content marketing strategy graphic with charts and graphs

Make a content marketing plan before you start.

You’re probably familiar with the exhortation “done is better than perfect.” And that’s true! …but only to a certain point. Creating good content and putting it out on the web will get you farther than doing nothing at all. But you also open yourself to some common pitfalls that can throw your content marketing strategy off track, waste time and effort, and ultimately discourage the initiative you were hoping to tap by launching before you had properly prepared.

How bad could it possibly get? Consider these scenarios:

  • Disorganized content. You want to put content out on your blog, but you’re not sure where to start. You get out two or three good posts, but then you run out of ideas. At the same time, you’re not sure how to distribute across social media channels. And that’s even if you know which ones to be on in the first place.
  • Off-brand messaging. You want to get your whole team involved, so you encourage everyone to write blogs and share on social. But not everyone writes with a consistent voice, and no one’s sure how to represent your culture. Do you want to share a “behind-the-scenes” look? Or does that not fit your brand?
  • Wasted energy. After all the effort you’ve put in, you’d like to see some positive results. Instead, you experience underwhelming engagement rates and lackluster feedback. Now you’re a couple months in, but with little to show for it beyond a backlog of content that may or may not fit your brand.

It’s not a bad place to be, but it’s not ideal, and it’s kind of put you off the whole “content marketing” strategy. What should you do to make your next effort more of a success?

Think about who you want to reach.

Who are you writing your content for? You will probably have multiple answers to this question, and that’s OK. But you should be able to specify your answer to more than just “everyone.”

Mentally specify a few key audiences (or what we in marketing refer to as personas). These could be a specific demographic, persons of a certain job description, or professionals in target industries. What content would be most valuable to them?

Don’t forget to think about your own industry. Providing information that sets you apart as a thought leader in your field can help establish your credibility among your audience.

Set up a content matrix.

Once you’ve worked out your personas, you should have a pretty good idea of certain “buckets” you’ll want to write into. Maybe you’ve developed a key piece of software for retailers, and you want to focus on clothing, shoes, jewelry, and household goods. Put that information into a spreadsheet, and start brainstorming topics that might interest those personas. Or maybe you have specific areas of expertise that you want to cover, or market verticals. Either way, when you define content areas to write to, you build a content strategy for your business designed for those areas. This helps you form a consistent brand and track past and potential topics. It can even help inspire future content!

You should also do an audit of any current content you’ve created, and see how it fits into your new strategy. You’ll probably be able to keep the majority, but delete anything that is significantly off-brand. Then map these topics according to how they might fit into a sales funnel. You want to evenly target every stage of your funnel with your content to ensure that the right audience members are hearing the right message at the right time.

Create a schedule, and assign ownership.

When you create a content calendar, make sure to include your blog post schedule, any social media channels you intend to target, and any other marketing initiatives (ad campaigns, email drip campaigns, ebook promotions, etc.). If you’re planning to blog twice a week, don’t forget to share your blog posts on your social channels. Vary your planned content for social to include both your own, original content, and other relevant information from around the Internet which you can share. Make sure your team members know who’s responsible for what content, and when their assignments are due.

Happily, there are many programs out there to help you schedule your social media content. Many social media channels come with built-in features to schedule posts ahead of time. But, if you want to view and track all your social activity in one place, you may want to use a platform such as Hootsuite or Coschedule. Choose one of these, and start working ahead.

Have a (simple!) review process.

You should also incorporate a simple review process for your content. You don’t need to have an entire committee weigh in on every post (that would be over-doing it). But you should have at least two people working in tandem to ensure consistency and quality. (Also, this is just a good idea in case one person needs to take a break.)

Your review process may be as simple as a proofreading check, or you may want to coordinate more closely about planned posts. Make sure it’s not so overbearing that it becomes a hindrance to publishing content, but that it also provides an appropriate quality check.

Do you feel ready to build a content strategy for your business?

We sure hope you do. If the above feels overwhelming, then sit down with a colleague and put in an hour or two of thought as to how you might execute a strategy as outlined above. Once you jump in and start working, a lot of this falls into place as basic common sense.

And in all things, be sure to think about your consumer first. Since good content marketing is all about providing value to your audience, you want to think first about what they would most be interested in reading. If you put your customers first, you will see the payoff in increased traffic, better search rankings, and positive customer feedback.

Published 10/20/16 by Laura Lynch