In this post:
- Define your goals: know your business objectives
- Define target audience
- Select a proper home for your content
- Define distribution channels
- Define posting frequency
- Define content format
- How would you trigger interest:
- Use emotional triggers
- Gain readers’ trust
- Use supporting visuals:
- Text Formatting
- Fine Tuning
How It Starts
“Coming up with the right Content Marketing Strategy for your business is a no-brainer”, you might say. You dress up the main stages you go over in some fancy terms like:
- We conducted a comprehensive competitor research (when you’ve actually traced down what kind of content two local competitors have drafted within the past month);
- We inventoried our current content (by checking which of your blog posts have 0 comments)
- We drafted conclusions based on the analysis above (by copying and pasting your two competitors’ latest content tactics on your blog)
and you think you’ve done a fantastic job. That may be so, but often it is far from being enough. However, if you really pay attention to the details and invest time in your research you can eventually become one of those amazing competitors you benchmark against and soon other businesses will try to imitate your strategy rather than the other way round.
How could you achieve that?
Make sure to incorporate the following steps in your Content Marketing Strategy:
1. Define Your Goals
Start by setting your business objectives: in order to select the right path, you should first decide where you’re heading.
Consider which are the essential goals that your content is to achieve. You might wish to concentrate on attracting your target audience’s interest, engaging them and motivating them to:
- Become active participants on your site by:
- Commenting &
- Rating blog posts
- Promote your content on social networks by:
- Help you gather new leads by:
- Sharing their contact details with you when downloading your content
- Sharing your content with their friends and followers
- Help you monetize your content by:
- Paying a fee to download your content
- Converting from a reader into a paying customer
- Help you popularize your company and brand by:
- Actively engaging with your content
- Sharing it online
Once you’ve set the goals that fit your business culture and mission, it would be much easier to take your first steady steps towards drafting your Content Marketing Strategy:
2. Define Your Target Audience
This step is still part of the planning stage, but as it’s clearly stated in the ancient Chinese strategy study, The Art of War, in times of ‘war’ you’d be lost if you don’t plan ahead.
It is essential to understand that in this post we won’t discuss how to define your target customers. You should have done this way before you have founded your business. Instead during this step we will try to help you define the right audience for your company content.
That being said, you might have already reckoned that the target customers for your products/services not necessarily coincide with the target audience for your content. Sounds frustrating? Let me explain …
When you create content with certain goals in mind, the smart thing to do is to reach out to people that could help you find a shortcut to achieving those goals. Outreaching to industry influencers would be a fine approach in this regard, for such personas have already attracted the attention and respect of your target audience. If you manage to persuade those influencers to convey your company message, your content would have a greater impact and would enjoy broader reach, no doubt.
For instance, if your goal is to popularize your brand you will focus on grabbing the attention of journalists focusing on your niche, renowned industry speakers, frequently quoted bloggers that your target customers read and so on. All of those could be called ‘industry influencers’ and, in this case, could be perceived as your target audience.
You can’t have a successful Content Marketing Strategy without exceling at this stage so take time to select your right target audience. Your selection will influence all of the remaining steps of the process, including picking up the proper tone of voice, content format, distribution channel, and posting frequency.
3. Select The Proper Home for Your Content
This one is tough. Especially if you wish to post your content on an external website instead of on your own company blog.
Feeding your company blog with ‘high quality’, ‘relevant’, and ‘useful’ content is an absolute must. However, if you wish to add to your Content Marketing Strategy some additional flair in terms of Link Building, excuse my French, you could try to create good content for a popular blog and spread the reach of your marketing efforts. This process deserves a post on its own, but for the sake of the argument here, I’m going to list down what are your top options of finding a home for you content abroad (outside your company website):
- Get featured on an industry or local news site;
- Get published on an industry blogger’s site;
- Get covered on a website focusing on industry that complements your own (example: you are a plumber and you draft a special ‘How-To’ piece for a Home Improvement blog).
Usually the best choice is to combine your efforts and create content both for your blog and for external authority websites. Here you have two options:
- Create content for your business blog that is different from the content you submit to other authority sites;
- Use the same content for your business blog and for other authority sites (use content syndication).
Under the first option you will have to increase your productivity rate in order to cover your own blog and to ‘guest blog’ at other sites. You need to set aside time for building relationships and gaining the trust of the specific blog owners because rarely people managing respected websites will welcome open-heartedly a stranger’s offer to contribute with content.
The second option also hides certain risks worth mentioning. Entering the realm of SEO specifics: you need to keep in mind that Google is not a ‘huge fan’ of duplicate content. So if you wish to post your content twice or multiple times on the net, the chances are that Google will catch it up and will try to make it up for it.
So, if you have reposted your content on a high authority website (higher ranking than yours) then, most probably, the page on your company website, that is housing the same content, won’t rank in Google. The search engine will disregard the multiple copies of the given content and will rank the ‘original’ source, which more often than not will be the more trustworthy website.
This will result in lost organic traffic at your end (for the particular syndicated content piece). This could be either good or bad, depending on the exposure the external site brings to your content. If the content syndication helps you reach a wider audience – by all means go for it, but don’t turn Content Syndication in your prime Content Marketing Strategy.
4. Define The Distribution Channels
You have a lot of options here; let’s see the 3 key channel groups that you can opt from:
- Direct outreach to influencers and industry sites. As discussed above your relationship with industry influencers could serve as a shortcut towards reaching your target clients. Once you are in good terms with revered public figures in your niche you can share with them pieces of your content that will impress or interest them and thus motivate them to discuss it with their audience. (Keep in mind that often you’d have to create content especially with this goal in mind, example: case studies, industry surveys or research, etc.)
- Social media. Whether paid or free social media campaigns are true gems as it comes to content promotion. However, don’t spread thin your efforts on every possible social network out there. Choose your battles and your channels wisely. For instance if your target customers are not using Twitter that often, and prefer Facebook instead, your campaign should be more narrowly focused on your Facebook presence.
On the other hand if you have a lot of visuals it makes sense to publish those on Pinterest too. Pinterest hides huge potential, just as Instagram does, so don’t necessarily opt for the most popular (Twitter and Facebook) social channels but consider other options too: LinkedIn, SnapChat, StumbleUpon.
- Paid content promotion platforms. If you are sure that your content is really valuable you can give it additional boost with some paid online advertisement. There are online platforms that have already established partnerships with renowned publishers, so showing your content on otherwise hardly reachable sites like Huffington Post or NBC is not as hard as it once used to be.
- Google Display Network – according to Google “(GDN) reaches over 90% of global internet users expanding across 2 million sites”. Promoting your content on such a large scale with specific options to filter the target audience (based on demographics, interests, topics, using remarketing and exclusions) is an opportunity worth considering.
- Other content distribution platforms that are also referred to as Content Syndication Networks or Content Discovery Companies include names like Taboola, Zemanta, Outbrain. They help you promote your content in the shape of live ads posted on popular sites like CNN, Forbes, etc. Your ad will be complementing an article on the given publisher's site and will be tagged as “Related Posts”, “Similar Articles Around The Web”.
The essential thing to remember here is to diversify your distribution channels. Putting all your eggs in one basket has never been a wise thing to do.
5. Define The Posting Frequency
When you’ve already defined the ‘home of your content’ you should proceed towards drafting a posting calendar. For instance as it comes to your company blog you could choose specific dates when you’ll post a given type of content. An example of a weekly posting schedule with high posting frequency could be:
Monday: Past week recap
Tuesday: Case Study post
Wednesday: Expert Interview
Thursday: Event Recap
Friday: Comic (Industry Joke)
If you are posting on external sites, though, you should learn to be flexible with the editors’ calendars. If you have limited resources and small content creation team you could skip a date in your company blog posting calendar when you get published on an external website.
Whatever posting frequency you chose for your Content Marketing Strategy, remember that you should constantly try to improve it. Monitor which are the days of the week when you blog attracts higher readership and schedule your best pieces for those days. For the slower days, try to come up with more entertaining content formats that will boost your blog traffic. Depending on your target audience those may vary from infographics, surveys, quizzes, competitions, giveaways, and so on.
6. Define Content Format
Often when it comes down to Content Strategy people limit their imagination to articles and blog posts only. However, there is so much more that you could experiment with:
- You could invest in video tutorials if you are an Interior Designer or Auto Mechanic;
- Infographics are great for explaining hard-to-grasp or boring subjects like Plastic Buildup in Our Oceans, Private Vs Personalized Search, A Comparison Between Different Social Systems.
- Comic strips could have a huge viral impact, especially if you are able to recreate fine jokes in your industry context. Take for instance Dilbert classic comic strips there’s hardly a person in finance and economy who hasn’t seen a piece of the series.
- Whitepapers and e-books, if posted on your site, could be used to gather leads or even to get some financial gain (if their download requires a payment).
- Videos or audio content with accompanying transcript is a great way to diversify your blog content. Many take this approach a step further and schedule weekly or monthly G+Hangouts that are saved as videos on YouTube. Podcasts are another content format that you could use to popularize your latest e-book or How-To post.
- Slide deck presentations don’t have as limited applications as you may think. You don’t need to speak at a conference to come up with well-organized educational presentation. If your business is changing dynamically and your industry is quite intricate like the Online Marketing field, people will appreciate a concise, clear and highly visual explanation of hard-to-grasp terms and topics.
7. How to Attract Interest
The webs is crowded with content and in the midst of this ‘information-overload’ your message should rise up and inspire, entrap or deeply touch your target audience in order to leave a vivid trace in their memory. This could be quite a challenge, fortunately we’re to share with you a couple of tricks on how to achieve that:
- Use emotional triggers. You should strive to create a memorable piece and that is best achieved by appealing to one’s emotions. If your content is able to raise a controversy, if it shocks, uses the art of humor, elicits fear or guilt, if it makes the reader feel like s/he belongs to a community; you (as a marketer) could use that feeling and convert it into a specific action.
- Gain readers’ trust. Support your content with well-established industry resources. Conduct extensive research, test your theories, interview industry experts and prove your point step by step, leaving no room for doubt or argument.
8. Use Supporting Visuals
I know the blog post reads “A 7-STEP GUIDE …”, but I thought, if you’ve read so far you deserve some extra intel, a reward of sorts that will shed some light on the small details that make the whole difference.
So if your content is a plain blog post, a long case study or a whitepaper you need to break the monotony and add some flair to the text-packed piece:
- Use special text formatting (bold key terms, use italic on important quotes, capitalize your article headings), typography (learn how to pair fonts) and template design (learn how to create winning landing pages) to accent on the key moments and most important conclusions drawn in your post.
- Using visuals is not always easy for they come at a price. However, there are some nice corners on the net where you could find valuable images free of charge. In case you are on a tight budget and you can’t invest in paid stock photos consider this option before you post a 1500+ dry article.
On the other hand you could also use screenshots in your article, though they may have limited application for they are mainly used in case study posts. Of course you could also trust your own creativity and make your own unique shots to spruce up your article.
9. Fine Tuning
You’ve made it to the final stage! Your Content Marketing Strategy is all set and you are ready to test it. Be patient and closely examine the results of your planning. You have an ongoing responsibility to evaluate the results of the choices you’ve made when forging your strategy and if they don’t trigger the expected engagement, you are entitled to ‘fine tune’ them. Be ruthless as it comes to changing your content format, distribution channels, posting channels – everything that seems to hold you back from your goals should be identified and corrected. And remember:
Hand-Picked Related Articles:
- Content Re-packaging: How To Finally Make Your Content Strategy Work
- How to Develop a Content Strategy for an Unfamiliar Niche
- 15 Strategic Questions You Need Answered to Power Your Content Marketing
* Lead image adapted from zandwacht