How to Create an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Build a plan. Create your content. Publish, measure, refine, repeat.
Seems straightforward enough. But this is the bare bones of content marketing. It’s creating a plan, not a strategy and it’s missing out on the impact potential of a goal-focused, personalized, purposeful approach to your brand’s content.
It’s one thing to have an appealing, educational lineup of blog posts, video content, infographics, white papers, and social media content. It’s a whole other science to make all these pieces come together and take on a life of their own, manifesting a walking, breathing force that is able to impact your marketing goals and drive business growth in the long term.
Once you get going with content marketing and finding your stride, you’ll want to up the sophistication level of your strategy to get more of an impact. Use these principles, the 3 P’s of effective content marketing, to evolve your strategy from ‘well, it exists but why haven’t we boosted our revenue yet?’ to ‘wow, what’s next?’
In order to reach the right target at the right time with the right content, you need to identify what’s driving your content marketing strategy by identifying the why behind your strategy.
Define your strategy’s driving force, focusing on one or two priorities. Sure, every business wants their content marketing to increase website traffic, generate quality leads, boost brand awareness, improve customer loyalty, and every other marketing goal in the book. The inevitable mindset with this ‘all of the above’ approach is to create great content and then achieve a little bit of everything as a result. You may get some of your KPIs to hit their targets, but the real and sustainable impact isn’t there.
With effective content marketing, it’s the priority goals that drive the strategy. The “plan first, results later” approach gets turned inside out. You need the desired results – the most important why or why’s of your content marketing strategy – for fuel, inspiration, and direction. They drive the strategy.
This is how you get that magnificent self-perpetuating achievement you see with brands like Dropbox, Blue Apron, and Zendesk.
So, what should you focus on?
Don’t look for the priorities that will yield the most impressive content marketing ROI numbers, but rather the ones that are aligned with business goals. Of course, all points along the buyer’s journey matter all the time, but you need to hone in on which one is the most critical right now based on business needs. Where is your organization struggling? For example:
- New service or other change you want customers to know about? Generate web traffic and fire up your social media platforms.
- A growth plateau? Then focus on getting better quality leads.
- Limited market reach? Then look to brand awareness and thought leadership.
- Plagued by low engagement numbers? How is your content working to improve the customer experience?
- Not getting repeat business or is your brand advocacy limited to an army of one? Your strategy should focus on customer loyalty and retention.
Here’s the thing. When you laser focus on one part of the buyer’s journey, you aren’t neglecting the rest. What you’re doing is laying the groundwork for the other priorities.
Then, when you come around to the beginning of the funnel again or when you tailor your strategy to focus on one stage to the next, you’re already set up to create an even more effective strategy because your organization has more content marketing experience and (hopefully) resources.
- Better quality content production
- More sophisticated use of technology
- Better informed metrics
And, more confidence – and organizational support – to push boundaries and be a content marketing innovator in your industry
In 2015, Gartner predicted that companies heavily invested in personalization would outsell their competitors who lack personalization by 20 percent. Today’s content marketers need to be thinking personalization when developing their strategy. Personalized email offers, content sequencing, product suggestions, landing pages, and other types of personalized content are what customers expect today.
With the help of the right marketing automation platforms, marketers are using machine learning and predictive analytics to tailor content for both individuals and buyer segments, which creates a better experience.
Let’s face it, customers are more likely to walk away and write your brand off in their minds if they are exposed to one or two pieces of content that aren’t relevant to them. With so much content out there today, only what really matters to them will get any attention. In one Marketing Insider Group and OneSpot survey, 45 percent of consumers said they won’t spend time with a brand that’s not relevant to their interests. 42 percent are less interested in a brand’s products or services if the brand’s content isn’t personally relevant.
Write personalization into your content marketing strategy. This means looking at your marketing technology to make sure you are capable of offering better personalized content. It also means getting personal and taking the time to understand customer needs through both customer data and old school feedback.
Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs shares a great example of a small business that’s mastered content simply by asking their customers questions and creating content specifically for his audience.
She says, “Yale Appliance redeployed almost all of its marketing budget away from advertising. His [Steve Sheinkopf] content strategy has been extremely effective, and he’s done it by simply answering his audience’s questions … The reason why he’s killing it is he looks at his data, he figures out what his audience needs, and he creates content that meets his audience’s needs.”
And the final P for effective content marketing – purpose. Why does your brand exist?
I talked about this concept years ago, sharing Simon Sinek’s amazing Ted Talk on how important the purpose is of your business to your customers, something a lot of brands overlook.
You need to get this higher purpose across in your content.
- What purpose does your business have – how is it impacting society?
- What are the values of your brand?
- How can your products and services make your customers’ lives better?
- How does your vision differentiate your business from your competitors?
- And – where is it headed? What role will your business play in the future of society?
Here’s an excellent video of Steve Jobs talking about brand purpose for Apple.
He says, “But even a great brand needs investments in caring if it’s going to retain its relevance and vitality.” He goes on to explain how the way to do that isn’t to tell people your mission statement or your brand vision, but rather to evoke awareness of who you are through your content. Like Nike, “They honor great athletes and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are.”
What is the core, the archetypical belief that drives your brand? It’s there if you don’t know it already. You may have to dig deep for it, do a little organizational soul-searching. But, that’s what your customers will not just be motivated to connect with, but will desire to be a part of. And that’s really effective content marketing.