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How to develop a content marketing strategy

Content marketing has become increasingly popular recently, mostly thanks to Google changing the way it ranks websites. However, as with any marketing activity, a robust strategy can be the difference between success and failure. In this blog post, we provide a template that will help you plan and execute your strategy most effectively and then measure the impact on your business.

1) Goals

To start with, you need to identify what you are trying to achieve. This will vary from company to company based on a range of factors but let’s have a quick look at three of the most commonly cited goals for content marketing.

Increase sales – Ever since Google rolled out the recent Penguin and Panda updates, search engine optimisation (SEO) relies increasingly on the quality of content that a website offers rather than just the number of links it has collected. So if you are trying to increase sales by driving more traffic to your website, valuable content is critical.

Brand awareness – Valuable content can also help establish your company as an expert in your field. If you provide useful or informative content, you will build trust with those who read it. They are also likely to share it on one or more social media platforms which will extend your influence.

Customer loyalty – Valuable content can be a really powerful way to retain customers as it can be used as a form of after- sales service. For example, if you help a customer make the most of their purchase, they are more likely to buy from you again.

2) Target market

The next step is understanding who your target market is as this will help you work out what kind of content is most relevant. Your target market is usually determined using demographics such as age, gender and location and more but you should also consider other criteria such as their values, interests and beliefs.

What you also need to consider for a successful content marketing strategy is where they spend their time online as this will influence the type of content your create and how you promote it. For example, are there Facebook groups that they are members of? Or do they post in particular forums?

3) Topics

One of the biggest difficulties faced by content marketers is trying to decide what kind of content will be of interest to their viewers. Here are a couple of suggestions about how you can come up with ideas.

Firstly, put yourself your customer’s shoes. Try to imagine what they would find interesting or useful. For example, if you sell blenders, you could come up with some new smoothie recipes.  It’s also worth trying to come up with an original angle so you can provide content that your customer won’t find anywhere else.

If you’re still struggling to come up with ideas, trying doing some research on social media. Find out who the biggest influencers are in your industry and follow them on Twitter. Keep an eye on what they are tweeting about, especially if they produce content themselves. This should provide plenty of inspiration.

4) Choosing a platform

Once you have come up with a list of topics, you then need to decide what type of content you are going to produce. Once again, different approaches will suit different companies but here is a breakdown of some of the most popular platforms and how they can be used.

Blog – Blogs are one of the most popular content platforms and can be used for both written and image based content. They are easy and cheap to set up and can be employed by most types of businesses.

Video – uploading video clips to sites like YouTube can be really useful because, in addition to providing useful content, they give the viewer an opportunity to really get to know you. And the clips don’t need to be professionally produced, you can use basic tools such as the camera on your phone.

Webinar – Webinars can be useful for educational purposes. A webinar can either educate your viewers about the benefits of your offering or help them make the most out of it once they have made a purchase.

Podcast – Podcasts can be used in a similar way to video although they lack the visual element. However the benefit of podcasts is they can be downloaded and listened to on the go, for instance on a mobile device.

5) Execution

The next step in your content marketing strategy is to actually produce your content. As mentioned above, blog and video content are relatively easy and cheap to produce yourself. However this can also be outsourced if the production process is too time consuming or if you don’t have the necessary expertise.

A schedule of the type of content you will produce will help with planning. Try to come up with enough content for at least two or three months ahead and choose a specific date for it to be published. The best time of day or day of the week to publish your content can will vary but try to choose a time when you think your audience will be in front of their screens.

How often you publish content will also depend on the individual company. Resources may dictate that you can publish content several times a week or maybe just once a week. However it is important that you only publish content that will be of value to your reader, don’t just publish for the sake of it.

6) Promote

Once you have published your content, you need to share it with the world so it makes the required impact. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular channels.

Social media – make sure you share your content via your company’s Facebook page, Twitter account and any other social media platform you feature on. This will ensure that anyone interested in your company will see it. Also ask your employees, suppliers and clients to share across their social media platforms to increase your content’s reach.

Find your audience – You need to post your content wherever your target market spends time online. As mentioned earlier, you should find out whether that is on some of the most popular social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter or more specialised platforms like forums or Pinterest.

Newsletters – If you send out an e-mail newsletter, make sure you include your content or at least a link to the platform that you published it on.

Syndicate – Offer your content to other websites or blogs in the same or complementary industries.  You’ll find plenty of sites that are looking for fresh and interesting content and this gives you an opportunity to promote your content to a brand new audience.

7) Measure

Finally, you need to make sure that you are earning a sufficient return on investment from your content marketing. How this is measured depends on your goals.

If you are trying to increase your sales, use Google Analytics or similar to monitor the number of hits that your content generates and how many of these viewers convert into sales. It would also help to know your conversion rate before you implemented your content marketing strategy to use as a benchmark.

If you are trying to increase your brand awareness, keep track of how many people read your content using Google Analytics but also keep track of how many times your content is shared.  There are a variety of tools that can help with this such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

If you’re trying to improve customer retention, keep track of whether repeat purchases increase or decrease as a result of implementing your strategy.

Content marketing takes time, commitment and a thorough understanding of your business environment. If you follow the steps outlined above, you will significantly increase your chances of success. Don’t expect results overnight but if you stick with it, the results will come.