This is the time of year brands start planning for 2019. They look at their resources and budget, review previous key performance indicators and research popular trends to wrap into their next strategy. As you evaluate your plan for the coming year, it’s important to make room for content marketing.
Why You Need Content Marketing
Whether you’re evaluating the strategy for your own business or looking for ways to explain the value to your company’s executives, the reasons for investing in content marketing are the same.
Consumers report they want to see a brand’s content, not their ads. As NewsCred Insights explains:
- You might think your advertising is resonating with audiences, but 71 percent of readers say they were turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch.
- 84 percent of millennials don’t trust traditional ads. As for Gen Z, purchasing decisions aren’t influenced by ads, but rather by other forms of content.
- 84 percent of people expect brands to create content.
The average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision.
- 95 percent of B2B buyers consider content as trustworthy when evaluating a company and its offerings.
- 85 percent of users ignore paid ads and focus on organic search results. Non-promotional content can rank well in search and build audience trust.
When it comes down to it, the value of this type of strategy is that by providing quality content, you’re able to connect in a way ads can’t. It’s perceived by consumers as being much more genuine, authentic and trustworthy.
How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Effective content marketing is much more than just writing blog posts or publishing Facebook updates when you have time. It’s a strategic, long-term approach that focuses on providing value to your target consumers with the goal of building a relationship with them.
Here’s how to develop a successful content marketing strategy.
1. Review last year’s content marketing strategy.
Before you can figure out where you’re going, you need to start with where you are. What were your goals from this last year? Did you achieve them?
Pull up as many analytics as possible. At Three Girls, we rely on data from sources such as:
- Google Analytics
- MailChimp (our email marketing platform)
- Social Media Analytics (e.g. Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, YouTube Analytics, etc.)
Think about all the marketing tactics you’ve used over the past year and look for as much data as possible about them.
As you look at the analytics available, think about your marketing strategy’s goals. Were you hoping to increase website traffic by a certain percentage? Pull up Google Analytics, set it to compare the current quarter to the same quarter last year, and compare the difference between the two of them. This will tell you if you achieved the goal.
Do the same sort of comparison for any other goals you wrote down for last year’s marketing strategy. There may still be some areas to improve before December, but as we’re already in Q4 you should already have a feel for which goals you did, or are likely to achieve, and which you didn’t or aren’t likely to reach.
If you haven’t taken the time to set up your analytics accounts, now is a great time to begin collecting some baseline data:
- Set up a Google Analytics account so you can measure your website traffic.
- Export and review analytics from your social media accounts so you have data saved showing your engagement, followers, click-through rates, etc.
- Make sure you know where to find analytics for any other tactics in your marketing strategy, such as your e-newsletter data, social media ads, etc.
These areas will help you determine success for next year’s strategy.
2. Review your target audience.
Who are you trying to reach with your content marketing efforts? Is your target consumer clearly outlined? Here’s a fantastic list of criteria to consider as you define your audience (via Responsive Inbound Marketing):
- Location – Where does your target customer live?
- Excluding location – Where do they not live?
- Age – What is the age range of your audience?
- Gender – Male or female?
- Interests – What interests do they have?
- Education level – What is their education level?
- Job title – What field of work do your customers work in and what types of job titles do they carry?
- Income level – What is their income range?
- Relationship status – Are they single and living on their own, married, divorced?
- Language – What languages do they speak?
- Favorite websites – Which websites do they visit?
- Buying motivation – What are their reasons for buying your product or subscribing to your service?
- Buying concerns – What are their concerns when buying your product or subscribing to your service?
Once you know exactly who your target consumer is, you can develop a more strategic content marketing plan to reach them.
3. Establish new content marketing goals.
Rather than a vague goal like, “Increase revenue,” make them SMART:
Our post about content marketing expectations explains what each of these criteria mean:
- Specific. Ask yourself what exactly you hope to get out of your content marketing technique. Get specific.
- Measurable. In order for your goals to be successful, you need to be able to measure them against a benchmark.
- Achievable. Make sure your goal is reasonable and don’t set the bar too high. To expect a dramatic return immediately is not an attainable goal.
- Relevant. How will the content marketing technique help your customers and your company? Incorporate how these content platforms will improve your business and provide a true benefit for your customers.
- Timely. Make sure you set a time limit to reach those goals. Not setting a deadline for success will make it hard to measure your results.
4. Brainstorm ways to achieve your content marketing goals.
What types of marketing tactics will help you reach your target audience to achieve the SMART goals you defined? Go through your goals one at a time and write down every possible way you can think of to achieve success.
If you have a marketing team or colleague that can help you with this brainstorm, include them! The more minds you have thinking about potential tactics to use, the more creative content marketing ideas you’ll come up with.
5. Consider your time and resources.
Although you may have all sorts of fantastic content marketing ideas, if you don’t factor your budget into your strategy, you won’t be successful. Look at all the different ideas you wrote down and prioritize the ones you want to include in this year’s strategy. Consider these factors as you select your tactics:
- How much time you have available
- The budget you have available if you’re going to hire an outside agency to help
- The direct correlation between the approach you’re taking and the goal you’re trying to achieve (for example, if you want to increase your Facebook engagement, you better include that platform in your strategy)
6. Write out your content marketing plan.
When I do this, I like to physically get out a piece of paper and hash out which tactics I plan to execute each month. Some will be ongoing (like blogging and social media) whereas you may want to spread others out throughout the year (such as infographic creation or social media advertising).
While this plan is an overview, the more detailed you can be the better. Include specifics like how you plan to promote your content.
7. Put your content marketing plan into action.
I like to sit down with my planner or calendar and add entries for each task I want to complete and when. Others prefer to use online calendars and to-do lists. The important part is that you find a way to keep yourself on track. Give yourself deadlines and stick to them! Consistency is a big part of content marketing, so if you can’t stay on track you’re not going to be as effective.
8. Review content marketing analytics.
Every month, take a peek at your analytics. How is your strategy going? Are there things you should tweak to improve results? Maybe try changing up the days and/or times that your social media updates go live, then after a month compare which ones performed best. Look at where visitors are clicking or which blog posts they spend the most time on. That will give you fantastic insight into which types of content are resonating the best.
Once a quarter, take a closer look at your analytics to see if you need to make any bigger revisions. It’s important to remember that content marketing tactics take time (usually 12-18 months minimum), so don’t be too quick to change strategies. Still, evaluate your results to decide if it’s worth updating your plan at all.
Content Marketing Best Practices
Now you have a content marketing strategy! But you’re not done yet. Before you jump into your plan, it’s helpful to review common best practices so you can implement them into your approach.
- Research keywords and use them in everything – in a natural way of course. Your keywords are one of the most important parts of your content marketing strategy. In addition to using them in specific areas of your blog posts, wrap them into social media updates, e-newsletters, videos, infographics and any other content you create for your brand.
- Define your brand’s voice. What is your company attempting to convey through your content’s word choices? Do you want to give the impression that you’re laid back and casual or high end and professional? The voice you give your content matters!
- Develop an editorial calendar with overarching themes. Give your content a clear direction and focus by developing a calendar for the entire year. In addition to laying out holidays and timely information you want to wrap into your plan, decide what key points you want to hit during the year so your content has a cohesive message.
- Develop a promotion strategy for your content. How will you share your blog posts or infographics? Develop a plan to promote every single piece of content you create so you can get the most mileage possible from your efforts.
- Use a multi-pronged approach. One major benefit of content marketing is its ability to reach consumers where they are. This means you need to share your message on the various platforms they use. At Three Girls, we recommend a multi-pronged approach, where you invest in several different channels to reach your target consumers in as many ways as possible.
- Include calls to action. What do you want readers or viewers to do after consuming your content. Call you? Follow you on Facebook? Subscribe to your email newsletter? Make it clear how you’d like them to respond by including clear calls to action throughout your content.
- Keep your consumer in mind. As you create your content, keep your target consumer front and center. Will what you’re creating appeal to them? How are you providing value for them? Strive to be helpful and/or entertaining.
- Include strong visuals. Effective content marketing extends beyond the written word. It’s imperative you include compelling images and videos; research shows:
- 20 percent of people will read the text on a page, but 80 percent of them will watch a video.
After watching a video, 64 percent of users are more likely to buy a product online.
- People have the ability to recall 65 percent of the visual content that they see almost three days later.
- 20 percent of people will read the text on a page, but 80 percent of them will watch a video.
- Keep an eye on competitors. Watching your competition is a wonderful way to refine your own business and become stronger. What content marketing tactics are they using? Are they effective? How is their approach inspiring new, more creative ideas for you to use in your strategy?
As you can see, content marketing is an incredibly valuable strategy to invest in. It takes time and resources to do it effectively, but it’s worth it!