Statistics from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) show that 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy. Overall, 72% of successful content marketers attribute their success to their content marketing strategy.
Interestingly, though, CMI says that 63% of businesses don't have a documented content marketing strategy, and 64% say that learning how to create a content strategy is one of their greatest needs.
So, if you don't already have one in place, it's time to create a solid content marketing strategy.
Thankfully, creating a content marketing strategy doesn't necessarily have to be long and complicated process.
Here are five areas where you can focus to build your well-defined strategy, whether you're a B-to-C content neophyte with a single Web property or oversee a B-to-B empire with a multi-platform marketing machine.
- Understand Your Audience
Remember, the devil is in the details, and it's the little things that matter most. Although knowing your audience is the perhaps the most difficult aspect of formulating your content strategy, it also happens to be the the lynchpin that holds everything together, since understanding your customer is vital to crafting messages that appeal to them.
The easiest way to gain insight into your target audience is to use what you know about your existing customers and clients. But if you're starting from scratch or don’t have access to information about your core audience, you’ll have to do your homework.
Here are some ways to start researching your target audience:
- Use Google Analytics or Facebook Analytics
- Take a look at industry analytical reports
- Pour over competitor's case studies
- Conduct polls, surveys and interviews
- Reach out directly via email and social media
- Visit forums, message boards and online networks
- Use social media listening to find your potential customers asking questions or expressing concerns
Things you want to learn about your audience include:
- Why they purchase products or services like those you offer?
- What do they expect to achieve through their purchase?
- What influences your customers or clients when making purchasing decisions?
- Why do prospects decide not to purchase specific products or services?
- What causes them to reach the conclusion that your product or service is or is not their best option?
- Create Marketing Personas
Marketing personas will allow you to more strategically target your audience by gaining insight into the customers and clients you'd like to attract, and relating to them on a personal or professional level.
Marketing personas can vary greatly from business to business and industry to industry, and whether you're targeting consumers or business. And although the process get complicated, fast, here are a few ideas of what to include when building a marketing persona template:
- Persona Name
- Job title
- Company information (size, type, etc.)
- Details about their position
- Salary/household income
- Location: urban/suburban/rural
- Specific Information
- Hobbies & interests
- Where they get their news
- Social media they use
- Blogs they read
- Goals and challenges
- Primary & secondary goals
- How you help achieve these goals
- Primary & secondary challenges
- How you can help solve these problems
- Values & Fears
- Primary values
- Concerns during the decision-making process
- Marketing message(s)
- The best messages immediately express vital benefits. For example: "Our software cuts processing time in half."
- Create a message that is completely original yet requires no explanation like: "Using this product is like putting money in your bank account."
- Elevator pitch
- Create a 20-30 second persuasive speech describing your products/services.
- Prepare sounds bytes, succinct sentence expressing key points.
Remember, creating personas can quickly become overwhelming, so it's important to start small with a few people before diving in full bore.
- Know Which Channels to Target
After identifying your audience, the next step is figuring out exactly where they spend their time online. Talk to customers, conduct surveys (or hire someone to do them), read trade publications and visit relevant industry forums to zero in on where your audience goes online.
When trying to reach your targets, it's much better to strategically focus heavily on one or two channels than spreading yourself too thin and having a sporadic presence on many. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, make it your goal to shoot the most effective places to engage your target audience.
Some commonly used channels include:
- Your website
- Your blog
- Email marketing
- Organic search
- Influencer marketing
When deciding which channels to target, ask yourself questions like:
Does my audience search for information on Google or do they use Q&A sites like Reddit or Quora to find answers or get ideas?
Are they dedicated Facebook users or do they spend most of the time on business platforms like LinkedIn?
- Decide on the Types of Content
Once you've settled on which channels your audience prefers, it's time to decide on what type of content would be most effective to reach them.
For example, if your audience is on Facebook, videos are among the best content choices because provide immersive experiences and evoke strong emotional responses. If they frequent Pinterest, focus on aesthetically-pleasing content like high-quality images of food and fashion. If you audience consists of professionals, consider posting in-depth articles, case studies, infographics or white papers on LinkedIn.
Your ultimate goal should be to determine the types of content that appeals to and interests your audience on each channel, so that you don't waste valuable time and resources creating content that is not a good fit for for any given channel.
Remember, any content you create for your website, should also fit the look and feel of your site, and be visually appealing to your visitors. Check out these examples from the Whole Food website for a great example of well-planned
- Determine What You Want to Accomplish
After deciding the types of content you'll use to leverage different marketing channels, you should identify your content marketing goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
These goals and KPIs will vary depending on your individual circumstances, including the type of business you operate, your marketing budget, available resources, previous outcomes, testing and many other factors.
Savvy content marketers never create content just for the sake of doing so, or because they know they should. So, you should always have specific objectives in mind regarding what you want your content to achieve.
Some goals to consider:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Driving traffic to your website
- Generating more leads
- Converting leads into sales or customers
- Improving customer/client retention and driving upsells
Knowing what you want to accomplish ahead of time will help to ensure you have the appropriate content assets in place before you start pushing content to your audience.
With consumers' and decision-makers' attention broadly stretched across channels, devices, geographies and time zones, digital content marketing is an efficient and cost-effective way to reach your target audience. And having a solid, well-thought-out content marketing plan in place will go a long way toward helping you reach your business goals.