As a marketer today, you probably are doing some form of content marketing, whether you call it that or not. In formal terms, Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Let’s dive into the pieces of this definition and outline the seven key elements of a great content marketing strategy.
How to Ensure Success For Your Content Marketing Program
1. Build a Strategic Foundation. To make it valuable, relevant and consistent, your content marketing efforts must be aligned to your overall corporate strategy. You’ll need to build your foundation by putting together a dedicated team, tying the program to overall business objectives, and setting specific goals related to those objectives.
Start by appointing or hiring team members. At MarketBridge, our content team is comprised of an editorial manager who plans our blog and content calendar and who promotes this content through social media channels and syndicated properties. Our VP of Marketing oversees the program to make sure our messaging is consistent and aligned with key marketing activities across the month, such as campaigns and events. Some of our clients have robust teams of 10 or more people – it all depends on the size of your organization and your budget.
The objective of your program should align to overall company strategy. If the goal is to grow revenues, your content marketing strategy should follow suit. At MarketBridge, our goal is lead conversion. Our content marketing strategy targets specific personas and aims to nudge them to contact us – we enable this buying path by personalizing our content using behavioral and demographic data.
Your editorial strategy should always be informed by the results of a content audit, which leads to our next essential element.
2. Start with a content audit. If your first step is to outline objectives, your second step is to conduct a content audit. Whether you do this manually or use an automated tool, you need to understand what you’re working with before you begin.
The primary objective of a content audit is to identify what gaps exist in your content library. You can include a number of variables, but we suggest starting with a few basics: title, author, date, content format, length, shelf-life (is it time-bound or evergreen?), subject/topic.
Now, some more advanced variables. If you have personas developed, you’ll want to analyze which pieces of content map to which personas. If you’ve defined buying stages of those personas, this is another great variable to include. You may have to manually scan through each content piece to determine which pieces are awareness vs. consideration, but doing so will make a tremendous difference in the success of your content strategy. Finally, if you use an analytics tool, include #downloads, #shares, and #conversions.
3. Understand that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The best content marketing plans have different tracks for different types of customers. For example, you should have a content marketing plan targeted towards existing customers to retain and upsell, and you should have multiple acquisition programs where your content is personalized to different buyer personas. Furthermore, your personas will likely be found in different channels. One persona may be reached through social media where another prefers direct mail. Your data and customer feedback should give you the right direction.
4. Mix up your content formats. Another hallmark of a successful content marketing strategy is that it incorporates a number of different content formats. The options are endless: from blog posts to whitepapers, to “ask the expert” videos to infographics, be sure to mix it up. And, don’t reinvent the wheel here! The most efficient way to produce diverse content is to re-purpose existing pieces.
Back to the strategy piece, yours should have an editorial workflow for re-purposing, so that when you create one piece you’re keeping in mind all other formats you plan to use. And going back to the personalization piece, be sure to understand which personas prefer to consume which formats. For example, a senior executive probably won’t gravitate towards an infographic the way that a more junior employee would, and a detailed, technical whitepaper probably should be reserved for a technical buyer audience.
5. Always be data-driven. Be sure to shape your editorial calendar around analytics. Which pieces perform best? Which get the most traffic, or the most social shares? Aggregate this data to understand which topics are saturated, which topics are hot, and which topics are irrelevant to your audience. You can then use this data to guide your content calendar rather than blindly choosing content topics. You might be surprised which topics are most valuable to your audience.
Remember that content audit we talked about? This holy grail of information should be leveraged heavily in determining your production calendar. You may have discovered that you have holes in purchase-stage content as well as content targeted towards a specific key persona. Or, you may have found that you have a ton of useless content that no longer maps to your company positioning. Whatever the results of the audit were, your editorial calendar should draw from these insights.
6. Document the Process. Taking the time to document your content marketing strategy to achieve buy-in from the executive team. Be sure to include all objectives, metrics, and team roles. In outlining your objectives, be very specific – for example, you may aim to increase lead conversion rates by 15% each quarter or aim for 20 MQLs as a result of your program. Include an executive summary that paints a picture of how the program will achieve objectives. You will also want to include a more detailed plan for content production, content promotion (including paid media and syndication programs), Primary channels, SEO, and content submission guidelines. Your content marketing program may overlap with your overall marketing strategy – and that’s a good thing!
7. Measure, re-work and measure again. The final key element of an effective content marketing strategy is that it’s success can be measured, and that you can take action against those measurement insights. Again, your metrics should tie back to company objectives. This may be number of sales influenced by content, number of conversions, number of downloads, number of new customers or number of social media shares. It could even be a % reduction in the sales cycle. It’s important to set quantifiable goals so you know what’s working and what parts of your content marketing plan still needs improvement.
An effective content marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated! Aim for success by outlining your objectives, considering your unique buyer sets, producing diverse content that is driven by data, putting your plan in writing and making sure that your success can be quantified.