Content marketing is often oversimplified. Many companies fail at it due not having the right strategy in place before embarking on their campaign, leading to a waste of valuable time and money.
In order to gain successful results from a content marketing campaign, such as attracting and retaining a highly targeted audience as well as driving profitable customer action, it is essential to understand the fundamental frameworks of content marketing.
An effective strategy will allow you to create and promote content that drives value for your audience and your business, and involves having clearly defined company objectives, using the right metrics to measure success, and having a deep understanding of your buyer persona.
Content that drives value
Content marketing goes way beyond creating a blog post on your company’s website, publishing it, and then hoping for the best. You need to create the right type of content which is valuable to your audience in order for it to have a successful impact on your business.
Creating and publishing content without a strategy which encompasses a wide variety of variables will likely end up wasting your time and money, as you need a framework in place to help you understand what to create, how to engage, where to publish, and how to promote your content.
Ultimately, your strategy should detail specifics such as why you’re doing content marketing, who you’re trying to reach, and how this type of marketing will help achieve your objectives.
How to create an effective strategy
There is so much to consider when formulating a content marketing strategy that it can seem very daunting. It’s not about creating a list of topic ideas and an editorial calendar—this is more about planning—but about knowing what you want to accomplish, and how you’re going to use content marketing to get there.
There are five key factors which create the basis of an effective strategy;
- Objectives: Why do you want to do content marketing?
- Metrics: How are you going to measure your success?
- Audience: Who do you want to reach?
- Channels: Where are you going to reach your target audience?
- Tactics: How are you going to achieve your stated objectives?
Although you need to answer some of these questions before following on to others, ultimately, they all work together. But first, let’s take a look at how your company’s objectives can shape your entire content marketing framework.
It’s always a good idea to start with your objectives, as it will give you a better idea as to whether content marketing will help you achieve your goals. Your whole strategy will be rooted in your high-level objectives, so it’s best to define what you want to achieve early on.
This may include generating sales leads, increase trials or sign ups, lower cost per acquisition, improve your search visibility, etc...
Whatever your objectives are, try not to be too abstract and focus on what you really want to achieve from content marketing.
Key Point: Your whole strategy is rooted in your high-level objectives, so begin with an eye toward your bottom-line goals.
The importance of using the right metrics is often overlooked. These tell you how well your content marketing efforts are helping you achieve your business goals, so it’s crucial you’re focusing on numbers that give you the right kind of information.
It can be tempting to decide on the metrics you’re going to use before formalizing your objectives, but this is a common mistake which often leads to the perception of failure. Instead, the metrics you use to measure the success of your efforts should flow from the objectives you’ve set so you can properly measure your results.
For instance, if your ultimate goal is to drive sales, then it makes much more sense to define metrics that will actually allow you to measure this rather than concentrating on numbers like page views, time on site, bounce rate, etc.
Focusing on the wrong metrics is a classic trap which many companies fall in. If you’re basing your success on increased page views, you’re likely to start pursuing tactics that drive page views rather than your initial objective to increase sales.
Concentrating on numbers such as bounce rate will only be valuable if it also leads to positive results in metrics which are directly related to your business goals.
In this case, focusing on meaningful measures of success such as sales, revenue, and signups, would provide a much clearer view as to whether your campaign is creating value for your business.
Try not to settle for generic metrics about the success of the content itself, as it won’t necessarily give you the information you need to measure the value it’s bringing to your business.
Although it’s fine to use other supporting metrics to measure your efforts, your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be directly related to the desired outcome of your content marketing campaign.
Once you define metrics that will allow you to see how your content is impacting your overall growth, you’ll have a much better chance of creating a successful campaign and determining whether your current strategy is working well.
Key Point: Choose metrics based on your high-level business objectives rather than vanity metrics which can pull your focus away from your main goals.
The better you understand your audience, the easier it will be to create engaging, valuable content. Think about where they spend their time and how they find content which is relevant to them as well as your business.
When defining your audience you should try to answer the key question: who are you trying to attract? Remember, the ultimate goal of content marketing is not only to bring more people to your website, but to attract the right people to help your business grow.
The process of understanding your audience starts by defining the buyers you’re trying to reach and taking a deeper look at each persona. By delving into their typical problems, needs, and worries, you can aim to help them solve them through the content you’re creating.
Segmenting your audience and building a buyer persona for each type of target is one of the best ways to understand the type of content you should be creating, and importantly, the places you should be promoting it.
To provide a deeper insight into your buyer persona and go beyond their job title or description, you can use the following three dimensions: roles, goals, and worries. If you only focus on a person’s title or qualifier, you won’t be able to gain a deep understanding of what that person actually does.
Let’s start by looking at the role your key persona plays in a company. What are their primary functions and responsibilities? How do they support the other people on their team? What does their work schedule look like? By considering these points, you should gain more insight into the types of content and topics that could interest them, and learn how to speak their language.
Now, moving on to your buyer’s goals, in essence, their needs and desires. It’s a good idea to consider these in a business sense as well as a personal sense, as this will allow you to create content that speaks directly to their needs. For instance, answering their questions or helping them build a better life or career.
Finally, a buyer persona’s worries include their problems, questions, and concerns. Once you understand their worries, you can create content that addresses them and seeks to solve or validate them.
Creating this detailed profile on your target audience will help you build a content marketing framework which is centered around attracting the right people to bring value to your company. There are many resources available to help you gain a deeper understanding of your buyer personas, such as MarketingLand and SocialMediaExaminer.
Key point: A deep understanding of your buyer persona will give you the tools to learn the best way to communicate with them and attract them to your website.
Channels and tactics
Once you’ve defined the buying personas for your content, you can identify the best channels to promote and distribute it.
Consider things such as which social media channels they use, the communities they hang out in, and where they get their news and information. The answer to these will differ greatly depending on your targeted audience, so understanding which channels to use will help you gain a wider reach.
Creating great content but putting little effort into promoting it is another common mistake which catches out many companies. If no one is reading it or sharing it, your efforts won’t provide any results.
You’ll need to work hard to promote and distribute your content on the right channels to generate results and achieve your objectives, and this is where tactics come into play.
It’s usually best to define your tactics last in your strategy, as they will flow from your objectives, metrics, audience, and channels. Once you’ve defined the other elements in your framework, it will be much easier to come up with specific tactics which will help fulfill the strategy you’ve created.
Focusing on your tactics early on in the game makes it more likely they won’t fit in with your ultimate goals, resonate with your target audience, or work within the channels you’ve selected, so try to resist doing this.
Key point: Promotion is a critical component of a successful framework. Once you’ve formalized all the other parts of your strategy, it will be much easier to define which tactics will work well for you and which won’t.
Planning for how you’re going to promote your content is essential, as having great content which nobody reads won’t bring any value to your business. The tactics you use will depend on all the elements mentioned above, but here are some of the most commonly used:
Your social tactics should go beyond your company’s Facebook or Twitter account, as these tend to provide a limited reach to an audience who is already aware of your business.
You should also include content-sharing swaps with other companies, sharing content with social influencers, and using tools and widgets to encourage sharing.
When used strategically, paid promotion can help grow your content marketing efforts much faster than relying on organic (free) promotion alone. Using platforms such as Facebook can help extend your reach to thousands of qualified buyers, and doesn’t usually require a large budget.
It’s often better to plan for content for specific channels by learning what type of posts perform well (and which don’t).
Influencer marketing is a good tactic for expanding the visibility of your content. It involves finding an individual in your industry with a large audience, reaching out to them, and asking them to share or promote your brand in return for compensation.
Depending on the individual you’re reaching it out, compensation can vary from a free sample to a larger fee. It’s about creating a relationship with someone and working with them to fulfill mutual goals.
Qualified backlinks will be an important part of success if your goals involve SEO or increased organic traffic. Building links can seem difficult or confusing, but they are crucial to provide a higher domain authority to your website, and in turn, create more visibility for your site.
There are many strategies which make link-building easier to execute, so it’s worth learning about different approaches and how to apply them to your particular niche.
Communities such as Reddit, Quora, forums, and content aggregation sites are good ways of gaining visibility with the audience you’re trying to reach. However, depending on the platform, there are often rules you need to follow in order to promote content. There’s usually more to it than just dropping a link and disappearing.
Syndication and distribution
Although often overlooked, getting other people to publish and share your content with their audience will allow you to get further value from every single piece of content you create.
In order to get someone else interested in sharing your content with their audience, you’ll need to make sure it’s unique, interesting, and useful. To identify potential sources of syndication and distribution, you can search for curated newsletters, content roundups, and syndicated articles.
Delving into the world of content marketing without a well thought out framework in place will likely turn out to be a waste of time and energy. Many companies who have adopted a “publish, hope, and wait” strategy have failed, even when they were creating fantastic content.
In order to succeed, you need to have clearly defined objectives, focus on the right metrics to measure your efforts, understand your audience to create unique content, and research the best channels and tactics to reach your buyer persona.
When you combine outstanding content with a rock-solid strategy, you’ll have all the tools you need to carry out a successful content marketing campaign to grow your business and achieve your ultimate goals.
Callum Mundine is the head of marketing at Warble Media in Australia.