When it comes to marketing, are you a sailor who boards a ship without a rudder or a compass? The voyage may be exciting. But do you always get to where you want and need to go?
As you start to think about how you will reach more prospects and clients in 2017 with your online content marketing, you must develop a strategy. You need a compass to guide your efforts and measure your results so that you’re not drifting aimlessly.
Every single Facebook post or piece of website content should have a purpose. At its core, content marketing focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and ultimately to drive profitable customer action. In that Content Marketing Institute definition, three key elements stand out:
- Valuable, relevant, and consistent content
- Clearly defined audience
- Profitable customer action
A content strategy helps ensure that you’re thinking about all three elements anytime that you engage with your clients and prospects.
The fact is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. A national survey by the Content Marketing Institute found that 65 percent of business-to-consumer organizations with a documented strategy rated themselves highly in terms of content marketing effectiveness, compared with 28 percent who had a verbal strategy and 11 percent with no strategy.
You can develop a content marketing strategy by answering six questions.
- Why do we want to develop content?
- Whom do we want to reach with our content?
- What will we write about?
- When will we create content?
- Where will we share our content?
- How will we know that our content and our strategy are effective?
In this column, we’ll focus on understanding the importance of developing content and knowing your target audience’s needs.
Question 1: Why do we want to develop content?
Front and center in your content strategy should stand the question: Why do we want to develop content? The best content strategy aligns your content with your organization’s objectives and strategic goals.
The Content Marketing Institute found that the top six goals that drive content development are:
- Customer retention
- Brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Lead nurturing
As you develop your content, think about what goal you want to accomplish. Stay focused. Select one or two goals.
Goals dictate the type of content that you’ll produce. If your goal is to increase brand awareness and raise your visibility as an industry leader, you’ll want to pursue journalistic-style content about industry trends and offer valuable advice and tips.
If you want to generate more leads on your website, then think about the questions that prospects ask themselves as they move through the buyer’s journey. Your content must nurture all stages of the sales cycle and inspire leads.
Question 2: Whom do we want to reach with our content?
Your target audience can’t be everyone online. If you cast a wide net, you’ll catch plenty of fish. But they won’t be the right kind of fish.
Whom do we want to reach with our content? You need to identify your ideal clients, the ones that share your values and vision.
To understand your target audience, you need to go beyond demographics. Buyer personas are a much more detailed version of your target audience because you give a name and identity to each of your target groups. At a minimum, you should:
- Paint a vivid picture of the person with details that explain why he or she needs you
- Define where he or she is in the buying cycle
- Describe what he or she needs from you to make a decision and move forward
- Identify what you want him or her to do
- Craft a quote that summarizes his or her problem
Question 3: What will we write about?
First think about whom you want to reach and what they want to read. You’ll then be in a better position to identify and anticipate their needs when they visit your website or search for information related to what you offer.
Consider your unique value proposition and your brand story. What do you offer that no one else does? How can you become more relevant to your ideal clients? How can you align your content with your mission and vision?
All these elements lead up to your content marketing mission, which should identify: your core audience target, what you will deliver to your audience, and what outcome you expect for your audience.
For instance, a therapist who wants to focus on stress management might come up with these sample elements of her content marketing mission statement:
- Core audience target: busy entrepreneurs and executives
- Delivery: podcasts, articles and inspirational thoughts about stress management, focusing on the needs and pain points of entrepreneurs and executives
- Outcomes: controlling the high level of stress that comes with owning and managing a business and finding wellness in their daily lives
Whether you opt for video or bite-sized content, your content needs to move people to action.
Question 4: When will we create our content?
The goal is to create content that you can share across multiple platforms. By creating a system and a schedule, you makes content creation manageable.
Your content potential depends on your resources and your goals. Be realistic, but be strategic.
- To increase blog followers and web visits, write one or two posts per week.
- To increase social media engagement, post three or four times per day (depending on the social media channel).
- To stay in touch with your clients/prospects, send out enewsletters once or twice a month.
At the very least you should consider some daily interaction with your followers on social media, two monthly additions to your website (blogs, articles, infographics, videos or podcasts), a monthly enewsletter and quarterly ebooks or higher-quality videos.
Ideally, you should also have in place content for an autoresponder so you can capture your prospects’ attention (along with their email addresses) and nurture a relationship. Then prospects come to know, like and trust you.
Question 5: Where will we share our content?
You’ve identified your objectives, buyer personas and possible topics. Now you need to think about what you will create and where you are going to publish it.
What channels does your target audience visit and what type of content are you comfortable producing? How much time can you dedicate to creating or curating content? Which medium will you find easiest to start on and maintain?
If you are not comfortable writing, and don’t have the budget to hire a content creator, you can curate (share informational articles written by others) and create bite-sized content about your organization. You might not want to write 500-word blogs, but maybe you’re witty in 140 characters. Whatever you decide, be realistic with what you can produce.
Start small and focus on one social media platform with fresh content on your website, whether it be a video each month or an article. Your cornerstone content should begin with six to 10 articles that answer basic questions your ideal clients need to know. Then you can plan to add two blogs a month, at a minimum. Ultimately, the goal is to transform your website into the central hub of your marketing initiatives.
Question 6: How will we know that our content and our strategy are effective?
Content can’t be measured with a single metric. Instead, you will need an array of metrics. Jay Baer, founder of the digital marketing consultancy Convince & Convert, came up with the following buckets to keep an eye on.
- Consumption metrics: How many people consumed your content, measured as page views, downloads or views?
- Sharing metrics: How often do consumers of your content share it with others?
- Lead-generation metrics: How often do content consumers turn into leads? In this case, how often do they sign up for your newsletter or download information?
- Sales metrics: How often do content consumers turn into customers? In other words, how often do they hire you to represent them?
Developing a content strategy does take time. But it makes a world of difference in the type of content you produce and results you experience. Don’t be a sailor who journeys without an oar or a compass. Keep your content strategy front and center for optimal results in 2017.
Engage clients, donors or prospects with a smart content strategy and purposeful content. Our experienced Delaware content marketers can show you how. Send us an email or call 302.858.5055.