Is a Content Marketing Strategy just another buzzword?
With so many trends in Digital Marketing quickly rising and disappearing into thin air you’d most likely exhale through your nose in semi-delight, semi-bitterness when looking at anything Digital Marketing related. Especially at some “how-to” guide. That is to say, you’d probably be right more often than not. Creating a Content Marketing Strategy in 2020 is the antidote to the entropy engulfing modern content marketing.
However, this is not just another “how-to” guide about “hidden secrets”, or “tips and tricks to make your business grow 100x overnight”. This is an actionable step-by-step beginner-friendly guide that you can start applying today and keep implementing into your Digital Marketing routine day in, day out.
Where does Content Marketing come from?
Now that we got that out of the way, I’d like to point out that the origins of Content Marketing date back to 1732, when Benjamin Franklin started publishing his annual “Poor Richard’s Almanac” to promote his printing business. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem like Content Marketing is going anywhere soon to me.
Therefore, I’d like to make the case that Content Marketing, especially Content Marketing based on knowledge and actionable supporting data is going to be even more sought after in a world where everyone can state their opinion online with just a simple click and touch of a button on the keyboard.
What do the numbers say? Do you really need a Content Marketing Strategy even in 2020?
According to Siegemedia, 92% of marketers reported that their company views content as an asset. Only 9% of marketers believe their strategy is excellent, and 38% believe their content strategy is average. We may be onto something here don’t you think? Now let’s look at some more data to support our claims. In 2018 only 39% percent of marketers stated that they had a documented content strategy. However that number jumped to 65% in top-performing organizations!
Top performing organizations have almost double the content documentation than more average-performing organizations. We may be onto something here. I cannot promise you that by creating a content marketing strategy you’ll suddenly become a Fortune 100 company. But, you’ll be more knowledgeable about your customers, more aware of how and where they consume content, and what type of content they prefer to consume. That’s some great data to pave the way to better allocation of assets and investing efforts in the right direction.
This how-to guide will be broken down into several sections for easier reading:
- Setting a mission, goals, and KPI;
- Getting to know your audience;
- Choosing the right content channels;
- Choosing the right content type;
- Create a Content Calendar;
- Start creating the actual content;
- Distribution and Marketing;
- Measure Results;
Step 1. Setting up mission, goals and KPIs
This is an important step as any other, even though it may seem that this is something that MBA undergraduates learn in their first year at university. Setting up a mission and goals will keep your purpose focused. This outlines the “why” you create content and “who” your audience is and maybe most importantly, the benefit your targeted audience gets by consuming the content you produce.
Almost all users consume content with intent. Outlining the mission and goals will help keep your focus on producing content that matches their intent, therefore providing value for both you, and your customer. Key performance indicators, or KPI for short, will play a key role in accurately measuring the impact your Content Marketing efforts have on your business. This will help you adjust your strategy along the way.
Setting your mission:
The Balance, 2018.
We provide (target audience) with (a type of content) to help them (business goals).
You can use this formula to set your mission. You state who your target audience is, and what type of content you serve them to help them achieve their business goals. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than this.
An example of a good mission statement is:
Cradles to Crayons: Provides children from birth to age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school, and at play.
Once your mission statement is ready, you’re good to go with setting up some goals for your Content Marketing Strategy. Below I’ll list some typical goals a strategy can include. However, you should always adapt the goals to your specific needs. Remember there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to setting goals.
Tip: You may have noticed that I tied goals and KPI consequently in the section summary. And yes I didn’t get too much sleep and no, I haven’t had any coffee yet but that’s not a typo. I don’t do typos, except when I do. Nevertheless, it’s definitely not a typo. To get most of your marketing strategy you should determine your highly individualized goals and tie them to your key performance indicators.
Some typical goals may include:
- Increasing brand awareness;
- Driving more website traffic;
- Reducing marketing costs, as content becomes more effective;
- Social media engagement;
- Generate sales leads;
- Convert more leads into customers;
And so on. I could keep listing more marketing goals, but we’d be here for quite a while. So, how do you tie your goals to your KPI’s? First, let’s quickly define what KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are:
A broad definition of KPIs is – a set of quantifiable measures directed towards measuring the completion of the operational and strategic objectives of the company’s goals. From a marketing perspective, we can shift a few letters and arrive at – A marketing metric, or marketing KPIs are a measurable value used by marketing teams and marketers to measure the effectiveness of campaigns across all marketing channels.
A typical set of KPIs can include, but are not limited to:
- Digital Marketing Return on investment
- Website Conversion rate
- Cost per lead by source
- Revenue per lead by source
- % of sales from digital efforts
So how do you tie your goals to your KPIs?
Let’s look into an example:
Let’s say you’re running a brand awareness campaign and your goal is to reach out to as many people as possible in order to make your brand widely recognizable. This would include creating a lot of branded materials and distributing them over a wide area and a large number of people.
The content should be relevant, exciting, and entice people to pay attention and want to get to know the brand. Typical content would include:
- Google Display Ads;
- Blog posts and articles;
All distributed content must represent the company’s values, mission statement, and its purpose clearly to avoid miscommunication.
Typical KPIs for raising brand awareness are:
- Social shares;
- Social listening and reach;
- Unique users;
You should do this for each goal. Tie it to your KPIs and you will have a much better understanding and insight into how well you’re achieving your goals. Makes sense doesn’t it? I told you it wasn’t a typo.
2. Getting to know / Knowing your audience
Knowing your audience is crucial in order to deliver the best possible results and build a solid foundation for your Content Marketing Strategy. Who they are, what challenges they face, and how they can benefit from your service/content are just some of the basic questions that need to be answered. This way we can more precisely define our target audience, and can further help us understand them and try to match their needs.
Knowing your audience will also help you deliver consistent messaging that will resonate with their needs and could quite possibly convert them into loyal repeating customers. Delivering content that will match their needs is the paving stone to forging life-long relations with people and customers in general.
There are several approaches we can use to determine more closely what our target audience is:
- Collect demographic data;
- Create buyer personas;
- Conduct surveys;
- Competitive analysis;
We can use the above-mentioned approaches when crafting our Content Marketing Strategy to directly influence our decision making in several departments:
- More accurate keyword research and keyword targeting in general;
- Crafting a better UX (User Experience);
- Identify key influencers in the targeted industry;
- Optimize content for SEO by proper usage of keywords and content targeting;
- Optimize our blog content to more directly support our customer in educating them towards solving their problems;
If I was an Eskimo, you wouldn’t be selling me a fridge right? Content Marketing with good audience analysis aims to avoid just that. Selling the wrong product or service, to the wrong target audience. With global warming around the corner, Eskimos might need fridges at some point, but we’re not there yet.
So how do we finally get to analyzing the audience and identifying the right one?
Each Social Media Platform has its own version of integrated analytics to some degree, which is pretty accurate on its own.
All these insight tools will give us the following key points of information such as:
First, we start off with Google Analytics:
In order to analyze this data through Google Analytics, you’ll have to log in to your Google Account, open up Analytics, and follow these steps:
Audience → Interests → Overview.
Google Analytics offers a range of tools to help you analyze your audience and target each segment of the market accurately. I know all these numbers may look like a big bully about to serve you your due, but don’t worry take it slow and look into each section one by one in order not to get overwhelmed by information.
Facebook Insights is another tool we can use to look into our user’s data and make an analysis of our user’s interests, whereabouts, and pain points.In order to get to Insights, open up your page and click on Insights.
You can also use Twitter Analytics on Twitter to get more info on your Twitter followers.
To access Twitter Analytics tools, click on your profile image, and then select Analytics from your drop-down menu.
Conducting surveys is a great way to get a direct response from your social media followers and customers. Email marketing can be a great way to send surveys to your customers in order to get their feedback as well.
Surveys are a good way to get real and direct data about your customers since most surveys are anonymous so people answering the survey can be honest and freely pinpoint any pain point they experience when using your services or using your product.
With surveys, you can ask your audience specific questions or ask them to give a general statement about what they need from you, what they like, what they dislike, and give you honest recommendations on things you should improve.
There are many tools you can use to conduct surveys. Some of the better web software is:
Some key benefits you’ll gain by conducting online surveys are:
- You’ll gain product insight;
- Data directly from your customers;
- You’ll get to know what the most urgent needs of your customers are;
- It’s extremely cost-effective;
Create buyer personas
Creating a Buyer Persona is one of the best, if not the best fundamental approach to building a solid database of information about your target audience. Once you’ve gathered data from your analytics tools and from conducting surveys it’s time to create a buyer persona, also known as a customer avatar.
This should be a representation of your ideal customer, defined by your target audience’s pain points, demographics, interests, and behavioral motivators. There are many templates online which you can use to create a buyer persona. Here’s a list with 10 great templates you can use to create your own buyer persona.
Some key benefits of creating a buyer personas are:
- You will be able to identify what content your audience is most likely to respond to;
- Understand why your target audience would need to use your product or service;
- Where your target audience is most likely to spend their time online;
- Identify a negative persona;
This is an example of a buyer person from Neil Patel:
By properly implementing Buyer Personas into your daily Content Marketing Routine, you should be able to create long-lasting relationships with your target audience and create a loyal base of customers.
3. Choosing the right Content Channels
Choosing the right Content Channels is as important as choosing your target audience. You wouldn’t be selling baby diapers on Askmen.com just as you wouldn’t be targeting elderly people with a TikTok dance course. Not that there aren’t elderly people dancing on TikTok, it’s just that there aren’t as many.
The content channels through which you would choose to deliver your content are closely connected to your target audience. If you’ve done a thorough target audience research, as we talked about in the previous step, you shouldn’t have a problem finding the channel where your audience hangs out.
If you’re still not sure about this, you can use several tools that will help you more easily determine the best course of action. Such tools are:
- Google Analytics → Acquisition → Social → Overview
- Buzz Sumo and their Content Analysis tool
If you’re not familiar with these tools you can do manual research to help your decision. Just go to Google, Twitter, or YouTube and take a look at which posts get the most engagement from audiences on each Social Media Channel. What you can do is also take a look at each of your closest competitors and see how their posts are performing, and on which channels they are performing best.
Would PPC work, or is organic traffic better?
Tip: If you have a big marketing budget, PPC may be a very valid option to help you reach your targeted audience effectively, but may cost more than other channels which can be purely organic. PPC through Google, Facebook, Instagram, etc. can help you build an audience without waiting for organic SEO to give you results over the course of several months.
Organic traffic is still the most worthwhile investment, as it will bring in traffic without extra financial expenditures on your part. Keeping up with the latest SEO standards and creating problem-solving, shareable content through a Blog can be a great starting point if you’re not sure where to start.
If you already have content put out on the web, check your own content to see where it’s performing best, and expand from there. Start with one or two channels at a time, don’t try to do everything at once.
Good job! You’re halfway to your Content Marketing Strategy. Keep up the good work!
4. Choosing the Right Content Type
When starting out it’s best to be focused on creating content that can easily be shared by other people, and on other platforms to enhance the visibility and reach of the content. Creating content that only a few people will stumble upon won’t do much for exposure of your brand or product, and it will be time spent for nothing. Let’s start with the most obvious one:
Blogging is one of the most popular content types and with good reason. Blog posts are relatively easy to create, taking into consideration that you’ve done proper research and have relatively good knowledge about the subject. Even if you lack knowledge in certain areas about the subject, doing proper research backed with data, and by industry leaders is a good way to go.
Why blog posts?
Creating properly researched Blog posts with SEO in mind has the potential to open up your website to a host of new website visitors, which are all potential customers provided you offer content that helps them, or educates them on a topic they are not well versed in.
The other great thing about Blog posts is that they are easily shareable on different kinds of social media platforms, or even cited in other blog posts, on other websites. If the blog post you’ve written is of really great quality, you open yourself up to the opportunity of being invited to write a guest post on someone else’s website which will link back to your original website.
- Blog posts help you build authority on the web;
- Posts written with SEO in mind have the potential to enable your content to be exposed to thousands of people;
- Blog posts can easily be converted to other types of content, expanding to more platforms;
Videos are an integral marketing type of almost every content marketing strategy in 2020. Looking at Video statistics in terms of ROI we can see that:
- 87% of marketers say video has increased traffic to their website;
- 95% of marketers say that video has increased user understanding of their product or service;
- 83% of video marketers have said that video marketing helped them increase leads;
- 80% say that video marketing has directly increased sales;
The numbers speak for themselves. Video consumption as a content type is significantly increasing every year. With almost everybody owning a smartphone capable of shooting camera quality videos, making videos is now easier than ever.
How can you incorporate video into your content marketing strategy?
Depending on your product or service there are many ways video can fit into your overall strategy. Some ideas for video as a content marketing tool:
- Product reviews;
- Interviews with industry leaders, or relevant people from the targeted industry;
- Product walkthroughs and learning users how to use the product or service;
- Informational videos, guides, and video how-tos;
- Create AMA (ask me anything) sessions with customers;
One other popular video strategy is to use Live Videos to your advantage. Almost every social media platform offers an option for going live, such as Facebook and Instagram, and it’s a tool that can be used to your advantage.
Podcasts are a great marketing tool especially combined with Video Marketing, as videos can be transformed into podcasts pretty easily. According to Edison, over 40% of Americans listen to podcasts, which in itself is a big number. They offer a plethora of benefits when used as a marketing tool such as:
- They are easy to create, especially when you’re already into Video Marketing;
- Podcasts allow you to build authority in your industry;
- Interviewing other people is a great way to connect to your target audience and to other relevant speakers;
- Reaching prospects who don’t consume other types of content;
- They are cheaper to produce than videos;
Podcasts are especially good if you don’t want to show your face in front of a camera, or if you don’t feel comfortable being recorded. Podcasts are also good for companies with lower budgets who want to reach a wider audience but don’t want to go into Video Marketing.
Infographics have been around for a while, but that doesn’t mean that they’re out of style. Put plainly, looking at pictures is much more fun than reading text. It’s just the way our brains work. That’s why infographics are heavily used in content marketing strategies and in blog posts pretty often. They work even better on Social Media as they are highly shareable, easy to consume content. But why is this so? According to an infographic on Hubspot:
- 90% of transmitted information to the brain is visual;
- Visuals are processed 60,000 times in the brain faster than text;
- 40% of people will respond better to visual information than to text;
These are just some of the numbers that back up what I said in the opening paragraph of the section. But using Infographics alone isn’t going to cut it. Infographics have to be part of a much wider content marketing strategy. You cannot expect to get results just by posting infographics two times a week and waiting for the magic to happen.
Some tips for success with Infographics:
- Each infographic has to tell the user a story;
- Infographics have to be backed with relevant data;
- Create the graphic elements of the Infographics according to the theme of the story to make them attractive;
- Headlines and subheadings play a big role in Infographics;
5. Create a Content Marketing Calendar;
Creating a Content Calendar for your marketing efforts is an important step as any other in creating your Content Marketing Strategy. Diving into content creation and publishing without organizing your workflow and schedule first is like having a 30minute break from work, and having to run to the bank, grocery store and pharmacy, and come back to work in time. It just doesn’t work.
You might get off to a good start, but without making a plan you’ll probably end up being late to work, and not having finished anything you had planned. That’s where a Content Marketing Calendar comes in. A content calendar doesn’t have to be anything complex or expensive, a simple input into Google Calendar can do the trick.
Before starting to work on your content calendar, you have to make sure that you have a content marketing strategy first, and implement the calendar along with the strategy. Working on a calendar without having a strategy to back it up is just fishing in a pile of sand. There’s no point to it.
Some ways to create a Content Calendar:
- Just use Google Calendar and set the names of topics in the appropriate dates;
- Use Asana to create a content calendar;
- Use a ready-made template;
Or you can use Excel to create a template of your own. It really doesn’t have to be anything complex. Mine is pretty straight forward but it does what it’s supposed to perfectly.
Some tips when creating a content calendar template:
- Color code different types of content, use a different color for each content type;
- Make your calendar accessible to all teammates;
- Plan ahead, don’t change the content calendar all the time, this has the potential to disturb the whole workflow;
- Include the name of the topic, and a short description of the project if possible. You could also write what other team members need to contribute to the project;
6. Start creating the actual content
And now we get to the center of things. Creating content can sometimes be a dreadful thought to anyone, even experienced content marketers. Will the project be a success, or will you stumble on that writer’s block again? It’s a question that you’ll never know to answer unless you start creating. We’ll take a blog post as an example, just as the one right here.
Start with research
Every piece of content starts with research.
By starting off with proper keyword research you’ll get ideas for the name of your topic which will create a roadmap for you to follow.
You can use a tool such as AnswerThePublic.com to find topics people are researching and get ideas about what you should write on.
Things you should keep in mind:
- See what’s available and how you can improve the content already written;
- Look at what your competitors are writing, and what you can do better than them;
- Analyze how what you bring to the table, brings new value to your targeted audience;
- Never steal someone else’s work;
Once you have a name for your topic start researching similar posts that answer or solve the same problem as your own topic. Analyze it thoroughly and see where it comes short, and what it does well. Try to find some relevant industry leaders that speak or write on the same topic. Also, find some data to back up your claims.
Once your research is done start off by creating a blog post outline. A blog post outline is a simple document that documents each section of the blog post you’re going to write. A blog post outline of this article would be:
How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy in 2020
- Setting a mission, goals and KPI
Explain meaning, show definitions, include examples.
- Getting to know your audience
Include templates and examples, explain processes and importance.
- Choosing the right content channels
Include 4 channels, explain benefits, link to other sources.
- Choosing the right content type
Include 4 types, explain benefits, link to industry leaders.
- Create a Content Calendar
Include templates, explain benefits and how to make your own.
And so on. I basically include a short description of what I want to include in each section and add sources I can use to research each section individually.
The next step is to decide on your tone of voice. An important thing to remember is that your writing has to represent and reinforce your brand`s belief and how you want your customers to perceive you. Knowing your target audience also helps in finding the right tone of voice.
Some tools to help you write better content:
- Grammarly – a must for proofreading and grammar mistakes;
- Headline Analyzer – great for finding awesome headlines;
- Evernote – for taking notes from research, creating outlines, etc.;
- And pen and paper – I prefer old school techniques, so this is what I use;
7. Distribution and Marketing
Content distribution may sound like just another marketing buzzword, but honestly most of the time it’s misused. Content distribution is not a magic formula that will skyrocket your content and shoot it straight to the first page of Google. Unless your content offers value, nothing can do that. So what is content distribution?
As defined by Hubspot – Content distribution is the process of sharing, publishing, and promoting your content.
Sounds too simple? It’s because it is. In this very blog post, we went over pretty much everything you need to do to get to the final phase of the Content Marketing Strategy, the distribution of the content. There are many types of content that can be distributed through various means:
- Ebooks can be distributed through Amazon Kindle, Google Books, Apple (iBooks) and Barnes and Noble;
- Podcasts can be distributed via Google Podcasts, Spotify or Apple Podcasts
- Videos can be distributed through YouTube, Vimeo or Twitch;
- Infographics can be shared on your personal blog or Pinterest;
- Webinars can e be distributed through email marketing and hosted on your personal website;
- Blogs will of course be hosted on your personal web hosting space but can be distributed as social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Medium is also a great place for distributing blog posts.
Content Distribution Channels
Content distribution channels are the channels through which you distribute your content to your subscribers or target audience. In general, there are three main content distribution channels that are classified as:
- Owned content distribution channels – owned are channels that we personally, or our company owns such as a website or blog. This also includes our email, social media profiles, etc.
- Earned content distribution channels – earned content channels are also known as “shared” content distribution channels. At its core, this is when a third party shares or mentions, or promotes your content. This also includes posting on forums or discussion boards you don’t own, such as Quora. While the content you post may be entirely your own, the platform which you post it on is not.
- Paid content distribution channels – This is when we pay for the distribution of our content. This includes platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook PPC ads, and influencer marketing. This is one of the most common methods of content distribution especially if your company is new to the market and wants to speed up the process of brand recognition and awareness.
Focusing on content distribution offers several benefits:
- Increased brand awareness;
- More clicks;
- Better chance of conversion;
- Saves time by distributing the content directly at your target audience;
- Allows for more direct measuring of results;
8. Measuring Results
We will close off this article with the final step which is measuring results. This step is heavily dictated by the goals of your company, and the KPIs you’ve set as a measurable milestone earlier in your content marketing strategy. This step will mainly be done through external tools, some of which we mentioned earlier in this article such as Google Analytics. Some key points to remember when tracking and analyzing your results and tying them to your goals:
- Take action, don’t just measure for the sake of measuring;
- Make sure that the metrics you’re measuring support your company goals;
- Measure metrics that provide you insight into how you can improve your content and strategy;
- Analyze each metric, don’t just write it down. This will help you identify where opportunities for growth lie;
This chart from CMI summarizes what the best KPIs for each type of content is. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all. Talk to your team and make sure you’re all on the same page regarding what you’re trying to achieve by measuring these results. Collect data each month and analyze it carefully and compare the results month to month.
Some tools for measuring KPIs:
If you’ve made it to the end, great job! I know the article was lengthy, but if you follow it through you’ll have a solid Content Marketing Strategy which will serve as the foundation to all your marketing efforts.