In a world where so many brands have become publishers, how can you make sure you’re creating content that will not only resonate with your audience, but also cut through the noise?
A good place to start is with this simple framework of questions. Spending time to define and document your answers will give you the fundamentals of a content marketing strategy and will also help to reaffirm the direction you should be heading in.
Set aside an afternoon and get the coffee brewing; it’s time to dig deep.
1. What am I trying to achieve?
The first step is to define your goals. What exactly are you trying to achieve with your content efforts?
It’s important to set content marketing goals that are aligned to your business goals. So if your primary business objective is to increase brand awareness you should be focusing on content that is relevant and shareable to ultimately put your brand in front of a lot of people. If your aim is to generate sales leads, your focus should be on creating highly valuable content that requires readers to complete a lead generation form to access it.
Whatever the objective, and whichever step of the marketing funnel it aligns to, the key to your goals is that they are measurable. If you find there’s no concrete metric to track, chances are this is not the right goal to be measuring. We’ll come back to this one in more detail.
2. Who is my target audience?
The next step is to define and research your target audience. Understanding exactly who it is you’re speaking to will allow you to create content specifically for them.
The aim with this is to create a customer persona – a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on real data where possible. As well as understanding their demographics and behaviour patterns, you should hone in on their motivations and goals. What are their pain points? What problems can you help them solve?
Know your audience inside out and there’s a good chance your content will resonate with them.
3. Which content types are best suited to my audience?
Once you’ve established your goals and your target audience, you should be able to identify the types of content most likely to reach them.
See this as the how rather than the what. If your target audience is time-poor parents, a 40-page white paper is unlikely to cut it. Can you better convey the message in a 15-second, closed-captioned video?
And while a mix of content types is ideal, look at the resources available to you and focus first on the content types that make best use of them.
4. What is my content plan?
Now we get to the what, the who and the how often. Your content plan is a step-by-step editorial calendar from idea to finished article, and should document:
- Customer persona targeting;
- Content format;
- Subject matter;
- Publication date and time;
- Distribution channels; and
The purpose of the content plan is to organise and manage your content but also to monitor your results.
5. How will I promote and distribute my content?
Hitting ‘publish’ is just the beginning. Leveraging your existing marketing channels and potentially paid media is crucial to your content being read and ultimately your goals being smashed.
Do a quick audit of all the channels you have at your disposable. Is there anything you need to change? Are there new platforms to develop or build profiles on? Use your goals (and your budget) to help prioritise any changes to your existing channels.
6. How will I measure my content marketing?
The next step is to look at the goals and to define in more detail how each one will be measured and tracked. Content marketing metrics are pretty straight forward and are usually grouped into four types:
- Consumption metrics relating to volume: page views, video views, downloads, etc.
- Sharing metrics relating to engagement: likes, shares, retweets, forwards, inbound links etc.
- Lead generation metrics: form completions, subscriptions, request for callback, etc.
- Sales metrics: online sales, offline sales.
Identify the tools you need to measure your content success effectively and establish how often you are going to track and report on them. Your results should feed directly into your content planning cycle and constantly evolve your overall strategy.
7. What is my ‘content marketing mission statement’?
Now to the final step: defining your content marketing mission statement. This will become your core strategy that everything else is built around. It’s your why and it should set the tone for every piece of content your business creates, regardless of who creates it.
Your mission statement should define:
- Your core audience;
- Your deliverables to the audience (focusing on how what you offer is different); and
- The desired outcomes for the audience.
Here’s a quality example from content marketing masters, Copyblogger (learn from the experts, right?):
“Since January 2006, Copyblogger has been teaching people how to create killer online content. Not bland corporate crap created to fill up a company webpage. Valuable information that attracts attention, drives traffic, and builds your business.”
The trick is to focus on what your company stands for, rather than what it sells, and to keep the statement aligned to your company values and in tune with your brand’s tone of voice.
And there you have it! With the answers to these seven questions you now have the fundamentals of your content marketing strategy. It’s time to start creating. Good luck!