Many organizations make a crucial mistake: they use content for their marketing, but they do so with no bigger picture in mind. This results in content marketing campaigns with no direction, no consistency, and no sound reason for existing. What good is the time and effort you put into content creation if you have no strategy to make and distribute it the right way?
Before you write one more blog post, sit down and put together a content marketing strategy. When you do, be sure to ask yourself the following questions.
1. Why Use Content for My Marketing?
Content creation is not the only way to market a business. You may easily decide to focus on paid advertisements or public appearances instead. Generating leads with content comes with an opportunity cost; it takes time, talent, and money you could be using elsewhere. So, before you move forward with a content marketing strategy, consider why you want to create content in the first place. What will it do for your business that other strategies cannot?
In 2014, SalesPanda provided a few compelling reasons to use content marketing (see graphic below). While these statistics have changed, trends suggest continuous growth in the use of content as a marketing tool. Still, it's important not to wantonly jump on a bandwagon. First, have a compelling reason that applies to your business model, your mission, and your vision. How will content enrich customer experience with your company in particular?
2. How Will I Stand Out?
Content creation is an excellent way to differentiate yourself from your competition. You can write about your work, as well as how your philosophy differs from the rest of the market. Blogs and photographs take viewers on a journey through your personal and professional life. A video lets people see you as they would in real life, and it puts your personality on display. Many small business owners report that clients treat them differently if the client saw them in an online video before hiring them. Online content can create a "celebrity effect" that excites clients at the prospect of working with you.
Look at your competitors' content. What are they posting on social media? What do their blogs look like? Do they specialize in video, infographics, or webinars? Now, consider what skills and peculiarities you can use to set yourself apart. With so many people in the content-creation camp, you need a way for people to connect with you over everyone else.
3. Who Is My Audience?
Knowing one's audience is just as important in content marketing as in any other marketing campaign. When making a content strategy, create a few buyer personas that match your target demographics. Ask yourself about their age, gender, interests, preferences, worries, and predispositions. You can even name your buyer personas to make them more vivid in your mind.
Image from GetSpokal.com
4. What Are My Goals?
Not every business uses content for the same reasons. Think about what you want content to do for you. Do you need to bring on more clients, or should you focus more on audience retention? Are you looking to increase buyer engagement? Perhaps you have ample leads, but you want to increase conversions. Consider a handful of specific problems your content can address. This will prevent you from producing things aimlessly, potentially wasting your time on content you don't need.
5. What Media Should I Use?
No limit exists to the kinds of content you can put online. After all, "content" is a vague term for a reason. It encompasses a wide variety of media, all of which are usable for different purposes. While all options may be open to you, this doesn't mean all of them are worth the trouble. Try creating a content matrix like the one below. Place the media you intend to use on the matrix, and move them to quadrants where they seem most appropriate. When you use these media in the future, remember their placement on the matrix. Create new content so it fits into this cohesive whole.
For content creation tools to get you started, see our list of free tools that professionals use.
Image from blog.BufferApp.com
6. How Will I Distribute Content?
A content distribution strategy is just as crucial as a creation strategy. Sharing and interacting on social media takes just as much time, if not more. This is why companies have positions dedicated to social media alone.
To tackle the enormity of distribution, try making a matrix like the one above, but with distribution methods instead of media. Think about how and why you're using Facebook, Snapchat, newsletters, reviews, etc. Give these outlets specific roles to play in your strategy.
For distribution ideas, check out this infographic from Bitly.com.
7. How Will I Implement This Strategy?
After you've determined what roles your content should play, create realistic ways to make it happen. If possible, divide the work among competent people. Create schedules and goals on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Some aspects of your strategy should stay consistent over time, like your business's unique character and audience. Others need revisiting and redesign as times change.
Finally, don't forget to put your content marketing strategy in writing. Be deliberate about your plan and keep it for posterity. This is the first step to using content in the most effective way possible.
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