Content marketing is a big deal. It's huge in fact. So it will come as no surprise that it now forms a key part of the comms strategies of many of the world’s top brands.
As traditional routes of marketing hit new obstacles, and social media channels continue to grow in popularity and to create new opportunities, content is becoming increasingly important.
But not just any content - it has to be high quality content that is the right fit; that informs; that entertains and overall has value for the reader. The CMI has it right when it describes content marketing as ‘the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling’ and therein lies the secret of its success. Whether you’re a large multinational or a start-up, effective content marketing can drive business for your business.
So what do you need to consider when putting a content marketing strategy together? And what is success going to look like? When it comes to each piece of content - what topics should you be concentrating on? And how are you going to deliver it?
Here is a step-by-step guide to getting started and what you need to consider.
- Start by nailing your core content list
Research shows that in general, the more content you put out the more traffic will be generated. But it has to be the right content, to attract the right person. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Before you get carried away with thinking about all the topics you might cover, take a look closer to home. You need to start with the content that is about your company, product or service, and to get certain core materials together. This should include pieces on:
Problem solving – show you understand a potential customer’s problem and explain how your product or service could solve it, or the reward they could get from using it.
FAQs – A great piece of content to offer and likely to be one of the most read, so make sure it is packed with relevant and detailed information. Talk to the sales team to collect all those questions that clients are asking time and again. From the simple to the more complex. Answer each and every one, either as a single article or as a pdf that can be downloaded from your website.
Your product in action – You need to show the typical use experiences of your product and service - ie describe in detail what it is like to use your product or service. This isn’t so much about your product, but about a clients’ experience and how they use it.
Case studies – One of the most powerful weapons in the content marketing armoury. Allows prospects to see that you work with companies just like them, how your product has helped others and what they think about you.
Prep – This content will show ‘this is what you need to do before you purchase’. Very often, particularly in a B2B service environment, certain prep will be needed before a business transaction can happen. Go through this process in detail here.
Working with us – This content is to show ‘this is what it’s like to work with us’. Very useful for service orientated companies who want to develop long term relationships and contracts with their clients. Outlining this info can be a valuable piece of content.
- Have clear content objectives
Once you have your core materials ready then you can start on your broader content marketing strategy, including thinking about the topic streams you may cover.
It is sometimes possible to produce a lot of content on just your own topic, if it is broad enough. However, this is rarely the case and if you keep it too narrow you may quickly run out of steam. Having a clear strategy in place from the start and a written editorial statement will help you. The editorial statement should make it clear what kind of topics will find their way onto the content calendar and why.
These are the key questions you need to answer with your editorial mission statement:
- Who are you trying to reach?
Set out a clear definition of your target market and work out ‘personas’ for the key people you are trying to target. Having a clear understanding for who you want to reach is going to increase your success. If you can, spend time walking in the shoes of those people you are aiming at - find out as much as you can about them, their behaviours and routines.
- How can they be reached?
What communication channels do these people use? How do they get their information together? For example, do they prefer face-to-face conversations at events, or spend time watching educational videos?
- What’s in it for them?
You need to know why they would want to read your content - what is it going to give them? What will they take from it? Is there value and a benefit?
- What is your goal with content marketing?
Define what you are trying to achieve overall with all of your efforts.
Armed with this information, you are now in a great place to start planning and mapping out what your content will be. Here is how.
Step 1: Decide on your themes
The first step is to outline the main themes that will work best for your target audience. These should be topics where you have the ability and resources to create meaningful content. By that we don’t mean just write about your specific niche area. For example, if your target audience is companies of a certain size who will have a customer services department, then that may be one theme you choose to look at.
Brainstorm and let your ideas run wild - don’t stop your flow by thinking if they would fit or you could do them, just get them down. As a next step you can consider whether they’re doable and relevant. Finally, check back against your editorial statement and see which of these broader themes ticks the boxes.
Step 2: Plot your time frame
How many pieces of content, in what format and within what timespan do you want to produce? A spreadsheet can be a useful tool for laying out a plan using colour coded cells for the different content needed at different stages of the buying journey. For example, broader content to help drive awareness, and more meaty content that is closer to your product or service for the stage where people are researching their purchase options.
Ultimately the idea is to guide your prospects along through the buying process by using pieces of content that will move them on from one stage to the next. Nurturing your leads along with tailored content that guides them towards the end goal of a sale.
Step 3: Think about the format
Next it is time to consider the type and mix of content you will produce. This should include thinking about the format that it will come in – for example, whether you’ll use blog posts, create PDFs that can be downloaded from the website, use video, etc, etc.
You also need to think about the structure that the pieces of content may take. Such as whether you are going to offer how-to guides, white papers, thought leadership pieces, checklists, etc.
Now you have a strong framework in which you can start filling in your content.
Step 4: Come up with content titles
It’s time to get creative and pinpoint the exact topics and angles you’re going to cover. Again, begin with a no holds barred brainstorm then afterwards start to focus in and fine tune the ones you’re going to run with. Once you have your list of title ideas together you can start filling in the various slots on your plan.
You will also need to give some thought to practical matters, like the resources you have available. There is no point fixing on a video shot in multiple locations, or to offer monthly pdfs, or even daily blog posts, unless you have the manpower and budgets to make it happen. Above all else, think about your target audience. Get back in their shoes and check each piece of content would be something they’d want, be interested in and value.
Step 5: Add calls to action
For every piece of content you create, don’t forget to answer this key question - what do you want a potential customer to do after reading it?
A call to action is something that tells your audience what they should do next. For example, you may guide from on with your digital content, taking them from one channel to another. This could be done through a paragraph and links at the end of a blog post, or links within a post. Encouraging readers to subscribe to a mailing list is another common call to action, and a much prized one. Helping grab and nurture leads so they can be handed over to sales is, after all, the main purpose for producing the content in the first place!
Step 6: Sleep on it
Finally, rest your plan for a while. When you come back to it after a day or two you’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes. This will help you spot things you hadn’t before and more ideas will also naturally come to you. Refine, clarify and flesh it out more where you need to. You may also start adding in links to good research and sources, and other comments to help guide the article briefs.
And there you have it - an editorial calendar that is strategic, thoroughly planned out and ready to action. Things may change as you’re going along but it will be much easier to get your content marketing off the ground with a proper plan in place from the beginning.