As the old saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Don’t let the same thing happen to your new product. This is where a solid content marketing plan comes to the rescue.
Susan Gunelius, author of Content Marketing for Dummies, defines content marketing as “the practice of developing awareness, recall, purchases and loyalty through the use of content published online or offline.” It is a cost-effective and easy strategy, although it can be extremely time-consuming. But trust me, it’s worth the effort!
Here are 10 steps you can take to improve your content marketing and drive awareness around your products.
1. Determine Organizational Goals
Ask yourself: What is my goal, and how is my content marketing plan going to help me accomplish it? These are things that need to be thought out before determining your content. By doing so, you can tailor your content marketing plan accordingly.
Each goal should be measurable and have a deadline by which you perform this measurement. For example, increase website traffic 25% by Jan. 1, 2012.
2. Identify Target Audiences
The next step is to figure out exactly whom you are targeting. This means researching everything about the audience to whom you will be delivering your content. Ask them questions, research website traffic data and determine their demographic information, including age, gender, education, location, etc.
From there, you need to figure out what your audience is interested in, both online and offline. What are they reading? What are they talking about? What are their likes and dislikes?
In this step, it is helpful to think like one of your clients or customers. Envision that you’re writing for one specific person, and then tune in to his thought process in order to succeed. Above all, listen to what that person wants, which is not necessarily the same as what you want. After all, you want him to be receptive to your content.
3. Develop Key Messages
What exactly does your audience want/need to hear? In general, determine what will differentiate you and your product, as well as what will help you to achieve the goals you have set. The end result should be one to three main messages, each with one to five sub-messages that offer a bit more detail.
4. Decide on Overall Content Marketing Strategies
There are three different types of content marketing strategies: long-form, short-form and conversations (e.g. sharing).
Long-form includes blog posts, articles and press releases — basically, anything longer than a couple of sentences. Short-form includes tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn status updates and graphics. Conversations and sharing includes participating in and driving conversations through blog commenting, link sharing and comments on videos. This type helps to encourage discussions between other thought leaders within your industry.
You can stick to one of these forms of content marketing, or you can use all three. They are each effective on their own, but they are also powerful when used together.
5. Draft an Editorial Calendar
Developing a plan is one of the most important steps to content marketing. However, it should be flexible. After all, things can always change.
This is where an editorial calendar comes in. It should include strategies, specific tactics, suggested headlines, content deadlines and allocated responsibilities. This is a fairly major undertaking, but you’ll be thankful for your hard work once it’s complete — and you’ll save time in the long-run.
Not sure where to begin? Check out The Content Grid V2 by Eloqua and JESS3.
6. Develop Content
In order to even begin the marketing aspect of a content marketing plan, you need to develop the content you are going to use. It needs to be unique and different. Go back to your key messages and subtly incorporate them into the content without overtly selling your product. Content marketing is about creating trust through education and information, not using traditional sales tactics.
The infographic Is Your Content King? is a great visual of how important content is, especially for your marketing plan.
7. Establish Relationships
It’s time to start building a relationship with your target audience. This means tapping into existing communities by sharing and commenting on their content, as well as establishing your own communities across various social networking platforms.
Remember, content marketing isn’t just about you. Like all relationships, you should aim to give more than you receive. Be sure to use the 80/20 principle: 80% of the content you share should be curated (in other words, not your own) and 20% should be your original content.
Find brands that have successfully made a name for themselves, and mimic the steps they’ve taken — but make sure to add your own unique flare. For ideas, check out how these three companies took content marketing to the next level.
8. Spread the Word
Determine industry keywords that are not only relevant to your product, but also are going to generate enough buzz. Search engine optimization (SEO) can play a huge role if you research thoroughly. For example, make sure the tags you’re adding to your blog posts are going to generate traffic, since this can help you get found in the first place. I’m a huge fan of both Scribe SEO and InboundWriter to help you accomplish this.
Also, spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, e-newsletters, etc. But be careful not to force your content where it doesn’t belong. It may seem like you’re trying too hard, and in turn, people may not be interested in what you have to say.
Eloque came out with a free ebook, The Grande Guide to B2B Content Marketing, a helpful read when it comes to content marketing. Plus, it’s useful for deciding which platforms you should employ and how to effectively use them.
9. Measure Effectiveness
Although this is one of the last steps, it’s one of the most important. By measuring the effectiveness of your content, you can determine whether or not your plan needs to be altered, or whether it’s working in the first place.
Keep an eye on pageviews, retweets, Likes, +1’s, shares and so on. Anything your audience can take action on is something, you need to pay attention to. Figure out how well everything is working — or why it’s not working at all.
10. Change the Plan As Needed
If something isn’t working, change it up. Be sure to pay attention to results, and then use them to your advantage.
The most important thing to remember about content marketing: It’s all about building connections and improving your audience’s product loyalty. One of your goals should be for people to recognize your product based off of the content you’ve been placing both online and off. For a more in-depth look into how to create your content marketing plan, check out: Content Marketing For Dummies – Cheat Sheet.