How to Develop a Winning Content Marketing Strategy

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As a marketer, it’s wonderful to see the attention that content marketing is receiving. It’s for good reason.

Companies that fully embrace content marketing reap tremendous benefits.

Included among these benefits are, to name a few:

  • Brand trust
  • Website visitors (traffic)
  • Event (booth) traffic
  • Customer retention
  • Media opportunities
  • Leads
  • Sales

Marketing through the use of content, really, has been around for a very long time. It’s only been within the last 10 years that it has become popularized and referred to as “content marketing.”

With many areas of marketing that become popular quickly, they’re often treated as a quick add-on. It’s like saying: “Oh content marketing, yes we do that.” But in practice, it’s not done with any depth. This leads to a lack of success.

To be successful, content marketing can’t be an add-on tactic. It must be, as mentioned above, fully embraced in order to deliver the desired results

The State of Content Marketing Strategy

Yet, here we are in 2017, and the data shows that most companies don’t have a documented content marketing strategy.

Here are the content marketing specifics, as shared by business-to-business (B2B) marketers:

  • 89 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing
  • 88 percent say that content marketing is an important part of their marketing programs
  • 72 percent list strategy as the most important factor in content marketing success (second to producing quality content)
  • 49 percent identify their strategy as a barrier to success

More, regarding content marketing strategy…

  • 37 percent have a documented content marketing strategy
  • 34 percent indicate that the strategy is extremely or very effective at achieving their content goals

Clearly, now is the time to develop a content marketing strategy if you don’t have one. To create one, here is the process you should follow in order to be comprehensive:

  1. Create detailed buyer personas
  2. Develop a content marketing mission statement
  3. Define content marketing’s fit in the overall marketing plan
  4. Outline topic areas
  5. Identify the media mix
  6. Name the content marketing production team
  7. Create content marketing brand guidelines
  8. Determine how to measure content marketing return-on-investment (ROI)

Let’s take a look at each of these areas a bit more.

1. Create Detailed Buyer Personas

Any content strategy needs to have a complete understanding of who the content is designed to attract and engage.

You should have a clear picture of who your content will help, and who the content should appeal to, ideally a potential buyer of your products or services.

A simple Google search will yield a ton of buyer persona templates. Many go overboard in the amount and type of information they recommend including.

You may wish to use an existing template and modify it slightly. Or, you can build your own by incorporating pieces from many templates.

It’s important to build or design buyer personas that work well for your company. Only include the information that you need in order to create effective content.

2. Develop a Content Marketing Mission Statement

Your mission statement doesn’t have to be long. In fact the shorter and more focused, the better. Include only enough to provide clarity for everyone in your company about the mission of your content marketing.

Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute feels strongly about the need to create a content mission statement:

“Brands create this kind of detail for their products and services, but almost never about the content they are using to attract and retain customers. And that is exactly why most branded content is just awful.”

Here’s a good mission statement example.

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Source

This approach quickly identifies the audience, content and benefits provided by consuming the content. Implementing this type of mission statement will help your company to stay focused.

3. Define Content Marketing’s Fit in the Overall Marketing Plan

Effective content marketing takes time and resources. If your marketing department is already maxed out, it’s very likely your content marketing will fail if you don’t think about how it fits into your marketing plan.

Some questions to consider:

  • Will current staff be able to implement content marketing?
  • Will you need to hire additional staff or freelancers?
  • Will content marketing  reduce staff time available for other marketing areas? Which ones?
  • How much money will you need to allocate to content marketing? Will this money come from other budgets?
  • Are your executive team and other stakeholders in support of the marketing changes to accommodate content marketing?

Thinking through these questions will help content marketing establish its place within your marketing department and the company.

4. Outline Topic Areas

You’ve already done this at a high level in your mission statement, but now it’s time to get more detailed.

You don’t need to come up with blog headlines, video outlines or other pieces of the content at this point.

What you need to create are the broad topic areas. It’s best to list as many ideas as possible. You can always eliminate later if you need to.

Are there hot topics in your industry this year? You’ll want to make sure you include them on your list.

Are there longstanding industry topics that you can add a new perspective to? You might include those as well.

There may also be areas your audience and industry hasn’t thought about yet, but should. You could start creating content around those topics as well. Getting the jump on emerging topics helps position your company and staff as thought leaders.

Feedback from your customers and potential customers is a great way to identify the content to focus on.

Whatever the proposed topics are, be sure and document them. You’ll want to revisit you content topics periodically to determine if they’re still relevant or need updating.

5. Identify the Media Mix

After you’ve identified your topics, what media will you use to create and deliver your content?

As with topic selection, choosing the best media comes back to understanding your audience.

Do they read blog posts? Watch videos? Do they prefer eBooks or other downloadable content?

Also, determine how you will deliver (or promote) your content to your audience. Content that is not consumed has no chance of delivering ROI. You will want to select channels that your customers prefer to use.  This may include paying to deliver your content through social media advertising.

6. Name the Content Marketing Production Team

It’s important to identify who will be tasked with what when it comes to your content marketing.

Some roles you’ll need to consider (depending on the types of content you choose) could include:

  • Content strategist
  • Subject matter expert
  • Content writer
  • Editor
  • Graphic designer
  • Video specialist
  • Technical specialist (depending on media types)
  • Advertising specialist

Depending on current marketing staff, there may be individuals that can manage multiple roles. If the skills and experience are not available in-house, hiring freelancers may be required.

7. Create Content Marketing Brand Guidelines

With any content you produce, there are great benefits to having a consistent look, style and tone. This is where brand guidelines fit into your content strategy.

If readers, listeners or viewers know what to expect from your content, they’ll be more likely to come back for more. Consistency helps them to begin to consume your content more quickly and understand it more deeply.

If you choose to produce blog posts for example, some brand guidelines for you should explain:

  • Tone (informal and personal, or more formal and authoritative)
  • Use of images and graphics
  • Font usage and styles (sub-heads, lists)
  • Author images and bios
  • Post lengths (short, medium or long posts)
  • Internal and external link practices
  • Headline length

When thinking through your branded content guidelines, be sure to adhere to any brand guidelines already in place for the company, in order to maintain consistency.

If you want an example of a comprehensive style guide, take a look at this one from MailChimp, the email service provider.

8. Determine How to Measure Content Marketing ROI

Measuring ROI has been identified by content marketers as another significant challenge.

Here are some areas used by companies for tracking content ROI, compiled by HubSpot.

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Source

If you’re just starting out, you may want to select one. Then, create a detailed and accurate measure of your success.

If after a reasonable period of time, your ROI isn’t what you would like, consider what could be changed and improved.

Content marketing should be a process of planning, implementing, measuring and improving.

Conclusion

As with any type of marketing, content marketing needs a sound strategy in order to be successful. It’s not about the length of the strategy, but the clarity and focus of it. By creating a content strategy from research and then fine tuning it as needed, you stand a much better chance of becoming a successful content marketer.

Author: Steve Sonn

Steve Sonn is the Principal of S2 Marketing Communications. He has more than 25 years of marketing and PR experience with health care and business-to-business companies.

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