Creating a Content Marketing Plan That Works
Stop us if this sounds familiar: you get excited about search engine optimization, lead generation, and branding opportunities online. That leads to a decision to prioritize content creation as part of your Internet marketing strategy. Your team generates 4 or 5 blog posts or videos, and then you suddenly find that pressing deadlines, client requests, and other day-to-day obligations get in the way. Before long, your campaign is stuck in neutral.
That’s a common scenario we hear from new clients who are frustrated from a lack of progress with their content marketing. Another similar challenge arises when a business owner or manager feels as if they’ve been writing (or buying) content regularly for weeks or months but don’t seem to be getting any results. They throw new pieces and ideas online, but it doesn’t lead to any improvement in sales or search positioning.
There are a lot of reasons businesses struggle to both generate content, and create a bottom line impact with it. A big part of the issue, though, can usually be traced back to the fact that they don’t have a coherent strategy in the first place. They are generating content – or at least thinking about it – but aren’t quite sure how the different pieces they produce could, or should fit together.
We want to help you avoid those kinds of mistakes. Content marketing is extraordinarily valuable, but only if you know how to create a system that attracts visits from search engines and social media platforms. Additionally, those visits have to turn into conversions before they have value.
With that in mind, let’s look at what you have to know to create a content marketing plan that works for your company…
What a Content Marketing Plan Looks Like
To a lot of marketers, a “content marketing plan” essentially equates to a promise that the owner of the business will sit down to blog for half an hour every weekend. That’s certainly better than nothing, but it’s not the kind of strategy you need to help your business thrive.
Even if your company is comprised of a single person, you need an actual plan to help you create and disseminate your marketing messages. Certainly, a production goal (so many blog posts and videos per month, etc.) is going to be part of that. But there are other elements to consider, too.
For one thing, time and consistency are important factors. You can certainly choose to create content in batches, or to hire a creative professional or team to generate content for you in bursts. However, for the maximum marketing effect, you’ll want to space the release of each new piece of content out over time. In fact, it’s a good idea to follow a calendar that keeps you on track. That’s something we’ll get to in just a moment.
Before you worry about when your content will be produced and released, it’s important to have a sense of what you want to accomplish. Who should read or see the content? What kinds of impressions do you want them to have about your company? Which actions are you hoping they will take as a result?
To answer that, you have to have an understanding of your target market, your personality as a marketer, and your unique selling propositions. Moreover, you need to be able to identify the places and platforms that will let you reach the buyers you are looking for most efficiently. Do they look for products and services like yours on Google, or spend their time on Facebook? Are they likely to read your emails, or are you better off posting material to your blog?
There probably isn’t an “either-or” answer to these questions. Most likely, your plan will have to include a variety of buyers and influencers, as well as several different marketing channels where you can post your content. Still, it’s important to consider these issues from the start. Otherwise, you could find yourself playing the Internet marketing version of whack-a-mole, trying to generate some momentum with your content in one place only to find your customers are flocking to another.
A content marketing plan isn’t a to do list, or the notion of things you are hoping will happen. To be functional, it has to have a goal, schedule, and focus. That should lead to a list of executable items, but those only come after you’ve established what your content is supposed to do for your business, not to mention the people who will see it.
Working With an Editorial Calendar
Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish with your content marketing, it’s time to put all the pieces together in a way that keeps you focused moving forward. The easiest way to do that is by using a simple editorial calendar that is reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
If you aren’t familiar with the way an editorial calendar works, just look at your TV listings. Scroll forward through the hours and dates on your remote, and you’ll see that most popular programs have been assigned a date and time weeks or months in advance. If you were to go farther behind the scenes, you would notice the way writers and producers map out entire seasons of your favorite shows before they start filming a single episode. That’s because they want to know where they’ll start, how things will finish, and which spaces they can sell to advertisers.
You may not have advertisers to please and ratings to worry about, but you should know which pieces of content you will be producing in the future, along with when and where they’ll be distributed. The biggest benefit to this kind of approach – whether your calendar is cv built on a spreadsheet, a word processing document, or scheduling app – is that it keeps you focused and motivated. You never have to wonder what you should be working on next, because the answers are right in front of you.
Aside from preventing writers block, using an editorial calendar also allows you to coordinate and consolidate your message. It keeps you from posting one thing on your blog and then going in a whole new direction through your social feeds or email newsletter. In other words, it lets you make a bigger impression on buyers, and come off as more polished, because each of your posts, images, and videos reinforces the others.
Scheduling your content also allows you to look ahead so you can tie your marketing into external events that can be anticipated. For instance, you might not know what the next breaking news item in your industry will be, but you can anticipate major holidays, conferences, and product release dates. Why not build your content along the same themes your customers are already talking about and looking up online?
Don’t think that an editorial calendar is just about timing and topics, though. There is also the issue of responsibility. If you have several different individuals creating content for your marketing plan, or working with an outside vendor to generate things like pictures, post, and videos, then you can keep everyone on the same page with a list of topics and deadlines. That can go a long way towards improving your workflow, increasing cooperation, and making sure every piece of content produced finds its way to the right destination.
We began this report by advising you to turn your content marketing wishes into a concrete plan of action. Setting a firm editorial calendar into place makes that job a lot easier and ensures you don’t go too far off track with your messaging.
Developing Your Own Voice and Style
To a lot of business owners, content is content. They see is something has to be put on a website, blog, or social feet, but as long as the ideas are coherent and the keywords are in the right places, they tend not to worry too much about the rest.
That’s a shortsighted point of view. For one thing, Google’s algorithms are getting better at measuring engagement, authenticity, and authority. Having strong content matters if you want to attract visitors to your website. The bigger issue, however, is that content needs to be compelling and persuasive if you want to make an impression on live humans. They don’t want bland, generic, keyword-stuffed articles. They want a unique point of view that addresses their issues and concerns.
For that reason, every marketer should be aiming to develop a voice and style that is all their own. In the same way that two singers might approach the same song in entirely different ways, two marketers can address a popular topic in a way that reflects each one’s distinctive audience, strengths, and knowledge base.
Usually, a prolific content marketer will develop their own style over time. The more they practice, the easier it is to figure out what feels natural. However, there are a few things you can do to move the process along and stand out in a very crowded Internet.
The first is to consider what the marketing personality of your organization should be like in the first place. Do you want to be serious and solemn, or lighthearted and witty? Would you prefer that people see you and your business as the premier source of information in the industry, or as a group that delivers fun facts in an entertaining fashion?
Another good idea is to find one or two individuals who can serve as the public face of your business. This is usually the owner, but it could also be a spokesperson or family member. When customers see the same person in numerous videos, photos, and biographies, it becomes easier for them to associate that face with the business as a whole. They feel like they are “getting to know” the individual, and that carries over to the company.
In order to ensure consistency in your communications, you could also create a stylesheet that indicates what colors you’re going to use in your messaging, which types of grammar preferences and abbreviations you’ll stick to, and even which words or terms should be prioritized. These types of documents can help with building a brand, and make it easier for you to create pieces of content that seem like they go together.
The goal of content marketing isn’t just to have people view your ideas and marketing pieces. Instead, it’s to carve out a niche in buyers minds and show them what makes you different from your competitors. By expressing yourself with a unique voice and point of view, you make it easier for customers to know you, like you, and pick out your content again and again.
Getting Beyond the Basic Blog Post
Most content marketers use a blog as the focal point of their distribution efforts. That makes perfect sense, given that every new post counts as a fresh page in Google’s eyes, and someone who clicks through to your website to read one article is likely to stay and peruse others.
But, as you consider filling your blog with informative 500 word items, consider a couple of things: first, your blog isn’t just about text and keywords; and second, there are still other places you should share and promote your ideas.
Obviously, written content is likely to be the focus of your blog. That’s the easiest and cheapest type of content to produce, it stands out clearly to Google and the other search engines, and is convenient for your readers. However, your posts don’t just need to consist of paragraphs and search-friendly text.
Although the titles of your blog posts are going to be the first thing readers notice, the images you attach to them convey meaning and emotion almost instantly. It’s amazing to see how two different posts can perform when one has a stunning visual next to it and the other doesn’t. If you want to attract attention and create interest, pay as much attention to the pictures you put on your blog as you do the text.
You should also think through the details as you craft the body of your posts themselves. Few people enjoy reading long, unbroken blocks of words. You can transmit key points, and make your content see more interesting, by including subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists. These help the reader to retain key thoughts, and make your content seem more inviting.
As easy and helpful as it is to work with text, keep in mind that you can comprise entire posts of images and video. In fact, you may consider taking some of your ideas that have been popular in a written post format and translating them into different mediums, like video clips and infographics. That lets you get more mileage out of your best concepts, reach a wider audience, and engage potential buyers who might not have noticed your content otherwise.
In the same way, remember that a lot of what you consider to be blog content can also be shared, promoted, or repackaged in social media. While it’s important to have content on your website for search engine optimization purposes, it’s often easier to bring in viewers from platforms they already know and use every day. So, while you might have a written article on your own blog, you could post a shortened, image-based version to Facebook, and then use the resulting script to make a short video that is distributed via YouTube. Taking that kind of approach increases viewership across the board and helps you leave a bigger footprint online.
Finding the specific answers that work for your business might require you to tweak these approaches. And, by studying your web analytics you’ll discover what your customers do and don’t respond to. What matters most, though, is that you take a bigger picture of content marketing that isn’t just constrained to a few paragraphs that go on to your blog. The worldwide web is huge, and you need to be using every type of media – in several different platforms – if you want to reach as many buyers as possible.
Optimizing Your Content for Conversions
For all the advice we give about creating interesting and insightful content, it’s important to remember that we aren’t trying to turn you into a novelist or a media personality. Or to put it another way, the point of creating content is to help your business grow. Otherwise, why would you bother at all?
It used to be that you could post a lot of material online, get visitors from Google, and watch your sales increase. Now, though, the web is so crowded and competitive that even people who are good prospects for your products or services are likely to read what you have to say and then take their attention elsewhere if you don’t give them a good reason to hang around. That’s why your content has to be optimized specifically for conversions.
Generating conversions from your content is a two-step process. The first is making sure as many people as possible can find and view your ideas. Naturally, that includes all the great advice about search engine optimization we like to give out in our blogs and reports. You want someone who turns to Google to come across your thoughts as frequently as possible.
You shouldn’t settle for simply search optimizing your content, though. In 2017, there are a lot of different ways you can promote your ideas to a larger audience. For instance, you can put links to your blog posts in your social feeds. Or, you can promote one social media item from another (tweeting about your latest YouTube video, for example). You can even use advertising options like Facebook’s “boost” feature to reach a bigger and tightly-targeted audience.
Likewise, you can draw in more readers and viewers by cross-promoting your content through internal links, email newsletters, and even PPC ads. All of this ensures the effort you put into developing unique content style will pay off broader exposure.
When you’re satisfied your content is reaching the right audience, you can make it pay off by including a focused call to action at the end of every piece. Don’t hope someone who sees your post or video will take the next step – invite them specifically to move forward and sign up for your newsletter, follow you online, or download a report you put together. Give them a specific benefit so they have a reason to stay in touch.
Ultimately, content marketing is still marketing. If you aren’t promoting the pieces you put online, then they aren’t going to be seen and won’t have a noticeable effect on your company. Likewise, if it isn’t clear what someone who likes your content should do to learn more, you’ll constantly lose prospects who might have turned into buyers if they had remained in your sales funnel.
Given the time, money, and effort it takes to build and execute a strong content marketing plan, it makes sense to give yourself every possible chance to generate conversions. Are you doing enough to see bottom-line results?
Content Marketing Success Doesn’t Happen by Accident
In this brief guide, we have walked you through the steps needed to create a comprehensive content marketing strategy and bring it to life. It’s not uncommon for new clients to tell us they’ve thought about different elements of their campaigns in the past, but hadn’t ever put the pieces together to achieve the right results.
If you’ve dabbled in content marketing, or even if you’ve put it off because it seemed overwhelming, this is your chance to turn the page and start carving out your identity on the web. By following the tips and advice we’ve provided here, you can figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, set an editorial calendar, reach buyers through a variety of platforms, and even generate inbound leads or sales.
Of course, each of these steps gets a lot easier when you have the right creative team working on your side. Reach out to our creative content marketing agency in Charlotte today to schedule a free consultation, see how we can help you get started!