Getting Started with Content Marketing
First of all, understand this very important truth…
There is no one way to develop a Content Marketing strategy.
Several ways have been used throughout the years. Even in my own exploration and execution of Content Marketing as a practice, I have developed my own methodology of creating a Content Marketing strategy. It’s a continuous process of improvement and refinement to this day.
For the purpose of this section I will be going through my own strategy that I have used throughout the years you can use to create your own. At the end I will provide links to other resources you can research and use as well.
Whichever you decide to use please understand that you should not, under absolute no circumstance, short-cut any step of this process. It’s better not to do Content Marketing at all than to skip the planning and strategy process and jump right into it.
Skipping this process is why many start out doing Content Marketing, and inevitably fail at it.
I’m stressing it for a reason.
Developing the Content Plan & Content Strategy
For clarity let me define what I mean by ‘Plan’ and what I mean by ‘Strategy’. The Plan is documenting what you want to achieve, who will be responsible for helping to achieve it, and all the necessary information that is relevant to achieving the goal (including the strategy).
The Strategy is the ‘How’ it’s going to get done (the step by step approach).
The Content Plan
1. Business Goals/Outcomes
This defines what the overall goal of the business is in specificity. Therefore, if your goal is to increase revenues, don’t just say your goal is to increase revenue. Instead say your goal is to increase revenues from $5Million per month or per year to $8Million per month or per year, within the next 12 months.
This is a S.M.A.R.T. (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Tangible) goal.
It’s absolutely imperative to note that anything and everything you do should ultimately lead back to this.
Reason why I stress this is I have seen too often where too many businesses are executing content strategies, and get too caught up in superficial metrics such as Likes, Followers, Shares, Comments, and Page Views, and forget that all of this should lead back to one thing: achieving the business goals for company.
It’s not that these things are bad and shouldn’t be given focus. It’s that these metrics should ultimately give an idea as to how close or far you are to achieving the business goal (based on your marketing funnel process).
2. Roles & Responsibilities
This identifies all the stakeholders who will play a part in achieving the business goals outlined above, and what role and responsibility will they have to get those results.
For example, you may have Karen who will be responsible for Social Media. However, don’t just leave it at responsible for Social Media, put Karen will be responsible for posting content daily/weekly to the companies Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. channels.
We want to get specific with defining roles so that when it’s time to execute there is no confusion as to who should do what.
3. Distribution Channels
Identify which channels will you be using to host or distribute your content. Here are some ideas:
Company Media Archive (video and audio)
Timelines can be several things, but here’s what I recommend putting in your timeline:
How often will you post content to each individual channel
How often will you meet to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategy
oQuarterly (I recommend this)
5. Buyer Persona Profile
What is a Buyer Persona?
How I like to think about it is your Buyer Persona is like your Target Audience, but on a deeper level. Your Target Audience is who you think your customers are, your Buyer Persona is who your customers actually are.
Rather than focusing on demographic, things like age, sex, location, job title, a Buyer Persona profile goes a bit more in-depth focusing on psychographics. In other words, what actions or behaviours is your target audience likely to take in a particular situation.
It doesn’t just state what their goals are, it identifies why do they have those goals. What mental or emotional need are they trying to fulfil that goes beyond surface level characteristics.
It also identifies what are they most likely to do through every interaction with your brand, from awareness, to interest, to desire, to becoming a paying customer, to become a loyal customer and brand advocate.
If you should ask which is the most important part of the entire planning and strategic process, without hesitation I would say this is it. Having a deep understanding of your Buyer Personas. Their behaviours, ticks and emotional motivations is what will ensure your half way successful with your execution.
Unfortunately, this is the part 99% of people either miss or even worse skip. They don’t see taking the time to really understand who they are targeting as significant a step to invest the time and resources in it.
At times it’s the senior management that is in such a rush to produce results from the content strategy that it places those responsible for its execution in a position where they decide to skip pass this step, just so they can begin execution, just so they can show results to senior management.
However, for me this step is so incredibly important and significant that at times I spend at least 4 weeks just on this one step…IT’S THAT IMPORTANT!
6. Content Goal
Your content goal isn’t the same as your business goal. Your business goal is what you want to achieve that will directly affect the overall growth of the company. Things such as revenue growth, market share, etc.
Your content goal is what you want to achieve from your Content Marketing efforts that will lead to helping you achieve the business goal.
These are things such as increase your following, increase website traffic and thus increase lead generation through your website. You have to know what your Content Goal(s) are for every piece of content you have, and every strategy you implement.
Documenting this ensures that you keep on track and are intentional about what you do and which content you create and which you ignore.
For some examples of Content Goals you can check back to Content Marketing and Its Different Purposes in the What Is Content Marketing section.
The Content Strategy
The key thing to remember as you develop your strategy is:
Know who your audience is and everything about their buying behaviours, goals, and challenges/pain points than even they do, and also where they are in their decision making process
Create content that at each phase of the decision making process that ultimate leads to them achieving their goals
It’s okay to mention your products and services once in a while, but DON’T try to sell them or constantly promote yourself (Believe it or not your customers don’t care about your products and services)
As mentioned, the plan outlines the ‘What’ and the ‘Who’, the strategy outlines the ‘How’.
1. Content Map
The Content Map is where you outline the process your potential customers will go through (and the content necessary for it to happen) to move from not knowing about your company to becoming paying and loyal customers. You will see most articles on Content Marketing refer to it as the Buyer’s Journey.
Therefore, if your goal is to increase customer acquisition or your customer base you want a documented process that outlines each step and the time-frame to execute.
I like to use a four step process when doing this called the A.E.E.A Model (Attention [not Awareness], Educate, Engage, Action). It’s similar to the A.I.D.A. process in Marketing with slight variations.
So using the goal above of increasing customer acquisition, my process may look something like this:
1. Attention [not Awareness]
Start a blog and post articles weekly
Take snippets of that blog post to create Social Media images or motion graphics
Identify which posts have
Further optimize those pages for conversion
Use sponsored ads to boost those high engagement posts to reach a larger audience unaware of my brand
Drive this new traffic back to my website
Create a lead form on the landing page of my post with a special FREE offer to capture visitors’ email
Create an automated email sequence that sends exclusive content to educate my target audience and keeps them passively engaged once per week, keeping me top-of-mind
Create a live webinar or in-person seminar or even a Facebook Live event where I can further educate and engage them, and have a Q&A session after
Promote this webinar or seminar to the email list and Facebook following I’ve built up
After a few weeks of educating and engaging I send my email list an offer to purchase one of my products/services at a discounted rate
For those who purchase I create a lead nurturing program where they will have ‘touchpoints’ every 2-4 weeks (along with my regular educational content)
For those who did initially purchase I would incorporate a customer retention program that:
Creates repeat purchases in the short-term (upsell and cross-sell)
Creates loyal customers and brand advocates in the long-term
2. Content Audit
After you have mapped out your process you want to now start gathering content to execute. There are two ways to do this: one is Content Audit and the other is Content Creation.
At times you may not need to create new content. You may already have marketing/sales materials lying around or information on your FAQ pages that you can repurpose or recycle and use as your ‘new’ content.
This is what a Content Audit is for. It audits what you already have, and see what can be reused. They key is ensuring it is content that is relevant to your audience. This means that copy detailing how awesome your product/service doesn’t count.
It is particularly helpful as it saves you the time and effort of having to come up with new ideas and content from scratch.
3. Content Creation
The second way to gather content to execute your strategy is Content Creation.
This I have found is probably one of the most challenging for Marketers, Entrepreneurs, and Copywriters for three reasons:
1. They quickly run out of ideas for creating new and fresh content
2. They are unable to create content consistently and keep audiences engaged
3. They don’t know how to create content that strengthens their brand message
For this I have found an approach that has worked very well for me, both with my personal brands, and with companies I’ve executed Content Marketing strategies for. I call it the Content Creation & Branding FrameworkTM
This is an overview as to really help you understand this in depth it would need an entire blog post in and of itself.
1. Overall Theme – This is where you identify what’s your story, in other words what do you want to be known for as a brand
2. Sub-themes – These are an extension or breakdown of the Overall Theme that identifies key areas to focus your content on
3. Topic Focus – This is the topics or article headlines that will be created from the Sub-Themes
4. Core Content – This is where you identify what your main content format will be, whether text, audio, or video
5. Sub-content – This is content that are ‘mini posts’ of the Core Content. Think in terms of the snippet images for Social Media posts I mentioned in ‘Awareness’ of the A.E.E.A. Model
4. Content Calendar
The final step in developing your strategy is documenting when and where will content be published.
Furthermore, you also want to document the timeline of the Attention, Educate, Engage, Action process in terms of which topic/article content will be published each week (or day if you’re publishing daily)
To do this we use a Content Calendar (some use the term ‘Editorial Calendar’ but it’s the same thing).
The purpose of the Content Calendar is to give a high-level bird’s eye view of our entire Content Process, and who is responsible for each task in that process.
Below is an example of the Content Calendar I created for my own blog I started in 2017. It’s to help you have an example of the look and feel a Content Calendar would have. Of course each field is dependent on what you need to keep track of in your Content Process.
As you can probably tell by now the process of creating a Content Marketing plan and strategy isn’t as straightforward and easy as most would believe. It takes a lot of organizing and thought to ensure you have something that makes sense and works (or at least is feasible).
Don’t rush this process, and don’t just jump in and get started creating content without a plan or strategy. If you do you’ll quickly burn out, or even worse be executing Content Marketing without intention or purpose, which to me is failure because it doesn’t produce results.
What’s just as important is knowing how you address the challenges of your audience.
Address them through content, and solve them through your solutions. This is how you accomplish your business objectives. See the accomplishment of your objectives as the byproduct of how helpful you are to your customers and audience.
Getting Started With Content Marketing in Your Business
Above I gave a breakdown of how to develop your plan and strategy. Here I want to go into specifically how to go about doing it depending on where you are in your business’ life cycle (i.e. Startup, Small, or Large).
Whether you’re the owner in the business, or a marketer working within one of these types of businesses, how you approach the start to Content Marketing will differ.
This is why it is important for me to go through this process, so you don’t get overwhelmed by trying to do too much too soon.
At this stage in your business’ life cycle it’s likely you really have no money for a strong marketing push or budget. What I recommend is using Email and possibly a blog ONLY as the mediums to execute your Content Marketing strategy.
Most people may tell you to start a Social Media page, but that’s not a good idea unless a). You or your business partner is verse in doing Social Media Marketing AND have the time to commit to it, or b). You can afford to pay someone to manage it consistently that knows what they’re doing.
Social Media isn’t as easy as most people may think. It’s not just about creating fancy images, quotes, and videos with captions. To truly succeed at it takes time, dedication and consistency to be able to grow an audience and stimulate continuous engagement on the different social platforms.
It also takes an understand of each social channel, and how to effectively use them strategically towards achieving your business goals.
So I would stay away from Social Media for now.
How you execute your content strategy using Email and/or Blog is by making note of challenges, questions, and concerns you encounter when doing your sales pitches, or in any client engagement.
From my own experience managing both Sales and Marketing I have found this is the best way to learn what type of content to create that will guarantee engagement, since it is coming directly from your potential clients and customers who is your audience.
Listen keenly, even to the words your prospects use to describe their challenge or need. Then use your Email and Blog strategy as the means to give them the answers and solutions they are looking for, and to position your business as the go-to authority for them.
Micro to Small Business
At this point you’ve experienced some level of growth, and are not as strapped for cash as when you started out. As such you have a bit more wiggle room to start expanding your marketing efforts.
This is the stage where I would recommend launching a Social Media content strategy, and hiring someone that is solely dedicated to executing that strategy and managing the social pages. Also, you want to get a graphic designer if you can afford to do so.
Ideally you want to have one person to create content (a copywriter), one person to post and manage Social Media, and one for graphic designing (that’s a team of three).
However, if you aren’t able to do this then ensure that you have someone who can do any two of these. DO NOT try to get one person to do all three functions. It will be overwhelming for them, thereby lessening the effectiveness of your strategy.
Think of executing your strategy at this level or any other level that will be discussed as an add-on to what you’ve already been doing.
Therefore, if you are already doing Email and/or Blogging, then to add Social Media have your graphic designer create images that are visual representations of quotes from your Email or Blog content.
You also want to get your copywriter to write summarized 500-700 word posts for microblogging sites such as LinkedIn (through their articles functionality), and other sites such as Medium or Quora.
Medium Sized Business
At this level you should be profitable and can actually throw a bit of cash around to truly invest in your Content Marketing efforts.
This is where you should start building a full-fledged Content Marketing team dedicated solely to the execution of your strategy. You should also consider multiple content formats (text, video, and audio) that ties back into the overall content and business goal(s) that you have.
This is where you now start to focus on a Core Content that can create other Core Content and Sub-content (as explained above).
Here you want to have a copywriter, graphic designer, videographer/video editor (if you choose to go the video route), social media coordinator, content strategist.
You can do this three ways from the standpoint of creating Core Content:
Make the video your Core Content and create blog post or a podcast which also serve as secondary Core Content
Let the blog be the Core Content and develop your video script or podcast from it
Create a podcast as your Core Content, video it, use the video as the secondary Core Content (or you could do animated videos using the podcast as voiceover), and then create a blog post from the key points
It’s not so much which you choose that’s important, it’s how to effectively utilize your team to maximize results.
At this stage your most likely posting multiple times per week or even day on several different channels: Email, Blog, Podcast, Social Media, YouTube, etc.
If you’re a large enterprise the phrase “Go big or go home” definitely applies to you.
Forget about building a team, you should invest in an entire Content Marketing Centre. Think of it as an entire department in and of itself. It’s a part of the overall Marketing team, but not a part of the general Marketing department.
It more acts as a collaborative effort with other marketers within the company such as Product Marketers, PR team, Trade Marketers, Event Marketers, etc.
Don’t see your content team as an extension of existing functionalities your general marketing team has. In other words, don’t try to cut cost by making your PR person create copy as well, or your promo girl doing Social Media.
This team needs to be completely separate with the sole responsibility of creating/curating, distributing, promoting, and optimizing content several times per day to drive the overall marketing and business objectives of the company.
For this you’re going to need a Head of Content Marketing, or at the very least a Content Marketing Manager. This is the person that leads and coordinates the entire content initiative for the company. This person is also responsible for several content initiatives that lead to accomplishing several business objectives for the company.
It’s difficult to really break down the ‘How-To’ approach for this level. This is because a corporation or large company has so many moving parts and so many variables to consider, that giving a generic approach may do more harm than good.
It’s better to have someone with the experience of leading Content Marketing initiatives to consult on what method of approaching this is the best fit for your company.
Links to Other Resources
As promised here are the links to other resources. I have personally gone through each resource and vet them to ensure that it is quality content that actually gives you value and isn’t just fluff.
1. Developing a Content Marketing Strategy
by Content Marketing Institute
This resource by Content Marketing Institute isnt so much a break down of a content marketing strategy. It more highlights specific key elements needed to develop your own strategy, with links that to blog posts and other materials that go into greater detail based on the topic focus.
2. Content Strategy
This resource by Moz breaks down Content Marketing in detail in chapter format as I have done with this resouce. It dives into what is Content Marketing, and flows to give deeper insight into a specific topic that can help you achieve success with Content Marketing.
I have skipped straight to the chapter on developing a Content Marketing stategy since I have already gone through the What and Why of Content Marketing. However, feel free to read through their entire resource as it is good.
3. How to Develop a Content Strategy
This resource by Hubspot is a pretty good one for someone who is completely new to developing a Content Marketing plan and strategy. It's basic, short, simple and to the point, while still having enough information to help a beginner get started and get going.
4. How to Develop a Content Marketing Plan
This resource from Curata is slightly more advanced than the Hubspot article in its delivery, but still basic enough that a beginner can take the steps and implement them for themselves.
The good thing about Curata's article is they walk through now just the information, but also examples of their own documented strategy and others'.