Are you overwhelmed by the prospect of creating and implementing a content marketing strategy? I know you are a smart, market-driven, professional but I wouldn’t be surprised if you are confused by the sea of (often contradictory) content marketing advice sloshing about on the Web.
My goal is to clear your mental whiteboard and discuss three questions that form the foundation of your content marketing strategy. Simplifying the process will help you pinpoint what you don’t know and what you can improve.
Tip: Open up a note-taking application and create action steps as you read through this post. Also set a time next week to reread this post or discuss with your team. The end of the year is coming quick and this could jumpstart your strategy planning for next quarter.
Content Marketing Pillar #1: Build a strategy.
A strategy is a plan for allocating time, people, and resources to accomplish a goal. Let that definition soak in. Notice that a strategy focuses on time, people, and resources first. We aren’t talking about tactics yet. We want to make sure that the right people show up, do the right stuff, in the most efficient way possible.
You should be skeptical of any content marketing tactic that isn’t consistent with a clear strategy.
Your strategy should answer these questions:
- Why do we need a content marketing strategy? Are you just checking off the marketing box or do you believe that your future customers would benefit from your experience, expertise, and insights?
- Can we educate our audience in a high quality, informative and interesting way? Your answer signals your commitment to focus on your customer’s needs and expectations. Your answer might be no. That’s cool. At least you are starting with a clear action item that moves you toward hiring the help you need, outsourcing a portion of your content, or focusing on content types that require less resources.
- Who is passionate about the problem our product solves? This is a complicated but essential question that uncovers the real audience for your content. The “passionate few” will share your content, subscribe, and be open to building a relationship with your business.
After answering those three questions, spend time thinking through these:
- Who will be responsible for creating and promoting our content?
- How much time and money am I willing to allocate for implementing the content strategy?
- How can we improve our leapfrog our competitor’s content offerings?
- What results do we need to see from our content marketing efforts? How soon?
- Do we have a system in place to deliver the metrics we need to evaluate and improve our content?
Content Marketing Pillar #2: Content Building
Content production requires: 1) Writers, 2) Graphic Designers, 3) Marketers, and 4) Content Engineers. Here’s what you should look for:
- Writers: Your writers should feel comfortable writing punchy short-form content averaging 500-1000 words, long-form content – think eBook, and presentation copy – 1 sentence “sound bites” that look great on a big screen.
Graphic Designers: Your graphic designer will be tasked with creating the overall visual brand for your content including the look and feel for your website down to the font choice for your special reports.
Marketers: A good content marketing tactician will promote your content and make sure it’s available on the right content distribution platforms (i.e. Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) Your marketer should also take the lead on evaluating performance and suggesting improvments to the writers and graphic designers.
Content Engineers: This is your technical crew. They handle the software behind your website, blog, email management like autoresponders and triggered emails, and infrastructure like hosting, SSL certificates, etc.
Along with people, you’ll need this to keep your content marketing creation on track:
Content calendar: This is the editorial calendar’s big brother.
The Content calendar starts with customer questions and shows how these questions are answered with content including blog posts, presentations, ebooks, videos, and podcasts. This content is placed into a calendar along with whose responsible for production and marketing.
Content Experiments: You won’t hit a homerun on your first post. Content marketing success comes from consistent incremental improvements. Build kaizen into your plans from the start. You should test:
- Content types (blogs, videos, podcasts, presentations, books, special reports)
- Content subjects (lead generation, thought leadership, opinion, how-to)
- Content elements (headlines, lead paragraph, call-to-action text and design)
- Content distribution channels (pinterest vs instagram, podcast vs video, community niche sites vs question and answer sites )
You will be tempted to ignore Content Experiments. Your competition prays that you will.
I’ll be blunt. Idiots spend time, energy, and money on creating content without a comprehensive plan for improving their content’s performance.
Content Marketing Pillar #3: Content Promotion
“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention” – Seth Godin
What is your plan for attracting readers who will read, share, and link to your content?
Your goal is to have a system in place that systematically presents your content on the platforms your readers enjoy. By the way, these platforms can be offline too! I have a client that is killing it by sending his blog posts as hardcopy letters to his top clients and prospects.
I help my clients think about content promotion as a 3-phase process:
1. List: Load up your social media management tool and fire off your content’s headline throughout the day.
2. Engage: Pick your top platforms and provoke conversation by asking questions about your content or provide some additional information that will attract the attention of the passionate few we talked about in Pillar #1.
I love Google+ for this type of engagement. Your goal is to spark a reaction from readers that will ripple out to their audience.
3. Repurpose: Extend your content’s reach by adapting it to other platforms. Factor in extra time to turn popular blog posts into podcasts, presentations for Slideshare, LinkedIn posts, and video. This process takes time so set a goal to repurpose one post per quarter until you become efficient enough to repurpose more.
These three content marketing pillars will clarify your vision, strategy, and implementation plan. You’ll be able to see where you need help and where you can get started immediately. Yesterday was the best time to get started but today is the next best time!
Go to Google+ to discuss the three pillars and ask questions. See you there.