What is content marketing and how to build a strategy that works

Creating high quality engaging contents seems to be the only strategy that nowadays allows publishers to survive. Great content means a loyal and dedicated customer base, which in turn means organic traffic, a higher possibility of acquiring first party data and for retailers, endless opportunities for perfecting their sales strategies. But unfortunately just developing great content is not enough: your editorial plan must be supported by a precise content marketing strategy, otherwise it could easily be doomed to failure. 

 

For example it’s highly unlikely that you want to reach just any audience, instead you may want to target a very specific segment. And you don’t want to generate just any action but prefer that your customers focus on some actions in particular. This is the reason why spending time on defining your content strategy is so important and delivers much better results than rushing headfirst into producing contents with no clear plan.

 

First step: define your goals

The first thing you need to do when defining a strategy is outline your goals and objectives, because without this crucial first step, every subsequent action would be a waste of time. So you should answer questions such as “what are the business goals I need to achieve?” and “how will the contents I plan to produce and my content marketing strategy bring me closer to achieving them?”. 

 

In this phase you should also try to define what success will look like, if possible in a quantitative or in any case understandable and shareable way. For example: “I want to increase sales by 5%” is by any means a better goal than “I want to increase sales”. In other words, your goals should always be measurable. Also very important is to define a time frame, namely what needs to be done in what time.

 

Second step: determine your audience

Good, excellent, and interesting, are extremely relative concepts: they depend strictly on the receiver. In other words, a certain piece of content may be valuable for a certain audience but completely useless and uninteresting for another. This is why it’s so important to define the audience you want to talk to. 

 

As a publisher and/or retailer, you have probably already gathered a great amount of first party data on your customers. This is extremely valuable because it allows you to analyse and understand your existing audience, predict the kind of content they may be interested in and the problems they need to solve. You can then begin to think about how your contents can help them solve these problems.

 

You may also be interested in attracting a different cluster of people because you think it would be advantageous for your strategy. In any case a proper user analysis lies at the heart of an effective content marketing strategy. You should define user personas, try to identify their motivations and map out their journeys through your site. 

 

Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

  • What are their goals and how can I help them achieve them? 
  • What are their motivations? 
  • Where do they find difficulties/what challenges do they face? 
  • Which channels are most engaging for them? 
  • And consequently: how can I use storytelling to connect with these users?

 

Audit your existing content

Once you have a clear picture of your goals and how to talk to your users you should revise your existing contents. Determine how they are performing and if they are suitably  supporting your new content strategy. This can be very beneficial for your SEO and discovering how to refine your contents so that they adapt to your audience, actual and desirable. You could also save time and effort by refurbishing your old contents, for example transforming plain texts in videos or in infographics. 

 

The crucial step: develop a content plan

This is the heart of the entire process. Basing your decisions on your findings, on keyword research, trends and performances, you must determine which topics could be more profitable, the tone of voice to use and the most appropriate time to publish. You should take care that each step of the customer journey is covered, from the awareness, to consideration, to the decision and at the end the retention and the advocacy. You should then define an editorial plan carefully prioritising each task to be done and being sure to diversify your contents so as to produce for each customer the right kind of content. This is a very difficult part in the development of an effective content marketing strategy. 

 

If you are interested in mastering these skills you could profit greatly from a course, like the Content Design & Creation Master by Talent Garden which can help you in acquiring all the necessary skills.

 

Choose your content mediums, your channels and promote your content

Deciding which content to produce is not the only thing you should do. The channels where you are going to publish them are also extremely important because not every channel is suitable for every piece of content and every user. You will of course use your owned media (your website and social channels) but you can also choose a mix of paid and earned media, and for example prioritise a video platform above a static, traditional one. 

 

Evaluate performances

And finally, never underestimate the importance of monitoring the numbers! You should be sure that you can correctly evaluate your content’s performances, because this is the only way to understand if they are bringing you real value and helping you to achieve your goals. So before you engage in a content marketing plan be sure to set up a solid analytics system and to personalise it according to your needs. Then keep it monitored and learn how to interpret the results.

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