Whether you have been working on your content marketing for years or you are just starting out, this current (and very unforeseen) COVID-19 environment is definitely a good time to revisit your content marketing strategy for 2020, especially since now is when marketing budgets have been cut or campaigns have been paused.
A recent survey of more than 2,200 marketers conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week revealed that the majority of marketers believe that the outbreak has already heavily impacted marketing activities for the first half of 2020.
While the outbreak has halted current or impending campaigns and product launches, the situation is also likely to affect the pipeline of what’s to come. Indeed, many marketers (62% in the UK and 63% in the US) say that marketing budget commitments are delayed or under review. Now is the perfect time to get your content marketing strategy in order for the rest of the year and look to more evergreen marketing tactics.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
Content marketing is about marketing your brand or business by offering something of value, whether it is expertise, knowledge or entertainment, in order to attract new prospects or build a relationship with your target market.
The emphasis is never on simple advertising or self-promotion of your products or services like a sales pitch but rather focussing on the giving of value. Thus, a content marketing strategy is about creating a framework that enables you to effectively create content that your audience will respond to yet helps you achieve your marketing goals. Do you want to get more keyword rankings? More sales leads or eCommerce products sold?
A content marketing strategy should understand your audience, identify what resonates with them, what goals you want to reach and how you plan to accomplish them. Instead of just blindly creating content from interesting ideas, a proper strategy can help build connections with prospects, help capture and drive sales, establish the brand as an industry authority and even boost your SEO rankings.
Why is a Content Marketing Strategy Important?
Having a content marketing strategy is important because it better connects your business objectives to your content marketing efforts.
For example, your content strategy might find that there is a lack of awareness for one of your product categories and presents several options for addressing the issue. Your content marketing could help drive more awareness by creating blog posts about that product range. You can then push it across social to drive more traffic to the range.
Besides brand or product awareness, there are other very real benefits including:
- Lead generation – Content brings in new leads via potential prospects seeking your information.
- Cost efficiencies/savings – If you decide to own much of the content creation process, the cost will come down to materials that you need to create your content (e.g. word document program, image software).
- Building trust – 96% of the most successful content marketers (AKA top performers) agree that content marketing has helped their organisations to build credibility and trust with their audience.
- Boost your SEO rankings – Content that targets keywords, is engaging and receives links will usually also perform well in organic search results.
96% of the most successful content marketers (AKA top performers) agree that content marketing has helped their organisations to build credibility and trust with their audience.
In addition, today’s consumer does most of their buying research on their own devices being able to search in real-time from their specific locations. They are not afraid to do the research and aim to be as informed as possible before they make a purchase decision.
By the time they reach out to a salesperson, they’ve often already made their mind up about what they will buy. By implementing a proper content marketing strategy, you have an opportunity to be top of mind higher up the marketing funnel (MOFU or TOFU stages) if you can address what they are searching for during that research phase.
How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Step 1. Set Your Mission, Goals and KPIs
This is where you look to your brand’s vision and what your organisation’s mission is. Your business purpose should be clearly felt within your content marketing strategy, whether it’s to help your B2B market achieve their goals, get more relevant convertible traffic, or any other goal you are trying to achieve.
The most popular goals that businesses want to get from their content marketing strategy include:
- Lead generation
- Brand awareness
- Customer engagement
- Customer retention/loyalty
No matter what your goals are, you need to ensure that they are sustainable for the long haul and that the team can stick to them. To keep your strategy focussed, it’s best to keep your business goals down to 5-7 max and ensure that you document them clearly.
Step 2. Know Your Audience and What They’re Searching
Detailed information about your target audience (potentially creating personas) would help build out the strategy. You will have difficulty creating the type of content that will eventually lead to sales if you don’t understand who your potential prospects are and what influences their decision-making habits. If you can create audience personas that are accurate and factual, then the likelihood of success goes up tremendously.
If you don’t have existing data about your audience, you could run simple online surveys and send them to your email marketing list and create audience profiles based on the results. Your target audience is unlikely to fit into a single category, but this type of research can help you create a primary audience followed by multiple secondary audiences.
You need to understand things such as age, gender, income, interests but more specifically, you’ll need to answer these questions:
- What about your business would interest them?
- Can you help them solve a specific problem with your product?
- Do they have any concerns about the industry that you could address?
- Have they complained about something in your business before?
Create several personas that represent specific segments of your audience. Understanding who your audience is and what they care about will help you write relevant content.
Another side of this is Keyword Research to identify what your audience is searching for. Define keywords, topics and themes that your target audience cares about. This will help to inform you about the various types of content that you will need to create. Using the right keywords will help you rank better for SEO, and can be used throughout your content and headlines.
Step 3. Assess Your Current Position
Whether you have done much content marketing (or very little) in the past, it’s still important to review what you have done as there may have been strong-performing content created previously that could be replicated or you may find that you have started some very good ideas that were abandoned due to lack of time or resources.
Assess your current content position:
- Create an overview spreadsheet: An overview spreadsheet should give you an understanding of everything that exists on your website that could be deemed as ‘content’. You could use a tool such as Screaming Frog to crawl your whole site and extract all URLs (ignore all 404’s, 301 redirects etc. and just look at 200 status URLs).
- Complete an analysis: Once you have all your URLs, go through each one and note down the topic, word count and goal of the content. This should give you a feel for what you have done previously and whether you have focussed on a topic more than others.
- Get performance metrics: You should tie the existing URLs into performance metrics (clicks, sessions, visits etc.). Get data from Google Analytics or Google Search Console. You will be able to see what pages/posts are getting traffic. Find what topics are most popular and whether a specific format or length performs better than others.
Use the results of your content audit to build your content marketing strategy. What does your past content do well that you’d like to include or avoid in future content? Or, how can you repurpose that content to align with your new content marketing goals?
Step 4. Decide What Type of Content to Create
There are endless types of content you can create. Some of the most popular content formats include:
Blog posts live on a website and should be published regularly in order to attract new visitors. The length of your blog posts should be different depending on the goal and topic. Generally speaking, we recommend the majority of blog posts be between 1,000 – 3,000 words. This is for ease of reading coupled with SEO value.
eBooks are longer and more in-depth than blog posts but published much less frequently. They’re a great way to create a more niche piece of content to attract marketing qualified leads. This is where calls-to-action (CTAs) come in. Direct people to a landing page where they can submit their contact information to download the content.
This is an opportunity to tell the story of a customer who solved a problem by working with you. Case studies are the ideal content to improve the likelihood of a sale. Lure potential leads to your website with case studies and pitch directly with solutions you’ve found for customers.
Provide your customers/audience with templates and tools to save them time and help them accomplish their goals. This is a great way to engage with your users and create loyalty. Particularly with templates and tools they’re likely to use again and again.
Infographics organise and visualise data in a more engaging and clear way than words alone. This is a great format to use if you’re trying to share a lot of data with your users.
Videos require a bigger investment of time and resources than written content. However, as visual marketing increases in popularity, it’s a medium worth experimenting with. HubSpot Research recently found that video is the most preferred form of content.
Consider interviewing or having conversations with leaders in your space to create powerful content for a podcast. Podcasts are gaining in popularity. You may find this a good way to reach users not interested in reading blog content.
Once you have identified what content formats you want to focus on; you can bring in your persona research, keyword research and existing plan to build out a content calendar.
Step 5. Publish and Manage Your Content
It may have worked for the 1989 movie ‘Field of Dreams’ but simply creating content and not doing anything to properly distribute it is one of the biggest misconceptions about content marketing. Many marketers expect that if they throw together a blog post, their audience will find them.
Content distribution requires just as much time as the actual content creation itself. Part of your audience analysis should include where they spend their time and how they spend their time. If your audience is primary B2B, they may be more active on LinkedIn. For media and marketing industries, Twitter is a popular hangout. Retail companies probably want to explore Instagram. And Facebook—that seems to reach most audiences.
Don’t be afraid to put paid media behind content distribution too, whether its social media ads or Google Ads. It’s rare that content pieces will do well without any form of paid media to help boost visibility.
Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
The benefits of creating an effective content marketing strategy can radically transform your marketing performance. Set the goals and KPIs of your content marketing strategy to decide on what types of content to create. Setting up your strategy for the rest of this year will be much easier by following these steps.