Developing the right content marketing plan can play a significant role in the success of your marketing and business.

Let’s back up for a minute and define content marketing, and talk about why you need it in your business.

From Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Now, the way your customers consume is changing. The buying process within your industry probably looks nothing like it did five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago.

They have questions. They’re seeking the right information as much as they are the right business. They want to know how your product will improve their lives. They want to know what makes your service different and better than the other people who do what you do.

They’re online, sifting through competitive websites, and they want to know why they should buy from you.

This is where your content marketing comes into play. Website content, blogging, infographics, social media, brochures, and other potential avenues for reaching your customer can all become part of your content marketing plan.

Questions to ask as you create your content marketing plan:

How often am I going to blog?

Your blog should be the cornerstone of any content marketing plan for a few reasons.

The goal is always to attract more readers and potential customers to your website. Each blog post that you create serves as a window to your website. If someone Google’s the subject that you’ve written about, if your post ranks well, it’s the post that will show up in the search results, not just your website home page.

If you’re promoting your posts on social media, the same is true. It could very easily become a potential customer’s first exposure to your website.

You’ll have to be honest with yourself, however. A blog post can take anywhere from an hour to 3 or 4 hours (or more) to write, depending on how long and detailed you want to make it.

You’ll have to determine how often you want to blog. The goal is to keep your business on your audience’s mind. Frequency is the best way to do that. But at the same time, you don’t want to write so often that your schedule diminishes the quality of the content you are creating.

How do I come up with blog ideas?

As you determine your blogging schedule, you’ll need subjects to write about. You’ll have to routinely come up with blog ideas. You can use an editorial calendar to keep track of your ideas and establish a writing schedule.

Here are a few tactics for coming up with blog ideas that work well:

  • Use Google Keyword Planner to see what industry terms have a high search volume.
  • Ask your customers and clients what issues matter most to them, pertaining to your industry.
  • Reading through industry and competitor blogs to see what subject matters resonate.
  • Answer common customer questions. Think back to previous interactions. If you’ve had someone ask about it before, chances are more people may want to know. The Sales Lion was built this way.

How long should my blog posts be?

The short answer is to let the subject matter dictate the length. That’s an answer I used to receive as a journalist, when I asked my editor how long a story needed to be. It’s true.

Here’s the thing: you probably need more words to explain the intricacies of a car than you would to sell bubble gum. The complexity of the story drives the length.

As you work on your content marketing plan, you can factor this into your schedule. If your ideas merit 2,000 words, your blog posts will take longer to write.

There are other factors at play here, as well. Google won’t index blog or website content shorter than 300 words. So if you’re looking for better search engine results from your blogging efforts, your posts should be at least that long.

If the subject matter is compelling enough, people will read longer posts. So don’t shy away from more complex subject matter. Some of the most heavily consumed blogs on the Internet regularly publish posts of 2,000 words or more.

If you are going to write long, make sure it is compelling, and make sure your readers will have a strong takeaway. You’ll also want to make sure you are using shorter paragraphs, subheads, bullet points and multiple images to break your text up.

I’m not a writer. What other options do I have?

The good news for content marketers is you don’t have to be a prolific writer. As long as you can explain your industry in a way that makes sense to your audience, you can succeed as a blogger or content marketer.

But if it’s truly not your thing, you have a few other options. You can hire out a freelance marketing writer. You can have your posts copy edited to make sure that your thoughts make sense, and your writing is free of grammar and spelling errors.

You can also experiment with other platforms. Writing is not the only way to tell your story. You can reach your customers through video, photos, infographics, or audio.

There are a couple things to keep in mind as you determine the best ways to communicate with your audience: one is your natural skill set, the other is where your audience is spending the majority of its time.

If your audience is heavily invested in reading blogs that is something to keep in mind. If your audience is heavily invested in Pinterest and Instagram, maybe photo or video would be the better way to reach them.

How do I get more traffic?

This is a popular content marketing question. Anyone putting creative materials out into the world wants more people to see them. This is human nature – you worked hard at making something.

Here’s the thing: traffic alone is only half the equation. If that traffic leaves before completing any action, it does nothing to help your business.

The fashionable answer to “how do I get more traffic?” is that traffic simply depends on quality content. As a writer, I wish that was the sole answer. While you need that well-written content, there are things you should do to spread your good work to your audience.

  • Promote your work on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Medium, or any other industry sites.
  • Provide links in any relevant Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus group.
  • Try to find any relevant industry sites that will syndicate your blog posts. Typically they’ll publish through your RSS feed.
  • Print off paper copies of your blog posts for sell sheets, or additional resources for your customers or clients.
  • Look for any relevant PR opportunities for your business.

All of these are ways to bring more interested traffic to your website. From there, you’ll need to convince them to act.

What should I focus on?

Measuring the results of content marketing can be tricky. But as you create your content marketing plan, there is one thing that can help: try to get the audience to do something.

You entice them in with strong headlines. You entertain and provide value with strong body copy. You keep them reading one line to the next. But then, your call to action needs to work.

What do you want them to do? Download, register, sign up, share, comment or buy are all acceptable answers to this question. Make sure you are creating compelling calls to action.

Final Thoughts…

Your marketing materials need to have your audience’s interest at heart. As you create your content marketing plan, make sure you are keeping your ideal customer in mind. Stay true to your schedule, skill set, and your audience.