Studies have shown that those companies which create a documented content strategy plan tend to do better than those that don’t. Many businesses however just don’t bother, having perhaps just a verbal plan in place or one that doesn’t vary much from week to week.
Companies that do create a documented plan tend to see more ROI from their content marketing efforts, so we’re going to take a look today at how to go about creating one.
Before you get started on your strategy, you need to know two key areas thoroughly in order to effectively target your users and tailor your content to suit. These are your target audience and the goals of the business.
With this in mind, if you haven’t already created buyer personas then do this before starting on your strategy so that you know exactly who your audience is, their approximate age range, gender, professions and interests. To help you with this, Hubspot has created a free template which you can use to get you started.
You should also understand why you are using content marketing to reach your audience.
- What are your business goals and how does content marketing help to achieve these
- What do you want your audience to gain from the content you create
- What action would you ideally like your audience to take when engaging with your content
- What kind of content do you need to create in order to reach people at every stage of the buying cycle
Stages of the Buying Cycle
Content should be shaped to give a different message to those at various stages of the buying cycle. For example, for those people that are not already familiar with your company, you’ll need to create a different message than you do for those who have already made a purchase or are at the buying stage.
The buying cycle can be broken down into four main stages:
- Discovery/awareness – the stage at which the customer is getting to know your brand and determining if they need your product or service.
- Research/education – the stage at which the customer identifies the problem that your product will help them to overcome and research potential solutions.
- Comparison/validation – the stage at which the customer looks at the options they have and begins to narrow down the choice of supplier.
- Buying – when the customer makes a decision on who to make a purchase from.
As you can see from the image above, different types of content can be created to match each stage of the buying cycle. During the awareness stage, you can engage best with your audience on social media and through blogging – both on your own site and on other industry sites and LinkedIn.
However, during the research and comparison phases, your audience is looking for more solid evidence that they should do business with you and this is where more complex content such as eBooks, whitepapers and webinars can come into play. Again, you can get involved with discussions on social media – especially LinkedIn Groups, Quora, etc., so that you can further boost your standing as an industry thought leader. The latter should be important to any company that’s using content marketing as it increases trust and provides further proof that the customer should be doing business with you, rather than the competition.
For further stages, provide even more proof in the shape of customer testimonials, case studies, product data sheets and further discussion.
Pulling it Together
So you should now have all of the necessary information you need in order to begin to build your content marketing strategy. You should include all of this in the plan, as well as the following:
- Brand story/mission – this should be added to the strategy document so that content creators can use this to craft the message within the content.
- Tone of voice document – all of your communications should contain a consistent voice throughout. Your tone of voice document should be created alongside the buyer personas so that you can accurately pinpoint the language that your audience most relates to.
- Style guide – you should also get together an overall style guide to ensure that the use of all media – images, video, text – matches your brand persona and is consistent across all platforms.
Creating a consistent message ensures that you build a strong and compelling brand. Everything you do with regards to your content – from social media to whitepapers – should follow this basic message. Of course, the language that you use in a whitepaper will often be more formal and technical than that used in social media or blog posts, but the overall personality of the brand should still shine through.
When it comes to imagery, do ensure that your logos and brand colours are also used consistently across all platforms.
Set Up Your Editorial Calendar
Once you have all of the above in place, you should then create your editorial calendar to set out what’s going to be written up, when and by who, using which available resources. You should research titles first to ensure that they address the correct stage of the buying cycle and will resonate with your audience, as well as address key pain points that they are experiencing.
Check out other industry sites, social media accounts and downloadable content to see how their audiences are connecting with their content. This is usually enough to prompt ideas for titles that will do well. Make sure that you check how much engagement the content is getting on each platform and ditch those subjects that don’t get any. Make a list of the subjects that the audience loves and craft content titles from there, carrying out further research as you go along.
Do also pay attention to industry conferences, bank holidays and special occasions as these are ideal for filling holes in your calendar when ideas are running thin.
Monitor, Adjust and Repeat
Once you’re up and running and you’ve set the strategy to work, then it’s time to measure its success. Study the analytics from your website, social media and any other channels that you’re using, such as email newsletters.
Pay attention to what’s done well and what’s not really seen any engagement and adjust your content calendar to suit. Titles that you’ve already created are not set in stone and if you don’t think that they’ll do well based on your analytics, then remove them.
Keep a record of everything so that you can then report to the appropriate department or manager and prove ROI.
A content strategy isn’t necessary for successful content marketing but it does help to prove ROI and focus your attention so that it’s easier to see what’s working and what’s not.