Content is most valuable when it comes from a solid marketing strategy. Of course any relevant content can have some value for organic search results, but it usually doesn’t add up to the type of impact you can make if you’re staying on track with a well-planned strategy. Too often, we see companies publishing blogs or other content without enough of an eye toward the why.
There’s not much ROI to shooting in the dark, so let’s shed some light on content strategy basics.
Content Strategy Basics
To create a solid foundation for your content strategy, start with engaging free content and gated premium offers to attract visitors and convert them into leads. For most corporate businesses, this means publishing blogs that lead to CTAs for premium content like whitepapers, case studies, or interactive assessments. If you’re not thinking about how each piece of content does that, stop producing content right now, and think about how you are providing value to your visitors. Consider how each blog (or group of blogs) relates to premium content that turns your visitors into leads.
Here’s an easy Content Planning Template that helps you do that.
As HubSpot puts it in their comprehensive post about content marketing, “content marketing programs set businesses up for predictable, scalable, and cost-effective traffic and lead-flow that doesn’t rely on securing budget each month. It’s like an annuity.”
“Every piece of content you spend time to create must have a specifically-defined purpose.”
Publishing one-off blogs – even if the topics are relevant to your business – doesn’t do as much for you if the effort is not aligned with a set of calls-to-action that help your leads take the steps that turn themselves into customers, or at least with a defined set of keywords that help potential customers find you in organic search.
Five Crucial Elements for Planning a Content Strategy
- Start with Buyer Personas
- Consider the Buyer’s Journey
- Publish Consistent Content Between Campaigns
- Always Have a Reason
- Provide Value and Opportunity
Start With Buyer Personas
The number one step for content marketers (or, really marketers of any kind) is to understand the audience with whom you’re trying to communicate. Think of your buyer personas as composites of real people who need your particular products or services. For example, an appropriate target persona for an app like Belch, might be a Developer Dave. He’s a 29-year-old marketing manager who needs a better way to create landing pages for HubSpot. In order to talk to Dave with the appropriate topics, Belch would need to consider his demographic details, goals, needs, challenges and more. Buyer personas are the first step in any great content marketing strategy.
Consider the Buyer’s Journey
Once you have effectively explored buyer personas, the next step is to consider how those personas intersect with the buyer’s journey. Once you find the intersection, hang out there for a while. Your topic ideas come from this place. Developer Dave might not know what solution he seeks, but he’s ready to solve his problems. That means he may be searching for the type of content you create for awareness stage leads. Take him into the consideration and decision stages with content about how to solve the problems he has in mind.
Consistent Content Between Consistent Campaigns
Striving to release persona-relevant campaigns with multiple assets at least once a month is a good starting point, but what happens in between those big campaigns is also important. Make sure you’re continuing to produce blogs and other free content around your products and/or services, important industry trends, news, or even re-blogging, or posting guest blogs on your site. Consistency is key for SEO and displays your ongoing expertise.
Always Have a Reason
Each piece of content needs a reason to exist. Creating an interactive shopping assistant for a set of products that are not easily sold online could be a wasted investment. Writing a blog about a trade show without highlighting key learnings that resonate with your potential customers could be a waste of resources. The reason so many agencies and experienced marketing departments operate their content machine on a campaign basis is so that individual pieces of content are driven by a larger need. Pull this idea into each blog, email, and interactive piece you produce.
Provide Value and Opportunity
Before publishing something, ask yourself, “What value does this provide to my potential customer?” Content should never feel self-serving. Remember, it’s always about how you can help your leads and customers to learn, grow and succeed. If you’re not doing that, you are being selfish, and that’s a no-no in content marketing.
Once you’ve successfully answered the value question, make sure you’re also providing an opportunity to convert, especially for blog posts. This means CTAs. Consider this question every time you hit that publish button: “What do I want this person to do next?” Make sure you’re providing the opportunity for the user to continue moving down your path. An important tip is to make sure you’re not asking too much too soon. For example, if your reader is in the awareness stage, searching for more information on a problem she’s having, don’t prompt her to get a consultation on your services right away. The key to your content marketing strategy is to allow the lead to come to you.
Want to get started on your content strategy? Use our Content Planning Template. It’s free.