Content Marketing 101: The Complete Guide to Understanding and Implementing Content Marketing Strategy for Your Business
Building your content marketing strategy can make the difference between a successful outcome and a complete waste of time and money. When was the last time you watched a television commercial and thought “Wow! I really need to check out this brand”?
In today’s consumer-driven market, chances are you barely pay attention to brands that blow their own horns. Instead, you have an affinity towards ones that focus on providing value to their audience. So, why should your potential customers be an exception?
The advent of online marketing channels has drastically revolutionized the marketing landscape. It’s no longer enough to grab your audience’s attention with traditional outbound advertising.
Instead, you must develop an enduring relationship with your existing and potential customers by providing them with valuable content. It’s time to adopt the inbound marketing approach.
That’s why it’s become imperative for today’s businesses to build a powerful content marketing strategy. Whether you’re selling organic pet food or marketing automation software, you need a content marketing plan to grow your business. It’s the only way to rise above your competitors and strike the right chord with your target audience.
However, the content marketing process isn’t just about randomly publishing blog posts and social media posts.
Instead, it involves a series of critical steps, starting from outlining your goals to monitoring various content assets. If you want your content marketing efforts to succeed, you need a robust and actionable plan.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at the steps you need to take to create a powerful and high-converting content marketing strategy.
But let’s first delve deeper into the concept and understand why developing a content marketing strategy is so important.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
In today’s fiercely competitive market, high-quality content is the driving force behind every successful inbound marketing strategy. However, the content marketing process isn’t just about creating and promoting content.
Instead, it’s the systematic approach of publishing and distributing meaningful and valuable content to attract a well-defined audience. The goal of various content marketing techniques is to build a long-term relationship with the audience and compel them to take desired actions.
Your content marketing efforts will succeed only when you provide your audience with relevant content that addresses their pain points.
Moreover, you need to map your content to different stages of the buyer’s journey. The idea is to publish content that resolves your audience’s problems/struggles at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Image Source: ImpactBND
While blog posts and infographics help you grab eyeballs, they aren’t particularly useful for lead generation.
Instead, you need irresistible lead magnets such as e-books and webinars to convert your audience into leads.
Next, you must nurture these leads using detailed case studies, tutorials, guides, and other valuable content to drive conversions.
And that’s the reason why you need a well-thought-out strategy in place to create different types of content.
Let’s now take a closer look at why it’s essential to have a comprehensive and well-defined content marketing strategy.
Content Marketing Strategy: A Closer Look
We can, therefore, define a content marketing strategy as a framework for content creation, distribution, promotion, and analysis. An effective content marketing strategy aligns your content marketing efforts with your business’s end goals. It also helps monitor the performance of various content assets and measure the ROI of your campaign. Moreover, it helps ensure that all your team members are on the same page and know their specific responsibilities.
It’s worth mentioning here that 69% of the most successful B2B marketers have a well-documented content marketing strategy. On the other hand, only 16% of the least successful B2B marketers document their strategy. This sharp contrast shows that a well-defined strategy is a key indicator of content marketing success.
Image Source: Content Marketing Institute
Can’t wait to start developing a content marketing strategy for your business?
Before delving deeper, let’s take a quick look at the different types of content marketing strategies.
Types of Content Marketing Strategies
Here’s the thing – there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for creating an inbound content marketing strategy. You must carefully select the right content marketing techniques based on your goals, budget, and target audience. This involves identifying the right content formats and distribution channels for each stage of the buyer’s journey too.
The most commonly used content formats include:
Moreover, depending on your target audience and goals, you can use various content marketing strategies such as:
- Guest posting
- Live streaming
- Influencer outreach
- Social advertising
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media marketing
- Search engine marketing
It’s now time for us to discuss how to build a content marketing strategy to attract and retain your audience and convert them into loyal customers.
Content Marketing Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide
Did you know that 99% of marketers use content marketing in their organizations? Sadly, only 9% of these professionals consider the performance of their content marketing strategy as excellent. A whopping 38% of marketers believe that their strategies are only average.
So, what distinguishes an outstanding content marketing strategy from a mediocre one?
The key is to use a stepwise approach to:
- Define your goals
- Identify your audience
- Prepare a content calendar
- Outline a distribution schedule
- Monitor relevant metrics
It’s also critical to create an actionable content marketing plan to implement the strategy. In the absence of a concrete plan, even the most groundbreaking content marketing strategy will fail to yield the desired results.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the steps to create and execute a digital content marketing strategy:
1. Audit Your Existing Content
Unless you’ve been living off-the-grid, you’ve likely published content in some format across a few distribution channels. Analyzing the content you’ve already published will give you an insight into what topics, themes, and formats are garnering traction. It’ll also help you identify loopholes and gaps in your existing content marketing strategy.
Start by identifying your top-performing content across different channels such as your website and social media profiles. If you regularly publish blog posts, use Google Analytics to find the ones that have garnered maximum organic traffic. Pay attention to engagement metrics such as time-on-page, bounce rates, etc. to analyze how your readers are responding to various topics.
Likewise, most social media platforms feature a robust analytics section that lets you track metrics such as:
- Likes & comments
- Shares & retweets
- Link clicks
- Organic mentions
You can use these metrics to identify the best-performing content across various social media platforms. This is also a good time to take a look at your non-performing content assets and re-evaluate them. It’ll help you determine why certain types of content didn’t work in the past and what you can do to improve them.
Moreover, you should watch out for outdated statistics, examples, case studies, etc. in your content. Make sure you replace them with the most recent data.
2. Define Your Goals
You can’t create traction-worthy and high-converting content without defining its purpose. If you start building a content marketing strategy before setting your goals, you’ll be shooting in the dark. You won’t know how your strategy is performing and if your business is deriving any benefits from it.
Your end goals dictate various aspects of your online content marketing strategy including the content formats and distribution channels you use. It also impacts the calls-to-action (CTAs) you’ll use for different content assets. That’s why you must outline your goals at the onset of building your content marketing strategy.
Start by asking yourself why you want to create and promote content. Do you want to increase website traffic and attract new customers? Or do you want to reinforce brand authority and trust? Or perhaps, you’re looking to generate qualified leads for your business?
Next, use the SMART model to define goals that are:
Image Source: Hydrate Marketing
For instance, if you want to use content marketing to “generate brand awareness,” you can set goals such as:
- Increase organic website traffic by 50% in the next quarter
- Get 50,000 Instagram followers within the next six months
- 3x Facebook Page Likes in the next year
Next, you need to assign relevant KPIs (key performance indicators) to your goals. Simply put, KPIs are measurable metrics or milestones that help you determine whether you’ve accomplished a particular goal. For instance, if you set the first goal from the above list, the number of daily website visitors is a suitable KPI.
Here are a few more examples:
3. Outline Buyer Personas
If you want your content marketing efforts to yield favorable outcomes, your content must resonate with your target audience.
In other words, all your published content assets should directly address your audience’s pain points and/or resolve their problems. That’s why it’s crucial to have a thorough knowledge of your potential customers.
Identifying demographic parameters such as age group, location, profession, household income, etc. isn’t enough.
You must put yourself in the customer’s shoes to get a clear idea of their hopes, ambitions, likes, struggles, and pain points. It’s also essential to have a deep understanding of their purchasing habits and online behavior.
How can you find this information?
You can leverage online surveys, social media polls, and live Q & A sessions to get a glimpse of your audience’s needs and preferences. Additionally, you should use Google Analytics and social media analytics to better understand their online behavior. Monitoring the comments section of your blog posts and social media profiles can also help you identify their struggles and aspirations.
Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s time to divide them into various segments. Make sure you identify the stage of the buyer’s journey for each audience segment.
Next, you need to create distinct buyer personas for each segment. Think of the buyer persona as a depiction of your ideal customer.
Here’s an example:
Image Source: 99designs.com
4. Define Your Budget & Team
You need to spend money to execute any marketing strategy. Your online content marketing isn’t an exception. That’s why it’s crucial to allocate a dedicated content marketing budget before building your content marketing plan. This is because your budget influences several factors including distribution channels, content formats, team size, goals, etc.
At this stage, it’s also essential to build a specialized content marketing team. At the very least, it should include content writers, copywriters, web developers, graphic designers, SEO specialists, social media marketers, and data analysts. Depending on the content formats you’ll use, you might also need podcasters, YouTubers, video producers, photographers, etc.
You should analyze your budget to determine whether you can afford to recruit full-time content team members. Otherwise, you can use platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork to hire freelancers for various tasks. It’s a more convenient and cost-effective alternative to recruiting full-time employees.
5. Select Your Target Keywords
Irrespective of the content marketing techniques you use, performing thorough keyword research is essential. It’s particularly crucial for your website content marketing strategy.
Optimizing your blog posts by using the right keywords is instrumental in amplifying online visibility and reach. It improves your blog’s search engine ranking and helps attract more organic website visitors.
You can easily identify relevant keywords in your niche using keyword research tools such as:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google Search Console
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Keyword Explorer by Ahrefs
You can also use Google Trends to spot trending keywords as well as emerging keyword trends.
Additionally, you should use a competitor analysis tool like SpyFu to keep an eye on the keywords your competitors are targeting. Make sure you select keywords that have a high search volume and lower level of competition to increase your chances of ranking.
6. Brainstorm Content Ideas
You can’t create content on any random topic and expect it to garner traction. If you want your content to cut through the noise, you must carefully choose topics that’ll resonate with your audience.
This, in turn, means you need to select topics that address your audience’s pain points, resolve their problems, and answer their queries.
The key is to create content that will educate, inspire, and/or entertain your target audience. If you’ve performed extensive audience research, you already have a fair idea of their queries, struggles, and needs.
It’s now time to dig deeper and identify the questions they’ll likely ask in different stages of the buyer’s journey. You can use a tool like Answer The Public for this purpose.
Leverage social listening, audience polls, and online surveys to identify more traction-worthy content ideas. The keywords you selected in the previous step will also come in handy here as you can create topics around each keyword too. It’s also recommended that you analyze your competitors’ content strategies and identify their top-performing content.
Once you have a list of potential topics, add them to an Excel sheet and pick the ones that seem the best from the lot. This is also the right time to assign relevant content formats to each topic.
7. Choose the Right Distribution Channels
Content marketing is all about reaching out to your audience with valuable content through their preferred communication channels. While social-media-savvy Gen Z is more likely to use Instagram and Snapchat, white-collar executives will prefer to use LinkedIn. Likewise, some buyers might prefer to receive new content directly in their email inbox. It’s also important to find out when these consumers are most likely to be online.
This is because you need to meet your audience where they’re present. If there’s a platform mismatch, it’s highly likely that your message won’t reach the right set of people.
Also, you should categorize the selected distribution channels according to different stages of the buyer’s journey. For instance, consumers in the awareness stage will likely use social media, search engines, etc. to learn more about your brand. However, leads in the consideration stage will prefer direct and personalized email communication.
At this stage, you should also outline a distribution and promotion strategy for your content marketing plan. Apart from organic tactics such as SEO and social media marketing, you can also leverage pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to expand your reach.
Yet another way of getting your content out there is by collaborating with relevant influencers to build authority and credibility. Make sure you select the right content formats and topics depending on the distribution channels and techniques you use.
Image Source: SEMrush
8. Outline a Content Calendar
This is likely the most crucial step in your content marketing strategy. Simply put, a content calendar outlines the types of content you’ll be creating and the channels you’ll be using to distribute them. It also defines your publishing and distribution schedule for the coming weeks/months and lets you assign specific responsibilities to individual team members.
Image Source: Hootsuite
You can create a content calendar using tools such as:
9. Start Content Production
This is likely the most exciting step in the content marketing process. If you already have a well-defined content marketing plan, creating and promoting content will be simple and hassle-free. The idea is to set clear deadlines, assign individual responsibilities, and monitor the progress of each topic.
Here are a few more tips for efficient content production:
- Research and dig deep into every topic.
- Optimize written content using relevant keywords.
- Repurpose blog posts into visual formats such as infographics, videos, etc.
- Cross-promote your content across different channels.
- Regularly update existing content.
It’s also recommended that you create a content marketing playbook to facilitate collaboration and coordination among your team members. It’s a quick-reference guide that helps onboard new team members and ensures that your content marketing efforts always align with your goals. If you don’t have the time or resources to prepare one from scratch, you can get a free content marketing playbook made online.
10. Monitor & Measure
Whenever you publish content in any format across any channel, it’s crucial to track its performance. The KPIs you’d defined earlier will help you determine whether the published content assets are taking you closer to your goals.
By tracking these KPIs regularly, you can figure out which types of content or channels are working for you. Based on the insights that you gather from these analytics, you can modify your content marketing strategy and improve it.
This process of routinely improving your content strategy can help in boosting your content marketing ROI in the long run.
To monitor the KPIs, you can use web and social media analytics tools such as:
- Google Analytics
- Built-in social media analytics tools on each platform
- Sprout Social
Conclusion for Your Content Marketing Strategy
Successfully developing and executing a content marketing strategy is easier said than done. Nevertheless, it’s an indispensable part of every inbound marketing strategy. It involves various critical steps such as goal setting, audience research, keyword research, etc.
Moreover, it’s crucial to select topics and formats that’ll attract your potential customers. It’s also important to do so regularly and for this, you should consider creating a content calendar.
Also, make sure you promote your content across the communication channels that are frequently used by your audience to grow its reach. Don’t forget to tailor your content for different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Finally, it’s critical to monitor your KPIs regularly and modify your content strategy based on the insights you gather from it.
Do you want to use content marketing to grow your business? Take a look at what we do and get in touch with us to start building your strategy.