You’ve probably noticed it’s getting harder to promote your business. Even online marketing is a challenge. Today’s consumers want useful information, not a pushy sales pitch.
Many organizations have discovered the importance of content marketing — which can include text, images, or video. But in the mad dash to jump on the marketing content train, we see a glut of blogs, emails, and more. Sometimes it looks an awful lot like the old “spray and pray” mentality of traditional advertising.
While your competitors are throwing blogs against the wall to see what sticks in people’s minds, you can gain an advantage with a well-developed content marketing strategy.
What Should Your Content Marketing Strategy Look Like?
Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing strategy as the use of content for creating customer relationships.
But what kind of strategy will work? Here are some characteristics to keep in mind.
In real estate it’s location, location, location. In content marketing it’s audience, audience, audience. If your content doesn’t resonate, it isn’t going to work. But if it does, it’s like striking gold! What is audience-centered content?
- It empathizes with your audience — who they are, what they’re looking for, and what they’re stressed about.
- It asks what interests the audience, not just what the company wants to create.
- It meets the audience where they want to be met. Do they like email? Apps? Facebook? How do they prefer to get content?
You already know that your customers should feel like your product or service meets their needs, and that they should enjoy doing business with you.
Your content creates an experience as well. Every time someone visits your website, reads your blog, sees your Facebook updates, views your Instagram photos, opens your emails, or watches your videos — it creates a positive or negative impression.
That’s why your content needs to be built with the same attention to detail that goes into your service or product.
Thanks to digital media technologies, we are not living in the world of one-way broadcasting anymore. Welcome to the world of two-way marketing communications.
This lack of total control over the brand message makes a lot of marketers uncomfortable. So how do you approach content marketing with interactivity in mind?
- Make listening a part of your strategy. Just one bad customer experience could become the next viral sensation — at your expense! You can’t afford to be caught off guard on something like that. You must listen to what others are saying — competitors, media organizations, bloggers, and individual customers.
- Practice preparedness. Just like it’s good to know where the fire exits are, good content marketing means you’re paying attention to the conversation, and you’re prepared to respond to questions, comments, and complaints.
- Invite and track responses. When you disseminate content, is it easy to post comments or share? Track the actions people take or don’t take, such as clicks, likes, comments, and shares.
When it comes to content marketing strategy, “set it and forget it” won’t work.
The world isn’t going to stop turning and cooperate with your carefully crafted content marketing plan. As people start responding to (or ignoring) what you’re doing — what next?
Let your strategy be flexible. Be prepared to make adjustments as you go.
Yes, we’ve all seen videos that “blow up” overnight — but that’s the exception. Content marketing rarely produces instant success. Instead, it works by gradually building your reputation with audiences and search engines alike.
Remember, Muhammad Ali didn’t become the world’s greatest boxer with just a single workout. It took hours and hours of grueling, tedious training, over many years, to reach the pinnacle of his field.
If you want to have a successful content marketing program, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul. Over time, you’ll learn what types of content generate the best responses and adapt as you go.
Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
Step #1: Planning
What does your organization need to accomplish? Sales? Leads? Audience growth?
Determine how content can help you meet those objectives.
- Could it help your sales force?
- Support your advertising?
- Help customer service answer questions?
Step #2: Audience
What kinds of content would make someone want to do business with you? Keep coming back? Stimulate positive word of mouth?
Consider the characteristics of your audience:
- Do you sell to businesses, individual consumers, or both?
- Do you have limited geographic reach, or do you need to talk to people across different regions?
- How does your audience view the world? What values, traditions, hobbies, and interests guide their lifestyle and decisions — and the content they enjoy?
- What demographic segments do you need to talk to? As the population becomes more diverse, your content must resonate across social and cultural boundaries.
Step #3: Content Strategy
Content strategy is the creation, dissemination, and management of marketing content. It’s a subset of your overall content marketing strategy.
Good content has three key characteristics:
- It is valuable: Your audience feels like they’ve learned something or that they’ve been entertained.
- It is relevant: Your audience sees that you “get” what’s interesting, funny, or important to them.
- It is consistent: Your audience instantly recognizes the look, feel, and style of your content.
Where is the intersection between the interests of your audience and your expertise? That’s your sweet spot. That’s the starting point for determining what content you need to create.
Step #4: Implement
Earlier we said you’ve got to meet your audience where they want to be met.
Again, consider whether your audience prefers emails, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
Also, think about timing:
- Should you send that e-newsletter monthly, weekly, or biweekly?
- How often should you publish that blog?
- What is the best day of the week or time of day to publish?
Many studies have been conducted to determine the “best” times for content. The correct answer for you will likely be unique to your company and audience.
Step #5: Monitor Results
There are several metrics to watch once you launch your content marketing strategy:
- Search engine rankings
- Website visits
- Unique users
- User actions: likes, shares, comments, follows, and so on.
Assess the comments you get. Is the feedback mostly positive or negative? Are you getting questions? Are you answering those questions?
You can track other behavioral results from your content.
- Are you generating sales leads?
- Are those leads converting?
- How are those conversions impacting overall sales?
- What, if any, impact does your content have on customer retention?
Remember, patience and persistence are virtues in content marketing. Treat every result — positive or negative — as a learning tool. Use the insights to tweak your strategy as you go.
Too many marketers rush to publish content — any content — as quickly as possible, and expect instant results. Don’t be one of those.
Begin your content marketing strategy with an audience-centered plan that addresses your goals. That’s the path to sustainable content marketing success!