Successful content marketing programs don’t happen overnight. Every step of content marketing takes time, and that includes the initial planning process of defining your goals and strategies to achieve the results you want.
Content marketing can and will produce a higher ROI than traditional marketing methods over time when executed effectively, but it works best for the patient business that wants to invest time and resources now for consistent results in the future.
Think of content marketing as taking out a mortgage to buy a house, versus traditional marketing as renting an apartment. When you buy, it takes a lot of time to find the right house, negotiate, and close, with a down payment usually required as well. You still must constantly maintain that house. When you rent, you can find a new apartment complex within days, sign a lease easily, and don’t need to mow the lawn or do other maintenance tasks. The advantage is the house is cheaper in the long run and builds equity.
Google Ads or other traditional campaigns require constant injections of cash from your marketing budget to be effective. If you turn off your Google Ads spend, you’re not getting clickthroughs anymore. Content marketing leverages organic search; produce great content and it will show up continually in search and be shared by your customers or stakeholders, providing free reach. Once you invest in great content, it’s always out there.
The most important work to build a successful content marketing program, or to revamp your current efforts if they haven’t met your expectations, occurs well before you start generating content or even deciding on tools and platforms. If you start the process with clear intentions and realistic expectations, that focus will carry through your entire preparation process. Thinking strategically about how you wish to convert those intentions and expectations into a realistic and focused content marketing program makes all the difference in meeting your goals.
Here are some initial steps to take in the preparation phase of building your content marketing program:
Build Your Case
An easy way to start is to build your business case for implementing a content marketing program. This has two benefits for your marketing team. First off, building a strong business case helps convince executives and other stakeholders of the worth of your content marketing program, thereby overcoming objections and even creating evangelists that will help you overcome resistance elsewhere in your organization. We’ve put together some resources for you to help sell your content marketing plan to the C-suite; check it out!
The second benefit is that building that business case helps you execute your campaign. By taking the time to methodically make your case, you’re also organizing your own thoughts. For example: outlining your goals and objectives and aligning metrics and KPIs to measure the success of those objectives, is important both to decision makers within your organization and to you as you iterate and improve your content marketing efforts.
So, let’s cover some of the items you need to consider as you prepare to launch your content marketing program.
1: What are you trying to accomplish?
Great content can drive multiple objectives or focus in on one single objective, but knowing what you’re trying to do is crucial to align your content for maximum effectiveness.
Some common objectives for content marketing include:
- Brand awareness
- Product Launches
- Audience Engagement
- Thought Leadership
- Social Media Influencers
- Lead Generation
- Lead Nurturing (moving leads down the 'funnel')
- Website traffic
- Improving overall hits
- Improving bounce rate
- Increasing marketing ROI
- Customer loyalty and retention
Obviously, not all of these will apply to every organization, and there are even edge cases that may be specific to your own needs. However, this is a good starting point to consider your marketing objectives.
2: It’s Not Real If You Can’t Measure It
Your objectives are only as good as your metrics. If you’re trying to focus on brand awareness, you’re going to need more than bounce rate. If you’re trying to increase sales, your Instagram follower count is nice but not completely germane.
There are a thousand different ways to measure your content marketing impact, but it’s better to focus on relevant metrics that are aligned with your goals than to get bogged down in data that has no relevance. Tom Salvat, CEO of CONCURED, discusses metrics at length in this interview with Flockler.com.
3: Standing Out By Zooming In
There’s a lot of content being produced out there, and you’re going to have to differentiate yourself from the pack or you will get lost in a sea of blandness. What is your ‘brand voice’? What is your story and how do you tell it? Do you focus on being more informative and helpful than anyone else, or use wit and pizzazz to grab attention? Or do you focus on finding an under-served niche and meet that need more effectively than others?
You can’t be everything to everyone. If you try, you’ll get lost in the shuffle. Which leads us to the next point:
4: Who Are You Talking To, Anyway?
You are not your audience. Your coworkers are not your audience. Thanks to content intelligence and the data you capture when people engage with your content, though, you can discover precisely who is your audience.
Successful content marketers use audience personas to determine their audience and precisely target their interests and needs. Knowing who you’re trying to reach is one step closer to knowing how to meet their specific needs. Once you know exactly what needs your product or service can fill for your audience, you’re golden.
Utilizing different personas to segment your audience helps you target even more effectively by creating content designed to appeal to different people. When done right, it allows you to build near- individualized, curated narratives for each member of your audience.
5: Your Execution Is Only As Good As Your Plan
You know who you’re talking to and you know how to talk to them. Great! Now it’s time to build the scaffolding for all this work you’ve done. What’s the plan?
Effective content marketing requires reaching your customers wherever they are on their journey. A good plan provides for producing, releasing, and amplifying content to engage with your audience at all stages of their engagement with your organization.
A great plan will help you always know the answers to the questions we ask ourselves: Are you producing the right content for your needs? Do you have content smoothly flowing through the pipeline to ensure a steady flow out into the wild? Are you leveraging your existing content by remixing and reusing content to create new opportunities?
Are you identifying the right channels to get your content out there and earn organic reach through social media? How do you market your content so your content can market your organization?
As Michael Brenner, CMO of CONCURED, is fond of saying, “The buyer journey is nothing more than a series of questions that must be answered.” Are you ensuring content is available at every touchpoint of that journey, ready to answer the questions your audience will have?
By taking the time to plan out how you’ll address the basic elements of your content strategy, you’ll find that the rest of the process goes far more smoothly and results in a more effective end product. If you’re ready to dive into the nuts and bolts of your content strategy, we’re here to help! Here are some more resources to supercharge your strategy development!
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