The first step to getting started with content marketing is to develop a well-considered content marketing strategy to guide your efforts. You should have a content marketing strategy before you start developing content. Think of it as the marketing plan for your content program.
Now before you start feeling overwhelmed, developing your strategy won’t be a crazy amount of work. It doesn’t have to be an extensive and elaborate tome. It can be simple, but not doing one isn’t a good option. Your content program will only work if it’s uniquely tailored to your business. Sitting down and thinking it through, even a little, will pay huge dividends.
The Content Marketing Institute talks about the five components of strategy:
1. The Business Case
The business case is an answer for why content marketing makes sense for your business.
2. The Business Plan
The business plan outlines your goals and objectives, that is, how you’re looking to offer value through your content, in other words, the opportunities you see.
3. The Target Audience
You need to define who your target audience is—demographics, psychographics, behaviors, what their needs are and, importantly, how they consume the kind of content you’ll be providing, including:
- Their preferred format—video, text etc
- Devices they predominantly use
- The content length and depth they prefer
- The frequency in which they consume that kind of content
4. Your Story
Your story covers what ideas and messages you want to communicate and how they’ll differ from your competition. To answer the latter, use what your competition is doing as a barometer for your content marketing program—even if they’re doing very little in the way of content marketing, that too can tell you a lot. An assessment of your competition and how you stack up against them, even if done quickly, can really help inform your strategy. By looking at what the competition is doing (or not doing), can tell you a ton about where opportunities to engage your audience with content may lie.
5. Your Channel
Finally, the fifth component of strategy is your channel plan. In other words, what platform, or platforms, you’ll use to get your content out to your audience. In his book, Content Inc, Joe Pulizzi recommends choosing one core channel and consistently publishing to that channel to first build momentum and traction. This strategy makes a lot of sense when you’re initially embarking on your content marketing journey.
Nevertheless, one channel or a few, you need to consider best practices for each of those platforms and how well your content fits. In other words, for instance, if you’re thinking long form video:
- Does it work well with the platform in question?
- Do people watch longer videos there?
- Does your specific audience watch longer videos?
- Are there other formats that might make more sense for that channel?
- Can the format be tailored or adapted to work better?
Remember, your objective is to create a rich brand conversation. Thinking about the fit between story format and prevailing behaviors is critical to making that happen.
So now that we’ve laid out those five components of strategy, we’re going to simplify things for you. A quicker way of defining your content marketing strategy is to simply outline: the “What”, the “Who” and the “How”
The “what” is: what are your business goals and objectives?
This can also be thought of as the “why”. As in the “why” it makes sense for your company to be in the business of creating content. Every organization, I don’t care how big or small, needs a clear understanding of goals and how they will be measured. Determine the ones that make sense for you given available budget, time and resources.
Generally, content marketing can help businesses:
- Deepen customer relationships—and increase engagement and frequency
- Increase revenue—by driving traffic and/or gains in organic search, among other benefits
- Be more efficient—in their marketing efforts by lowering marketing costs.
The “Who” is: who is the consumer you’re creating content for is and what you need to know about them to be successful?
Creating customer personas is a great approach to answering these questions. Personas can be as simple as a couple of sentences that explain the target audience’s wants and needs. Just speaking with a handful of your customers can give you a great feel for who they are, their habits and their motivations.
Personas are an invaluable tool for whoever writes your content, even if that’s you. They help wrap your head around the target audience and what style and tone you need to use to connect with them.
Finally the “how”…
The “how” is: how will you bring it all together with your content?
How will your content address the needs of the who (your target customer) and, in the process achieve the what (your goals and objectives).