Not surprisingly, content is set to (yet again) be acclaimed as king in 2016. Research shows that content marketing has become the second leading element of digital marketing budgets, only behind mobile—and with good reason. After all, it’s content that keeps your readers engaged, draws users to the site, and performs in SEO.
Additionally, it’s extremely important to your identity as a company. It fills out your site and shows users what you’re all about—which is pretty important if you ever plan to attract buyers, followers, or fans.
Now, before you start looking for ways to implement a new strategy revolved around content marketing, you might want to know more about what it takes to get a good content marketing plan going. Let’s take a quick stab at why content marketing matters in the first place.
Why is Content So Important?
It wouldn’t be fair to claim that content matters in marketing without proving it. Well, here are some pretty loud stats for you, thanks to NewsCred’s research. Newscred compiled statistics about content marketing from all over the web, sharing the following information:
- 78% of CMOs believe custom content is the future of marketing.
- 329 million people read blogs each month.
- Blogs give sites 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links.
- 70% of consumers would rather get to know a company through articles than ads.
- 90% of consumers think custom content is useful and 78% believe that organizations who participate want to build good relationships with them.
Are those facts convincing enough to turn you into a believer?
Well, not so fast.
It’s obvious why you want content—especially if you read all of that promising info—but now you’ve got to figure out how to get it on your site. Here’s your step-by-step guide to organizing (and accomplishing!) your content marketing plan:
1. Know What You’re Working With
A lot of B2B companies who decide to implement a content marketing plan aren’t even sure what an effective plan looks like—and you don’t want to be one of them. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding content marketing that you want to make sure you’re clear about. To truly be successful in your strategy, you need to know what content marketing is and what it isn’t.
On the surface, it seems pretty simple, right? Content marketing is—you guessed it—marketing through content like blog posts, white papers, ebooks, you name it.
The problem is, most people think too broadly when they imagine content marketing. For example, some people think native advertising and hobby-blogging are content marketing and, while those are related, they aren’t really content marketing at its best. Content marketing is a long-term commitment that requires strategizing, planning, and studying of metrics. It’s almost like blogging, but with a purpose and with set goals in mind.
Unlike advertising, you’re not going to get instant results. Rather, your strategy is used to establish or improve your company’s image, build a network of followers, and represent your brand voice in the way you’d like to be heard.
Not to mention, it’s also a good way to gain authority about specific subject matter relating to your industry. The better information you have, the more likely you will be perceived as a resource to others who want to learn more about the subject matter you’re an expert in. As it turns out, showing off your expertise can be pretty good for your company.
2. Get to Know Your Audience
Directly targeting your audience is incredibly important in today’s marketing if you want to be relevant to anyone. According to a study by AOL and Nielsen, “27,000,000 pieces of content are shared each day.” And that was in 2011. They haven’t teamed up to produce a new study on this, but it’s safe to imagine that number has increased, especially with the rise in mobile.
That’s a lot of stuff for your potential customers and fans to sift through.
There is, however, good news. The more of a targeted approach you take, the more likely it’s going to be devoured by your hungry audience. See, they’re more likely to open—and even share—a piece of content that resonates with them.
But you can’t just target everyone with your content. As many marketers have said, everyone is no one. If the items you’re publishing aren’t directly targeting anyone, then they’re general. No one cares about general content.
The biggest sin of creating general content is to talk about your own company. Trust me, this never fares well for the brand. Why would anyone read a blog about a company’s products or services?
That’s why you really need to get to know your audience. Get on their level. Speak their language. Learn how they communicate and reciprocate that.
One way to do that is by building audience personas.
Mixing market research, surveys, and a little imagination with your personal understanding of the business, you can craft profiles of semi-fictional buyers. These profiles should include details like their demographics (income, location, age, etc.) and interests. Here are some questions you can ask when developing your buyer personas.
Doing so will allow you to determine who’s likely to read or engage with your content. In turn, you can create each piece with those personas in mind, targeting their style, interests, and needs, all while speaking their language. People like when they can relate to a piece of content. Hello, social media shares!
3. Decide What You Want to Create
Your blog will lose value to readers if it lacks consistency and planning. Will readers still be inspired if you’ve only updated your blog once a year since 2007? Not likely. The idea is to keep content moving and fresh, not stagnant. So, you want to incorporate content, consistently.
But, between white papers, infographics, vlogs and everything else, it can be hard to know where to start. You can’t just jump headfirst into the content game without first thinking through your strategy.
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When you start thinking about the type of content you want to produce, ask yourself:
- How consistently/frequently will I be posting?
- How will I promote my content?
- Which content performs well on the medium I’m using?
- What tone/style reflects my brand?
- What topics should I cover?
This should help you determine what kind of content you’d like to produce and what you can invest time in. For example, a blog post or infographic each take significantly less time than a case study or white paper. Similarly, a podcast or vlog series are time consuming too, requiring a greater commitment considering site visitors expect these regularly. To give you an idea of what’s out there, here is a list of what might want you to include in your strategy:
- Blog posts
- White Papers
- Case Studies
- Video Tutorials
- Social Media Posts
- User-Generated Content
And the list goes on. Take some time to research each type of content and why it’s used. Then, decide which pieces you’d like to implement in your strategy. Remember, content marketing takes work and represents your brand—you might want to consider hiring a content marketing specialist or manager to see everything through.
4. Find Your Voice
Remember, your blog is your story—and your story is your claim to fame in the internet space.
When you begin your new strategy, you’ll need to start asking yourself a lot of questions:
- What’s my unique value proposition?
- Who is my brand?
- Who is my audience?
- What’s the best way to reach them?
- Where will I reach my audience?
- How can I help them and make their lives better/easier?
- What does my audience respond well to?
These all play into your story, which is important. People love a good story, so if your blog can tell that story, you’re likely to win a few new fans through that alone.
Don’t forget to have a clear purpose behind your content, though. Purpose comes in many forms. You might write a piece with the purpose to entertain, to inform, to promote your brand, to gain followers, or to highlight a product (which I suggest using in moderation. Again, people your audience wants to hear less about you and more about what you’re offering them).
If you can’t define a clear purpose or goal for a piece, you might want to reconsider posting it—or even writing it in the first place.
Purpose can also factor in ROI.
Make your investment worthwhile by making content go as far as possible. One way to do that is by repurposing it. Have a popular blog post that’s been gaining a lot of traffic? Does it answer a question a lot of customers have? Turn it into another material, such as an infographic or white paper. Invite readers to download your re-purposed content in CTA offer form at the bottom of related pieces. This can keep your audience engaged—especially when they see how much info you have that’s what they’re looking for!
5. Title Your Content: Pitching Practice
At this point in the game, you should start creating topic ideas. For example, if you own a mattress store, you might want to touch on various subjects like:
- The need for high mattress quality
- The importance of mattress comfort
- Modern mattress designs
- How mattresses effect health
From there, create your blog post “pitches.” These pitches should consist of actual titles and brief summaries that explain what each piece is about.
You can’t possibly write all of your pieces at once, so creating pitches will keep you from losing your initial ideas and the direction you’d like to take them. Keeping a running list of pitches also allows you build on those ideas over time—especially as you learn what’s effective, what gains a lot of traffic or shares, and what your audience responds to.
6. Set Up Your Editorial Calendar
Creating pitches is the first step toward in scheduling your editorial calendar. Once you have those ready, you can start scheduling your posts on your editorial calendar. Making your calendar is easy. It can be as simple as choosing which topic should be published when.
While you don’t have to post at the same time each day of the week, but you do want to have some sort of organization. Start your calendar by listing tentative publishing dates for each pitch.
A more involved editorial calendar might include due dates for each outlines and first draft. Don’t forget to factor in writing time as well as time for edits and approvals before content goes up—especially if someone else will be writing on your blog, like other employees or guest bloggers. If you’re in need of a template, there are some nifty ones here.
7. Create Your Distribution or Promotional Plan—Because Sharing is Caring.
This is critical to being successful. After all, what good is good content that isn’t shared? Think about it this way:
What if, the next time you go to good ol’ grandma’s house, she decides to bake one of her award-winning, sweet, cinnamon apple pies—you know, the kind you like. But she forgets to tell you she baked that pie—and she never puts it for cooling (and smelling!) on the window sill.
Ouch, grandma. You probably would’ve loved that pie—and you definitely would’ve wanted to know about it before it was too late, too old, or too cold. Well, the same goes for your content marketing.
Who cares about an amazing pie if no one gets to taste the warm, buttery crust and the soft, sweet apples? If you think you’re making mouth-watering content, but no one’s mouth is watering, you’re either doing something wrong or you aren’t’ sharing it. Don’t keep all the good stuff to yourself.
Sharing is pretty important in today’s marketing climate. NewsCred’s report reveals, “Clicks from shared content are 5 times more likely to result in a purchase.” And that’s really important in the world of business. I mean, don’t take this the wrong way—I’m just as sentimental as the next gal—but marketing and sales just go together.
You can create unforgettable relationships with customers and volunteer all you want (both of which are outstanding practices for a company to adhere to), but that doesn’t keep you from closing your doors for good. Conversions and sales do.
So be smart about your content marketing.
Which shouldn’t be too hard now that you have all these details about creating a successful content marketing plan! As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into content marketing, but now you’re fully briefed on what it’s going to take.
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