Why Content Marketing is so Important for Businesses
Before diving into how to build a stellar content marketing plan, it is imperative to understand why your business needs one in the first place.
A lot of companies synonymize a content strategy with simply publishing blogs on their websites – without audience research, keyword density or metrics to measure performance.
With the sea of competing content that is now available online, most of it is overlooked because of low search engine results page (SERP) ranking. This marketing practice that was initially used as an SEO tactic, may on the contrary have a negative impact on your site and push it down in search rankings if you generate poor quality content. Search engines like Google recognize and rate quality based on how your content is interacted with online.
The biggest benefits of content marketing now, are increasing brand awareness by providing quality and useful content to your target audience and generating new leads in the process. A boost in search rankings will be an inevitable bonus as a result. Good content is evergreen and once published, can always be repurposed for different distribution channels.
According to Content Marketing Institute, “marketers with a documented content marketing strategy are more effective than those who lack a written strategy. Yet only 40% of B2C and 37% of B2B marketers have written down a plan.”
Create Your Content Marketing Plan With This Comprehensive 8-Step Guide
Whether you are a start-up or a big corporation, applying this guide to your content strategy will optimize your marketing efforts and increase your chances of higher ROI.
1. Define Your Goals
Creating content takes effort, and it’s essential to understand why you are making this effort and what you are looking to get out of it. Is it to promote brand awareness, generate new leads, drive sales or engage customers? Content differs for every stage of the customer life-cycle and may not be the most effective option in all cases depending on the nature of your business.
Define and agree on 1 or 2 goals to begin with and aim to achieving those results through content marketing. Brand awareness and lead generation are the most common content marketing goals for businesses.
2. Understand Customer Personas
The next step is to clearly identify and understand your target audience in order to create the most relevant and valuable content for them. Who are you targeting? What are they interested in and where do they look for this information? The aim is to capture their interest through your content and better yet, have them share it. Conduct research through social media, analytics, forums and surveys to understand your target audience.
Once you have this information, divide your target audience into at least 2 or 3 “Customer Personas” or “Buyer Personas” – this will tell you more about your customer groups and how you can appeal to them specifically. As Hubspot defines it, “buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona, consider including customer demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.”
3. Decide Content Formats
There are many forms of content, suitable for different audiences and the type of information you want to relay. Diversify and experiment with a few content types in the beginning and measure their performance to see which ones work best. If you have a small team, then focus on your strengths and pick at least 2 formats to start creating content in.
Any content produced should have sharing capability and where possible, a lead capture option as well. Some popular formats you can consider:
- Blog posts
If you’re feeling ambitious and would like to take on other formats, here are a plethora of ideas:
4. Make a List of Content Ideas
At this stage, start brainstorming content ideas. The first rule of creating content is to provide genuine value to your target audience. Your content should be answering questions that your potential customers have, relevant to your industry and product/service. Remember, it’s less about what you want to say and more about what your audience wants to know, in line with your offering.
Tools like Google Keyword Planner are very effective in helping you generate ideas based on the most popular searches related to your keyword.
Focus on your niche and check what type of content is working well within your market/industry. Buzzsumo is a great tool for learning about viral content and content ideas ranked by social media shares.
Neil Patel has nailed down some of the best tools you can use to generate content topic ideas.
5. Build a Content Calendar
Whether a sole-founder or a multi-team company, you cannot have a successful content strategy without a content calendar.
A content calendar lets you map exactly what content will get published when. This helps you plug in due-dates, author names, and any supporting material needed. This is especially useful for multiple-member marketing teams.
Don’t forget about the keywords – put yourself in your customer’s shoes and include all the different search terms they would be using to find your content and make sure they’re featured in your content.
Keep important dates in mind (holidays, special occasions, and also days unique to your customer groups) for your content, but make sure that most of your content is relevant all year round for updates and repurposing.
Above is the template we use, and here are some templates options to get you started.
6. Content is King but Distribution is Queen
So you’ve created great content, bravo. But content is only as effective as the eyeballs it gets. How do you ensure that your content gets in front of a bigger audience?
Keep in mind that organic posts on social media are not guaranteed to get in front of your page followers. Not only are they not prioritized over content from friends and other popular pages, but not all followers will be online when you publish.
Once your content is ready, timing is key to maximize attention capture on social media. There have been several studies on the most effective times to post on social media; however, this differs from location to location and depends on your audience type. Refer back to your buyer personas and ask yourself when your audience is most likely to be on social media. Use Facebook and Instagram insights to see when your audience is most active online. Pick a few time options and start posting. Narrow down your options depending on the performance of the posts.
Another option is to start “boosting” or “promoting” organic posts on social channels with a small investment to get you in front of more targeted viewers.
Forums like Quora and Reddit are a great way to reply to threads referencing your content if it directly answers the question. Being involved in relevant communities on these forums otherwise helps build credibility for when you answer questions or make suggestions.
Make sure your content is optimized for all the keywords listed in the content calendar. This SEO best practice improves the chances of it showing up in organic searches on Google.
Another way is to map out lesser-known influencers in your industry using tools like Buzzsumo and reaching out to them via email. The trick is to show that you recognize their work (with a reference), show them value (in whatever you are asking for) and keep the email short. Here are some great email templates to get you started.
7. Repurpose Your Content
As mentioned earlier, most of your content created should be relevant for a longer period of time to be leveraged into different formats for re-publishing. The same article can be made into an infographic, video tutorial, webinar or podcast. A collection of guides can be made into an ebook. Pieces of the same content can be used for shorter social media posts.
This also works wonders as Google rewards re-publishing, boosting your site quality and search engine rankings.
8. Measure the Performance
Content is useless without conversion. In this case a conversion could be achieving any goal that you have defined for your content. So it is important, while defining goals, to also define the KPI metrics. Impressions, clicks, subscriptions, followers, likes, traffic to website are some ways to measure performance.
Through Google Analytics and social media analytics, study how individual content pieces performed and study the format and type of content. Look further and see if any of these actions lead to a sale by adding that goal in Analytics. This will help you understand what kind of content is resonating better with your audience and what you need to focus on.
Finally, go beyond data and listen to your customers – keep an eye on feedback and comments on social channels. Engage with your customers, they are the best performance indicators!
Despite all other tactics, your content ultimately needs to be engaging, entertaining or informative – anything that is a perceived value to your target audience – otherwise your time and efforts may result in a negative ROI.
This can seem like a lot of information to take in and building a good content plan takes time, organization and effort, especially if you are just starting out. Follow the steps in this guide, using the resources mentioned, to help ease the process.
If you do not have a content marketer in-house, then Hustlebird can build and run your entire content marketing strategy for you. Simply contact us by using the form below.
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