Good content marketing can be the key to brand success. In order to see the best results, however, you need a good strategy. There are many legitimate approaches to content marketing, but all successful campaigns strategically incorporate the following elements:
Without a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, you won’t know which steps to take or how to measure the success of your efforts. What specific outcome do you hope to see as a result of the content you produce?
Some common content marketing goals include increasing brand awareness, bolstering brand credibility, acquiring leads or boosting website traffic. You should know exactly how meeting that goal would benefit your business. HubSpot’s excellent SMART goal model recommends choosing goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Having too many goals can divide your focus, so concentrate on no more than three goals at a time.
Content that is too broad won’t appeal to anyone. In order to build a following, you must tailor your content to the specific sub-groups that comprise your target audience. Start by developing buyer personas — profiles containing the characteristics of your desired audience, often represented as fictional people. Unless your target audience is extremely narrow, you will likely want to develop multiple profiles. Using data gathered from customer interactions and market research, outline characteristics like age, gender, language, income bracket, values, physical location, desires, goals and behavioral patterns. With these profiles as a guide, you will better understand what content to give your audience, as well as how and where they will best receive it.
It only takes one bad experience or missed opportunity to lose a customer. A customer journey map can help you manage these crucial interactions by visually representing all probable “touchpoints” — places where customers might come in contact with your brand. Using analytics tools and feedback from existing customers, list all likely touchpoints on your map. Watch for “roadblocks” where you seem to lose people, as well as opportunities for engagement, and note these on your map. How can you redirect customers so that their journey with your brand flows as seamlessly as possible?
The goals, buyer personas and customer journey map you outlined in the previous steps will help you determine which type of content to produce. Written content, images, GIFs, podcasts and videos all have different advantages. Depending on who your customers are, their lifestyles and what type of information they are looking for, certain content types will generally offer them more value than others. Different content mediums also work better with different goals and on different platforms.
Search engines prioritize sites that consistently publish valuable content. This means that it not only matters what you post, but also when you post it. A content calendar will help you keep your publishing schedule organized, map out your content strategy, prioritize assignments appropriately and stick to posting deadlines. You might choose to use just one or several, either weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual, depending on your needs. Keep the habits of your target audience in mind when scheduling posts (when are they most active online?) and schedule enough content that people will want to keep checking back.
It’s important to determine where your content will be shared and promoted. This should, again, be determined by where your customers are. Depending on where they are most active, you may choose to share your posts through social media, emails, paid search, ads or web forums. Be intentional about how you distribute your content; your method of distribution and choice of platform should not be arbitrary. Aimless spamming can actually harm your brand. Remember that you are investing in a relationship. You should be offering something of genuine value to your audience, not directly promoting your brand or product.
The work doesn’t end when you create and share your content. In order to gauge how well you’re meeting your goals, you must choose and monitor metrics that directly reflect them. Number of white paper downloads, for instance, is a KPI (key performance indicator) that aligns with a goal of boosting brand credibility. Many common metrics, though they yield useful information, will not reveal how well you are meeting your goals.
Armed with this information, you can determine which parts of your strategy are working and which parts need adjustment. Continually refine your strategy where needed, and consider investing more time and effort into areas that have proven successful.
When you have drafted a strategy that includes all these points, keep it handy and refer to it often. Every piece of content your team develops should begin with this strategy. Update the document over time to make sure it stays relevant.