Yes, the numbers say it all.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s report “B2C Content marketing 2014 - benchmarks, budgets and trends–North America”:
- 90% of B2C marketers use content marketing (and that’s up from 86% last year),
- 44% of their B2B colleagues claim they are effective at content marketing,
- 60% plan to increase their content marketing budget,
- 67% of B2C organisations have someone in place to oversee content marketing,
- 72% of marketers report producing more content than they did a year ago
and so on.
Content marketing adoption is on the rise and the confidence in content strategies is growing.
But you’re still not convinced to use it.
Is it because you don’t believe that it can deliver any real benefits for your business? After all, it’s not a sales channel. Content can help with many things, like brand awareness, visibility or reputation. But content strategy rarely results in sales.
Or do you feel that content is a doomed strategy in long term and it’s better to focus on customer experience instead?
But perhaps you have been toying with the idea of marketing with content. You just don’t know how to launch a structured strategy. If so, read on. This post will tell you exactly what steps you need to take.
1. Get the Buy In
In its essence, content marketing is simple. You create valuable content to pull customers toward your product or service, aiming to build enough recognition and trust so they will want to do business with you.
And you may know this already. But chances are that your manager, CEO or business partner don’t. They may have heard about it but are not sold on the idea yet.
Your first task then is to convince them of the importance of content marketing and a need to invest in it. Fair chance is that without their approval, your campaign will never get off the ground.
Content Marketing Institute, an invaluable resource on the topic by the way, offers great tips on achieving this here.
2. Define Goals
For any marketing campaign to succeed, it needs to be aligned with your business goals. And, before you even think of creating any type of content, you need to define what you want to achieve with the campaign.
Typical goals used by companies engaging in content marketing include:
- Raising brand awareness. When publishing content your hope is that upon finishing consuming it a reader is going to ask: who wrote this?
- Increasing brand loyalty. Once your prospects start finding themselves coming across and reading your content whenever they search for specific solutions, they start to see your brand in a new light - as a credible but also likeable resource.
- Customer education. Content is also a powerful vehicle for answering your customers most common questions and problems.
- Building Connection. Content offers you a chance to initiate and engage in conversation with readers, building a connection which can result in trust towards your brand.
The purpose of these goals is to help you to quantify your results but also justify your budget and investment.
3. Define Metrics
Once you have defined your goals, you need to decide how you are going to track and measure the campaigns performance. Even though every goal will have different KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) there will be few common ones across your campaign:
- Traffic from content
- Time on site
- Pages per visit
- Bounce rate
- Social shares and depending on the main campaign goal:
Also, since this might be the first such campaign in your organisation, you should develop a reporting system that’s easy to follow for everyone involved.
4. Assess Internal Capabilities and Resources
There is a fair chance that you will do the bulk of work on the campaign in-house. Therefore, you need to assess and decide who is going to contribute to it and how much time they can devote to it.
You should work out how much content you will create in-house and asses the need to outsource.
Another aspect of the campaign you need to think of is management. Who is going to oversee various aspects of a campaign? What resources they can devote to it? Depending on the size of your company, this task could be divided between a number of people, who need to report in an easy to understand way, another aspect that should be decided upon.
5. Create Content Personas
To develop a successful campaign you need to understand who your audience is. You need to know what are their pain points and what type of content they prefer to consume. Such knowledge will help you develop content personas - a representation of your ideal reader, someone you will be creating content for.
Having content personas means that you can better model your users buying behaviour and target specific content at their different stages of the buying cycle. Once again CMI offers a great insight into developing content personas here.
6. Perform Content Audit
Before you launch a campaign you also need to take a deep look at your current content. A full content audit will allow you to:
- identify problems with content, performance issues, broken links and anything else that might impart the way your current content will be consumed by new visitors.
- identify content that you could reuse or repurpose for your new campaign.
- evaluate your content’s quality and assess what needs to be updated for new visitors.
The aim for this audit is to find out if the information you provide about your products or services aligns with your new strategy. In short, you must ensure that your web copy will assist prospects in become customers.
Content audit is a lengthy and quite technical process. This post however offers a very good starting point to evaluating your content on the site.
7. Define Your Unique Take
Another aspect contributing to the success of your campaign is originality. With so much content already published, unless you show a unique take on the topic, your efforts might be ignored. A unique take will give you an unfair advantage, one no one else can copy from you.
Your unique take might be proprietary data, or experience and expertise no one else has. Regardless of what, you should define it in your strategy.
8. Develop a Content Mix
Based on the information you gathered so far, you need to define what content types you will create for the campaign. In most cases, you are not restricted by one content type. Instead you can publish a wide range of types, depending on what your audience prefers to consume.
Your content types could be anything from blog posts, white papers, research papers to infographics and more.
When you define them, make sure to maintain a balance between education and entertainment. Customers want you to help them. But at the same time though, they want you to entertain them as well. Therefore it’s good to include few lighter pieces of content, a comic strip, a meme or a tongue in cheek post for instance.
9. Generate Content Ideas
For many content marketers, generating ideas is by far the most paralysing aspect of the process. After all, there is a high demand for unique and valuable content that will stand out from the so many “me too” posts. Luckily, there are certain techniques you can to come up with ideas:
- focus on your passions and write about what you know. This is in fact the most powerful strategy of all.
- build off others content. Join and add to the discussion, or
- ask your customers and social media fans to gain a first hand information.
10. Develop a Content Calendar
An editorial calendar will help you track your content creation and ensure it’s posted on time. It will also offer an insight into content personas, topics, keywords and distribution.
But a content calendar is crucial not only to keep you in check. In a small organisations, overseeing a content strategy might be simple. But when you have to deal with other departments contributing to the campaign, you need a solid system to manage them all.
11. Create Content
Lastly, you need to pull your sleeves up and start creating the content in line with your calendar. There is a ton of advice to offer on content creation but for the purpose of a strategy, here are the things you need to ensure:
- your content must be created by someone who specialises in a given content type (even if it means having to outsource it)
- you should spend a considerable time on headlines (as they will play a big role in dictating the success of a campaign)
- it should be aligned with your marketing strategy. In other words, your content shouldn’t contradict your main brand message.
12. Define Distribution Channels
In content marketing distribution is everything. The main work on your campaign begins when you hit “publish”. Yet, getting content in front of the target audience is still one of the biggest problems encountered by content marketers today.
Before you launch your campaign you should come up with ideas and a clear path for reaching your target audience. Consider your internal resources - social media, press connections, newsletter subscribers and existing visitors. Decide if there are any industry leaders who would agree to help. And if you can afford to run ads to promote the main pieces.