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How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy That Actually Works

By Chloe Hill
Dec 21, 2019 4:00 AM PT
new customer habits demand a new approach to content marketing

Today's consumers live in a digital world, which means they can retrieve all the information they desire at the touch of a button, putting them in control.

Added to this, they have become immune to traditional outbound marketing methods -- such as billboards and television advertisements -- and they expect brands and businesses to tailor their messages based on customers' individual needs and preferences.

Despite the new lay of the land, e-commerce businesses can create content marketing strategies that cut through the noise and help push prospects down sales funnels.

Content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

It costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing, Demand Metric has found.

That's impressive, but can you confidently say you fully understand how it works?

Defining the Term

CMI defines "content marketing" as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content, in order to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and, ultimately, drive profitable customer action.

I like to boil it down to communicating the right message, to the right audience, on the right channels, at the right time. If you follow this approach, your content efforts will reach your desired audience, and the information you push out will be timely, topical, and of high value. That in turn will position your business as trustworthy, insightful and authoritative.

What Makes Content Marketing Better?

Traditional marketing refers to outbound marketing, which is perceived as the old way of doing things -- that is, targeting a mass audience through tactics such as television advertising, billboard advertising and cold calling.

While this will get your message and brand in front of a lot of people, the right people may not see it. There is a lot of this sort of advertising around, and consumers have become immune to it. Research backs this up.

Cold calling is 90.9 percent ineffective, found the Harvard Business Review.

Eighty-four percent of us fast-forward through television ads, suggests an Arris poll.

In comparison, content marketing focuses on businesses generating valuable, insightful content and making it readily available to target customers. It's less intrusive when compared to outbound marketing, as it requires the customer to come to your business, through search online and social media channels.

Developing Your Strategy

To develop a successful content marketing strategy that actually works, you need to go back to basics.

You already may be blogging, or vlogging, but without a thorough understanding of your audience and pain points, your efforts will be wasted.

To help you map out and work from a sophisticated strategy, I'd recommend taking the following four steps:

1. Identify

Start by conducting in-depth research into your audience, your business and your offering.

Uncover what your audiences' challenges are and what they're trying to achieve, so that you can create content that provides the answers to their questions. Next, delve into your customers' content consumption habits.

Consider how they find information and what types of content formats they prefer. This could be online, on social media channels, or offline through different publications, news outlets or magazines. If they prefer online content, how do they wish to receive it?

One type of content that is making waves online is video. It's been a key trend this year and its growth is expected to continue into 2020.

Seventy-two percent of participants in a Wyzowl study preferred to view a video over text when learning about a product or service.

Seventy-three percent of marketers surveyed by TopRankBlog were using YouTube to distribute content.

Another key aspect to research is what your competitors are doing and what's trending in your wider industry. This will help you identify the hot topics that everyone seems to be talking about and engaging with, and you'll be able to share your viewpoint on these topics to add to the conversation.

2. Plan

Once you've conducted your research, it's time to create your plan of action.

I recommend creating a plan for three to six months, as this will give you enough time to run a campaign effectively and produce enough content to identify the top-performing pieces of content.

So, what should you include in your plan?

  • Objectives -- It's essential to include your objectives for your activity in your plan, as this will help focus your efforts on your end game. You can break down your objectives for individual pieces of content. For example, one piece of content may be intended to drive brand awareness, while another may be specifically to encourage people to click through to your website.
  • Audience -- If you have multiple audience types, it's useful to create specific content for the different types of audiences you're trying to engage, as each audience type will have different problems. By breaking down pieces of content based on audience type, you'll establish if you have produced the right amount of content for each group.
  • Monthly theme -- Something I use myself in content marketing plans is a monthly theme and topic. Themes can be based on industry trends, seasonal influences, or be broken down by audience problems. They should function as the umbrella for the rest of the content you produce that month. For example, a monthly theme could be "data" and it could be broken down into smaller sub topics throughout the month such as "data storage," "data cleansing," "data capture," etc.
  • Content amount -- Once you've decided on your monthly theme, you'll need to decide how much content you'll produce for the month. It's useful to begin with your "pillar" theme and then support it with smaller pieces of "cluster" content. This way you'll be able to maximize your content production efforts and break down the larger piece of content into smaller, bite-sized chunks.
  • Content formats -- Finally, you'll need to decide the content formats you'll produce. Depending on your audience preferences, you can create a wide variety of content formats, which will keep your audience engaged. You can pick from guides, blogs, vlogs, social media postcards, infographics, templates, checklists, quizzes, case studies, reports, webinars, polls and podcasts. Creating a wide variety of content types for your website will help it appeal to Google search algorithms and social media algorithms. New, varied content is favored, meaning it'll be pushed up in search rankings and social media feeds.

3. Amplify

Once you've planned all your activity, it's time to begin producing your content and pushing it out.

Ensure your content features a mix of promotion along with information and knowledge, to teach your audience something they may not already know, adding value. This mixed approach also will help to position your business as a thought leader, and will enable you to build credibility and gain trust from your prospective customers.

Relating back to your initial research, you'll then need to push your finished content items on the channels that your audiences use the most. This could be social media, email, specific publications or direct mail. By utilizing several amplification channels, you'll create multiple touch points with your audience, which will help keep your brand at the front of your prospects' minds.

If you're using online digital channels to push your content, remember to use keywords and hashtags where you can. By using the same keywords your audiences are using to search for information, you'll appear toward the top of search rankings. That will improve the likelihood of your content being seen by your desired audience.

Hashtags work in a way thats similar to keywords, in that they categorize content based on searches. On channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn, adding three hashtags hits the sweet spot, whereas, on Instagram you can use significantly more.

4. Review and Refine

You must monitor performance after you set your content live and look back at your efforts to see what's working and what isn't.

Look at how your content is performing on social media. What's achieving the highest levels of interaction, and what does your audience like the most? Review your Google analytics to identify where traffic is coming from, and what website visitors are doing when they land on your homepage. Is there a specific blog that people are visiting the most?

By reviewing how people are engaging with your content, you'll be able to identify the content topics and formats your audiences prefer, and what you should be producing more of, which will give your audience exactly what they want.

Final Words

When done correctly, content marketing can help catapult brand in front of the audiences that are searching for answers and information about what your products can deliver.

It's useful to remember that content marketing isn't a "set it and forget it" technique. It is a process that requires regular, consistent, focused production to increase your visibility and demonstrate your expertise.


Chloe Hill is a content marketing manager at UK-based digital agency, Origin. She specializes in developing and delivering content marketing, PR and social media campaigns for clients in technology, manufacturing and insurance.


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