Content marketing has become a hot topic for marketers and now it seems there are no shortage of conferences, consultants and software platforms competing for marketer mindshare. The process is actually easier than you might think as marketers have been providing pre-sales information to prospects for decades.
We encourage our clients to think about content marketing as having 5 basic steps:
(1) Audience profiles – at the heart of any content marketing strategy is an understanding of what information your target buyers want, when they want it, and what media channels they will use to access it. Buyer Personas are typically the vehicle for discovering and documenting this critical information. Gone are the days of “guessing” what buyers want as they are one mouse click from accessing one hundred of your competitors in the time it takes to refresh a web browser. Do your homework to get this right — or the other four steps will be misguided.
(2) Topic Development – once you have understood what, when, and where buyers expect from you it is time to develop a topic strategy. For each audience, it is helpful to map their buying cycle and what content they need at each stage. This is where Editorial Calendars, writers, editors, SEO optimization, and workflows come into play. (Read our previous post about the importance of using an editorial calendar).
(3) Tools Strategy – manually crawling the Internet and using Excel spreadsheets to track your work is not the most effective way to manage a content marketing effort. For this reason, you want to think about a minimum of three types of tools that you’ll need to implement: (i) keyword-based curation, (ii) RSS reader (Google Reader is now dead), and (iii) Editorial Calendar. Sure, this doesn’t include syndication tools, blog platforms, and more — but at a minimum, these three will get you started.
(4) Content Production (Curation & Creation) – in step 1 you answer the question of “who,” in step 2 you answer the question of “what,” and in step 3 you answer the question of “how” you will support a content marketing strategy. It’s at this stage you’ll need to recognize that you will combine a blend of your own original writing with content generated by third parties. For content you are creating, that means hiring on-staff or freelance writers and managing their writing schedules within an Editorial Calendar, no different from a traditional publisher model. For content you will re-Tweet, re-post, or otherwise share — you are curating (collecting and organizing) content that you might choose to share with others while providing full authorship recognition (no ripping off someone else’s original writing and claiming it as yours).
(5) Publish & Measure – publishing means distributing your content and measurement means implementing analytics (Google tracking code, WordPress analytics, etc.) to understand who is consuming and/or sharing your content. Publishing quantity is not important — publishing quality is. If your content is not being read, shared, or receiving comments — you may not be delivering content your audience wants to read. Go back to Step 1 to verify your Buyer Persona assumptions, then move to Step 2 to rethink your topic development and test new ideas (both topics) and the mediums in which you will deliver them (audio, video, blog, Infographic, list, guide, white paper, etc.) You have to adopt the mindset of a SEM analyst who is continually evaluating the relationship between search intent and conversion. In the case of content marketing, your conversion event is typically a download or some other interaction that demonstrates your audience is engaging with your brand in their buying cycle.
When we discuss content marketing with clients or other marketers we use the metaphor of a “hub & spoke” — meaning that content acts as a hub and feeds the spokes (your marketing tactics). For instance, you are going to need content to support the following marketing tactics: (i) website SEO, (ii) pre-sales email lead nurturing, (iii) customer eNewsletters,(iv) web form conversion incentives, (v) social media posts, (vi) event registration incentives, and much more.
Marketing technology is moving fast, but simplifying the process can help improve your chances of staying ahead.
As always, we’re here to help you get it right.