Your current content marketing strategy is doing well and everyone’s mighty pleased with the results it is bringing in. But when you’re asked to finally put it down on a document – stepwise, it seems nothing short of a challenge thrown in front of you.
Now, effective content marketing strategies are extremely flexible – you find a platform to syndicate your content and you just do it without thinking twice! Of course, in a trackable manner.
But when you’re asked to put it down so that the rest of the team can work together on it, you need to do it. Now hunting for the most suitable layout for your content strategy on the internet, can be a daunting task. Don’t believe us? Type in ‘content marketing strategy template’ and see how the search results bombard you.
We at Exit Bee, are working on a content strategy as well – yes, we have one in place but we keep optimizing it – penning it down, basically. So after scavenging through what’s available, identifying what’s not, we came up with our own approach to creating a content marketing plan that won’t take you ages to understand or follow.
So let’s walk through creating a content marketing strategy from scratch, that leads you right up to your end goal by giving all the marketing efforts a direction!
Step 1: Create a general outline
A content marketing strategy can get really elaborate sometimes – you don’t always understand where to stop or what to include. So lay down the basics by defining everything you need to cover –
- why are we creating content ?
- who are we addressing?
- what types of content do we need?
- where are we going to use it ?
- what are the end goals?
Creating this general outline will give your research and ideas the much needed direction it needs. The need to answer these questions will make you stick to the point and not waver from it.
Step 2: Identify your goals – micro and macro
Yes, this is where you actually go back to all that you have been doing or plan to do for your business to define the ‘end goal’. No matter how big or how small it is, you need to define it in a realistic way – because this is going to be the document you come back to for comparison of results once execution starts.
But remember, every goal you jot down, needs to be: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
A great way to define the goals for your content marketing strategy is to take a look at what your other marketing goals look like, and how content can help achieve them. Even though most businesses have separate resources for managing digital and content marketing, it is a wise idea to find a middle ground and collaborate on the strategy.
Here are a few questions you and your team can start with:
- what are your monthly goals – objective wise?
- how much content is required to compliment those goals?
- what are the key performance indicators for content performance?
Step 3: Define your value proposition
To create content for marketing purposes, you need to know what value proposition it – what is it that you’re selling, to whom and why. Knowing what your business is selling is the only way to understand what kind of content you will need through the marketing plan’s execution.
Here are a few questions to help you get started:
- are you seeking brand name promotion or product/service promotion?
- what is unique about your business?
- how is the customer going to benefit from it (value proposition)?
- does your value proposition vary from product to product/service to service?
Step 4: Recognise your ideal buyer
Of course you know who your ‘target audience’ is – but so does your competition. So basically, you and your competitor will be addressing the same section of the audience and expect them to convert. The sad truth is, only one of you will be successful at converting them.
And that’s exactly why you need to know who your ‘ideal buyer’ is – if you have a unique value proposition, there has to be an ideal buyer for it.
If you have done your bit of considerable research on your target audience – not just their general demographics, but also purchasing triggers, you’re set to move forward.
But if you’ve not yet done that and don’t know where to begin, you can simply follow HubSpot’s classic persona template to define them. The template nudges you to answer the most important questions about your target audience – that will become a reference point for your content strategy when it comes to ‘who you’re addressing’ with a particular campaign.
Step 5: Map persona needs to products
Do you know which marketing strategy works the best? The one that is relatable, addresses a common issue or concern and comes across as a solution – not a sales pitch.
Once you know who your ideal buyer is, segment the audience into personas based on their interests, purchase triggers, etc. The key to conversions is being able to map your persona’s needs to what you’re selling.
People respond to marketing messages that promise to address their common pain points, instead of their own sales. Being able to see some benefit in associating themselves with a business is the driving force behind conversions.
So before you get into content creation, curation and promotion, set aside some time to define what each persona’s needs are, and which of your solutions can address them.
Step 6: Check on what your competitor is doing
Knowing what your audience wants to read is one thing, but knowing what has worked with them and what hasn’t, is definitely worth it – you get to save on a whole lot of time and money on your content marketing efforts!
The only way to know that, is by keeping a tab on what your competitor has done and is doing. Recognize the personas they are addressing and the ones that overlap with yours; then take a look at the kind of content they are using to reach out to them. Competitive analysis is a sure shot way of understanding what you need to do differently (or similarly) to get your audience’s attention.
A few things you can start with for competitive analysis:
- what are the personas your competitor is targeting?
- which of those personas are directly or indirectly associated with your business?
- what tactics are being followed by your competitors?
- what are the loopholes in their strategy that you can cover to stand out?
Step 7: Create a content directory
While this may sound a bit absurd, it is important to take inventory of your content assets – even if you have just started off with it.
Knowing how much content you have and where it is placed – both online and offline, is the best way to understand what you will need in the future. Some of the things that you need to take ‘stock’ of include:
- number of blogs
- number of landing pages
- social media accounts
- online media
- email lists
- guest posts
- inbound content
- keywords you rank for with the existing content
Considering this can be a daunting task if tried to execute ‘manually’, here are a few tools we are (and plan to) using:
Include analysing how much of your existing content – both online and offline, is helping you move towards your end goal, and what is not in sync with it. It is important to ensure that each part of your content strategy is moving hand-in-hand with your overall marketing goals. Google Analytics is by far the best tool to measure traffic to your content and the conversions from it.
Here are some takeaways that you should get from the analysis:
- what content becomes a part of your marketing strategy?
- what existing content is totally misaligned with your end goal and needs to go?
Step 8: Create theme based content buckets
You know what content you have, how much of it is working as an asset and what you need. Now is the time to create content buckets for the ‘what you need’ part. Identify major themes around what defines your business and what interests your target audience.
Here are a few ways to create content buckets:
- identify common problems faced by your audience and create content categories
- create content as per your customer journey
- follow your sales funnel to create content that suffices each step
A great way to create content buckets is to follow a simple 3-step flow: talk about the issues, give/suggest solutions and pitch your value proposition. But remember, each of your persona requires a separate content bucket to be convinced into conversion.
Having planned content buckets helps ease content creation, designing and distribution for marketing purposes.
Step 9: List the content types you will generate
Once you have all the above in place, it is time to plan how you’re going to produce what content your need. This step primarily consists of the following:
- optimizing existing content to bring it in sync with your marketing message
- updating content that can be reused with changes in information
- identifying the content types that your business can offer to its audience
Some of the most content types used by businesses to market their value propositions as well as cater to what their audience needs, include:
- SEO blogs
- long form blog posts
- interviews with industry experts
- case studies
- online courses
image source: Smart Insights
Production of each content type must be associated with a marketing goal – micro or macro (step 2). For example: Are you creating an ebook and offering it in lieu for contact details of your target audience or sharing a case study to boost your sign ups?
Step 10: Create a content workflow
A tricky part where most businesses get stuck at is the content marketing workflow. Most marketers get confused between creating more content or first marketing what they have already created, and how to go about marketing it. And this is where having a workflow comes handy.
Here are a few common questions that marketers have while creating a content strategy:
- what is the frequency of content they need to maintain?
- is it possible to create that much content?
- what is the best time to publish their content?
- which are the best channels to push their content on?
- how long do they need to promote a single piece of content?
- what is the best way to track the results from each platform?
A workflow is basically a simple step-by-step that the entire team needs to follow to be able to get the most out of their content marketing efforts – right from the time of ideation for content. While a workflow depends on what your team looks like, ours is pretty simple:
Ideation >> Creation >> Editing >> Designing >> Scheduling >> Publishing >> Promotion
The best way to do so is to create a simple checklist of steps that need to be followed for every content piece – right from the concept to the promotion and tracking of results. This might vary for every business and hence, is something you can A/B test with for a few weeks to understand what works the best for you.
You can also define the content marketing/ promotion workflow to ensure each content piece gets the attention it deserves. Ours is pretty simple as of now:
- create content and publish it
- notify the team of a new post on Slack or email asking them to share it
- share it on all social accounts
- push out a newsletter/notification mail to subscribers
- notify influencers and other brands of their mention (if any)
- guest posts and co-blogging on different websites to link back to the post (the list of websites for this varies depending on your business type and marketing end goal)
Here’s what CMI’s content marketing framework or workflow looks like:
Step 11: Create a content editorial calendar
Having an editorial calendar in place helps you keep track of what content you are planning to create, how much of it is already done, what the marketing results are like and whether you have the bandwidth to include more content marketing efforts.
It also takes care of the following that a marketer might forget while running from pillar to post, trying to complete a campaign:
- the idea behind the post
- what the content type is for an idea/topic
- the call-to-action that needs to go with a content type
- what are the keywords being targeted through the content piece
- when the content needs to be published
- where the content needs to be pushed out
- what the results look like for each content piece
- who is writing the content piece
Some great tools that you can use to create a content calendar for your business include:
In the end, it is about how easy you can make for your team to follow a content marketing workflow for effective results. So don’t forget to experiment and test our different options before settling in on one.
Here’s a basic template by HubSpot that you can follow:
Or one by Salesforce:
Step 12: Get your toolkit ready
Apart from a comfortable work desk, the right amount of inspiration and a brilliant machine, a content marketer needs the right tools to execute an effective strategy. Here are some of our favourites:
- Wordstream – keyword search
- HubSpot’s blog topic generator – topic generator based on keywords
- Plagiarism checker – SEO tool for checking plagiarism
- Canva – for creating quick graphics/creatives
- Exit Bee – for retargeting on-site visitors
- Buffer – for social scheduling
- Google Analytics – for monitoring analytics
- Unbounce – creating landing pages
- Crazy Egg – monitoring the customer’s on-site behavior
- Moosend – executing email campaigns
To read more about these tools, click here.
No matter how you fit it in your busy schedule, monitor and analyse the results of each of your content marketing efforts on at least a weekly basis. So that you can improvise on your strategy to get better results in the time ahead, instead of following one that is only working 60% effectively for you.