Did you know that brands who craft compelling, valuable content that gets to the heart of their readers experience 7.8 times more website traffic than brands who don’t (Source: Content Marketing Institute)? Additionally, content creation is ranked as the single most effective SEO technique by 53% of businesses to being found by their audience in the search engines. These numbers illustrate the importance and power behind creating a content marketing strategy especially as you gear up for 2017.
A thorough content marketing plan will serve as a blueprint to everything you do in your online marketing. From your social media posts, email messages, blog content, videos, audios, live-streaming videos, to your webinars, paid ads, and lead offers…this plan gives you a solid, clear direction so that all of your content pieces resonate with your audience and conveys your brand messaging.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide the essential steps required to build a strong content marketing plan that helps you get in front of your ideal customer, publish content that relates to and engages your audience, and ensure that your strategy is indeed working to produce results.
6 Steps to a Strong Content Marketing Plan
Step #1 Develop Your Buyer Personas
Before pursuing your marketing goals, it’s critical to establish who your market is and the audience you aim to reach in your promotional strategy. Having clarity of your ideal customer will be your guiding light to your entire content strategy. All of your content messages will revolve around meeting the demands and interests of your target audience.
The best way to gaining a clear understanding of your audience is to develop buyer personas. Highly descriptive, your buyer personas depicts a picture of your intended customer. The details include:
- Job description and responsibilities
- Role in the buying process
- Problems and concerns they’re experiencing
- Pain Points
- Their Typical Day
- Most impressing questions
- Goals and objectives
Establishing these personas positions you to build a deeper connection with your audience because your messages relate to their pains. You are speaking directly to them, making your content strategy impactful, effective, and engaging.
Step #2 Think of Content in that Aligns with Your Sales Funnel
Your brand will attract prospects that are at different levels in the buyer’s journey (or your sales funnel). To successfully get your prospects closer to the buying decision, it’s important to create content that speaks to each stage in your sales funnel which strategically moves them forward to the purchase. They include the Awareness (Top of Funnel), Consideration (Middle of Funnel), and the Decision (Bottom of Funnel) stage.
There are certain content types that work best with the respective stages.
- Awareness – Prospects understand they have a problem and are researching content. The key here is creating brand awareness that you’re a solution. Content that works here are blog articles, social media posts, white papers, and infographics.
- Consideration – Prospects are actively seeking solutions. They’re not quite ready to make the purchase but is becoming familiar with your brand. The goal in this stage is to capture leads to nurture them in your email campaigns. Types of content to consider are video series, guides, product webinars, and case studies.
- Decision – Your prospect is ready to make the buying decision. You want to make this as easy as possible. To convert these leads into sales, leverage free trials, implementation (how-to) guides, and live demonstrations as your content types.
Step #3 Content Creation
There are countless ideas to creating engaging content that resonates with your prospective customers. It’s better to publish a variety of content types to appeal to different learning styles and preferences. The same message can be conveyed through different mediums to expand your reach and influence across multiple platforms.
- Publish content that your audience wants – Stay in tuned with your market through surveys and social listening to stay relevant in your content. Create content around keywords that your audience is actively searching for
- Incorporate SEO tactics – Optimize your blog post content to boost search visibility
- Curate content – Use tools like Feedly to gather and share the best content sources in your industry to fill in gaps in your content schedule
- Produce long-form content – Longer blog content performs extremely well for SEO and social media shares. Boost engagement and show your expertise by aiming to publish content with 1,500+ words
Step #4 Content Promotion
Once you’ve created your content, it’s now time to get the word out to your multiple marketing channels for maximum exposure and improving effectiveness. Your content will not promote itself (hence, content marketing). A strategic plan is required to distribute your content when it goes live.
The good news is that your target audience is waiting to get their hands (or eyeballs) on it! The promotion of your content, however, will largely depend on the campaign. For example, while a blog post may be shared on social networks, a new white paper might involve a bigger push in the form of paid content amplification.
Here’s an example of a content promotion strategy you could implement:
- Email marketing – Your list is already engaged with your brand so they want to hear from you. Besides, email subscribers are 3 times more likely to share your content via social media than visitors from other sources (Source: QuickSprout)
- Social Media – You could share your content several times on social media sites. For example, tweeting the same message on Twitter 2-3 times a day throughout the week is ideal for effectiveness
- Video marketing – Videos have a major impact on converting leads and sales. Capture your audience attention by sharing your content on video
- LinkedIn Pulse – Are you a B2B brand? Publish your post on LinkedIn to appeal to a professional audience
- Google AdWord: For a new white paper or eBook, you can create display campaigns to raise awareness and remarketing campaigns to retarget abandoned visitors
Step #5 Plan Content Using an Editorial Calendar
Putting all of your content plans onto one calendar will make it easy for you to implement, adjust, and stick with a consistent content schedule. Editorial calendars are highly valuable in that it helps you organize your topics and publish your content on time. The benefits of using one means more traffic to your posts, maintaining an active presence on your social sites and blog, and achieving your marketing goals (which leads to more revenue). To experience real success in your content marketing strategy, have an editorial calendar is a must!
There are a plethora of editorial calendar templates available for download. CoSchedule is one of the top tools that not only helps you schedule and publish your content, it also comes with a social media management feature. Google Calendar is a free option where you can easily plan out your content.
Or you could simply begin with an 8×11 planner to get you going. The key is to start…when you do, you’ll discover that your content strategy will need a more robust tool to meet the demands of your marketing goals.
Step #6 Test, Measure, & Adjust
With all of your content on the web, how do you know which pieces are producing…and the ones that are not? The final step to a strong content marketing plan is understanding what’s working and generating results, and the tactics that need to be dismissed or modified for improvement. You see, this is the essence of marketing…knowing what your market is most receptive to so that you can create more of that content and breed more favorable outcomes.
Testing, measuring and tracking will be an essential ingredient to your overall content marketing strategy. To measure your content success, here are a few questions you can ask to discover what’s effective:
- What keywords are people searching to find my content?
- What type of content is shared the most?
- What type of content is read the most?
- Which type of content generated the most social engagement (i.e. likes, shares, comments)
- How many page views does the content receive?
- How many leads did my content generate?
Your answers will provide concrete data to use for your next content and ways to tailor it to meet the demands of your market. A win-win!
Armed with this strategic blueprint, you can now move forward in confidence to creating a successful content marketing plan that aligns with your business goals. Commit to taking action now, develop this plan quickly, and make the necessary adjustments as you go along. You’ll love the results gained from putting this plan to work.
Your audience is waiting!