Best practices:Developing a content marketing strategy
Developing a content marketing strategy is the best way to bring focus and direction to a content marketing campaign. A custom strategy provides the framework to help a business connect with its target audience, generate traffic and leads, and increase conversions.
The strategy outlines the “story” a company wants to tell its audience. Even if the campaign involves different components working separately, a carefully documented strategy ensures everything works together smoothly as a cohesive unit.
And the more a business invests in its content marketing strategy, the more likely it will yield results.
Critical components of content marketing
However a business personalizes its content marketing strategy, practically all plans consist of the following fundamentals:
- A core message
Consider the value the company has to offer consumers and how each component will present that message.
- A target audience
Targeted buyers are the focal point of the content marketing strategy. All content generated is for their benefit, so quality control should ensure that all content has value and incentive for potential buyers to keep reading or viewing content assets.
- Content marketing team
The content marketing team develops the content marketing strategy and manages the entire content life cycle. The content marketing team will create the content internally, or choose a content marketing agency to outsource the content creation.
- A clear content publishing schedule
Consistency in publishing gives audiences the perception of stability and quality in the brand. Scheduling should not be an arbitrary process, but one that the audience comes to learn and anticipate from a publisher.
Create a matrix or a schedule to help organize content. Provide specifics on keyword usage, appropriate platform, channel and time, if applicable, for any marketing campaign.
As a rule of thumb, there should be a sequential flow and logical progression between content assets, with each article or video acting as a part of a casual conversation with a customer. This may require scheduling articles or web copy in a particular way to ease the customer into a transaction.
Objectives of content marketing
When developing a content marketing plan, it’s important to keep the following five end objectives in mind:
When a company creates an archive of knowledge, it establishes authority on a subject and educates viewers on the industry. Audiences are naturally drawn to businesses and people they see as experts and authorities in their niche; the challenge for businesses is to demonstrate their level of knowledge and insight to the right people.
Objectively written content does not necessarily market a product or service, but it avoids “push marketing” in favor of subtle branding. The customer learns to think of the brand as helpful, an authority, and as an informational resource.
Content marketing establishes the company brand as an “influencer” in its industry, earning respect from customers as well as competitors and peers in similar industries.
Improving brand loyalty
The long-term goal is to create loyalty to the brand by offering valuable content that matches customers’ needs. Over time, they become advocates and “brand evangelists” who spread the word on social media and elsewhere.
Sales may not work if the customer is ignorant of the product or the industry. Better-educated consumers, taught by content marketing, are more willing to buy once they understand the benefits.
Tips for finding content ideas:
- Read the news, particularly news pages of the company’s industry
- Compare competitors’ sites with yours and expand on their ideas
- Research the history of the industry and how technology has changed
- Use a blog aggregate to keep up with blogs and influencers that may not appear on news sites
- Search the web for customer complaints or questions and provide solutions
- Visit social media on related pages and industries to generate ideas
- Brainstorm with staff
- Focus on creating value and demonstrating incentives that interest customers
Generating content in-house vs. outsourcing
The decision of whether to write the content personally, handle it in-house, or outsource depends on the company’s scalability and budget.
Writing every post personally as the owner or manager sounds easy, but it can get expensive. Time invested is money spent.
An in-house team works well since each member can be acquainted with the business plan and the matrix of progressively related content. Budget restrictions, however, might demand more affordable outsourcing options instead.
Most organizations don’t have a team solely dedicated to content. In fact, many marketing teams don’t have the resources or time to create content on a consistent basis. The overhead of hiring someone full time to create content is daunting. Outsourcing content development can give an organization access to industry experts without any overhead.
There are few content marketplaces that take the time to vet writers based on industry expertise and writing quality. Pricing is varied, but finding a cheaper-than-market-price deal is easy. Unfortunately, plenty can go wrong when a company outsources content to an agency not equipped to handle its strategy, like when writers are not native English speakers.
Hired writers may be unfamiliar with the product, the industry, or the appropriate writing voice for the audience, which easily leads to substandard deliverables.
A writer impersonating an industry expert will either stick out because of inaccurate information or will generally write a good article but bring no particular expertise or enthusiasm to the page. So while many content marketplaces can provide content, only vetted content marketing agencies like Tempesta Media can truly achieve the goals you need.
Who is qualified to write expert content?
If the owner is the company expert, or if another team member has special expertise in the industry, then he or she should handle the most important content creation tasks, particularly in developing the complete sales presentation previously discussed.
If your staff expert does not have time to write full pieces of content, one compromise is to have him or her create an outline and incorporate quotes, and then have another writer form those notes into a complete post. Marshaling one’s resources, as in finding the best writers or producers suited for the topic, is just another factor to consider in efficient scheduling.
Best types of content for your strategy
1. Company website
A company website is a business’s primary platform for sending a sales pitch. The site also contains the internal linking structure required by search engines.
The website copy is the direct approach, whereas an archive of articles may be linked together for educational purposes. Within the website, or through another site, there can also be sales-oriented landing pages.
A website’s “trustworthiness” is based on a few different factors:
• Design quality, in both visual elements and structure
• Upfront disclosure as to what the site is about
• Value in terms of accurate and comprehensive information
• Connected to the rest of the web
2. Company blog
The company blog is usually hosted on the official company site, though some companies occasionally take advantage of search engine-friendly sites like Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress and may see an improvement in their search rankings because of these sites’ high PR rankings.
Blogs are excellent for continuing education and in establishing long-term trust with the customer. Blogs may also serve as a point of first contact, if the company writes a high quality post that uses a keyword phrase effectively.
It may be useful to target only one keyword per page – in the title, in the text, or, preferably, in anchored text for similar text phrases. Using a higher keyword density and creating unnatural sentences to stuff as many keywords as possible is a bad practice and may lead to a penalty from search engines.
3. Article marketing
Content written for other sites is sometimes called article marketing or outbound links, since guest articles or blogs get to attach a link to the author’s work. This is usually the first point of contact for customers.
Search engines do their best to ensure that online viewers are directed to higher authority websites like popular magazines, social media pages or informational pages. This is why it is as equally important to write for high traffic, high PR sites as it is to update your own blog.
This has led some authors and web publishers to use a “no follow” link, which tells search engines not to count the link in determining SERPs. It is important to note, however, that natural linking is really what is important.
4. White papers and print publications
One outside-the-box approach for a company is to publish white papers. Like web copy, a physical brochure or booklet can point to promotional content and highlight the incentive of the product and its best features. This is particularly effective in explaining highly technical products or complex lines of services under one turnkey solution.
While paper magazines are not as common as they once were, they are still circulating and can promote brand awareness and brand trust. If the magazine ad promotes the website name, after building curiosity for the incentive, it effectively guides the customer straight to the home page – no landing pages needed.
The e-book is a brochure in digital format that provides a free or low-cost accessory product to build interest. This is a great opportunity to educate the reader on the industry itself and the technical aspects of the product. The e-book goes into detail on one or more issues and then concludes with a call to action.
6. Webinars and video
A company’s content development may also include multimedia presentations. The growing use of cell phones and tablets to access content instead of laptops or PCs makes video content highly desirable.
Studies have repeatedly proven that video content tests exceptionally well across all platforms, including a 200 to 300 percent increase for email leads, and increasing landing page conversions by 80 percent.
Just as one might carefully weigh the decision to hire a writer or handle the job in-house, video production merits the same level of concern. Actors, voiceover actors, writers, and directors – even prop and set designers – are usually required for an effective video presentation.
7. Social media
It is about the need to curate content. It is called social media sharing, as in the need to share the work of others and to report the news from all around the web – the content of others that just so happens to also communicate the company’s brand.
Social media is not about merely reporting news objectively. It’s about keeping up with the thought leaders and influencers from popular blogs and magazines. In turn, companies create a conversation with their own followers based on top trending subjects.
Since most newsletters require an opt-in, the reader does not think of the message as spam. Newsletters are more personal in writing style and can actually resemble blogs with interesting subject lines, headlines, and subheadings.
Reporting the results of content marketing and strategizing for tomorrow
After investing so much time in a targeted and organized campaign, it is crucial for a company owner or marketing team to continue planning.
Content marketing strategy works best when there is regular fine-tuning. Success often requires changing the structure from its initial construction. If conversions or clicks are low, something about the campaign is not working.
Study the analytics. Measuring traffic trends, sales conversions, clicks and subscriptions can provide insight into what is not working. A company can restructure its campaign and make necessary changes after reviewing the data.
The entire marketing team, and even other departments, should review monthly or even weekly reports, so a collective plan can be created incorporating everyone’s input.
The most important data derived from analytics includes the following:
• Bounce rates (how many viewers immediately leave)
• Page loading times
• Traffic sources (high incoming traffic is not necessarily connected to sales conversions)
• Time spent on pages (the longer the time spent on each individual page, the better)
• Returning IP addresses
Developing a marketing strategy is a complex undertaking but the more time taken to review the data, the more effectively a marketing department can project the future.
Good strategy means frequently re-evaluating a content marketing plan based on incoming data. A company must be open-minded and willing to revise channel strategy, core topics and maybe even team processes on a regular basis to increase the likelihood of success, both in the short term and the long term.
Want to learn more about optimizing your content marketing strategy? Let’s get in touch.