Content marketing is a powerful method to reach more people and to add value to everyone. Your brand is more than the tagline, colors, and logo you choose. It’s in the voice, tone, and the way you interact with consumers. It’s what you represent and it involves the “why” or purpose behind why you exist. Content marketing is a strong cornerstone to this part of the branding and it is very effective at reaching new leads and increasing future sales.
Content marketing is a strategy that involves creating articles, videos, podcasts, posts, and other forms of media with a value-first approach to engage with people and convert them to leads or customers.
For a successful content marketing plan to work, you need to make sure it is relevant and effective. Too often, brands pump content to the internet, and the quality is bad or it doesn’t connect with the targeted audience. These approaches are short-lived and prove to be ineffective. Instead, when we invest in the right research, relevant topics, and quality content, we create long-living assets that drive company growth.
Here is how you can make an effective content marketing plan:
Know What Your Audience Needs
Content marketing is one of the best investments you can make. You produce something that resonates and it creates loyal fans for your brand and increases word-of-mouth when they share it with friends. This momentum grows and platform algorithms favor your content and share it with a bigger audience. Your content begins to show on search engines after inquiries through SEO and other added tactics. This is all the fruits of choosing the right topic and providing real value.
When you start from the beginning, it can be hard to know what to do first. On the other spectrum, if you already have existing content, you should audit it and find what is most effective to dig deeper and start with a stronger plan. But one thing should be adopted by us all: don’t repeat what everyone else is doing.
What does that mean? What if it’s an important topic? You can pick similar topics if your audience needs them. But base your decisions on your audience, not what you see competitors doing.
This audience-first approach is best explained by Arvid Kahl in The Embedded Entrepreneur:
“I believe ‘audience-first' starts long before you build an audience: from being part of a community to observing, interacting, and being embedded among the people you want to serve…” When you know their true needs, you can begin to serve them through content.
This method is effective because you’ll hit issues that no one else does, which attracts more people. You would also become hyper-relevant, creating super fans for your brand.
A great way to start is by studying common questions and issues people bring up to your customer service department or representative. FAQ and other common pressure points can be great content to start with. Not only do you help current customers, but you help new people get to know your brand. Run surveys and get to know your customers. The more you know them, the better you will connect with your audience.
State Your Objective
A strategy is pointless if you don’t know where to go. Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” A successful content marketing plan requires a very clear objective.
Content marketing should always be value-first. We provide something to the reader, listener, or viewer, and in turn, they want to learn more about us. Instead of “telling” people what we do, we “show” them. We also become an authority of the subject, making us a clear choice for the product or service.
Content marketing can have many objectives, a couple of these are more common. Your CTA (call to action) will likely be to sign up for an email list or to contact you for a solution.
Keep in mind that content marketing is not sales. But by promoting an action, you get one step closer to a customer. Content builds trust over time and you want to be ready when the consumer is.
What does that look like? You can have an email newsletter and ask people to sign up when they finish consuming your content. You can also provide a free resource for them to download when they do sign up. Or, if relevant to the content, you can offer a solution to the problem addressed in the article or video.
For example, let’s say you are a plumber. Someone finds your article after searching how to fix a clogged sink. You give them a DIY approach. At the end of the article, you mention that if they want to save time or they are having trouble fixing it themselves, they can give you a call and you can head over to help.
Define what your goals are for your content. Every brand should provide value, win trust, and promote action.
Identify and Map Out the Content
Now that you know the needs of your customers and audience (and what you want them to do), you can start planning your content marketing strategy. Decide on your distribution channels. It’s likely your website and social media. Pick platforms where your customers are.
Create a select few categories you want to focus on. When starting, it’s good to start small. Maybe three areas you want to begin producing content for. For example, the plumber might want to start with DIY home projects/fixes, home maintenance, and possibly an educational series on how the plumbing in a house works. Once you have a lot of content in these categories, you can evaluate which ones resonate the most. You can slowly add new categories if they align with your brand.
List out as many topics as you can. They can be good or bad at this point. The goal is to have options to work with and analyze them later.
Now decide on the types of content you want to produce:
- Articles: make sure you have a professional writer who can communicate your values well.
- Videos: create a filming set up with the right equipment and the right production manager.
- Podcasts: develop the format you want to do (interviews or two speakers etc) and find the right hosts and equipment.
- Posts: social media and other platforms with opportunities to share smaller forms of content.
As you create content, find ways to dig deeper. Are you going to cover the foundation of business taxes? Produce that piece of content but then start covering things like business taxes for self-employed, LLCs, and other situations. Or in this case, how to make the best out of your taxes. The more specific you can get, the better and more valuable. It also helps you stick out compared to other content from competing brands.
You can also repurpose content. For example, an article can help you produce several tweets on Twitter. A Youtube video can be broken up into small clips and shared on LinkedIn.
Audit and Repeat
Finally, when you’ve produced content, develop a schedule on how often you want to audit what you have. Review what content resonated the most. Dig deeper on those topics. From one video or one article, you can come up with multiple different pieces of content. Dissect each point you made in the published piece.
This is also a great opportunity to add more value to the content that did very well. If you can edit it after publishing, you can improve it and expand it. This helps with additional value and with SEO/Google searches.
As you develop your content marketing plan, use these principles to effectively reach your audience and grow your business.