-consuming.

Creating a content calendar for you or your team can help you structure your ideas and bring order to the chaos. With it you can take a birds-eye view of your content and fill in any gaps, it can help you plan and organise around key events, dates and launches for example. As the team grows bigger, it can also help you keep your topics organised and make sure that you got enough time to prepare and create your content.

At Inbound Rocket, we noticed this before and created an example content calendar, which is ready for you to use. Feel free to download and adjust it to your needs.

#7 Develop your content

After all the hard work you did up until now, it should be fairly easy to develop your content. Writing and publishing your content though can be a bit frightening for a lot of people, though. But don’t be, something published but not perfect, is better than a post that is perfect but not published at all. You can always go back later and make adaptations at a later stage. Here at Inbound Rocket, we make use of Grammarly. English is not our native tongue, and it helps us avoid common mistakes in grammar.

When writing, never forgot you’re writing for other human beings. Use short paragraphs and try to vary the length of your sentences. You’re probably not going to write a scientific paper, try to write more like you talk to make the content more easily digestible.

Try to remember and to use the following acronym Attention Interest Desire Action. We already wrote about that formula in more depth in an earlier blog post because it’s so powerful. If you follow that flow in your post, it will make your copy a lot better straight away.

#8 Promote your content

Content creating is only half the battle; the rest is gaining notice. Just writing an article and publishing it is not enough. You have to promote your content to help it get noticed.

You can promote your content on your social channels, your email list, there are lots of different ways to start promoting your content. Where are your Buyer Personas consuming their content? Post it to those websites and services. If you’re struggling to find places, have a look at our list of 33 different ways to promote your content.

#9 Measure

How can you learn, if you’re not measuring? In our first step, we set up the goals we want to achieve with our Content Marketing. Using tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Page Insights, Twitter Analytics, etc. you can get a good overview of your efforts. Try to monitor your performance across all the platforms that you’re posting too.

Some companies create interactive Excel sheets using Google sheets to combine all metrics; you can go as crazy as you want here. But remember you can create the most beautiful dashboard to measure your progress but if you don’t do anything with these metrics it is all a waste of time. And that brings us to the next point.

#10 Optimise

By looking at your statistics, you can see what (types of) content is working and what is working less. Make this a returning calendar appointment to discuss this with your team.

Just like with the Lean Startup’s Build – Measure – Learn loop, you have to Create – Measure – Learn with Content Marketing. Based on your learnings you can get from your measurements you can optimise your content to have an even greater impact in the future. By learning, you know what content is working, and you can create more of that content and less of the content that isn’t working in the future.

#11 Eat, Sleep, Create, Repeat

It almost sounds like a catchy pop-song 😉 But just because you’ve set your goals once it doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Over time everything changes, your ideal customer changes, Google algorithms change, Facebook and Twitter change. You always have to measure and adapt your content marketing. This way it will always meet the requirements for success today, not the requirements of yesterday.

How are you implementing Content Marketing strategy in your company? Did we miss something here? Any remarks? Leave them in the comments below.

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  • Jim

    Well done post. Thank you.

    You left an open ended question about what you may need to clarify, and I have a suggestion. As a traditional publisher of more than 20 years in patient education and disease state awareness, we look at content in a completely different way than many/most agencies. Of the 7-800 titles we published over the years (my grandfather started publishing in 1936), not a single one was brought to market without a significant amount of research and financial projection discipline. Perhaps it may come as a surprise, but first and foremost a publisher thinks about profit. Not readers, not editorial, not circulation – profit. If it doesn’t make money on its own, or drive revenue elsewhere, we don’t do it. Period.

    We published our first book in diabetes years ago and it sold quite well. We never considered doing another book with the same editorial agenda, but our discipline drove us to do market research by gathering data on other slices of the market. We discovered that there were no recent books for children facing diabetes and the FDA was in the process of approving new therapies specifically for children, the American Diabetes Association was launching a new awareness campaign for childhood obesity and type-2. We did our P&L for “Raising Teens with Diabetes” and “Kids First, Diabetes Second” to a nice reception by the market.

    Here’s the point, no content is created unless it has a return, however you choose to measure it. As I told a recent client working with us on a content strategy for their B2B marketing, “You’re not a prom queen”. Likes, shares, thumbs up, views and visits mean nothing unless they have a clear path to conversions and profit. Period.

    Having the content clutter and torrent of lousy information put out by people paid for each “click” (blog post, article, eBook, white paper, video, etc.) presents fantastic opportunities for those who exercise discipline and focus on looking at content like a publisher.

    Wishing you a great day from the cold and rainy Midwest.

    Jim Edwards
    Publisher
    Spry Publishing
    SpryIdeas

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