Traditional marketing is increasingly edged out by the often-misunderstood content marketing. Yet, businesses need to leverage on a solid content marketing to keep up with competitors lest they are edged out too.
But how do you get started on creating a winning content marketing strategy?
Content marketing may, at times, seem scary and a difficult subject matter to tackle for those just learning about it but once you break it down, it’s actually not that complicated.
And an awesome marketing plan involves a lot of flexibility. It can get rather complex and fussy. And losing control over your content marketing strategy is something you’d want to avoid.
During my class on Content Marketing 101: Speak Their Language. Reach Their Heart. I have stressed this not often enough and I’d like to paraphrase it again here.
“There’s NO one formula that fits all. Content Marketing takes a lot of HARD WORK and TWEAKING OVER TIME.”
- Shuant Goh
Before we get to the “How” of things, let’s start off with the “What” and “Why”.
Content strategy: What is it?
Basically, a content strategy is your game plan, your playbook for everything content, in all types of media.
Among the things your playbook does is tell you
- what to create,
- how to create,
- who you create for, and
- how to use what you’ve created.
And if you’d like to take it to the next level: what are the results of each content, and what should I do with it.
Why do you need a content playbook?
Content marketing is important. Something we can all agree on. So is content planning and strategizing.
Here are some reasons why you need a solid, yet flexible plan.
- So you can track your cost and measure the value. A good plan should help you map out your marketing expenses so you know what you’re spending on and make sure that hard-earned funding is not wasted.
- So to help you stay Focus. A good flexible strategy plan gives your team something to rally behind and help them direct their marketing efforts toward your business objectives.
- So you can chart your successes. A solid playbook helps you fix a destination point (goals) and guides you through unfamiliar territory (activities & person in charge).
- So it serves as a business handbook. Helps you ensure all the pieces are coming together in the best way for your company. Your marketing plan outlines the specific tasks needed to realize your company’s success.
- So you can capture thinking on paper. Whatever happens in your marketing department will be kept intact in your marketing plan. All of the relevant information is safely noted down.
- So you can get the big picture. If your team is ever going off track and getting distracted by daily operations, your marketing plan is there as reminders for your team and business.
- So it becomes a document to build on. From your very first marketing plan onward, you won’t have to do much except to evaluate and tweak it accordingly. The first one becomes a useful and convenient template for future marketing plans.
Over the years, in serving my clients I have scoured the Internet for content marketing strategy template, tried a few, write my own, and now I’m putting together a quick guide to help you get started.
Why quick start?
I discovered most businesses, regardless of business or budget size, would get blown away by complicated or expensive looking plan.
So, let’s begin.
4 Simple steps to get started on your content marketing strategy
1. Set SMART goals.
What do you want to achieve from your content marketing?
Whatever goals you have, they need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely). Here’s how you can design your content marketing goals with this rule in mind.
TrapIt provides a useful formula for SMART goals:
“Increase [Category like website visits] by [Number Here] (starting at this amount [Starting Number] and going to this amount [End Number]) by this date [Date].”
Once you’ve applied the formula above, it will look something like this:
“Increase unique page visitors 10% monthly (starting with 4 and going to 8 additional SEO long-form articles per month) by December 2018.”
a) Specific – Define your goal as precisely as possible so that you know what success looks like for your business
If I just state my goal as “increase number of unique page visitors”, it’s vague. Your team would be wondering: by when? how do I do that? how many should I increase?
You’ll need to identify how many unique visitors you want and by when. Then, identify the activities that contribute to the success you plan, then be specific on the numbers too. Lastly, when must all be achieved.
b) Measurable – Think of how you’re going to measure your goals
Can your goal be measured? Let’s just say that per articles it can bring me at least 1.25% of an increase in new page views, as such, I’d need to publish at least 8 SEO articles a month to achieve 10%.
c) Achievable – Do consider whether you have the skills, tools, or time to achieve your goals
In the beginning, my team may only be able to produce 4 at max, but eventually, we have to increase the volumes. Let’s say, given time and placing additional resources, I know by month 3, we’d be able to achieve 8.
I’d recommend putting higher goals in the beginning, and tweak later, rather than setting yourself short.
My business coach once advised me, “It’s better to aim high and miss the target. At least, it is still nearer to the high goal than to adjust your goal to meet low, because then, all your efforts would be low too.” A sage woman, she is.
So you should be prepared to end up falling short of your target. That’s normal. Just tweak your goal so it’s more fitting to what you can realistically accomplish. But, remember the advice above.
d) Relevant – Make sure your goals are relevant to your bigger picture, whether that’s in business or in life
My ultimate aim is to increase sales by increasing leads through content marketing. My goal of increasing more long-form SEO articles is then definitely relevant to that aim.
To simplify the explanation, the equation should go like this: more quality articles = higher ranking opportunities = higher site visibilities = more traffic = more lead for sales conversion.
But, it is crucial that my long-form content be more useful and interesting to readers, bringing me more traffic and creating loyal customers, hence driving more sales for my business.
e) Timely – This is where your deadline comes in. Set a date for when you should have achieved your goal so that you don’t make excuses for yourself and never see any results
For example, my goal is to have eight long-form SEO articles monthly by end of the year. By setting myself a deadline, I know that I have to prepare content in advance to ensure I have enough materials and continue to do so for subsequent months.
It’s easy to set SMART goals, isn’t it?
So, be smart and try it out for yourself.
2. Define your target audience.
And no, it can’t be EVERYONE.
You have to know precisely who you want to target with your content.
If you don’t focus on a target audience, you’ll end up creating content that isn’t particularly useful or relevant to potential paying customers.
How do you define your target audience?
Firstly, determine the demographics of your target audience. Some questions you should ask yourself are:
- What is my audience’s age range? (e.g. 18 – 30, 35 – 55)
- What are their genders? (e.g. male, female)
- Where do they live? (e.g. Malaysia, Singapore)
- Are you targeting different ethnicity?
- What do they do for a living? (e.g. entrepreneurs, marketers)
- If they are working, what industry are they in? (e.g. medical, hospitality)
These questions will give you the basics about your target audience. Framing your content ideas and ‘language’.
Next, you’ll want to know their psychographics, i.e. your audience’s lifestyle, needs, and attitudes. Use the questions below to guide you:
- What type of content does my audience enjoy? (e.g. short-form or long-form articles, videos, infographics, audio)
- Where do they consume most of their content? (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn)
- When do they typically go online? (e.g. evenings, weekends)
- What are they looking for in their content? (e.g. tips, inspiring stories)
- What problems might they be facing? (e.g. starting a business, raising funds)
Once you can answer all those questions, you’re on your way to creating valuable and effective content for your target audience.
You definitely need to understand who will be consuming your content before you even begin thinking of what content to create.
You have to know their likes and dislikes as well as their pain points so you can provide them with content that will give some kind of meaningful impact on their lives.
That is how you earn their trust and get on track to achieve your content marketing goals.
3. Plan your content.
Now that you’ve outlined your goals and figured out your target audience, you’ll want to start planning your content accordingly.
Plans are easy to make but just as easy to break. That’s why you need an editorial calendar for your content marketing strategy.
An editorial calendar is every content marketer’s best friend.
It’s a super helpful tool that keeps track of your content ideas and ensures you and your team publish quality content consistently.
There are many free templates available online that you can either use directly or treat as a reference to make your own, like what I have done below.
Let’s go through the main elements so you know how to plan your content using your own editorial calendar.
a) Publication frequency (Due Date and Publish Date) – Consider how frequent you will post your content. If research or past data showed the optimum number to obtain maximum results is to publish 3 to 4 articles per month, then schedule one for each week.
The “Due Date” column helps you commit to your set deadline and ensures you are on track to creating sufficient content monthly (or weekly, whatever suits your needs).
After posting your content on say, your website or social media, go ahead and key in the date under the “Publish Date” column. This lets the marketing director or team know that the created or curated content has already been published and that it was done on time.
b) Member roles (Authors) – Delegate your team members to specific tasks using the editorial calendar. Although I only included “Author(s)” in the above example, you may add more columns for different roles.
The “Author(s)” column lists the person in charge of writing the content. If the content requires members of your team to film videos, design infographics, and so on, then add the names of those people to the calendar.
Your editorial calendar easily tells you who is in charge of what for which content during which week. With that, you’ll know who to go to if the content is not up to code or if it is published late.
c) Target Audience – In this column, jot down the characteristics of your content’s target audience. Note the people who would be most interested or benefit a lot from your content.
My example targets groups like aspiring entrepreneurs, marketing professionals, copywriters, and bloggers.
Each piece of content you create will be geared towards a particular set of people so it’s crucial to know exactly who those people are.
d) Content (Title, Objective, Keywords) – Based on your SMART goals and target audience, come up with some broad themes or topics you want your content to be based on.
Going with my example, the broad themes are Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and the startup industry.
Then, delve into narrower, more streamlined topics. If I want to write about SEO, I would think about topics like SEO tips, SEO do’s and don’ts, a beginner’s guide to SEO, and so on.
This brings us to the “Focus Keyword” column.
With your topics in hand, do some keyword research to find out which keywords have a high search volume. But also think of which keywords your target audience would probably use when searching for content.
What is the keyword you’d want to focus? Include them when you craft your content. This helps your content be more searchable by your target audience as well as captivate their attention amidst the sea of articles and posts.
Based on the focus keyword, you’d want to build a bunch of other keywords to go along with the focus keyword. We don’t want to flush the focus keyword and get penalized by search engines. That’s where “Long-Tail Keywords” and “LSI keywords” come into the picture.
Build a set of long-tail and LSI keywords for the focus keyword you have selected. Inject them into your content accordingly.
Next, under the “Objective” column, note down the purpose of creating a certain piece of content.
In this example, I want an article that uncovers our local startups that will potentially inspire aspiring entrepreneurs while creating business opportunities for existing businesses.
Knowing your intentions with your content will guide you in using the appropriate tone, terminology, language style, and keywords so that it accomplishes your overall content marketing goals.
4. Publicise your content.
The painstaking effort to plan for and create your content is done.
You hit the publish button with a smile on your face, relief washing over you as you bask in a job well done.
But is your job done? Truly and completely done?
If you really want to achieve your content goals, then your work is far from over.
Without effective publicity strategies in place, your content is unlikely to reach a good portion of your target audience.
No one is going to read your articles, watch your videos, or share your posts unless you promote, promote, promote.
Here are a few ways to announce your content:
a) Email Newsletter – This is a powerful online marketing and communication tool for any business.
Your newsletter allows you to share your latest content, maintain meaningful relationships with your target audience, and drive traffic back to your website, among other things.
Round up the most recent content or the most popular content for a particular week/fortnight/month and include them in your email newsletter with links.
This is so your users don’t have to waste time scrolling through your blog to search for great, relevant content. They can immediately access the content you know they’d be interested in.
Take a look at how Litmus features content in its email newsletter.
It has made such a clean, easy-on-the-eyes newsletter that users will definitely want to check out its content.
Inspired by Litmus, these are what you should include when promoting content in your email newsletter:
- Attractive header image related to the topic of your content
- Compelling headline about your content with keywords included
- Brief description to tease your audience into wanting more of your content
- Unique call-to-action (CTA) that links to your content on your website
b) Paid Content Promotion – As much as you’d like your content’s awesomeness to be recognized organically, sometimes you need to rely on paid promotion tactics to achieve better results.
Content Distribution Networks (CDNs)
Widgets strategically placed throughout established content websites like CNN, Huffington Post, and Time, recommend paid content to visitors of those sites.
It’s advertising that’s made to feel less intrusive and more natural to the users.
Algorithms work out what content topics interest users and accurately recommend paid content along those lines.
This is what paid promotion on content distribution networks would look like:
CDNs are quickly becoming powerful content marketing tools for businesses to engage new audiences and expand the reach of their content in a meaningful way.
With CDNs capability in pushing only relevant content or within the context of the user’s experience, it became a non-intrusive, discovery process for readers to land on your website.
To get you started, here’s a list of top CDNs that have proven to be very good at what they do:
Social Media Advertising
Pretty much everyone uses social media these days and most of us have at least two or more accounts.
According to Statistica, daily social media usage by global internet users amounted to 135 minutes in 2017!
With this much time spent on social networking sites, you should tap into the huge advertising potential.
While using social media as it is, helps you publicise your content already, its incredible advertising capabilities will take your content promotion much further.
These platforms offer you a variety of ad types to choose from and let you customise precisely the kind of people who receive your ads as well as when and where they do.
An example of paid content promotion on social media, specifically Facebook:
(Source: Social Media Examiner)
Some great social networking sites that work well for content promotion:
- Facebook – Supports multiple ad formats and can be posted to four places at once (Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, and Messenger)
- Twitter – Ad types include Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, and Promoted Trends
- LinkedIn – Use Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail, and Text Ads to promote your content
For the record, CDNs are really useful if you’re keen on publicising your content to a broad audience.
On the other hand, paid promotion via social media is a more apt option if you’re looking to build your follower base and reach your audience in a more personalized way.
There are plenty of strategies to get your content out there and to the right people, but too many for me to cover in this one article.
Whatever you decide to go for, ensure you have a sufficient budget set aside for your content promotion efforts.
It often boils down to how much you’re willing to spend for your content to be seen.
Content marketing doesn’t have to be this big, scary, mysterious thing so long as you follow these 4 simple steps to creating your very own content marketing strategy.
- set SMART goals,
- define your target audience,
- plan your content, and
- publicise your content once it’s created.
Stay tuned for the continuation of this topic as I talk about analytics and show you how to evaluate your existing content.
Find out whether your content is actually achieving your set goals and discover how to refine your content marketing strategy based on those results.
But in the meantime, try out the 4 steps I’ve provided above and let me know how they worked for you. If you have any thoughts or tips you’d like to share, drop us some comments below.