Content marketing isn't new. Actually it has been around for a long time. Television commercials, newspaper ads, radio commercials - are all earlier forms of content marketing. But what is new, we have better tools today making it possible for organizations of all sizes to compete, have a voice, establish trust, build communities with deeper connections and ultimately compel prospects to take further action.
Content marketing tools are cheap or free and because everyone has access it seems everyone is trying their hand. The result is a lot of content, some good and some not so good. The bar has been raised. But in order to be effective at content marketing it is important that we aren't just creating content, but rather creating quality content that is rooted in strategy.
First Things First
Before putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard it is important to first have a plan. How else will we know if we are successful with our content marketing efforts, right?
Any effective communication – whether it be a multi-media paid advertising campaign or a simple blog post - must first be rooted in strategy. Developing your content marketing strategy requires some work upfront, but it is absolutely critical to know where we want to go and how we are going to get there.
What Are Your Organization's Objectives?
First, establish objectives. Are you a startup and need to create awareness? Maybe you are an established brand and planning to expand your products or services. Perhaps you need to attract, recruit and hire qualified employees for specific roles. It is important that marketing engages with leadership, stakeholders, board members and development to insure everyone is on the same page.
Which of your organization's objectives can be accomplished with content marketing? Prioritize the objectives based on which ones can be impacted with content marketing. Probably not all objectives can be accomplished with the help of content marketing, so choose wisely.
Define Your Target Audience with Personas
Once there is a clear understanding of the objectives, determine your audience or audiences for each of these, AS WELL AS the desired response from each target audience.
One of the best ways to get an understanding of your target audience is to create personas. What does your target audience look like. Not talking hair and eye color, but rather age, sex, occupation, income, interests, decision drivers, what is important to them, etc.
For example, let’s say we have determined that employee recruitment and hiring for specific roles is one objective. What does that person look like? What do current successful employees in this role look like? Why did they come to work for your company? What was the deciding factor for making a change? What were there points of dissatisfaction at their prior place of employment? Where do they want to go in their career? What is important to them professionally and personally? Gathering this information is a blog post in and of itself. Start with conversations with current employees and or online surveys to learn more. Focus groups, surveys, interviews usually provide great insight. More times than not, I am personally surprised and realize my assumptions are usually incorrect or at least incomplete.
Define the Desired Response From Your Target Audience
This is just as important as defining the audience. What do I want my target audience to do once they read my blog? Read another? Watch a video featuring current employees? Upload a resume? Fill out an application online? Come in for an inteview on the spot?
Define Channels of Communication
Where does your target audience get their information? Where do they hang out online? What sources do they trust? Are they heavy users of social media? If so, which social media channels?
Content marketing channels can be divided into two categories: passive and active. A blog would be considered passive. It is posted and ready to be read when someone is ready to read it (and a very powerful tool to turn a warm lead into a customer). Social media, SEO and e-mail marketing are active channels and work to connect prospects with your content on your blog.
How do you decide which social media channels? The answer is, it depends on the organization, product or service offered, objectives, target audience, and staffing.
According to an article in Zephoria.com, "Facebook continues to be the most popular choice with more than 1.8 billion monthly active users worldwide. At 2.23 billion, Facebook has more monthly active users than WhatsApp (1.5 billion), Twitter (336 million) and Instagram (1 billion) (Source: various). Facebook continues to reign in popularity over other social media channels, but the competition is mounting."
Here at TotalCom Marketing, we advise our clients to choose one or two and do those well. Social media and content marketing is cheap, but it's not free as it very time consuming to do it right. Choose wisely and be willing to let one (or two) social media channels go if it is spreading you or your staff too thin. Better to be effective at one than mediocre (or worse) at two or three or (GASP!) four.
Create a Schedule and a Calendar
Your content marketing plan should include a schedule and a calendar. First, create a schedule... and stick with it. For example, your schedule might be that you commit to writing a blog 3 times per month, posting on FB twice per day, and sending an e-newsletter twice per month. In the schedule, be sure to include when you will analyze to improve, when you will report your efforts and who will receive the report.
Second, create a content calendar - by month, quarter, week or year - whatever works best for your organization and team. Many of our clients are healthcare and hospital-related so we start each month's calendar with health observances and recognition days, tie-ins to traditional media campaigns we are running, new physician announcements, employee recognition, message from the CEO, events and classes, and the like.
There are tools that can help organize your efforts, minimize duplication and maximize efficiency. One that we use at TotalCom Marketing is Hoot Suite. Everyone on the team can see what is going on, an approval process can be set up, drafts created (and submited for approval), posts scheduled and more from within the dashboard. There are many sources similar to Hoot Suite, some with very impressive and robust features, but sometimes the basics are sufficient (especially with a smaller team).
Create a Document of Your Strategic Content Marketing Plan
It can be as simple as a one pager or as complex as a 6 inch binder, just create a document from your research and planning. Not only will you get great satisfaction from looking at your hard work on paper, this plan will help keep you organized and on track. In addition, your document will be helpful explaining the who, why, when of your content marketing efforts to others in your organization (and help you show ROI).
This document will also help anyone else on your team understand the plan. For example, if you have volunteers or interns that you mentor, then they too have a road map of where you want to go and how you are going to get there. And when a board member pulls you aside and says his daughter thinks you should be using Snapchat, well you can pull out your trusty document to show you have a very strategic, well thought out plan for accomplishing your organization's objectives (and smile and politely say you will be glad to consider it when planning next year's content marketing though).
Your document should be a recap of your research and planning and include your content marketing objectives, personas, desired response from each target audience, schedule and calendar.
Sit back and admire your work for a bit...Now get started creating content.
Have questions about getting started with content marketing or just improving your content marketing? Feel free to email me, Lori Moore at TotalCom Marketing Communications.