Most marketers today agree that content is an important part of any strategic marketing plan. With more than 70% of internet traffic stemming from video content, and business blogs generating an average of 55% more website traffic – the case for content is clear.
So why do so many companies continue to struggle to get their content marketing efforts off the ground?
Often it’s due to the lack of a strategic, measureable plan – one that can take creative ideas and turn them into conversions. Here, we outline 5 critical steps to building a strategic content marketing plan.
- Identify the primary target audience.
The internet is full of content. Everywhere you click – more content. No one company would ever be able to compete with all of that content. This is why it’s critical that the first step in any content marketing plan is to identify a primary target audience. While many companies have multiple target audiences; for example, a homemade jam company might target home cooks as well as local sandwich shops, it is important to select a primary audience that will be the focus of the content marketing plan.
Once the primary target audience has been selected, spend some time learning about that particular group of people. How old are they? Where do they shop? What do they do for fun? Where do they seek out information about products and services? This information will help guide the types of content you create, and where you publish it.
- Pick the platform most likely to reach your target.
The second critical step in any content marketing plan is deciding where the content is going to be shared. The reason you need to outline this ahead of time is that the type of content you create should be customized to the platforms on which it will be shared. For example, if your primary target audience spends a significant amount of time on Twitter (news reporters, food bloggers, music artists, etc.), then you would focus your content development efforts on blogs and other easily shareable links. But if your primary target audience is teenagers, you might turn instead to Instagram or Snapchat, where live, behind-the-scenes content takes precedence.
- Create content that speaks to your audience in their own language.
Now comes the fun part – concepting the actual pieces of content. While you won’t need to fully develop each piece of content in the planning stage, it’s helpful to have an outline of the types of content you plan to create throughout the year, as well as preliminary budgets required for execution. The most important thing to consider when brainstorming your content is making sure that the content communicates with the target audience in their own language. Not just their actual language like English or Spanish (although, you should definitely get that part straight, too!), but does it speak to them in a voice, tone and medium that they can easily understand?
Let’s say you are marketing building materials. If your target audience is contractors, you can use technical terms and probably deliver installation instructions in a blog post with a couple of pictures or illustrations. However, if you’re trying to reach “do-it-yourselfers,” you might want to opt for a video, with clear instructions delivered in laymen’s terms.
When brainstorming content ideas, you’ll want to consider the medium (photo, illustration, video, animation, infographic, blog post, etc.) as well voice (casual, professional, technical, positive, humorous).
- Plan for promotion.
High quality content can and will drive traffic to your website – but only if people actually see it. Gone are the days of great content organically rising to the top – at least not immediately. There’s just too much content out there – even great stuff gets buried. In order to ensure the right audience sees your content at the right time, it’s important to establish a healthy budget for content promotion. The promotion can take many forms – promoted posts on social media, banner ads that link to blog posts or landing pages, and even programmatic or pre-roll video. Which promotion vehicle is right for your brand will depend on your content and your target audience, but having a plan and budget in place to boost great content is key.
- Measure success.
No matter how great your content plan, it’s unlikely to be renewed if you can’t demonstrate the ROI. While the total value of content marketing can be hard to quantify, particularly for brands sold by third party retailers (grocery, for example), there are intermediary results that can and should be measured. Things like impressions, engagement, sentiment, clicks, website traffic, conversions and more. As you build your content plan, be sure to include goals specific to each type of content. For videos you might choose to measure views, or video completions. Whereas for blog posts, you might instead measure offer downloads or time on site. As your reporting capabilities improve, the next step is to tie the intermediary goals to bottom line dollars and cents. For example, if after 6 months you can calculate the percentage of website visitors who typically convert to customers, you can start to attach dollar values to the traffic your content is driving to the website.
While content marketing is a critical component to any marketing plan, it’s important to approach it strategically. Creating compelling content can be expensive, so in order to justify the cost it’s important that plans are well thought-out, strategically executed and consistently measured. Ready to see some strategic content marketing in action? Check out what we did for the Wild Blueberry Association of North America!
Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside of Maine.
At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference for each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.