If you’ve been researching how to better market your business online, you’re bound to have come across the topic of “content marketing” in your research. It’s not new, but the increased adoption of content marketing has completely changed the game of online marketing and is leaving traditional marketing in the dark ages. Could content marketing be a game-changer for your business? Definitely - but only with a well-planned strategy.
Content Marketing by Definition
There are many definitions of content marketing floating around with minor variations. There is, however, a common driving force behind the majority of the definitions: the customer experience. Content Marketing Institute’s definition of content marketing is:
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 glaring difference between content marketing and traditional marketing is that it is based on creating valuable content focused on the needs of the audience instead of shoving interruptive, sales-based advertising and messaging at your potential consumer. It’s permission marketing aimed to earn the attention and trust of the audience. By earning the trust of your audience, you earn their business and loyalty.
Seth Godin coined the phrase “Permission Marketing.” He defines it as:
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.
Content Marketing Get-Started Action Plan
Whether you’re just getting started with content marketing or you’re looking to improve your current content marketing, creating a clear content marketing strategy will be a crucial element to your success. Tackle the items in this action plan to get organized.
Define your goals - What’s your reason to market? Defining clear goals at the beginning will help narrow your marketing focus and give you something to measure later on. When you’re getting started with developing your editorial calendar, all content should be relevant in the pathway to attaining your goals. Common, high-level goals are:
- Brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Lead nurturing
- Increased newsletter subscriptions
- Customer retention and loyalty
- Customer evangelism
Once you define your high level goals, dig a bit deeper into some specifics.
Identify your audience - It’s hard to hit a target if you don’t even know where it is. Define who your customers are and get as detailed as possible. Create customer profiles (personas) for each and refine them as you learn. It is recommended you develop at least two key personas and no more than five to start. Here are some questions to answer when getting started with developing your customer personas:
- What is your persona’s role?
- What is key information about the persona’s company (if relevant to your product or service)?
- Is there any general background information that is relevant to this persona such as education or hobbies?
- Why does this persona get online?
- What is this persona’s needs when he or she is browsing online?
- What is this persona’s needs as they relate to your business?
- What questions might this persona have that relate to the products or niche you’re in? (Bonus: what questions would this persona put into a search engine?)
- Are your customers online looking for information, entertainment, or a combination of both?
- What is general demographic information about this persona? (Gender, age, income…)
List the interests and questions of your audience – To maintain the customer experience, your content should be customer-centric. A great way to get started down this path is to make a thorough list of questions – big or small – that your customers might be searching to answer when considering a purchase or looking for information. These questions will act as a guide to creating content. To add an extra layer onto this, make a list of interests each of your personas might have. When you combine answering questions and relevant interests into your content, you can deliver an informative and entertaining experience.
Decide on channels – In the beginning, pick only the social networks, distribution channels (blog, email…) and formats you can realistically maintain that are also most relevant to your target personas. Delivering quality, consistent content on one or two channels will prove to be more successful than trying to take on all networks and falling short on quality or consistency.
Document your strategy – With the information you have gathered above, create and document your plan for: the goals you aim to attain, who your content will be created for, the topics that will guide your content, frequency it will be delivered, and how it will be distributed (channels). Research from Content Marketing Institute shows having a documented strategy is an important factor in success:
60% of B2B marketers with a documented content marketing strategy say they are effective vs. 32% of those with a verbal strategy.
Create an editorial calendar – Once your strategy is in place, take it to the next level by creating an editorial calendar. It is important to be intentional with your content.
With your strategy documented and your editorial calendar in place, it will be time to start creating and distributing. Be patient with evolution of your marketing. Measure performance frequently, tweak, test, and repeat.