Promoting branded content is more than just creating a blog post and sharing it on social media. To be successful, you must have a content marketing strategy that ensures you’re creating content your potential customers need, and then getting that content in front of them to achieve your sales objectives.
Define Your Goals
A critical first step in developing your content marketing strategy, and in checking the most important goal off your content strategy checklist, is having a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. For instance, new and emerging brands might set goals for exposure and traffic to their website before focusing on increasing sales. You’ll also want to draw attention to new products to ensure that you create the buzz that will convert to sales.
And while it’s fine to be aggressive with your goals, be sure to maintain realistic expectations. For example, if you currently have 70 followers on Instagram, and want to increase your following to one million in three months’ time, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Identify Your Audience
Another critical step on your content strategy checklist is that you understand and write specifically for your target audience. Understanding them will help you better map their journey from discovery to purchase with content that is meaningful and impactful. For instance, if you’re a B2B company, your target audience’s journey is likely shorter than for a B2C brand, as B2B buyers are more likely to be looking for a specific solution to their problem.
A big mistake many content creators make is writing about themselves and their brands, rather than writing about topics that their potential customers truly care about. To understand what your audience truly cares about, you must clearly understand your customer.
Create Customer Personas
So how do you understand your customers as individuals? Creating customer personas is a first step to visualizing your audience and staying centered on their needs.
Think of a customer persona as a character in a book. Just as readers want to know what a fictional character’s motivations might be, you also need to understand what motivates your buyers to purchase.
The more you know about your ideal buyer, the more complete your image can be. Don’t just look at superficial information, like job titles, geography, and household income. Consider the deeper motivations—the psychographics—as you complete your customer personas.
You’ll want to know their interests, their reasons for making purchases, their preferred styles, whether they have pets, how they spend their money, and even what kind of books and movies they like.
Map Your Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey is similar for all buyers, regardless of what the product or service is.
First, what is their need or pain point? What problem are they trying to solve? Once they identify potential solutions to their problem, their research may lead them to your brand. Once they’re aware of your brand (and others), they’ll begin to consider various options, weighing the pros and cons of each. Finally, they’ll decide to purchase.
Understanding your potential customers enables you to create relevant content that addresses their needs and answers their questions.
Check Out Your Competition
You also need to pay attention to what your competition is doing. Without duplicating their efforts, get a sense of their messaging and how it compares to yours – their aesthetics, posting schedules, and engagement. Their engagement will tell you most of what you need to know: Is it working? Are their followers responding? Higher engagement rates mean your competitors have found a way to resonate with your target consumer.
You can take cues from your competition, but always stay true to your brand. If you don’t have the same engagement rates in the beginning, don’t worry. Keep that buyer’s journey in mind and provide more relevant content to drive awareness and interest with your target consumer.
Set Measurable Objectives
You know where you want to go, how to get there, what your competition is doing, and what drives your buyers. Now use all of that information to break down the process and set small goals.
Set time limits for reaching these objectives. Shorter times between each allows you the opportunity to examine what’s working, what isn’t, and how you can tweak your content strategy to achieve each objective.
Identify Your Unique Brand Voice
Developing and retaining a consistent brand voice across all platforms gives your brand a consistent feel and makes it more recognizable. With every piece of content you distribute, your audience should recognize your brand voice.
Is humor a part of your brand voice, or will you remain serious to inspire trust? Is youthful language part of your brand voice to reach a younger buyer? Will you speak in a formal or informal style? Decide early on what language will be part of your brand, and how it will be conveyed.
Maximize SEO with Priority Keywords
People will discover you through Google and through social media channels. But what keywords do you anticipate your target audience will use to find your brand in search engine results?
You must understand and identify the right keywords to use. One way to do that is to research your competitors’ keywords and the keywords used for their products or services. You’ll find that some keywords may be challenging to use, though you can gain traction using those more popular keywords. Other keywords, particularly long-tail search phrases, may have lower search volume, but those who find you using those longer phrases often come to your website ready to make a purchase.
For instance, if someone is looking for “bridesmaid dresses,” they probably plan to shop around a little bit. However, if they Google “burgundy chiffon bridesmaid dress size twelve,” then they’re probably ready to buy the product that best fits their criteria.
Identify Distribution Channels
It’s important to know which channels or platforms will help you reach your target audience. By understanding your potential customer’s demographics and psychographics, you know whether posting to Snapchat is a waste of time or a smart move.
Social media isn’t the only place to share your content. Consider other outlets, such as online publications like Medium, content aggregators like Business2Community, or video sharing platforms like YouTube.
There are several paid media options as well, including display ads on search engines, native advertising on popular websites (Yahoo!, Huffington Post, etc.), and podcasting, etc.
Create a Content Map
You know the who, the where, the how, but you also need to identify the what. What kind of content will you create and distribute to reach your buyers? What keywords will you use? What questions are you asked regularly by potential clients?
Gini Dietrich, founder, CEO and author of Spin Sucks, has created a content map that starts with a main topic related to a priority keyword or phrase, which is followed by associated subtopics that answer common questions about the main topic. Finally are supporting base topics, which are a broader range of related topics linked to the priority keyword.
Each content map, with its dedicated priority keyword, provides a minimum of 13 pieces of content. Content developed from this map can be created in various formats, from an eBook to blog posts, listicles, infographics, media pitches, short or long videos, and more.
Map Out An Editorial Calendar
Consistency is key to an effective content marketing strategy. Once you know your content topics, start planning a content calendar that will help you stay on track by not allowing too much time to go by between posts.
Determine how often you need to create content for the various phases of the buyer’s journey. Drive buyers through their decision process with information that gets their attention, educates them, and convinces them.
Create Content Workflow
Even the best content creators struggle with staying on task, so break down the work into manageable tasks and document your process. Identify your topics using a content map or other means. Create and edit content with clear calls-to-action to lead potential buyers through the sales funnel. Make sure your content is approved and optimized so that your audience can find you. Finally, once your content is published, use measurement to ensure it is working.
There are various project management options to help move each piece of content from one step to the next, and one team member to the next. Check out Trello, Asana, Loomly, or Basecamp.
Distribute and Market
Your content has been created and posted. Though you may think “if we build it, they will come,” the reality is that you need to use the many different channels available to distribute your content to ensure potential buyers see it.
Creating an effective content marketing strategy is not easy or quick, but it is an effective way to grow your business. Download our condensed content strategy checklist to keep on hand as you develop your content marketing strategy.
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