How to create a Content Marketing Strategy: A Step by Step Guide
So much about the web is promising, especially for marketers.
People have needs, they search for answers, you give them useful information, and they are yours forever!
In fact, it kinda works that way, but not exactly.
A permission based conversation.
Way back in 1998, best selling author, entrepreneur and marketer Seth Godin coined the phrase “permission based marketing.”
In doing so, Seth secured his place as a guru in the age of digital marketing.
You see he anticipated that a crowded marketplace of advertisers interrupting consumers would soon to be replaced.
He understood new channels and platforms (like Google and later Facebook) would flip the table.
Seth may not have known the specifics but he correctly anticipated a time when platforms would put buyers in control.
Perhaps not even he realized users would not just give permission but would willingly raise their hands to say “I like this, this, this and this!”
Today marketers must be on an ever present quest to gain customers by getting the customer to give their permission to be marketed to and engaged with.
How? by giving customers something that they perceive as beneficial. This in turn opens the door to permission.
Sure, you’ll have work to do. You must raise their awareness about what you are offering.
Done correctly, ethey will be picking up what you are selling, and its your Content Marketing Strategy that helps shape and creates the framework of content that offers the “lessons” your visitor finds interesting.
Along the way you’ll work to convert them. As they become customers and you keep them delighted they’ll become sales agents “sharing” your valuable content and letting others know the value you offer.
In this guide we will review each step needed to structure a fictional economic development agency’s (in Montgomery County) content marketing strategy. Remember, we want to:
What is Content Marketing?
Let’s say you bought a new car and you have just moved to the northeastern USA where it snows in the winter causing hazardous road conditions.
You’re not sure, do you need to change your tires?
You google “summer tires in winter,” and get a Google search engine results page (SERP) and the first result is from an online tire merchant: tyretrack.com.
You have reached a useful blog post article tyretrack.com provided, “Are Summer Tires Safe in Winter Driving Conditions.”
Well, you think, you hadn’t really expected to have to change your tires, but it sounds like it may be the safe thing to do.
As you read the article further, you see there is an informative infographic about winter driving safety strategies.
It has tips on what way to turn the wheel if you go into a tailspin on ice.
A little further down from the infographic is a link to a “how to winterize your car” article and a downloadable “stow-able winter safety kit list”
All of this information is not specific to tires, but it is specifically offered by a tire retailer who is marketing to you.
This valuable information is entices you to give your permission for further engagement.
You click on a link that says “how to pack a winter safety kit, ” and, hmmm, even more valuable information! Boy, is this place helpful.
In the footer of a website is a link “sign up for service notifications.”
So, you raise your hand. You say, “hey, I’m interested!”
You just converted. You downloaded the stow-able safety list?
Yeah, that’s a conversion, too.
That is content marketing 101. Various forms of valuable downloadable content, or content you interact with get your permission (attraction) get you actively interested (engagement) and depending upon your level of readiness and where you are on they buyer journey get you to sign up (conversion).
Here are some great examples of the kinds of content marketers deploy to get audience to give their permission to be marketed to:
These enticements move visitors along a funnel in order to increasingly engage with the brand.
Why do you need a content marketing strategy?
A content strategy must: engage visitors with the brand, raise trust, ease user pain points, convince and convert.
As we have said, today’s users are inundated and because of the web, can ignore old forms of media in favor of a place where they call the shots.
The visitor you are courting expects quality, useful information that is entertaining and valuable.
In the case of the tire purchaser, the first step in attraction was brought about by an information packed blog post..
Experiences like these take time and planning.
3 KEY STEPS TO BUILD YOUR CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
1) The Measurement plan
- An overview of measuring your online impact
- Your economic development mission/business objectives
- Online goals that support your mission/business objectives
- Aligning your strategies and tactics
- Select key performance indicators
- Segment your data
- Set targets
You cannot manage what you do not measure is the oldest of business saying: so true.
By establishing a specific measurement plan against which you measure the performance of your online efforts you can really see what is working.
Economic Development business objectives
The economic climate has changed since 2008, if you haven’t updated your mission statement since then, take a new look and assess this question: why do you exist.
The answer to that question is the foundation to getting a concise, precise Mission Statement.
From there, everything you do online will be done to support your Mission Statement/business objective.
Your objective is the top of the pyramid with everything you do online underneath in support of it.
- Sample Objective (why do you exist?)
We exist to encourage economic development in County X to spur job growth in support of the general welfare of the citizens of our county as well as form key relationships with:
- Light industrial manufacturers
• Entrepreneurial businesses
Goals that support your objective
Now that you have defined the reason you exist, it’s time to identify online goals that you have that support your overall mission, in other words your business objective.
Start by identify three main online goals that make your website work in support your objective:
Sample Goal number one:
X County has many attractive economic incentives. The website and social channels will raise awareness about these incentives.
Sample Goal number two:
X County has many attractive training programs geared specifically to tech companies.
The website and social channels will capture leads in order to market the various programs.
Sample Goal number three:
X County has favorable pro-business policies and access to capital.
The website and social channels will publish and promote content about access to funds and feature high light events, driving sign ups and attendance/
The purpose of strategies is to offer topic-specific content in support of your goals and objectives.
The content used is tactical.
This means your content is intended to engage your users, gain their interest and confidence in you as you by offering quality content which is designed with one purpose and one purpose only: get the visitor to convert. That could be an email sign up, a white paper download, a
Review these three strategies to get a sense of how strategies work online to achieve your goals and objectives
Strategy number one:
ATTRACT: Reinforce online/offline advertising with well optimized, interesting articles designed to ATTRACT visitors.
Strategy number two:
ENGAGE: Interest your visitors with compelling high value content, such as an Ebook, in exchange for an email address
Strategy number three:
CONVERT: Your audience is interested in you, invite them to a workshop or webinar event at which point, your visitor is primed for the relevant person in charge of sales and closing.
Targets, Segments, and KPI’s
Your strategic planning must also include KPI’s (key performance indicators), targets, segments and outcomes.
For a thorough review of KPI’s, targets and segments, and to gain an understanding of marketing measurement models, we can’t recommend Avinash Kaushik’s guidance highly enough read more about measurement here.
Of course, Avinash is also a lead evangelist for Google, and they have their own suggestions regarding measurement planning you can read about here.
Step 2) Content Planning
- Identify your core constituents
- Define your target audiences’ personas
- Assign three personas to each of your objective buckets (i.e. Light Industrial Manufacturers, Academia, Entrepreneurial Businesses)
- Identify your brand’s persona
- Identify any other possible audience members
- Map your content
Identify and define your audience and their persona
Defining audience personas is one of the most important steps in a content planning process.
When you analyze who you are trying to reach you also ask how are they likely to look for you. Therefore, you construct profiles of these individuals for whom you will create content:
• What do they do?
• What are their interests
• What is their level of education
• What are the key demographic metrics such as net worth that helps define them
• What are their needs and wants
• What are their pain points
By answering these questions, you are not only considering how to give your potential users the online content experience they will be most attracted to and most likely to engage with, you are also considering the keywords they will use to search for your offerings.
These keywords will shape your PPC campaigns as well as on page content articles that offer topics of interest containing some of the phrases and keywords that motivate the audience you hope to attract.
In light of that, keep the number of personas you will research limited by grouping.
- Group your offerings into three large buckets relative to the focus of your economic development agency and the businesses you hope to attract
- Assign three personas to each bucket area. Are you hoping to attract a 3D manufacturing resource to your area? Construct personas around the types of business owners who might search online for 3D printing capabilities they need access to as they grow their business and thus jobs in your region.
Tools to research personas:
- Identify your brand as a persona
Just as your audience needs defining, your entity needs definition, too.
Some things to keep in mind when identifying your economic development agencies:
• Create a brief values statement succinctly summing up the ethics you embrace on behalf of your constituents
• Create a unique selling proposition: in what way do you do what you do better than the competition?
• Create at least three sets of pain points your audience might have that you will help them overcome
- Identify your other core constituents
While other constituents might not be your core audience personas, nevertheless who they are and what their interests are still helps guide content.
Are elected officials constituents? You may find that one of your core offerings, such as events, is relevant to them.
What about venture capitalists? Can start-up funders work with the businesses you are hoping to attract? Don’t you want to attract them, too?
And how about the general public. Do they know who you are? There are always two scenarios concerning the general public and you, for instance:
- Something good happens, say it’s a major win in the shape of a new business moving in and bringing jobs.
2. A negative news story somehow directly tied to you.
In either case, the general public is a core constituent and it is in your power to shape how they view you just as it is with any of your other constituents.
Dig deep and make a list of every major group with whom you will potentially interact online.
Step 3) Content Mapping
- What is content mapping?
Content mapping is a way for marketers to be granular about matching content to their intended customers at the right time and place on the customer journey.
Content mapping is a strategy empowering marketers to imagine a customer (hence buyer personas), think about how that customer’s state of mind and prepare targeted messages along the touch points of the customers online journey.
Inpatient customers have short attention spans, but high expectations for quality information.
It is your job as a marketer to get your economic development agency’s incentives, offerings, or advantages in front of your theoretical customer.
Content mapping defines specific kinds of content that you will deploy to your buyer personas at the right time and the right digital place as they journey towards their purchase decision.
- How to practice content mapping:
- Identify your customer personas (as we explained)
• Assess your current content (is it relevant to your customers personas?).
• Mercilessly edit out content that is not relevant, and outline and categorize what content is
• Brainstorm blog content ideas based upon your main offerings:
b. White papers
c. Custom GIS map
g. Slideshare content
So much of the hard work is now done.
- Described your objective
• Set your goals
• Reviewed your unique proposition
• Defined what you will solve for
• Mapped your content
The time has come to consider how your audience will search for you.
Begin with a review of the individual audience personas.
- Brainstorm the words and phrases your audience might use to find your unique offer.
- Research the competition as well as your personas by using tools like SEMrush, Google Adwords Keyword Finder, Moz’s Keyword Explorer. There are many great tutorials on SEMrush for keyword research, and SEMrush has many other robust features, as well.
- If you are unclear about how to do Keyword Research, review Brad Batesol’s Lynda course here