A well-planned content marketing strategy is the secret of many successful businesses online.
Whether your target audience is B2B or B2C, there are many great examples of companies that are absolutely killing it with their content. For some, it is their main source of marketing, while for others it forms part of a wider online marketing strategy.
For many smaller business owners, developing a content marketing plan and investing the time and/or money into content creation can seem like a mammoth task. We’ll admit, content strategy isn’t “easy,” but if you approach it with a good plan, you can see the reward for your marketing efforts.
Ready to build your killer content strategy? Let’s dig in…
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Content marketing strategy involves the creation and sharing of different types of content online. Generally speaking, this content isn’t directly selling or promoting products or services, but is intended to stimulate the interest of the target audience for the brand in question.
Content Marketing Institute identifies three key benefits to brands that follow a good content strategy:
There are no set mixes of “best” content types to use in your content marketing strategy. Each business will have their own mix that works for their business goals and buyer personas. The bottom line is that your content should be interesting and valuable for those you want to see it, and presented in a format that they will consume.
Examples of content types include: blogs, white papers, downloadable e-books, social media posts, video, podcast, infographic, case studies, checklists and interviews. Of these, blogging is definitely one of the most popular content types, although recent survey results from Content Marketing Institute show that audio/visual content is increasingly popular among B2B marketers.
If you were to go back in time about a decade, content marketing was a new and novel approach. It rapidly caught on among businesses of all types, so that there are phenomenal volumes of content being produced and consumed every day. Data from a Donmo infographic shows that the popular content site Buzzfeed generates 50,925.92 video views every minute of every day.
This raises the question for many marketers, is content strategy still worth it? Is there so much content out there already that yours won’t make an impact?
Content marketing does still work, but it’s important that you have realistic expectations before committing to a content strategy. For starters, don’t expect to see results immediately. With consistent content marketing efforts, you can still expect that it will be a “slow burn” with results over time. A common benchmark is that you should be seeing some results after six months, IF you have been consistent and followed a good content marketing plan.
What is content doing for you over that time? For one thing, search engines are crawling your site and indexing your content. As it starts to get more hits over time and send signals of its relevance, your search results improve. Secondly, you’re hopefully building an audience over that time. Part of content marketing strategy is promoting your content – you should be getting people to look for and consume your content over time.
Another important point is that you have to keep up with what works in content marketing, testing and refining for your own target audience. Here’s what Content Marketing Institute says about whether content marketing is still worth it:
“As long as you evolve the way you create and distribute your content and keep pace with trends, content marketing will continue to be an authentic, useful, and engaging method that gets results.”
There are a few “ingredients” that tend to commonly lead to an effective content marketing strategy. Here’s what we’ve found:
A documented content marketing plan is always a good idea to ensure that you meet your goals for content. Some statistics from Content Marketing Institute highlight why a documented plan is so important:
Content marketing success doesn’t just happen, it is planned for. Here are a few pointers for creating your successful content strategy:
As we’ve touched on previously, your content must be appealing to your target audience. This means that your first task is to define who that target audience is. We talked about buyer personas in an article here, but you should also consider the “buyer’s journey.” Different content can be more effective for different stages.
The buyer’s journey is the process that anyone goes through to get from being completely unaware of a product or service, to being a buyer. HubSpot provides a great pictorial representation, shown below:
So when you’re thinking about what content, you also have to consider “for when?” At some point, you will want to end up with a mix of different pieces for the different stages. In the table below, we’ve shown some examples of content for each stage:
While you’re at it, do you already have some content posted? If you’ve had content up for a while, it can be worth conducting a content audit. Look at what you have, the quality of it, whether it has attracted traffic and whether it has served to help with your marketing goals. You may find that you already have great ideas to build on.
Developing your buyer personas should also help to give you an idea of the types of content you should produce. For example, let’s say you have a B2B audience that includes busy executives. How likely are they to download and consume a 50-page ebook? Some might, but for others this will seem too time-consuming.
This is where you think about the mode of content that will fit best with your target audience. It might be a mixture in the end, but if you’re just beginning, it’s better to start with the most likely type. A busy executive might prefer quick, actionable blog posts, or a podcast they can listen to during their commute, for example.
Demographics will also play a role. Research from HubSpot shows that content preferences can vary greatly along generational lines. For example, you can see in the chart below that a future downturn is expected in email marketing; younger consumers just don’t prefer it.
On the other hand, this research shows that video has consistent appeal across all age groups. For any business whose target audience covers a broad generational range, video would seem to be a great content strategy.
Content success generally comes when you’re able to create useful content that helps you to differentiate from what is already out there. Conducting an analysis of competitor content strategy can be very helpful to guide you.
It’s not that you want to copy them directly (you definitely don’t!), but it’s very useful to determine a benchmark of sorts. For example, you can notice trends like “competitor A gets very little interaction on long blog posts, but has a lot of comments on shorter ones.” If competitor A’s target audience looks very much like your own, then this is good to know!
A competitor content analysis begins by taking stock of what they have and where. Note the types of content and the places they post it, on and off their own website. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to produce content in all the same places, but it can give you an idea of what is working for them.
You’ll also want to note the quality of the content. Look for those overall quality aspects as well as the engagement they are getting. How does the audience receive the content? How many shares? How many comments? You can also use tools such as Buzzsumo to quickly find the most popular content on certain topics.
Analyse quantity and frequency as well as quality. You might notice patterns such as whether the competitor that posts shorter pieces more frequently gets more or less engagement than the one that posts longer pieces less frequently.
Pay attention to any other places your competitors appear online. For example, have they partnered with anyone else? Do they guest post on other blogs or give interviews on podcasts? Are they posting on platforms such as Reddit, Medium or LinkedIn? This all forms part of their wider content marketing strategy.
You’ll start to build an idea of what you can do to be competitive. You might notice areas where they’ve only touched on a subject that seems to be important to the audience. This gives you an immediate starting point with more detailed content.
A major goal of content marketing is to get your content shared widely. You hope that people read or watch your content, find it interesting, useful or amusing, then share it among their friends and contacts.
What makes content shareable? Psychologists from UCLA found that there are three common motivations for sharing ideas (or content):
When thinking about your own target audience and the content topics that appeal to them AND relate to your business goals, consider how you can make your content shareable. When Moz and Buzzsumo teamed up a few years ago to analyze 1 million pieces of content, they found that the most shares were earned by a few good outliers. Most content got no shares at all. The suggestion is that you focus more on creating a few outstanding pieces, rather than many mediocre pieces.
Now that you’ve assessed your target audience, your business goals and your competitor’s strategies, it’s time to formulate a documented content marketing plan for your own business. Let’s look at some steps for getting that done:
It’s also worth creating a set of standards or “rules” for your content so that what you publish will meet a consistent standard. Many businesses choose to create their own content marketing guidelines, including directives on tone, reading level and style. This is especially important if you’re getting other people to create your content.
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A clear content marketing strategy is important for every business that produces content as part of their marketing mix. If you’re going to do content, it’s worth doing it well. Otherwise you can actually harm rather than help your reputation.
To develop a content marketing strategy, you need to be able to devote time and resources to thorough research. Great content doesn’t just happen, it is planned for by knowing your audience, you competitors and the elements that go into appealing content.
We might be bombarded with online content at this stage, but there is still plenty of room for you to make your mark. Content that is of high quality and is shareable is actually a relative rarity online – take the time to develop a great strategy, pair that with talent to bring your content to life, and you can see success from your content strategy.