A marketing plan is unique to all businesses; there is no clear-cut solution.
What works for one business or industry doesn’t necessarily work for another. The crucial research done before the creation of your content marketing strategy arms you with the solid facts about not only your business and product, but also your target markets, your competitors, and your industry.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the process of creating content in various formats and broadcasting it across several online mediums. The content you create should help customers at every point of your business’s purchase cycle.
That means you’re not solely creating content based around selling a product.
Step back from pushing towards purchase and look at your entire buying cycle:
1. What about all the people who visit your website without ever having heard of you?
They might want to learn what you do (or sell), or where you’re based. They’ve identified an issue or need, and begin their research process.
2. What about the people who have come to your website right after visiting your competitor’s?
They might want to see what colours you stock of that two-seater lounge. They’re in the midst of the research stage.
3. What about the people who are there to see how expensive your coffee machine is compared to a similar brand on that other website?
They know what they want, and now they are comparing pricing and features, and checking out reviews.
4. What about the people who are coming to your website as existing customers, but with a complaint instead of their wallet?
They’ve made a purchase (or regular purchases) in the past and they’re probably on your email database, but right now, punching in their credit card details is not what they are looking to do.
Those four scenarios above are examples of four of the five stages of the purchase cycle. Only one part of that cycle, one that we haven’t mentioned above, is the point of purchase; there are four other points to consider.
Every one of your visitors is at various stages; they all aren’t at that purchase point.
And that, my friends, is content marketing. It’s firstly understanding your purchase cycle, and then creating and broadcasting helpful content (in many formats, which we will get to in a moment) based across each stage of that cycle.
Creating your content marketing strategy
There are a lot of things you need to consider when creating your marketing strategy. It’s more than just sitting on Facebook all day! Think about:
✓ Your goals
What is it that you want to achieve from content marketing? Not every social interaction will result in a purchase, you know! (But wouldn’t that be nice…)
(Now remember, the stuff you create is your content, and you market that content via social media. There’s a very tight overlap there; content and social media are not independent from each other.)
Your content creation goal should be to create content that appeals to readers who are at each and every stage of the purchase cycle. Each piece of content you create should not (and must not!) be a direct push to purchase. (Not only is it unrealistic and naïve to assume all readers are ready to buy, it’s annoying, too.)
Supporting goals from social media include increasing brand awareness, offering great customer support, sharing news and announcements, driving traffic to your website, facilitating the spread of content, and, ultimately, (gently) nurturing your customers so that they can move through their own purchase cycles.
✓ Your purchase cycle
Do customers follow a relatively clear path for the most part? Do users buy caskets of wine online, tempted by that 20 per cent discount promotion you’re running at the moment? Or is your sales cycle a long process, where visitors are inclined to buy (or enter into contracts) after multiple meetings, trials, and demonstrations?
✓ Your website (including landing pages)
Don’t waste your content marketing efforts by sending users to a poor website. Optimise your pages with helpful, SEO-optimised content, format your pages so they are easy to scan, use images, and include clear calls-to-action.
Forms should be as long as they need to be; don’t ask for unnecessary information. Moreover, ensure your website is mobile-friendly, so those browsing on smartphones can enjoy their experience, too.
✓ Your blog
Your blog is often the godfather of your content marketing efforts. It’s usually the first place a business will start when they want to pursue content marketing.
Every new blog post you publish is yet another opportunity for a search engine to direct a reader to your brand, your website, your knowledge and your product.
✓ Your budget
“Pay to play”
They’re the three words thrown around when it comes to marketing on social media. Facebook, for example, has drastically cut down the way brands’ Pages reach Fans. Reduced reach normally results in a lower engagement rate.
A few dollars behind social media advertising (plus appropriate targeting) can help drive quality traffic to your website.
✓ The social networks you want to work with
Tweet: Just because a social network exists, it doesn’t mean you have to be on it! [Click to Tweet] https://bit.ly/1JG6CLN | #contentmarketing via @iformatJust because a social network exists, it doesn’t mean you have to be on it!
If you’re a B2B business, maybe you can skip Pinterest and Instagram, and focus efforts (and advertising) on LinkedIn instead?
If you’re an e-commerce retailer who wants to promote discount codes and encourage individuals to use these codes online and in-store, maybe you’re best off on Facebook.
If there is anything visually appealing about your business or industry, then you should use Pinterest to attract attention and drive traffic to your site.
If you’re a big company who uses social media to address customer complaints, queries or clarifications, maybe Twitter will be the voice you need. (Have you noticed big brands often have a separate Twitter account solely for customer care? Just a few examples include Adobe Customer Care, Yahoo Customer Care, Vodafone Help AU and ASOS Here To Help.)
The social media jungle sometimes feels endless, so pick the top few that a) are most relevant to your business, audience, and niche, and b) you can manage well.
Rather than have a mediocre presence on five social networks, whittle it down to two or three and be exceptional there. Use your discretion and think realistically.
Coming up with content creation ideas can be tough!
Coming up with good, solid, relevant topics week after week can be time consuming. It can also be really difficult. But there are few ways to build up your content creation ideas so you’re never short of next week’s blog post:
Keep a running list of ideas, no matter how vague they are
I keep a list in the notes section of my iPhone, and we also use a spreadsheet where ideas are recorded. Once we flesh out an idea a bit more, we often will fit it into our blog schedule so we know when we should begin researching and writing.
Whenever an ideas strikes, jot it down. Even if it’s just two words, and even if it seems abundantly indistinct.
Check out not only your own FAQ segment, but others’, too
Frequently Asked Questions are a great spot to look for blog topics. If a question appears in an FAQ segment, we can safely assume it’s important, and needs to be answered.
Can you build on this, and turn it into a 500-word blog post, or could it be better conveyed in a quick-fact format, through an infographic? (Design novices can alternatively use Canva to easily create graphics to share on social media.)
Additionally, you could use it as inspiration for a social media “tip” that you want to share across Facebook or Twitter.
FAQ sections provide a wealth of insight into what your customers (or potential customers) want to know. Get in there promptly and answer their questions!
Victoria Police does this on Facebook. They pick a question submitted to them online and answer it in their weekly segment, Quiz A Cop Friday.
Capitalise on current or upcoming events
We did this ourselves earlier this year, when Google’s algorithm change, dubbed Mobilegeddon, was approaching. We created a bunch of blogs around this topic that is obviously very important to our business.
(Quick recap: Mobilegeddon was a Google algorithm update that, from 21st April, started ranking mobile-friendly websites above desktop-only variations in mobile searches. From Google’s point-of-view, this change ensures they’re providing users with higher-quality websites – ones that are viewable on smaller devices like smartphones – and therefore improving their users’ experience.)
Sure, it disrupted our schedule, but that didn’t matter. We capitalised on a topic that was making news and sending waves all over the world! And we didn’t just stop at one; we ended up writing five blog posts over the space of a month, from different angles.
First, we wrote about what people needed to know leading up to the event, and how we could help them. Then, after that date had passed, we followed up, letting readers know that they still had options. (You can find out more about Mobilegeddon here).
You can do that too. If something relevant to your business, your product or your service is approaching, or you yourself have an exciting event or new product coming up, then that’s an automatic blog post!
It’s also a bunch of social media posts, and maybe even an infographic, a video, and a couple of promoted Facebook ads.
Read. A lot
If you read, “you’ll never run out of ideas to write about”.
Subscribe to blogs in your niche, read their emails, follow experts and thought-leaders on social media, and keep learning and reading everyday.
Often you’ll be hit with inspiration for your next blog post. You can also curate others’ work and share it on social media.
Look at your analytics
Is there a phrase people are using that is particularly relevant to you, but you’re not ranking for it? Then that could easily be a topic you focus on for next week’s blog post.
Ask the internet
There are thousands of listicles (list-articles) that provide great ideas for your next blog post.
Sure, many of them mightn’t be applicable (from our own experience, we find that many ideas are tailored towards personal bloggers rather than business bloggers), but nevertheless, a quick scan can usually provide a couple of usable ideas.
Create a content calendar!
This is one of the most valuable things you can do. A content calendar is the place where you flesh out vague topics you’ve recorded over the past few days, and succinctly organise them by topic and working title.
Create a spreadsheet for several months in advance, and slot these topics in. Record where you’re going to be sharing them, the format in which they will be shared, and even note the ones you want to put money behind through social media ads to boost traffic to your site.
Types of content you can share
- Blog posts
- Images (and memes, which are hugely popular)
- Case studies and whitepapers (these are more in-depth so usually require an email in exchange)
Each format requires different execution strategies, but for the most part, you can take one piece of content (say, a blog post) and turn it into several other formats:
- Take the key facts or stats (the numbers) and turn it into an infographic
- Take out some important quotes and turn them into social media images
- Turn the infographic into a video with narration, animation, and music
- Tweet several short snippets to your followers after publication (in Twitter’s fast-paced universe you can do this for weeks on end!)
There’s very little restriction when it comes to content formats!
Other blog posts you might like…
→ Stuck in a never-ending loop with no ideas? Find out how to combat writer’s block
→ Unsure where your visitors stand? Brush up on your purchase cycle
→ Need to sort out the fact from the fiction? Bust these common content marketing myths