You’ve heard it before: content marketing is now considered essential to your brand’s overall marketing strategy for raising brand awareness and engagement with your brand. It can help with internal communication too.
And yet according to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), only 32% of respondents have a documented content strategy.
48% of respondents, on the other hand, reported that they have an undocumented content strategy.
I know exactly what working with a vague idea of a plan looks (and feels) like. I’ve been in those meetings where my team has produced the same content as someone else. I’ve spent hours working on a blog post or infographic for some manager when I absolutely know, based on measurable metrics, is not going to truly help meet the goals that matter to the boss.
And today I talk to brand owners every day who either don’t have a strategy, or who have worked with a half-formed strategy, and now want to pull their hair out.
The upshot? Yes, having a strategy–even one that’s in your head–is fantastic. That’s where you have to start. But for the love of Pete (he is fantastic), you need to get it down–in some form.
A documented content strategy not only helps you to think through exactly what you’re trying to do, but it also helps hugely in:
It ain’t easy, though. And it’s getting tougher to distinguish the good advice out there from the ‘create a killer content plan in 2 minutes a day’ link bait. You can’t, in my opinion, kill at anything in two minutes a day.
You can, however–with a little diligence, a little trust, and a good dose of your own experience and wisdom, come up with a solid plan for documenting your brand’s content strategy. Here are the basics.
I’ve included the big steps to take in documenting your content marketing strategy below. These are exactly the steps I take with clients. They’re not quick, and some are not necessarily easy, but I can tell you that they will work for you.
Please watch the blog, or sign up for my newsletter, for full, juicy posts on each of the topics listed below. I’m also working on a hopefully super-useful template for you to work with.
This is about identifying the business goals relevant to your content marketing efforts–not just parroting your corporate plan.
Separate from overarching business goals, your content marketing goals should be almost stupidly specific to what you aim to do with your content marketing. Why are you doing content marketing in the first place? What are you hoping to achieve after six months? After a year?
Every company thinks they know their target audience. But do remember that in this contest, I’m talking about identifying your ideal, or target, audience for content marketing specifically. These are the individuals you want to reach through your content marketing efforts — not just people who want to sell your product or service to. And they are individuals. You need to be able to name them, to picture them, to have a conversation with them. You must identify what they need from you, what they want from you, what they fear, where they hang out online, and maybe even what kind of ice cream they like best. Remember, too, that these aren’t just your customers. Your audience might be potential candidates for employment. Or current employees feeling disengaged. Or people who don’t know you yet, but should. Go back to your business goals, and your content marketing goals. Identifying detailed personas — the individuals you want to reach with your content marketing efforts — is the critical first component of your strategy.
Regardless of whether you’re just starting to ‘do’ content marketing, you probably already are. Take a look at the ways you’re talking to, attracting and engaging with your customers now. Look at what’s working and what’s not. Write down how many visitors you have on your blog each month. Write down your followers and likes on all of your social channels. And take a little time to consider whether that’s where you want to be. If not, you’re starting to identify your KPIs (#8). You might also be starting to identify which channels or platforms to focus on, and which to let lapse for now. Remember, you can’t do everything at once.
Take into account your budget and resources first. What do you have to work with? Next, take into account your content marketing and business goals. What’s most important to focus on? Based on the answers to these questions, start identifying which channels, or platforms, are most important for your business. I always recommend focusing on doing one or two exceptionally well before taking on more. You can use the answers you came up with in #4 to then begin understanding what kind of voice, and messaging, to include on each channel.
It may just be you, or you may have a team behind you. Either way, document what you have to do each day, week, month, and quarter, and make sure you’ve got someone who’s accountable for each task. This is a great way to determine right up front if you’ve taken on more than you can handle.
Use your audit in #5 to determine your target metrics for your selected channels (determined in #6). Start, right now, an Excel spreadsheet that documents those numbers each and every month (or week, if you’re ambitious). You’ll soon start to see growth and change. It’s progress!
Start with a month. After three weeks, measure. What’s working best? What’s not working at all? Use these insights to craft the next month’s content. Do not be afraid to change your course.
You’re not in this for fun. Measurement is about seeing or showing some kind of return on your investment in content marketing, so be ruthless. And again, don’t worry if a course correction is required.
This plan should, after all, create, share and promote content that your audience loves and craves–but it should above all else, work for you and your brand.