With a content marketing strategy, you can direct all your content creation efforts towards one common goal. If you don’t have a content marketing strategy, then you can easily end up creating content haphazardly, with no idea what it’s supposed to achieve. Without a comprehensive strategy, you won’t even know what kind of content your audience enjoys.
What is a content marketing strategy?
A content marketing strategy is a plan that helps you connect with people and grow a loyal audience by creating, publishing and distributing different types of content. In order to create a good content marketing strategy, you need to pay attention to what has worked in the past. You also need to identify what hasn’t worked, so that you know what to tweak in the future.
Why do you need a content marketing strategy?
A good content marketing strategy can benefit you whether you’re a freelance content creator working with brands, or you’re doing content marketing for your own brand. Here’s why developing a strategy is a good idea.
Boost your SEO
Developing a content marketing strategy gives you an opportunity to boost your SEO both directly and indirectly. After all, the process of building a strategy includes choosing keywords and topics which you’d like to target. You can boost your SEO directly by choosing high volume, low competition keywords.
Additionally, you boost your SEO indirectly by creating valuable content which your audience appreciates. The more people view your content, the higher search engines will rank it.
Using your content strategically can help convert your leads into paying customers. If you can create content that appeals to people who are at different stages of the conversion process, then you’re more likely to connect with these people. By speaking to them personally, you’ll find it easier to convince them that they need your product or service.
Good customer service (post-sales)
An effective content marketing strategy can also help you improve your “post-sales” customer service. At a time when customers are switching brands at unforeseen rates, it’s important to keep in touch with all your customers – even after they convert.
Abandoning a lead as soon as they pay for your product can leave them feeling frustrated. Rather than leaving this new customer in the lurch, you should make sure they know how to use your product. Beyond that, take time to find out how they feel about your product and if there are any features that are challenging to use. This can give you some valuable feedback on where you need to improve to avoid losing this customer.
Creating content that teaches your customers how to use your product can help you stay in touch with a lead after they convert into a customer. For example, sending a client how-to guides and product manuals as soon as they pay for your product can be very helpful. Content that encourages them to give feedback – such as surveys or feedback forms – can also help your customers to feel seen and valued.
What information do you need before you develop a content marketing strategy?
Before you build a content marketing strategy that works for your brand, you need to do some research. While you’re gathering information, you should aim to understand the following aspects of your business:
Get to know your audience
The aim of any content marketing effort is to connect with your audience. You need to understand the people who you’re producing content for, otherwise you won’t know what to give them.
Take time to get to know your audience. Figure out what they like and what they don’t like. Ask them what content they’ve enjoyed seeing from you in the past. With a good survey, you can collect all the information you need to serve your target audience better.
Evaluate your current content
Before you dive headfirst into problem-solving mode, you need to understand the problem you’re solving. Part of understanding the problem includes evaluating the content you’re currently producing.
What’s worked well in the past and what hasn’t? Which content generates more engagement for your brand? This information, together with the responses from your audience, will help you to decide what content to produce more of in the future.
Understand your creative team and how they work
You need to know what your creative team is capable of before you develop a strategy. This will help you set achievable goals. In addition, this will also help you to understand whether you need to get a bigger team or change the way your current team works.
Study the competition
Paying attention to the content marketing your competition is doing can inspire you as you develop your own strategy. By studying your competition, you can identify what they’re doing well. Likewise, this exercise can help you spot gaps in the market that you can then fill by producing meaningful content.
4 Elements of a good content marketing strategy
If you want to develop a good content marketing strategy, then you need to ensure it contains the following elements.
1. Brand positioning
In order to create a consistent brand image for your target audience, you need to start by understanding your brand. Ideally, you need to evaluate who your brand is, what it does well and the environment it exists in.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to develop a clear brand position:
- What do we do?
- What is our brand personality?
- Who is our target audience?
- What kind of buyer persona are we targeting?
- Which pain point(s) do we solve with our product or service?
- What is the competitive landscape like in this industry?
- How are our competitors doing their content creation?
- What do we do well?
2. Value proposition
You cannot convince potential customers to buy from your brand if you haven’t identified why you are worth the investment. You need to clearly outline what makes you different from your competitors.
Tell your audience what you have that other brands do not. If you can make a strong case for your brand, then you will also present a distinct brand identity. By standing out from your competition, you immediately become a more memorable brand.
In order to set yourself apart from your competition, you need to understand what they’re doing well and what you can do better. Keep in mind that your competition includes anyone who is producing content in your niche – even bloggers with a small following.
Ultimately, you can always learn a thing or two from other content creators – regardless of how big their audience is. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you develop a value proposition for your brand.
- Who is our audience?
- What do they want?
- Are we giving them what they want?
- Do we have proof that we’re giving them what they want (high rates of engagement, more leads, a higher conversion rate, etc)?
- What are our competitors doing differently?
- Are there gaps in the market that we can fill?
3. Business case
While content marketing is designed to help you connect better with your audience, it should also help you meet your business goals. A business case can help you determine whether your content marketing strategy will serve the business as well as your audience.
Ideally, a business case should be put together at the beginning of any project you embark on for your brand. It covers the who, what, why, when, where and how of your proposal. By answering these questions, your business case can help the decision-makers at your brand to decide whether the project is a worthwhile investment.
Your business case should highlight your business goals – both short-term and long-term. In addition to defining these goals, you need to be able to prove that content marketing will help you achieve these goals.
It’s important to show the decision-makers how your content marketing strategy can drive your brand forward. This way, you can convince them to invest the time and money needed to actualize this strategy.
4. Strategic plan
A strategic plan helps you to focus on the goals you just highlighted and how you will achieve each of them with the content you’re creating. You need to highlight who you are targeting with your content as well as why you’re targeting that particular person. Moreover, you need to identify what it takes to appeal to this person with the content you’re creating.
By identifying how each piece of content contributes to the goals you’ve set out, you can keep everyone on your team focused and accountable.
Now let’s talk about how to develop an effective strategic plan for your brand.
How to create a content marketing strategy
1) Analyze your audience
Your content marketing strategy is designed to help you build positive long-term relationships with your target audience. For this reason, it’s crucial to understand these people before you do anything else. Aside from understanding their needs, you need to build a buyer persona to guide your content marketing.
How to build a buyer persona
Developing a buyer persona will help you understand your audience’s needs and motivations. If you’ve done this before, it’s still helpful to do it again. After all, a changing economical environment such as the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can result in changing consumer attitudes.
A buyer persona is a hypothetical representation of the kind of person you hope will buy your products. This buyer persona is based on research into your market and consumer trends. In order to develop an effective buyer persona, it’s important to clarify these key points about your ideal buyer:
- Lifestyle: job, hobbies and family life.
- Demographics: age, income, gender identity, and location.
- Communication habits: preferred social media platforms.
- Pain points: problems they face in their everyday lives.
- Goals: what they hope to achieve.
- Your solution: how can your product help them solve their pain points?
It’s important to construct a buyer persona. Having said that, it’s also important to understand the process your customers go through from the moment they stumble upon your product to the moment they make a purchase. This is known as the buyer journey.
How to use the buyer journey
A potential customer will go through a standard set of steps as outlined in the AIDA model:
- Awareness: when a potential client first becomes aware of the problem they need to solve. At the same time, they’ve just heard about your brand and the product you’re selling.
- Interest: the potential client starts to evaluate whether the solution you’re offering is a good fit. They also start comparing you with your competition.
- Desire: the potential client starts to evaluate the value your solution will add to their business.
- Action: the potential client makes a purchase decision and becomes a paying client.
Beyond simply understanding the steps above, it’s important to know what kind of content you should give your buyers at each step. By giving them the content they need when they need it, you can guide them further along the path to becoming a paying customer.
2) Set your goals
Once you’ve understood the kind of customer you want to reach, you need to set goals for your content marketing. Are you hoping to increase engagement? Do you want to boost traffic to your website or get more contacts for your email marketing? Or do you want to boost sales?
Setting 3 or 4 SMART goals can help direct your content marketing strategy and keep your team focused. If you don’t set goals, then you won’t be able to measure the outcomes of your content marketing in the end.
3) Set your KPIs
While Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can seem very technical and out of reach, setting SMART goals also helps you to set clear KPIs. Your KPIs will generally have a metric attached to them, to help you determine whether you hit your goals or not. For example, you might’ve decided you want to:
- Hit a specific sales and revenue target.
- Get more signups for your lead magnet.
- Boost website traffic by a specific amount.
- Increase engagement with your website content.
- Generate more engagement on your social media channels.
- Earn a certain number of mentions in the media and by other thought leaders.
- Attract a specific number of partnerships with influencers and thought leaders.
- Improve the SEO ranking for some of your content as a way of improving overall SEO for your site.
Once you’ve set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely, then it’s easy to set and use KPIs. Simply measure your goals against the outcomes and decide how you did. If you had a hard time meeting any of your goals, sit down with your team and find out what the challenges were. This might just be a good indication of which goals need to be adjusted next time.
4) Perform a content audit
Before you develop a strategy for the future, you need to evaluate the performance of your existing content. In order to do this, you should identify what content is performing well and what content needs tweaking.
One good way to do this is to simply study the channels you use and see how people have interacted with your content in the past. Which content got more engagement? Which content generated meaningful conversations?
If you’d prefer to collect solid data to inform your strategy, then you can generate a survey. This survey needs to contain questions about what content your audience enjoys and what they would like to see more of. You can even ask them for examples of content that they enjoy from other brands. Once you’ve created the survey, you simply need to circulate it on your social media channels as well as offer it to your website visitors.
5) Pick a CMS
Once you’ve evaluated your current content, it’s important to pick a content management system that works for your team. The ideal CMS should let you create all your content in one place. Everyone on your team should also get a bird’s-eye view of what their co-workers are working on, how far along it is and when any deadlines are. Finally, a good CMS should let you create and publish your content in one place.
6) Identify the best content channels
In order to identify content channels that will work for your brand, you need to pay attention to the platforms where your audience is most active. Which social media channels generate the most engagement? Where does your content perform best?
Once you have an idea what channels will give you more bang for your buck, then you can invest in building an active online presence there. If you want to build noticeable profiles on these platforms, then it’s important to go beyond merely creating and publishing content. You need to go one step further and engage with your audience. Reply to comments and initiate meaningful conversations as much as you can.
7) Choose topics and keywords
Now that you know where you will publish your content, you need to pick topics and keywords to target with this content. While you’re doing this, you’ll want to focus on high volume, low competition keywords. This way, you can rank for popular searches while carving out a niche by writing about keywords your competitors aren’t focusing on.
By looking for these high volume, low competition keywords, you can identify content gaps that are worth pursuing. If you need help getting this information, you can use the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. This tool helps you analyze the ranking difficulty of each keyword related to your niche in addition to calculating its traffic potential.
You can pair the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer with their Site Explorer. The Site Explorer allows you to research your competitors’ backlinks and see what keywords they’re ranking for.
Together with the Keyword Explorer, the Site Explorer should help you identify keywords that are worth targeting. By targeting keywords that people commonly search for, you can boost your online visibility, capture more attention and drive more traffic to your site.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Ahrefs, SEMrush also offers similar keyword and backlink analytics.
8) Decide on content types
It’s important to use content formats that your audience will enjoy. This is exactly why you do a content audit in the beginning. A content audit will help you to identify content formats that have performed well in the past and give you an idea what you should be producing more of.
Creating more of what your audience already loves is a sure-fire way to keep getting their attention with your content in the future.
While you’re producing your content, remember that this content needs to be designed specifically to appeal to your audience at each stage of the buyer journey.
9) Plan for your financial and human resources
So you’ve decided what channels you’re going to use and what kind of content you’re going to produce. Next, you need to identify how much money you need as well as how much manpower you need to accomplish your goals.
It’s important to set a realistic budget and get enough hands on deck, otherwise your content marketing strategy will fall flat before it’s even gathered momentum. Make sure you have enough money and enough people to drive your content marketing strategy without overextending yourself.
In other words, don’t skimp on your content marketing budget and don’t strain a small team by giving them content marketing targets that are impossible. If you do this, you will find yourself with a half-baked content marketing strategy and burnt-out employees.
10) Create a content calendar
Once you’ve put your resources in place, it’s time to plan for what content you will create and when you will create it. A content calendar is a good place to do this. After all, a good content calendar can be shared with everyone on the team. For this reason, if you use a content calendar well, you will be able to see what everyone is working on at any given time.
A content calendar will keep your team focused and help you to keep evaluating your content marketing efforts as you go along.
11) Develop your content
Once you’ve done all the planning for your content marketing, it’s time to actually create the content. You need to assemble your team and get them to start developing quality content. Creating content in different formats will help you to appeal to different segments of your audience.
12) Publish and distribute your content
When your content is done, you need to publish it online. Before you post anything, however, it’s important to check when the best time to post on each platform is. After all, you want to publish your content at a time when it’ll capture the most attention online.
13) Evaluate the success of your content marketing strategy
As much as content marketing is a continuous journey, it’s important to pause and evaluate your content marketing strategy every now and then. Failure to evaluate your success will only leave you shooting blindly in the dark with no idea of what’s working for you.
In order to evaluate your content marketing strategy, you need to refer back to the KPIs you had developed for yourself earlier. Measure your outcomes against your goals to identify what’s working and what needs further tweaking in the future.
Examples of successful content marketing strategies
You can develop one content marketing strategy to boost SEO, help with sales enablement and improve your post-sales service simultaneously. To help with this, we’ve highlighted three brands that excel in using content marketing in each of these areas.
SEO: Neil Patel
Neil Patel has made a name for himself in the content marketing industry as an SEO guru. For this reason, it’s no surprise that his content is optimized and ranks high on search engines. How has he managed to optimize his content so effectively?
For starters, he writes about topics that people are highly interested in. For example, he writes about SEO (no surprise there), blogging and digital marketing. Since these are topics that people are generally curious about, Google also records tons of searches related to these topics. By sharing answers to questions which people usually have in these areas, Neil Patel boosts his ranking on search engines.
Neil Patel also presents his written content in short sentences as well as short paragraphs. Short sentences and condensed paragraphs are good for your blog, as they lead to higher rankings on search engines.
Finally, Neil Patel prioritizes quality over quantity. Despite having written more than 4785 blog posts, he believes more content doesn’t necessarily translate to more traffic. In fact, he’s actually evaluated his blog posts to show us that more than half his content doesn’t even generate 83 visits per month.
Rather than churning out one blog post after another, Neil Patel advises bloggers to find keywords that both search engines and people love. Once you’ve found these keywords, focus on writing quality posts around these keywords.
Don’t burn yourself out writing about anything and everything to do with your niche. If you do that, you’ll waste a lot of energy and you won’t have much of a traffic boost to show for it.
Sales enablement: Mailchimp
When you visit Mailchimp’s homepage, you’ll find a blog filled with lots of tips to help with your email marketing as well as your online store. How does this content help Mailchimp with sales enablement?
Well, in some of these articles, Mailchimp explains how their all-in-one integrated marketing platform for small businesses can help you do exactly what the article is showing you how to do.
Let’s assume you needed help building a new website for your online store. This guide from Mailchimp walks you through every aspect of building a new website, including how to use their website builder.
Dropping mentions of the solution you’re offering to solve your target audience’s pain points into your blog articles is a good idea. Likewise, when you use your blog to position yourself as a thought leader in your niche, people are much more likely to buy into your solution.
Dyson’s Instagram account offers a good example of a post-sales content marketing strategy done right. Their profile is filled with posts that highlight unique features in their products.
Let’s look at their latest post about their new vacuum which features a graph that counts the dust it sucks up.
Now let’s look at this post about their air purifier which you can connect to your smartphone.
As you can see, Dyson wants to help you to “get more from your purifier.” If you need help connecting the air purifier, the post directs you to a more detailed guide on the Dyson website.
Their website also boasts a tab called “My Dyson.” This tab offers customers personalized manuals and guides, maintenance advice and tailored support for the products they’ve purchased.
By explaining how their products work, highlighting unique features and offering support, Dyson ensures their customers stay long after they’ve made a purchase.
If your customers know you’ll be there for them even after they give you their money, they’ll be more confident in the product you’re selling them.
Developing a content marketing strategy can seem like yet another unnecessary item on your already endless to-do list. However, a good strategy can keep everyone on your team focused and accountable. After all, creating content without any strategy in mind is like throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
Poorly-planned content marketing can easily end in tears when you realize you’ve wasted time and energy on something that isn’t working. For this reason, it’s worthwhile to develop a detailed plan and go through all the steps highlighted above.