6 steps towards a successful content marketing strategy

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So you want to get into content marketing, but don’t know where to start? A lot of companies now get the fact that content has the potential to be a much more effective way of marketing their brand. Not only does it reinforce brand values about trust and quality, but it’s also a more cost-effective way of marketing. But before embarking on a content marketing campaign marketers need to understand the principles of developing a successful content strategy. We’ve summarised these in six simple steps:

1. Gather existing knowledge

A lot of companies already have a treasure trove of data and content about their brand, industry, market and most importantly about their customers. This can be data from your customer database, white papers, images, videos, market research, strategy documents, internal reports etc. The first step to a successful content strategy is to take an inventory of what’s already there and make it available in a digestible format, eg. a report, charts, database. As part of this exercise it is also important to look to the outside for knowledge and facts about the brand and its customers. For example, competitor analysis, behaviour research about your target audience, social mentions and practically anything you can find out on the web. Good practice is to involve outsiders in this process as many companies find it difficult to snap out of their own perception of their brand/customers.

2. Analyse for valuable insight

Now it’s time to extract useful facts. Marketers should aim to get a detailed profiling of their target audience, which includes the conventional categories such as age range, geographical location and social grading. However, what we really want to know are the answers to these questions: what content are my customers consuming online? What format do they prefer (eg. video, infographics, inspirational quotes, etc.)? Where do they go (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, online news sites)? At what time in the week/day are they looking for content? What devices do they use?

3. Identify key learning points

Brands won’t get every answer they are looking for, and they will get a lot of answers that are difficult to translate into meaningful actions. This shouldn’t matter as the entire exercise is a continuous cycle, ie. marketers who practice this method just keep on learning more about their audience and the content works best. For now it is important to focus on the key learning points. At the start these can be relatively simple, such as “our target audience prefers Facebook to Twitter”. Over time these can be more detailed, such as “our target audience share an average of 1.5 videos per week” or “our customers are more likely to download infographics than white papers”.

4. Build/improve your content plan

Once the data has been gathered and analysed the actual publishing process can begin. A  lot of people talk about brands becoming publishers and this the stage where it is most relevant. To succeed marketers need to think like editors. This involves a lot of trial and error, yes, but also meticulous planning of the content production process. This not only includes an editorial calendar, but also a detailed editorial guide that lays down rules on formats, keywords, tone of voice and style. Generally, a calendar should plan for the next 3 months, unless your content plan is news driven, in which case it is more likely to cover the next one to two weeks with daily revisions.

5. Create content

This sounds simple, but it is often the biggest challenge for marketers. To start with budgets tend to be small and resources scarce, so it is imperative to focus on the areas where the brand can achieve the highest impact with minimal investment. This means concentrating on subject areas that are less competitive, ie. where the brand can surface content with little cost. It also means employing existing sources for content, such as internal experts and thought leaders. However, getting employees to feed the content pipeline is unsustainable and in most cases not a good use of their time, so it makes much more sense to hire journalists for research and production.

6. Distribute and promote your content

Everybody now understands that a smart distribution tactic is as important as the quality of your content output. This is a key element to launching a successful content marketing campaign. If working under a constrained budget, it is important to leverage all tactics for organic distribution. SEO is still an important strategy, but depending the target audience social tactics have become more and more efficient. Marketers should consider the following: involve influencers in the content creation process, create specifically targeted online groups (eg. on LinkedIn, meetup, Facebook, etc.), mention and link to players who already have a sizeable audience. For paid distribution marketers should consider native advertising models or sponsored content, but we’ll get into more detail on a separate post on distribution tactics. For now it’s really important to continue the content strategy cycle and gather knowledge for further insight in order to optimise your content strategy.

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