How to create a content marketing strategy
You are probably well aware that content marketing is a cost-effective way to reach more prospects and grow your customer base. According to The Content Marketing Institute, social media sites and blogs reach 80% of all Internet users and account for a fifth of all time spent online. Content marketing is also ideal for business owners and advertisers on a limited budget.
“While content marketing doesn’t substitute entirely for advertising, it reduces the need to buy media space on third-party sites,” wrote Heidi Cohen in a Content Marketing Institute post. “Content marketing builds internal media in the form of websites, blogs, email files, text files, and social media outposts. According to Nielsen, branded websites are three times more effective than digital ads.”
So you're ready to start writing, but effective content marketing needs more than great writing to be worth the investment of time – you need to align your content strategy with your sales and marketing objectives.
Here are 5 aspects to take into consideration while developing your content strategy:
1. Establishing Authority
As a business owner, it is crucial that you establish yourself and your brand as a top leader in your industry. Your content strategy is integral to this goal. By creating high quality content, you’ll create an authoritative voice for your brand.
This content will give you the opportunity to make a strong first impression with new prospects while encouraging existing customers and website visitors to keep coming back for more. This increased authority and traffic will directly impact your other marketing efforts.
Remember that not all of your content needs to live on your site. Look for places that might want to syndicate your blog's RSS feed or other related industry blogs that would accept a guest post from you. These are both great opportunities to expand your audience and build authority.
Here is an example of how authority can come into play.
Let's take for instance two heart surgeons, both graduates of a top med school in 1998. Would you rather have open heart surgery from the surgeon who co-authored the latest textbook for med students on open heart surgery and regularly hosts seminars for colleagues on the latest techniques? Or would you rather have surgery from the surgeon who simply attends these seminars regularly? I think we can all agree that the one who is creating the content and establishing himself as an authority on open heart surgery is the more comfortable option.
2. Social Media Integration
Integrating your content strategy with social media is absolutely necessary. Through platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter, you can grow your audience and brand reach (not to mention help your SEO through content sharing... more on that later).
When creating content, you need to make it as sharable as possible so that your customers and fans feel inspired to engage with your brand. Even if one blog post or eBook is shared a few times to your early (and smaller) audience – you're multiplying the sets of eyes who see your content.
Also, the people that have it shared with them are receiving it as a recommendation from someone they trust: a friend, co-worker, colleague, etc. Think of social media as a cost-effective brand boost in SEO, PR, and all areas of inbound marketing that will funnel back into your bottom line.
Content is the single-most valuable investment that you can make for SEO. As you write blogs, you will build a portfolio of relevant keywords to your business and web strategy.
Over time, as your content is shared, viewed as relevant to current times, and strategically valuable to your audience, you’ll rank higher for user queries related to your products, services, and brand via your target keywords that were used in your posts. Search engines will notice this user behavior as a sign that your website is trusted and high-quality.
4. Lead Generation
What about lead generation? Content marketing and help with this as well. Aligning your content strategy with your sales goals by creating content for download (e.g. an e-book), or attendance (e.g. a webinar) will allow you to actively collect leads from your target market.
If you’ve created an eBook around a topic of interest for a specific target buyer, ask downloaders to provide their contact information so that you can follow-up with future content and potentially sales offers to help them move further down the sales funnel. Similarly, if you’re hosting a webinar, you'll want leads to register so that you know who is attending and so that you have the opportunity to re-market to them at a later date.
A lead downloading an eBook or attending a webinar is more than likely in the research phase of the buying cycle. These leads are seeking quality content that answers questions and removes obsticles to help them form a buying decision. Your content should be geared towards that end and should eventually lead to the end of the buying cyle (request a quote, schedule a consultation, etc).
5. Lead Nurturing
Content can bring visitors to your website, keep them coming back, and be used to push leads further through their buying cycle. That’s where lead nurturing comes in. Make sure that you continuously provide value to your reader-base and audience.
When your prospects download an e-book, push them later to a ‘free trial offer,’ or a 'free consultation'. Suggest that they like your company on Facebook or follow on Twitter for tips or further offers. Interact with them there. While content gets prospects on your radar, you need to be strategic in nurturing them to the point of purchase.
Marketing automation is one technique that you can leverage to keep prospects engaged. This technique allows you to pre-program and segment your marketing messages by buyer persona, campaign, and where they are in the buying cycle.
For instance, you can automatically email new leads welcome messages, tutorials, case studies, and offers on timed schedules, or based on their ongoing actions to guide leads closer to a sale without your sales team doing the heavy lifting. By the time your sales team does get invloved, the buy is much closer to making a decision (which hopefully means a sale for you).
The Full Circle:
The more authority you have in your industry, the more attractive you will be to potential buyers. Keeping your marketing social will expand your ability to reach new potential customers with your content offers. As people link to and share your content, your search engine rankings (SEO) will continuously improve and even more prospects will discover your company. As more people find your company, they will also increasingly take advantage of your content offers and become leads. The more sales leads you have, the greater the opportunity to turn them into customers.
Are you seeing how the content marketing circle is really more of a content marketing snowball? Continual content marketing flakes can turn into a sales glacier.