If you want to be successful in your online marketing ventures, having a well-documented content strategy is critical. To create a winning strategy, however, you must not only know your audience, but you must also have a plan for content distribution to get the whole thing moving. According to the B2C Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report, 44% of marketers have an undocumented strategy, and 37% have a documented one. The remaining 20% either don’t have one or unsure of its status. But, perhaps what’s even more surprising is that only 10% of B2C marketers consider their strategy “very effective.”
Creating Your Content Marketing Strategy
Begin with an audit of your current content
Check to see if it is outdated, redundant, or contains only trivial information. Take an inventory of everything – all pieces of content you have across all channels. List it all out in a spreadsheet, so it’s easier for you to see what to keep, what to scrap, and what to update. Look at your inventory to see what content is working, and what isn’t. This way, you can craft a strategy focusing on the kind of content you know is working for your audience.
For example, if you find that you’ve published 10 pieces of quality content on subject, it may be worthwhile to compile those into a single larger piece of content, and distribute it as a comprehensive guide. It could be a valuable lead magnet.
Next, move into content organization
Without proper organization, it’ll be harder for your audience to find what they’re looking for, and harder for you to keep up with what you’ve done compared to what you want to do. Think about blog categories and tags and make sure all current and future content are built with those in mind. You’ll end up with a catalog of content that’s easy for your audience to read through and get to right what they want.
Now, decide who on your team is responsible for what
Which team members are responsible for the various stages of content creation? Who’s going to produce the content? Who’s going to distribute it? Who’s going to maintain it? Who’s going to create, maintain, and communicate the standards you develop to everyone else on your team? This is important for the creation of new content, but is essential for any edits to existing content, so that everyone involved stays on the same page throughout the process.
Setup a plan for digital assessment management, or DAM
While there are standalone DAM systems that offer more than a cloud-based storage service like Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive, what matters here is you have a central place to store and retrieve all your digital assets, so that everyone on the team can work from the same point. Store your videos, images, text, and everything here.
Develop your brand guidelines
This will ensure all content is spoken in a consistent voice, and over time help your audience to identify the content as your own simply because of how it sounds. Work to create a brand style guide with style rules, image guidelines, and other details to help all content remain consistent regardless of who actually produces it. If you’ll have any print work, be sure this brand guide also includes layout specifications, rules for printers, including how to choose paper, and more.
Build a customer journey map
This helps you explore the various ways your customers will interact with your brand, on your website and across other channels. Plotting this journey ahead of time, to the best of your ability, will ensure you’re brainstorming content that works – in terms of what works, the formats to use, and what channels to use for distribution.
Create customer personas
These are detailed looks and who your ideal customers are – filled with things like demographic information, the problems they’re facing, why and how your products or services will help address those problems, and more. The more detail, the better. Once you have personas developed, all you have to do is craft the content as if you were speaking directly to one or more of those personas. This is the “who” of your content marketing strategy.
Where Media Research Fits In
Media research is an often overlooked part of content strategy. This essential steps helps you determine how and where to distribute and promote your content before it is created. This type of research tells you who you’re writing the content for, but also how you’ll end up getting earned and paid media from it. Media research gives you the “where”, while your content gives you the “what”.
Standing Out from the Competition
It’s also important to take a look at what your competition is doing, so you can do it differently, and better. The competitive analysis stage gives you the “why.” Why craft a piece of content this way as opposed to that way? When you see the competition offering valuable information that your audience needs hasn’t gained traction, think outside the box as to how to make your approach different from what’s already there.
If you have a content surplus, but you’ve not done your due diligence on media research beforehand, you could end up with content that just doesn’t go where you need it in order to create traction with your audience. Using the buyer personas you created as part of your marketing strategy can help, because you can see where they’re spending time online, and how you can infiltrate your way into those networks and publications. It’s through that step that you can build and nurture relationships with journalists, bloggers, and other influencers in your niche to spread your message, or create a paid media relationship.
When opting to go into paid media, choose your partners with care. Research partners who can amplify your content without exceeding your budget. If you’re not spending enough time exploring your options where paid and earned media are considered, you’re missing opportunity. If you research ahead of time and know exactly where you’re going to invest resources, you can get more from your key performance indicators (KPI).
Getting Influencers and Earned Media
There are a number of tools available to help you in identifying the most popular publishers and influences in your niche, including: Content Marketer, BuzzSumo, and Meltwater. Don’t discount the smaller more niche publications, because these have a chance of providing high conversions. Ignoring research and automatically going for the big dogs everyone knows about can cause you to miss golden nuggets.
Reaching out to influencers means showing an interest in their work and taking the time to see what has worked well for them. As you reach out, you can genuinely compliment them and provide a new angle for the hottest topic they’ve covered. Whatever you do, make the content easy to share on social networks – masterful social media development tactics like pre-writing social posts or creating embeddable graphics will make your content easier to share by others. The easier is is to share, the more likely influencers will do it for you.
Go beyond looking for the best influencers and media outlets for your audience. Take the time to learn what they’re doing and invest in developing a strategic relationship with them. Having this figured out before you invest a lot of time and effort in the content itself will ensure your best work doesn’t fade into the abyss.
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Do you have any good ideas about creating a content marketing strategy? If so, please share ’em in the comment section below.