People are using the internet about 23.6 hours each week.
With such a high percentage of individuals engaging with content online, it’s imperative that business owners implement strong marketing tactics and a solid content plan to drive traffic to their site(s). Despite this, over 63% of businesses don’t have a documented marketing strategy.
This hurts not only a company’s growth but the engagement as well. If you’re not appealing to your potential customer base, you’re not generating sales. And this lowers your ability to make money.
You don’t want to be one of those businesses!
Having a solid marketing plan and content creation strategy will take your business and put it at the forefront of your audience members’ minds and browsers.
Whether your company just launched, or you’ve been running your business for many years, here’s what you need to know about content marketing, how to build your initial strategy, and the steps for creating a more solid and effective content plan for your business.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing or content strategy is the management of what your business creates. Whether that’s written or visual media, a tangible product or service, something users can download, etc., your content plan is all about how you will present this to your consumers.
A solid content plan will demonstrate not only what your business can offer, but why someone should choose your product or service over someone else’s.
In order to create a strong plan, there are a few main factors to consider: your audience, the problem your product/service is solving, what makes you stand out as a company, the content type(s), the way you’ll share the content, and how you’ll manage the publication of the content.
Here are those six components explained a little further:
The Components of a Solid Content Plan
Audience Appeal: A solid content plan focuses first and foremost on the target audience. Who’s going to care about this product/service? You’ll want to consider things like age, gender, time online, etc. without limiting yourself to a certain pool of people.
Oftentimes, your target audience may appeal to more than one type of customer—this is good! You will want to focus your content plan around engaging with those customer types in ways that make the most sense to them.
Your Ability to Solve a Problem: If you have a solid product/service, you’ll be answering a question or solving a problem for your customers. That means your content plan should help them understand how to identify this problem, how to address it, and ways to use your specific product/service to solve it.
Having this resolution to a problem can entice your audience to choose your services over another company’s. It also builds loyalty and strengthens your digital reputation if your customers have positive results.
Your Product/Service’s Uniqueness: Your content plan should focus on and highlight what makes your business different. It’s likely that there are hundreds of similar products on the market. Think about why a customer should choose yours and bring out that angle in your advertising and marketing strategies.
Strong Content That Relates to Your Product/Service: As you develop a content plan, you’ll want to focus on what type of content will engage your audience the most. Will you use video? Infographics? Blog posts?
What you choose depends on what your audience has engaged with in the past and what will be the easiest and most effective means of reaching them now.
Effective Channels: It’s not enough to create strong content, you need to figure out the best way to present it. Will you use your website and blog only? Social media? And if you choose social media, what specific sites?
Asking these questions will help to strengthen your content plan and help you reach customers in the most productive ways possible.
Ongoing, Smart Management: The last, and perhaps most important aspect of your content creation strategy is to think about how you will sustain it in the long term. You’ll want to think about how you’ll create the content first. Will you hire content creators/writers? Will you generate the content through your current team of employees?
There are also things to consider in regards to topics and organization, as well as scheduling. Will you have a certain theme to what you post? Will you post on specific days or times? All of these questions play a role in how your marketing strategy will grow and change.
10 Steps to a More Effective Content Marketing Plan
Content marketing helps businesses plan not only cost-effective strategies, but engaging strategies for reaching customers, organizing information, and generating revenue.
Now that you understand the components of a solid content plan, here are ten steps to strengthening it as your business grows.
1. Decide and Define Your Goal(s)
Everything starts with your goal(s).
Think about why you want to create a content plan and what you’re planning to do with the traffic and leads you generate. Also, ask yourself about your products/services and what desires you have for the customers who engage with them.
Thinking about your desires can help you shape the direction of what and how you want to market.
2. Do the Initial Audience Research
In order to have an effective content plan, you need to know your audience.
Anything you create needs to directly appeal to your potential customer in order to hopefully drive him/her to purchase. To know how to appeal to him/her, you have to know him/her. It’s that simple.
That’s where things like testing and initial research can be so essential.
Find ways to get information from your audience directly like surveys or sign-ups that require inputting personal information. Use things like analytics (social media and email subscriber analytics, etc.) and other reports to help you understand where your traffic is coming from, what ages, genders, educations, incomes, and what times those people are likely online, as well.
3. Model Your Customer Journey and Shift Accordingly
After doing the initial research, start thinking about what type of content you can create for every step of your customer’s journey.
There’s the initial interest, where you can create content that appeals to someone who may be exploring or looking for basic information about a product/service. There’s content that drives them to a sales page.
There’s the content that brings them back to the sales page if they abandon their cart or some sort of notification that allows them to get back to cart to potentially change their mind.
You can also create content that generates appeal if there wasn’t a sale, or a means of enticing previous customers back (with sales, discounts, etc.)
Going through your customer’s journey and seeing where there are gaps or areas of improvement helps your plan grow in the long-term.
4. Decide on Your Top Content Types
Testing, research, and modeling can help you determine the best content type(s) for your business. It’s important to recognize that this doesn’t have to be a single type, but it may be beneficial to not spread yourself too thin, either.
You’ll definitely want content on your homepages and personal sites to give a benchmark of what your business is and offers. You’ll also want to consider visual appeal and how potential customers will see your content, where they’ll see it, and why they’ll be enticed.
Examples of content types include blog posts, videos, infographics, and visual ads, eBooks, worksheets (downloadable products), podcasts, etc.
5. Generate Excitement Around Your Business
You can (and should) generate excitement around your business by sharing excitement about what’s coming as a part of your content plan.
Customers have a desire to ‘know before they go’ and if you can create any preview to raise interest, this can be beneficial to bringing customers to both your website and physical location. It’s also a marketing strategy to bring old customers back and increase brand loyalty.
6. Determine Your Best Content Channels
Regardless of how much traffic your website has currently, you’ll want to have content on your landing page(s). You’ll also want to use social media sites to help direct traffic to your pages.
Some of the most successful social media sites are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube. However, you are not limited to those sites only, and you may or may not want to use all of them.
If you’re thinking about giving your business an edge, you want to think about specific networking groups. You may also want to consider guest blogging for other websites that give you the ability to link back to your pages from their pages.
This can be preferred if you’re looking to appeal to a larger audience. You might also want to consider influencer marketing through social media channels to add to your overall strategy. This can take some of the pressure off in terms of your personal advertising and can help with your brand loyalty, too.
Beyond simply your website(s) or social media, it’s important to think about the sources your potential customers may use to find your content. Are they always searching from a computer, or are they using their smartphones?
With more and more people using cell phones, increasing your mobile marketing strategy might give your business a competitive edge.
7. Increase Your SEO and Local Reach
Nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location.
People use location services to find businesses and services near them. Tapping into this and making sure your business not only as strong SEO in general, but strong local SEO can really make a difference.
Your local reach can be increased by creating content that is geographically important, using location tags, and working with other local entities (people, businesses, events, etc.) to become more relevant in the local sphere.
8. Make a Content Calendar
A content calendar helps you know exactly when different content types are being published and where, exactly, they’re going. Having a content calendar will also help your employees/staff be on track with what’s being posted, and can potentially allow multiple people to manage and schedule at once.
Some examples of effective content calendars: Google Calendar, Asana, Buffer, or CoSchedule.
9. Track and Optimize Your Efforts
The best (and often only) way to determine whether your marketing efforts are working is to conduct tests and track your progress.
When you’re using analytics programs, these do the work for you. Otherwise, you may need to set up different testing measures in order to see what’s effective and what’s completely flopping.
10. Adapt Your Strategy Based on Results
Depending on your business, industry, and potential changes you may face, you’ll have to shift your growth strategies.
What has worked in the past might not always work—and that’s okay.
As you test different things, you may have to adapt your strategy based on the results. It’s important to remember that change is a good thing, especially if it’s helping you understand and engage with your audience more and in different ways.
Now Start Implementing Your Own Plan
Now that you understand what content marketing is, the components you need in a content plan, and the ten best steps for creating a more effective marketing strategy, you’re ready to start researching and connecting with your personal customer base.
For other audience-engaging tips and secrets to growing your business online, click here.