So much of what we see and interact with on the internet today is related to content marketing. Every day when we log onto our social media accounts, for example, we are surrounded by creative videos, fascinating blog posts, and engaging infographics that build our knowledge and sway our opinions.
What makes a blog post or a video content marketing, though? Where do we draw the line between content marketing and just plain old “content?” How do businesses come up with content marketing strategies? And of course, how can you start using content marketing to influence your readership?
Let’s break down the basic concepts of content marketing and form a plan to create the perfect strategy for your business.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a method of connecting with your audience and potential users that transcends simply telling them about your product. In a recent study, 70% of people that were surveyed said they follow businesses or organizations on social media to find out new things. So, in the past few years, we’ve seen exponential growth in infographics, educational videos, and blog posts that go beyond simple product awareness. These pieces inform the customer about ideas that surround or relate to the product—for example, a hotel chain might teach customers about the beauty and culture of some amazing destinations they’re located in.
So, to define content marketing, it is simply shareable online media that is used to get customers interested in a product or service by educating or informing them about something related to it. The key idea with content marketing is not to promote the brand outright but to just place small nudges within the piece.
Any piece of media can technically be made into types of content marketing, but traditionally, we see:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
So, why build a content marketing plan for your business? Simple. It builds customer loyalty, is often inexpensive to produce, builds brand awareness, and can lead to increased sales. While it doesn’t always have the same instant gratification that comes from a transactional marketing campaign, customers connect emotionally with your content using these strategies. A connected customer is not only more likely to pay attention to your posts, but they’re also more likely to share them with others.
In the online world, the connection is key to driving sales. Whether you’re a large corporation or a small upstart, the more you get your customers personally invested, the more likely they are to stay loyal to your brand.
Content Marketing Strategy
A lot of companies don’t seem to know where to start with content marketing. It only takes a few steps, and you’ll be able to create a content marketing strategy in no time.
How to create a content marketing strategy
If your company already has a social media presence, spend time reading the interactions with your customers. Check out what they’re legitimately interested in as people. What types of profiles do they follow? Are there common questions they ask? Is there a pain point that your product solves really well? If you have a retail location, talk to your customers directly. You’ll want to know not only basic information like demographics that you serve but build an actual profile of the ideal person you’re speaking to. Go further than income or location, you’ll want to think about their interests, hobbies, and quirks. Compile that information and create a goal that defines what you would like to connect with your customers about.
Next, let’s define your metrics.
At what point would you consider your campaign a success? It could be when you hit a certain dollar amount in sales, a certain number of followers, percentage of engagement, number of leads, or number of sales.
This is a personal decision, based on your business needs and what you need to get a solid return on your investment. Any of these metrics could define success in their own way. If your goal is brand awareness, shares and engagement are a better metric; if the goal is more sales, then dollars earned, and leads are ideal.
Once you know who you’re speaking to, what their goals are, and the metrics you need to hit, it’s time to determine the type of content you’d like to push out. Blog posts, social media posts, and videos have a relatively low barrier of entry and are cheap to create. If budget is a concern, they’re a great place to start.
It’s good to create several types of content so you can vary what you share. If your company only shares blog posts, it doesn’t gain much traction. Videos and photos can catch eyes on social media, but blog posts are great for organic search results.
So, if you’re just starting out, try to shoot for three different types of content.
Create a quick content marketing template
A content marketing strategy template will help you define the different moving parts of your plan. It can be a spreadsheet or a printed form, but you’ll want to create a template to track the creation and progress of your efforts.
You’ll want your template to cover several different areas, including your project goals, type of content, who will create it, what keywords or best practices you’d like to hit, style guide elements you’d like included when it should be completed, and who is the stakeholder on the project.
You’ll also want to think about when you’d like these projects to go out into the world. For example, say you run a piano store. Seasonal shifts cause pianos to go out of tune, especially when there are large changes in humidity. It would make sense to release videos or infographics that address this concern during these seasonal changes.
Big sales times are another element that you could add—things like holiday weekends or large shopping events if you are a retail store.
As you define your projects, be sure to think about the month and timeframe you would like to release them.
Create a form or spreadsheet that is customized for your business. Sit down with the team that will be creating your marketing content and discuss what you’d like to see happen goal and story-wise. If you do not want to be stakeholder, you’ll want to assign someone who manages and approves the projects. You’ll also want to make the guidelines for your brand voice and visual style clear if these elements are not well-defined to your employees. Store all this information clearly in your content marketing plan template where all members of your marketing team can use it for reference.
Determine and create your marketing content calendar template
You have your goals, demographics, projects, and stakeholders ready to go. Now, it’s crucial to be sure your strategy is enacted. It’s easy to get lofty goals and lose them in the daily grind. A content marketing calendar will ensure that your efforts are released in regular intervals, on-time, and with relevance to the time of year.
Use Excel or a shared spreadsheet tool to develop a content calendar template. For each month, define what projects will go out which week, what their title is, what platform they will be released on, and who will create them. You will also want to create not only an ideal publish date, but a date they should be submitted for milestone approval by the stakeholder. As you create your calendar, be sure to consider annual events or promotions that may need early marketing pushes and plan your content around them accordingly.
Now, distribute this content calendar to everyone on your marketing team. It must be very clear who should work on which projects, when they are due, and who will approve them.
A few creative content marketing examples
To get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at a few examples of content marketing.
Wilton Cake Decorating is a famous brand of cake, cookie, and confectionery supplies. They’re known for their classes that teach the fundamentals of dessert design. So, it makes sense that the content marketing they produce would reflect that. Their Instagram page is full of beautiful photos of potential projects and videos that show quick, easy-to-learn tricks for different baking and icing techniques.
Email on Acid is a web-based software that shows email marketers what their emails will look like on just about every web browser and device imaginable. Their blog is a great example of content marketing. It focuses on articles for email designers and features well-designed emails and tips to avoid common email problems.
Content marketing is your chance to establish meaningful, lasting connections with your audience. While a transactional marketing campaign might bring you a one-time customer, content marketing can build a personal relationship with them and keep them in your orbit for years to come.
With some solid research, a few deep dive planning sessions, and help from a few members of your marketing staff, a content marketing plan is easy to reach. You’ll be amazed at the difference in engagement and customer interest, an informative article or captivating video can make.