What exactly is content marketing?
Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Content marketing isn’t about the brand, your products, or your services. It’s about your audience. What do they care about?
Content marketing continues to flourish for one very simple reason: it’s what the people want.
They don’t want intrusive banners, ads, and popups. They don’t want irrelevant messages and products that have nothing to do with them shoved in their face. They don’t want spam clogging their inbox. People want high-quality, useful, relevant, and engaging content about things that matter to them.
Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
In short, you need a strategy so you can determine how your content will help people in a way that no other company is currently doing.
Why a Content Marketing plan is more important than ever!
Content marketing is quickly becoming a part of the overall marketing process. Still, we get a lot of questions about how to adapt (or understand) traditional marketing concepts in the content marketing era.
Having a marketing plan that includes distributing valuable content is more important than ever.
Now that apps and other platforms are upping privacy restrictions, it’s becoming nearly impossible to track your customers and target their interests.That means delivering helpful, meaningful content is the way into their feeds and inboxes.
Because not only is content the KEY to building trust and awareness in your market…
It can also unlock a steady stream of free leads, free traffic… and free customers!
Why do you need a content marketing strategy?
While your company should have a content strategy – a strategic plan for all its content usage across the enterprise, it also should have a dedicated content marketing strategy – a unified, strategic road map focused exclusively on how your business will use content to attract, acquire, and engage its prospects and customers.
Why is it critical to develop (and document) a deliberate strategy? For starters, research has consistently found that a documented content marketing strategy is a factor that separates successful content marketers from their less successful peers.
In fact, according to latest B2B findings:
- 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. 14% of the least successful.
- 73% say it keeps their teams focused on established content priorities.
- 68% say it helps their team allocate resources to optimise desired results.
There was a time when having a blog was enough, but today (if you actually want to generate free, targeted traffic), you need to do more.
“As customers increasingly learn and buy digitally, sales reps become just one of many possible sales channels. Because of this, sales organisations must be able to sell to customers everywhere the customer expects to engage, interact and transact with suppliers.”
So how to develop a Content Strategy for your business?
A successful content marketing program starts with a documented strategy.
Anyone who grasps the fundamentals of content marketing knows that the concept isn’t all that complicated – consistently providing something of relevant value to your target audience in the hope they ultimately will return the favour!
Serving the needs of your audience with valuable, high quality content is an admirable goal for any company. But your efforts will amount to little if your content doesn’t trigger audience behaviours that help your company reach its business goals. And that, my friends, is where complications set in.
To give your content marketing program the best chance of driving desired results, you should know the answer to these questions:
- Who should the content we produce be most relevant to?
- What benefits does this audience receive from consuming our content?
- What desirable and distinctive content experience can we consistently deliver?
Content marketing requires these two things.
- Content creation. What’s your offer? Sometimes people refer to this as lead gen to get you “in the funnel.” This also refers to ongoing content across the customer journey which is the basis for this playbook.
- Content distribution. What channels are you going to focus on to distribute the content? The fastest channel is where you pay for it (e.g. paid social ads) but you need to make sure you’re getting ROI and not just throwing money away.
Let’s back up a moment, before you get that content rolling.
Content marketing requires a solid marketing foundation.
First, you need to know what your target buyer cares about, their challenges, goals, how you can help them solve a big pain point, and where they spend a lot of their time consuming content. You can’t skimp on this part, you need to do the very important Voice of the Customer research
Quick note on lead gen and offers.
Different marketers hold different beliefs. Some will try to convince you that lead gen is the way to play. I encourage you to dig deeper and see what folks are actually doing and how well their lead generation is working. A lot of busy work with low conversions is mostly a lot of busy work. You’ll need to figure out what resonates most with your own company and your marketing/sales philosophy.
How to build your content strategy
What are the core pillars of the marketing engine?
- Your target audience (you’re not for everyone – who are you really for?)
- The problem you’re solving for them
- How you’re different from the other options
- Case studies
Then you’d want to “work backwards” to those people that aren’t ready to buy today but can be nurtured with the right information.
Finally you’d want to focus on those people who have never heard of you and are not thinking about buying anything from you. Your job is to engage them – be exciting, interesting, fresh. Most importantly, understand the problem you’re solving for them. Your messaging is spot on when it resonates with them.
Simplify Your Content Marketing Strategy with a One-Page Plan
CMI (Content Marketing Institute) research shows, marketers with a documented content marketing strategy are more effective than those who lack a written strategy. Yet, only 40% of B2C and 37% of B2B marketers have written down a plan!
If you lack a written strategy, a one-page plan is a great place to begin. If you have a detailed strategy but struggle to gain traction, boiling it down to one page will make it easier. A one-page strategy can help you:
- Crystalise your content marketing strategy
- Gain stronger buy-in more quickly from executives or clients
- Keep content producers strategically aligned
To create a content marketing strategy in one page, first focus on what you need to accomplish in the next year.
How you find this information depends on your business. You can engage C-level executives, read the company’s internal and external documents (including the overall marketing plan), or use another research avenue to identify:
- Company’s growth strategy
- Revenue growth targets
- Profit targets
- How growth will be achieved
- Other factors or criteria important to the organisation’s growth
Considering how crucial these inputs are to marketing, it’s surprising that marketing managers are often unaware of the precise business objectives.
These business-level elements will appear in your plan as:
- Objectives: What qualitative results must the company accomplish over the next year?
- Goals: How will progress toward objectives be measured quantitatively?
Next, work with mid-level marketing, sales, and product leaders to sketch a content marketing plan. How will content marketing help the company achieve its goals? You may find some ideas that content marketing can support, and others that it can’t. What content marketing can support will appear in your plan as:
- Strategies: What will the content marketing function deliver qualitatively during the next year? (e.g., introduce a new product, increase awareness, dramatize your solution’s differentiation, create a better customer experience, offer social proof)
- Metrics: How will marketing measure the achievement of content marketing strategies? (e.g., increase awareness by a certain percent, deliver specified number of marketing-qualified leads to sales, contribute a certain dollar amount to the sales pipeline from qualified leads, produce a certain amount of revenue)
Building a One-Page Plan For Startups
This content marketing strategy template fits on one page. The important thing is to keep it to a single page that can be easily shared to maximise its impact and usefulness with executives and content creators.
- Increase revenue from product X over the next 12 months
- Position this disruptive new product as a viable alternative to competitor’s product
- Increase revenue by X% to X% in 2017
- Build buyer awareness to X%
- Become the best source of information on (customer problem or product category)
- Deliver useful information and thought-provoking insights
- Educate buyers on:
- How to address key technology and business challenges
- How to generate revenue, reduce expenses, and improve user experiences
- Increase website traffic +XX% year over year
- Convert XX% of website users (You may track soft conversions and/or hard conversions.)
- Add to the sales pipeline XXXX marketing-qualified leads per year, including €YY million in potential deals
- Generate revenue of €X million
Who we serve: Capsule version of buyer personas
What’s in it for buyers? Ideas to further buyers’ careers and their companies’ success
Topics: List topics where the company seeks to position its helpful content.
Serving sizes & frequencies
|Time (to get message across)||Words||Media|
|7 seconds (daily)||23||Headline, tweet, sound bite, cartoon|
|2 minute infographic (2X/week)||400||Web page, blog, news release, video|
|5 minute long video (monthly)||1,000||Magazine article, contributed articles|
|20+ minute speech, webinar (quarterly)||4,000+||White paper, application note, e-book|
Calls to action
Soft: Watch a video; read blog, magazine article, or white paper
Hard: Enter demand funnel – read a gated white paper, sign up for a webinar, qualify at a trade show or event
Adapt the template to suit your needs. Include the most relevant elements. Cover what you need to gain executive support and align content creators. However, always keep in mind that it must fit on a single page or its purpose will be diminished.
To help you get off to a fast start, we’re sharing our very own Content Planning Template, which is a complete Editorial Calendar that you can reuse over and over. We’ve even filled in a sample month’s overview of content, so you can see what it looks like in practice.