Content Marketing is All the Rage Nowadays.
From grocery stores and tax attorneys to financial planners and plumbers, everyone seems to be doing it.
And there’s no shortage of marketing firms touting content marketing as the latest bandwagon you don’t want to miss.
Yet, truth be told, content marketing is nothing new. It’s just a new-fangled term for storytelling, which, let’s face it, is as old as the hills. Well, maybe not the hills . . . but definitely old.
In 1891, August Oetker sold baking powder with recipes printed on the back. Four years later, John Deere launched The Furrow, a magazine providing information to farmers on how to become more profitable. And in 1900, Michelin gave drivers information on auto maintenance and roadside travel in its inaugural Michelin Guide.
Whether you’re a neophyte content marketer or a grizzled pro, you’ll get better results if you approach content marketing as a strategic discipline. Below are 5 essentials of an effective content marketing strategy. Keep them in mind when creating your content, and you’ll greatly improve your chances of reaching your business goals.
1: Understand Your Business Goals
Start by considering your overall business and marketing goals and then make the business case for content marketing.
Is your business attempting to expand into different geographic markets? Are you trying to establish a competitive advantage over other players? Do new audiences play a critical role in building the business?
Once you’ve identified your goals, assess whether content marketing could play a role in helping you achieve them.
If you work for a large enterprise, establishing the business case for content marketing will make it easier to get the resources required to do the job right. And if you work for a start-up or a small business, the business case will help you stay on track—and committed to the effort.
2: Create Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. They’re important as they put a human face on customer information that otherwise is fairly abstract. Once you’ve created your buyer personas, you can move on to developing tailored content for each of your key audiences.
Personas typically encompass basic demographic information and, more importantly, defining customer characteristics, such as their needs, concerns, motivations and pain points.
If you understand how your product or service helps customers sleep soundly at night, you’ll be able to write content that is specific and meaningful for them.
3: Conduct a Content Audit
Since creating content on a regular basis is difficult, not to mention time consuming, make it easy on yourself. Before you begin building an editorial calendar, conduct a content audit.
Review existing presentations, product brochures, executive speeches and sales scripts. What do you already have that can be adapted into useful content for your prospects and customers? What are the key gaps you need to fill?
4: Required Resources
If your organization is like most others, you probably don’t have a half dozen writers hanging around just waiting to start writing content.
In fact, your existing staff is likely pretty stretched. Though you may have some budding writers in the crowd, you should consider adding dedicated resources to make your content marketing plan happen.
How many resources will you need? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on how often you plan to publish and the type and complexity of the content you intend to create.
The point is to think it through before you start. Who does what? How much time can they commit? Do you need outside resources to help them? How much budget can you dedicate?
5: Measure Your Efforts
It’s a mistake to measure your efforts on only an annual basis.
In the Content Marketing Framework Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose write, “for content marketing it’s a long season. There are, and should be, many chances to fail—as long as we fail quickly, learn, and adapt to the new surroundings.”
On a regular basis, assess your progress with simple questions such as: What’s working? What isn’t? What could we do differently next time?
Eventually you’ll have a monitoring and reporting system that works for your organization—and doesn’t get mired in too much data.
What Would You Add?
There are many other aspects to an effective content marketing strategy. My list includes:
Understanding the stories your company will tell
Identifying the appropriate channels to share your content
Outlining the process to keep your efforts on track