Content marketing works. It’s proven itself in almost every industry from big to small, and it’s a must-have tool for every marketer.
When it comes to large businesses a content marketing strategy could be as large as a 50 page document, and they usually have the resources to hire specialists to create one. But start-ups and newer businesses are smaller, have less to spend and would much prefer to learn and then do it by themselves!
The target audience for this article are the small and medium businesses — to help them create an effective content marketing strategy.
I’m going to go through the process step-by-step, and provide a few resources and templates to aid the process. Now if you promise to try this strategy in this order— success is assured.
1. Look into your competition
Before anything and everything find out what your competition is up to. It’s like they say “It’s better to learn from others mistakes, than from your own.”
Analyse their content and find out what’s working best. Most businesses go for a blog, others for things like giving away free resources, video content, ‘the making-of’ stories and etc. It’s usually impossible to get in-depth metrics off of their content to see what works — but usually the number of social shares and engagement (comments, downloads or views) are a good tell of online success.
Get a very good idea of the content that has worked for your competition. It’s fair to assume that similar content will work for you too since the audience is most likely the same.
*Tip: *You can use the tool at www.quicksprout.com to analyze your competitors websites.
Creating a strategy
Now that you have an idea of the type of content that is likely to work, creating an initial strategy is much easier. When I usually think of CM strategy; my mind automatically goes to 4 questions:
2. What’s your goal?
A strategy without an end goal is pointless. In fact your whole strategy should revolve around achieving your end goal. So what is your goal?
- Increasing sales? — Get 10% more sales though content marketing
- Growing your audience? — Increased Twitter followers and Facebook fans by 20% in 3 months
- Improving customer loyalty and retention? — Increase email subscribers by 25% in 3 months
If your business is completely new to content marketing; it’s best to work with two goals in mind — increasing sales and growing your audience.
3. Define your audience
Be specific. ‘Moms who work from home’, is a more specific audience than just ‘Moms’. It’s easy to forget that the goal is to be good at business; not to be good at content marketing. So the more specific your audience is the higher the chance that they would be interested in your content and more likely to purchase your product or service.
Try to find a niche audience that your competitors aren’t addressing. Your content is more likely to be a bigger hit among them.
It’s certainly fine to write for larger/different audiences from time-to-time in the hope of increasing your reach and attracting new customers. But a focused audience is always more likely to get you the right results for business.
4. What are you offering?
Publishing shareable content will help increase your audience and reach (which also helps sales). Creating unique and audience-specific content helps with conversion rates and user retention. It’s important to find a balance between these two types of content when you’re starting out.
Whatever it is, always create high quality content. It’s ok if you end up posting a few times a week instead of churning out generic content every day — high quality content always performs better and is proven to get you long term results in terms of both social media engagement and conversions.
Most successful content marketing efforts manage to land a lot of their traffic through search engines (specially Google), and they do this by ranking higher for specific keywords. For example if you’re in the floral business; ranking top on “Floral Arrangements” would be a big win in terms of SEO.
What I’m trying to say is that the technicalities matter as much as the content of your post. Try to always use good visuals in your content, make sure you look into search engine optimization, placement of share buttons for better engagement and the overall user experience on your website. All these can and will affect the performance of your content marketing efforts.
5. What is your timeline?
You might think this is irrelevant because content marketing is more of a continuous process, but that’s far from the truth. Set a time limit to hit your goals — 3 months is usually sufficient and not too long either. You need a timeline to make your strategy effective and to understand if it worked. At the end of 3 months you can look at all the numbers, observe increase in sales, percentage of conversions, increase in fans and etc.
Given the nature of the internet you can never be sure what might and might not work. So it’s important that you keep space for adjustments. Taking your strategy three months at a time can help you get an idea of what really works and then for the next round you can focus on creating more content that works for you and keep improving the performance of your strategy.
In your first three month analysis look into things like the best days and times for publishing and sharing your content. Then for you next round use the perfect cocktail of all this data to get the maximum possible reach and conversion.
Managing your content creation process
Content marketing takes a lot of work. Not only do you have to create and publish a lot of quality content every week, you also have to worry about SEO and all that other stuff we talked about earlier. So how do you manage all this?
I like to take it one week at a time. So here is sample schedule I worked out for myself:
The best days to post can vary depending on your audience, but for me Mondays and Thursdays work the best for related (business and design) content, while Saturday works best for more off-topic (and filler) articles intended for more leisurely reading.
I split my schedule for both writing and publishing articles based on the category, which makes planning much much easier, and I usually start writing all the articles during the weekend and complete them as needed (usually after dark). It’s a good idea to keep a few reserve articles at the ready in case you won’t be able to meet your writing quota.
So where’s the strategy?
For small and medium businesses answering these 4 questions and managing your content creation is the strategy and if you’re lucky it would fit into one piece of paper. The truth is if you stick to quality content, focus on the end goal and analyse all the results then you will for sure get positive results within the first few months.
Addendum: For fresh businesses
If you don’t have an existing fan base or email list to start with, it can take a while for your content to get out there. The idea is to keep at it; and good content will always get the spotlight. Now if you do want to speed up the process; consider the following:
- Posting links to your articles on related forums
- Sharing articles on Reddit
- Advertising your post through your Facebook page
- Sharing on all your personal social media channels
- Guest blogging: and then linking back to your own content/website through them