What's in this article?
Content marketing strategy is all about answering your audience’s questions and providing them with valuable content and solutions on a consistent basis.
The longer you can keep your audience engaged with your brand’s messaging — whether it’s through blog posts, emails, or social media — the more likely they are to trust you, and eventually buy from you.
I remember, in the days of old, reading Jello-O ads in my mom’s magazines. These ads featured pictures of Jello-O molds paired with unusual salads and offered at least one recipe, if not several. The marketers behind these ads knew your mom would cut out the ads and place them on the refrigerator or store them in her recipe book. This was content marketing.
Now content marketing has changed. In addition to placing recipe ads in magazines, we now have blogs, Instagram posts, Pinterest pictures, email newsletters, eBooks, and the like, to offer valuable solutions to your audience, but the same principles remain.
In this cornerstone content piece, we’ll give you a brief overview of every high-level concept you’ll need to be aware of so you can start building your own content marketing strategy guide for your company and your clients.
Why You Need a Content Marketing Strategy
Now, most of the time your audience will turn to Google to find answers to their problems, but not always. Other times your audience will search Quora, Reddit, YouTube, Facebook, or even Pinterest. Yes, Pinterest.
But, without a Content Marketing Strategy in place, you’d just be creating tons of content for content’s sake, hoping that somebody out there may stumble upon it, and maybe go to your website.
Don’t do that. Be strategic.
After all, they say that strategy is doing what your competition won’t do.
With your Content Marketing Strategy in place, you will know:
- Your main objectives and goals.
- The big why? Why are you doing all this work anyway? To generate leads? Sell more products? Get more impressions?
- Your promotion strategy.
- The big how? How you’re going to get your content in front of your audience.
- Exactly who your audience is.
- The channels and websites your audience visits.
- What stage of the customer journey your audience is at
- Create multiple pieces of content for people at every level.
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics to quantify your success (or failures to learn from).
- Which content is performing best (and worst) through content audits.
- Your marketing framework.
- Your editorial calendar for publishing content.
- And more!
Elements of an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing strategy guides are generally very involved and feature numerous elements related to your company’s brand, their positioning, as well as infographics and guidelines. Here are some of the main elements you should include in your strategy guide.
If you’re serious about competing in your industry or market, then you must first understand where your company currently stands, and where you hope it can stand in the future.
Positioning in marketing means more than positioning your company’s website higher up in Google’s search results than your competitors (although that’s important too). It’s about accurately creating an image of how your company is viewed by people outside of your company.
Ask yourself the following questions.
- How does your audience view your company?
- How is your company better than your competitors?
- What makes your company unique or stand out?
- What is your specific niche that nobody else is targeting?
If your company does what other companies do (and it likely does), find that one thing you do better than anyone else. Then find out how to communicate that to your audience as a selling point.
Who are you hoping stumbles upon your content, anyway? You would hope that it’s people who are interested in your product, right?
Determining who your target audience is and then getting more specific about their demographics and locations will dictate your approach to creating and marketing content.
Start by clearly defining who your audience is so you know who you’re making content for, and where to place it so they will see it.
Okay, that sounds simple enough, right? But how do you determine who the right audience is?
Well, here are some basic questions and guidelines to help you narrow down your selection:
- What problems are you trying to solve or answer?
- Who is your competition and who are they targeting?
- Who are your current customers? Are you happy with your current customers?
- Survey your current customers and potential customers. Ask them what they want.
With these insights, you can then get hyper-specific about your targeting — things like demographics, age, income, geographical location, gender, education, profession, etc.
Each one of these characteristics gives you clues about where your audience spends their time online and the kind of content they’re the most receptive to.
For instance, if your product or service appeals to millennials and teens, spend your time creating content on the sites they visit most, such as Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, and even Snapchat.
If you’re targeting professionals, LinkedIn and Facebook are better channels to pursue.
The funniest and most unlikely pieces of content often are the highest-performing pieces for marketers.
For example, I know a homesteading couple that’s popular on YouTube. Their most popular piece of content is a video about sweet potatoes. Wonder where it was viewed the most? In Indonesia. Go figure. If they were looking to get more traffic from Indonesians, I’d recommend more sweet potato videos, but that’s probably not their objective.
Without these kinds of content audits, we wouldn’t know which pieces are performing the best, or worst, which means you wouldn’t know how to repeat your successes or avoid your failures.
Content audits help you understand what content you have out there, so you can figure out which articles should be tossed, or re-written and expanded. Or in the case of the Homesteaders, finding out their most popular video is gaining an audience outside of their preferred geographical location.
Setting Content Goals
All of your content should help achieve your predetermined goals and objectives. If they aren’t, you’re creating content for the sake of content, and that’s a wasteful mistake for your content marketing strategy.
As we’ve mentioned in our Content Marketing Style Guide, listing your business’s goals and objectives gives context for each of your content creators to ask themselves “Does this piece of content help achieve our goal?” And if it doesn’t, then you need to stop immediately and reassess why you’re creating that piece of content.
You’ll want to create several pieces of content to show to your audience, no matter where they are in their customer journey.
This means you’ll have plenty of simple how-to’s and listicles ready for beginners, as well as more detailed content for potential buyers in the intermediate-to-advanced stages of sales-readiness. Be sure to create content for your existing customers too, because they still deserve some love!
Most customer journey stage charts show about five stages potential buyers pass through to become loyal customers and advocates for your brand. These stages should all have their appropriate content pieces ready and in the right online channels to be discovered.
This stage is often the first point of contact with your audience. Usually, they are Googling for an answer and stumble upon your blog post, YouTube video, infographic, etc.
Once you have answered their question, you’ll need to impress them with your content, gain their trust, and pique their interest to learn more or contact you. Adding a Call-to-Action (CTA) in your content piece will lead to further engagement.
Add a “contact us” button or list links to your other blog articles to keep them engaged with your content longer.
Encouraging your website visitors to buy your product or service without any social proof is unlikely to sway any potential buyers. Include case studies, accolades, and real buyer reviews to add social proof that you’re reputable and trustworthy.
Once you’ve made the sale, add your buyer to your email newsletter, ask them to follow your social media, and be sure to contact them regularly with upcoming products and interesting updates to keep their attention.
This is the stage we all hope to achieve — advocacy. Not only are your customers loyal, but they’re also brand evangelists who promote your company to all their friends and families and gush over how great you are. And if you’ve gotten to this stage, you’ve done something right.
Find what channels work best for your audience and use a multi-channel marketing approach to make sure everybody has a chance to discover your content.
Use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, SEO, earned media through newspaper stories, and owned media through company websites to get your content seen.
Determine how you’re going about spreading your content in a way that makes sense for where your audience spends their time, online and in person.
Setting Objectives and Key Results for Content Marketing
Why are you creating this content? What do you hope to achieve when people click on and share your piece of content?
- Perhaps it’s to generate leads, (which content marketing excels at).
- Or maybe it’s to lower your cost of customer acquisition or to position your brand as an authority.
- Or maybe you just want people to notice your brand.
These are all reasonable objectives, and content marketing can help you achieve these goals.
But if you’re setting goals, you’ll need to figure out the key metrics to track before, during, and after your campaigns. How else could you justify the cost of producing all that content to your head of marketing? Or ensuring your campaign was a success?
If your goal is to increase sales, track how many leads you collected, then compare it to the number of leads that converted. This will determine your Lead to Sales Conversion Rate.
As they say, you can’t track what you don’t measure.
Defining and Developing Audiences and Channels
As we mentioned before, you must first know your audience before you can start producing content.
Developing buyer personas puts a name and a face to your audience and humanizes the content creation process.
For example, you’re not creating content for men aged 45-55 who work in automotive fields — you’re writing for Bob who works at Ford Motor Company. And you can ask yourself “What would Bob think if he read this article?”
You can and should have more than one buyer persona, but don’t overdo it, or else you’ll lose focus in your targeting.
Now that you’ve created a few buyer personas, find out where these people spend their time online. For Bob the mechanic, he’d probably look to Car Talk Community or My Car Forum, two of the most popular automotive forums, for answers. If you’re trying to reach him, then consider creating an account on these forums and start answering questions that lead readers to your website or landing page.
If your target persona is younger, or more tech-oriented, Reddit and Quora are popular websites for answering questions or posting content.
Content Promotion Strategy
You might think that creating great content is enough to get people to start reading and sharing it, but that’s not the case.
“If you build it, they will come.” Not exactly how it works.
You need an actionable plan to get people to read your content. Face it, there is tons of mediocre content out there that gets the clicks, so it’s not necessarily just about the quality (although the quality is very important).
The key point I’m making is that you need to find a good way to get attention for your content. Creating great content isn’t enough without a plan to get it in front of people.
Here are some tried and true content promotion techniques that work:
- Giveaways and contests
- Paid ad campaigns, either through Google, Facebook, Bing, or LinkedIn
- Earned promotions, such as newspaper stories, interviews, or clever guerilla marketing tactics
- Cross-promotions with popular online influencers
- Answering questions on forums like Quora, Reddit, WikiAnswers, now known as Answers.com
- Paid promotions with Instagram and YouTube influencers
- Consistent social media posts
- Consistent email newsletters
Content Marketing Frameworks
A framework is basically an overview of your entire marketing plan in an easy-to-read chart.
These charts and infographics help visual learners quickly assess and understand the overall marketing plan. They can also help you spot holes in your strategy pretty quickly. “Wait, all these boxes lead to this box, but that box leads to nowhere? Hmm…”
Whatever your goals and objectives are, create your specific frameworks so you can see exactly what your overall strategy is, and all the tactics that will lead to achieving that goal.
Once you’ve made your framework or multiple frameworks, print these and hang them around the office, or make them accessible in your company’s information depository, which leads us to Content Management Systems and Information Architecture.
How do you make all of your strategy, charts, buyer personas, reports, style guides, and content easily accessible to your entire team? Through Information Architecture.
Information Architecture refers to how easily accessible all of your content is to others, so when they need access to documents or details, they can find it quickly and efficiently.
Internally, many companies just use a confusing mess of Google Docs, with important links hidden on one project management platform, and other links on another project management platform. That’s confusing and ensures that nobody will read your internal materials.
Externally, information architecture is also important for organizing your content to ensure your audience can find it easily. This relates mostly to how you organize your website and other platforms you can control to improve the user experience and consider your audiences’ path to finding information.
Content Management Systems
Go with a CMS that offers the greatest ease of use, design options, and plugins and extension options.
At Kaleidico, all of our websites are built with WordPress, because it’s the most commonly used CMS and offers the most features and plugins available.
The beauty of CMS is all of the extensions and plugins you can integrate with them. Analytics and SEO tools within these platforms can make tracking and optimizing your content sooo much easier.
Content User Experience and Design
Okay, so you’ve got the audience member to click on your link. That’s great, but what happens when they get to your website and it looks spammy or unattractive? They’ll bounce back to the original search results page until they find another site that’s more professional and credible looking.
Having a website with a tacky design, cluttered sidebars, and annoying pop-up ads can easily turn people off from ever visiting your website again.
Think about the user experience when people visit your website. Just because you know how to navigate your website doesn’t mean others will.
There are user testing websites that actually pay random people to go through your website. You can give these users specific tasks to complete, watch their computer screen, and hear their computer’s audio in live time.
You’ll find out pretty quickly what people actually think of your website by watching their first impressions while navigating your site.
If hiring an outside company to run user testing sounds involved, have your friends and family navigate your website and get their mostly honest feedback (they are your friends and family after all, they’ll still be a little nicer about it.)
Content Planning and Editorial Workflows
Your content production will involve a team of many people: writers, editors, designers, project managers, developers, owners, and clients.
Creating a content planning and editorial workflow is like designing an assembly line capable of cranking out a high quantity of high-quality content.
A typical content planning and editorial process might look something like this:
- Talk to client or team about their goals and objectives
- Create creative briefs for reaching those goals
- Assign creative briefs to team who will create materials
- Set deadlines
- Produce content
- Track and analyze performance
- Readjust strategy if necessary
Content Publishing and Optimization
There are certain rules you have to follow in the SEO game to play nice with Google. The following relate to publishing SEO pages or blogs on your website.
- Use the appropriate headers for each section. Using an H2, instead of an H1, for example.
- Use the keyword enough times, but not too many times.
- Include the keyword in the first paragraph, but again, not too many times.
- Make sure the readability is good. Shorter sentences are better than longer sentences.
- Write at least 1000 words.
- Add a comments section.
- Make sure to add enough backlinks.
- Include internal links to refer readers to your other blog posts or services pages.
- Add keywords to image files.
- Create a meta-description of around 160 characters including your keyword.
CMS like WordPress and Squarespace also allows for timed content publishing. This way you can upload all your content on a Monday, for example, and have it automatically publish your articles throughout the week for you.
When publishing on other platforms such as social media sites or forums, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with how to optimize your content according to their rules.
Analyzing Content Performance
Your CMS may come with an included analytics tool to track your content and website’s performance. If it doesn’t, Google Analytics can be installed on any website.
When tracking your website content, it’s helpful to see which blog posts were viewed the most times, how many links were clicked, and how much time was spent on each page.
You can track users’ IP addresses to see what geographical location they came from, and can also search how they came to your website, whether it’s a direct link by typing in your website or a referral link through Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
You can analyze and track all forms of content, though, not just blog posts. This includes email open rates, 800 number call tracking, social media comments and shares, and view counts.
If you don’t track your content and its performance, you won’t know how to repeat your successes or avoid your failures going forward.
Lead Magnets/Content Upgrades
Lead magnets are pieces of content that attract leads for your company. Usually, they implement a strategy known as “gated content,” which means that if you want to download that free eBook or template promised to you, then you’ll have to enter your email in exchange for it. This is also called a “content upgrade.”
If you see a listicle then you’re probably familiar with this approach. It might say something like “Top 10 Tips to Accomplish X + A Free Downloadable Template” This is an example of a content upgrade.
Other popular forms of content upgrades include:
- Downloadable PDFs
- Exclusive videos or links
- Full guides
- Case Studies
- Free Trials or Free Courses
- Content Planning Workbook
Next Steps to Develop Your Company’s Content Marketing Strategy Guide
I know we’ve covered a lot of ground on this pillar page, but hopefully, now you have some more insights into developing your own content marketing strategy guide.
At Kaleidico, we’ve been producing online content for 15 years with the direct goal of generating online leads for our clients.