5 Steps to Set the Stage for an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
May 11, 2023
As a marketer, you know that starting any campaign without a strategy in place is just leaving leads on the table. Content marketing is no different—an effective content marketing strategy is an absolute must before you dive into creating and optimizing content for your brand.
If you’re new to creating a content marketing strategy or your current plan needs a refresh, these five steps will help you head in the right direction.
Content Marketing 101: What Is It and What Does It Accomplish?
The idea behind content marketing is that providing valuable, relevant content will help attract a defined audience—your ideal customers—by being exceptionally useful to them.
Because you’ve provided useful information to these customers, you’ve proven yourself to be a qualified expert in your industry and set yourself at the top of the customers’ minds when they are considering your industry’s services.
Content that falls under “content marketing” includes:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- White papers
- Social media
- ... Anything else you would call “content!”
At first glance, this might seem counterintuitive—you’re just giving away your expertise for free, after all! What’s to stop customers from reading your information and then taking care of their problem themselves?
There are a few reasons this isn’t likely. First up, people are busier than ever—being able to quickly find a trusted expert to take care of their problem is much more appealing than becoming an expert themselves and tackling the problem firsthand. But even if their problem is a simple one that they can solve on their own thanks to your content, your content marketing strategy is still effective; you’ve established that you know what you’re talking about, and that reader is likely to return to you with more complicated problems in the future.
Second, content marketing is less a full replacement for all outbound marketing tactics and more of a supplement to support your team. Reaching out to interested leads at a trade show or sending personalized emails to your target accounts is still effective! Content marketing is a great way to reach leads before they’re interested in buying your products or services—a point in the buyer's journey where direct emails would be more likely to push them away than bring them in.
And if that doesn’t convince you, the data doesn’t lie: Content marketing can generate up to three times more leads than outbound marketing and cost less.
Now that you know the basics, let’s dive into the five steps to creating an effective content marketing strategy.
Step 1: Set Goals
When setting goals, consider: What do you want your content marketing strategy to accomplish, and how does this tie into your larger company objectives?
Maybe you’re a new company and no one knows you exist yet. You might want to focus on brand awareness and consider which metrics you’d like to use to measure increased brand awareness—site traffic, social media followers, and subscription sign-ups are good metrics to start with. As always when setting goals, do a little research on reasonable numbers to reach in your chosen time frame and industry, and note them down.
For this example, let’s say you want to increase your site traffic 100 percent by next quarter. Now that you have a SMART goal, we can start working toward it!
Step 2: Audit Your Current Content and Personas
The next step is to look at what content you already have in place to see if it’s meeting the needs of your buyer personas and helping you reach the goals you set in step one.
Let’s look back at our example goal of increasing site traffic 100 percent by next quarter. A great way to do that would be creating content that your ideal customers find interesting and optimizing it to be found on search engines!
Create a chart and divide it by persona and stage of the buyer’s journey. Then, add any existing content to your chart where it fits best.
Where are the gaps in your chart? You don’t need perfect balance in every row and column—a little bit of everything with a focus on your goals is key.
Looking at our example goal once again, if you’re planning to increase brand awareness by increasing your site traffic, you probably need to focus on a range of awareness and consideration stage content across all your personas.
As a quick reminder, in the awareness stage, people are looking for education on their pain points and options for how to solve them. In the consideration stage, people are doing more research on whether or not your product or service is a good fit for their problem. For these stages, you may consider blog articles and e-books on common pain points, how-to videos, and case studies to get started.
A Quick Note on Buyer Personas
If you haven’t created your buyer personas yet, stop now and do so! Knowing who you’re trying to reach is a cornerstone of a successful content marketing plan—you could have the greatest content ever written, but if it doesn’t speak to your personas, it won’t serve you the leads you’re hoping for!
Here are a few resources on creating buyer personas:
- 55 Questions to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas
- Creating Buyer Personas That Drive Results: A Marketer's Guide
Step 3: Repurpose
Before we dive into filling the holes in your content audit with new content, let’s take another look at your existing content. You’ve already spent time and resources creating that content—are you using it to its full potential? Can you turn that webinar into a checklist infographic or expand that popular blog post into an e-book?
Repurposing existing content has a much faster turnaround than starting from scratch. Plus, you can use data from your CMS to see how your audience feels about the content you’ve already created—then, you can make the most of their favorites.
Add your plans for repurposed content into your content audit, then take a look at any remaining gaps. With a sturdy foundation for your content marketing strategy in place, we’re ready to create new content!
Step 4: Create New Content
There are a few things to keep in mind when creating new content for your content marketing strategy.
First, whether you’re writing a blog post, web copy, lead nurture emails, or an e-book, tailoring your content for each buyer persona is a must. All of your personas have different wants, needs, problems, and motivations—content tailored for one simply won’t resonate with another. When starting from scratch with a piece of content, be sure to use the research you did when assigning existing content to your audit to ensure you’re reaching the right audience!
Next, you’ll want to keep your goals in mind and expect that you’ll need to tweak your content to meet them. As you produce content, gather data on how it performs and use that data on your next round of content creation.
Let’s return to our example goal of raising brand awareness by increasing site traffic 100 percent by next quarter and say you create two new pieces of content—an infographic and a blog article, both on a common pain point one of your buyer personas faces. If the infographic gets 25 percent more engagement than the blog post, you’ll know to focus more efforts on creating infographics in the next round!
Step 5: Take Advantage of Automation
Gathering all that data and taking the time to follow up personally with everyone who downloads that popular infographic is an impossible ask for your team. Finding ways to incorporate automation into your content marketing strategy will give you and your team more time to focus on the creative and personalized aspects of your marketing campaigns.
Tools such as HubSpot’s marketing automation software can help you improve conversion rates, accuracy of reporting, email send quality, and more. Adding marketing automation to your content marketing strategy can have a significant impact on your ability to tailor content to your ideal personas.
Ready to Create Your Content Marketing Strategy?
If you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of creating a content marketing strategy, you’re not alone. Balancing your company’s goals, your buyer personas’ needs, and the best practices that help your content show up on search engines can be challenging.
That’s why we’ve created a content marketing guide that provides a comprehensive overview of the process, from goal-setting to execution to results-gathering. The guide covers everything from research and HubSpot setup to content promotion and lead follow-up, and it includes tips from HubSpot Academy’s best practices.
With this guide, marketers can learn how to leverage Google and other tools to create an effective content strategy that helps them reach their goals.
About the author
Lauren Nettles is an Account Manager at SmartBug Media—an expert at all things inbound marketing. She has a wide range of content, copy, and marketing strategy experience, from small local businesses to huge gaming companies and international publishing houses. At SmartBug, her focus is on empowering clients with the results, knowledge, content, data, and tools to make their business the best it can be. Read more articles by Lauren Nettles.
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