Content marketing is, without a doubt, one of the most significant methods available today to reach and influence your audience. According to data collected by ClosedWon, businesses with blogs generate 67% more leads than those without.
On top of that, inbound marketing continues to have close rates that are at least 8 times higher than outbound marketing. While the value of content marketing is clear, surveys show that the majority of businesses don’t have a clearly defined content strategy.
Building a content strategy for your business is one of the most efficient ways to increase client trust, generate new leads, and establish your company as an authority in your industry. And the truth is, it doesn’t need to be difficult. You can build a meaningful digital presence even if you don’t have a team of writers, designers, and videographers at your disposal. It starts with a simple plan, a little creativity, some clear communication, and you are on your way to building an effective content strategy.
What is Content Marketing, Anyway?
Most simply put, content marketing is the creation and distribution of relevant, useful, and insightful digital content. This includes everything from blogs and social media posts to podcasts, videos, or e-books. Whereas traditional marketing is geared toward advertising your product or service, content marketing is focused on engaging your audience and inspiring interaction with your customers.
Whether we, as consumers, have grown savvier, or we are simply tired of explicit marketing ploys, we have come to expect a certain level of expertise from businesses of every kind. In fact, 47% of buyers will look at 3 to 5 pieces of a company’s content before ever speaking with a sales rep. This is likely why small businesses with blogs — and a social media presence — generate significantly more lead growth than those without.
But for many small businesses, the idea of creating and sharing significant amounts of relevant content is daunting. Not convinced you have the time to invest in content creation? Start here.
1. Establish a Goal
The first step to an effective content strategy is determining your goals and key performance indicators. Many businesses make the mistake of starting their content marketing journey in a frenzy of social posts, blogs, and ideas — but no clear direction.
These businesses end up losing motivation or feeling discouraged when there are no clear results for their efforts.
Instead, establish measurable, attainable goals for your business and content. For instance, say you want to double your mailing list in 2 months, grow your social media following, or reach a specific sales target.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
One of the most defining elements of content marketing is that it helps solve problems, answer questions, and establish your business as an authority. It is much easier to solve problems and answer questions when you know who your target audience is and what they’re asking.
Spend time on social media getting to know your target audience. What sort of businesses, activities, or causes do they love? Who is your ideal customer and what are their needs? How will your business meet those needs? Take some time to jot down the key factors of your target audience and keep that information ready as you continue building your content strategy.
3. Choose Where to Share
Once you know your target audience, determine which platforms will be most effective in reaching them. For instance, while the majority of Facebook users are under the age of 35, the fastest-growing group of users is seniors, those born in 1945 or earlier.
Where does your audience spend time? Are they on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn? Are there industry publications that would drive traffic to your business? Apart from your company blog, that is where you should begin your content efforts.
Attempting to generate content for every digital platform causes businesses to get overwhelmed, lose traction, and eventually stop sharing consistently. Choose the platforms that are most relevant to your audience and work out a consistent schedule (more on that in a moment) for posting or sharing content.
4. Explore Content Type
Part of an effective content strategy is deciding what type of content you want to create. Given the valuable return for small businesses that blog, it would make sense to focus at least a portion of your content efforts on consistent blogs that pertain to your industry. But don’t stop there.
What questions do your customers frequently ask throughout the sales process? It is likely that most of your customers are asking the same things, which means you have the means to bring clarity and helpful insight in the form of a blog, how-to video, or even a podcast.
Much like the process of choosing where to share your content, it helps to choose a few types of content that you know you can effectively implement.
For graphic and design-related content like case studies and infographics, you can access tools like Canva or Adobe Illustrator, or hire a graphic designer to create professionally branded material.
5. Do Your Research
This is where the fun begins. Now that you have your goals, audience, and a plan for where and what you want to share, it’s time to brainstorm topics that are relevant to both you and your target audience.
Researching competitors, reading other blogs, and Googling keywords related to your industry are all great ways to get the creative juices flowing. Reviewing FAQs from customers and creating polls on social media can also help generate some great ideas. When you’re feeling really stuck, ask your audience what it is they want to know. What better way to discover their needs than asking them directly?
If you love digital tools for keeping your research organized, check out Pocket. The app allows you to save content from anywhere on the web. When you see articles or blogs that you think might be helpful down the road, you can easily save and file them away.
6. Organize Your Ideas
As you begin to collect ideas, it is helpful to choose one consistent method for organizing your topic ideas. Too many apps, documents, or tools can cause you to get bogged down and eventually stop using any of them. Instead, stick to a simple, easy-to-use tool that you are familiar with and will return to again and again.
Then, create a master list — whether in a spreadsheet, document, or app of choice — that you can update and add to as new ideas are generated. Make this list accessible to your team and schedule a time to review it every few weeks or as you get new ideas.
7. Create a Content Calendar
Your schedule or calendar is one of the most important elements of your content strategy. Brainstorming and researching, building lists, and making plans are all significant. A schedule allows you to put your content strategy into action.
Organizing your content into a calendar helps you create a systematic approach to your strategy. Content marketing is not a sprint. It requires thoughtful, user-focused information that will draw customers back to your business. Rather than creating a flurry of content, followed by long lulls where you lose motivation, consider the most effective schedule for writing and sharing your blogs, social posts, infographics, and more.
Take holidays, international days of remembrance or celebration, and seasons into account. Are there seasons where customers use your product more than others? How can you implement that into your content? For example, schedule your blog about the best summer activities with kids so that it reaches your audience just before schools go on summer break. Would your product make a great Father’s Day gift? Plan a blog post and a social media post that goes out in time to attract buyers to your great Father’s Day options.
Schedules can be created on anything from a calendar app to a spreadsheet, or an online tool like Asana. However you create your schedule, make sure it is clear, consistent, and accessible to anyone on your team who will be helping you implement your content strategy.
8. Communicate Deadlines
Deadlines help you stay on track and master your content strategy. Without clear deadlines, it is too easy to push content creation aside in favor of dealing with more pressing business matters.
Whether you work with a team or are taking a solo approach to your content strategy, communicate content deadlines in your calendar, and assign roles for each piece of content. When each team member knows their responsibilities and their timelines, they can effectively add their strength to keeping the strategy on track.
If you are the sole person responsible for the content in your organization, set reachable deadlines and stick to them. Treat your content strategy as an important part of your business and you will begin to see the return on your investment.