You don’t need much beyond the numbers to show you why content marketing is a strategy worth exploring. Boasting returns that include 55% more site traffic, quintuple the leads, and being overall 13 times more likely to generate a return on your investment, content marketing clearly makes business sense.
So what will be your strategy for entering the content marketing game?
What is Content Strategy?
Let’s start by defining content strategy, as opposed to content marketing.
Content marketing can take many forms, from video to calendar. It relies on giving customers valuable and relevant content to promote interest in a brand.
A content strategy is, essentially, a company’s internal guidelines and governance in employing content marketing. Content strategy nails down the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your content marketing. Content marketing is the implementation of that vision.
The SEMrush four-part model of content strategy is a good framework to think about as you create your own content strategy.
That four-part model involves:
- Brand Positioning
- A Value Proposition
- Your Business Case, and
- Your Strategic Plan.
Brand positioning involves the personality and unique strength of your business. You want your audience to have a consistent experience of your brand. So what characteristics should they expect each time they click on your content? Zero in on the things that define your brand, and the things that make it superior to your competition.
Let’s say you work for a pen company. Are you the funny pen company? Are your pens made of a different metal than other high-end writing instruments? Position yourself as incomparable and indispensable.
Your value proposition gets at the kind of content your brand will provide. This should be in line with your brand positioning. That is, make sure that you’re making funny videos if you’ve positioned your brand as the funny one. The value proposition gets more to the specifics of your content. What format will it be, and what general shape will it take?
A good example answer to the value proposition stage might be, “We’ll always include our pens as characters in silly video send-ups of classic movies”. Now, when you debut your “Casabl-ink-a,” your audience will be happy to see their expectations met.
Your business case provides zeroing-in for your goals outside of the creative realm. How much are you planning on spending on your content marketing? And how (if at all) will you adjust that figure based on its success or failure?
What kind of return do you expect from your content marketing? Do you expect that return to come in the form of site traffic, conversions, or something else? The business case grounds your efforts in reality and allows you to think outside of concepts and in a more conventional cost/benefit way.
Finally, your strategic plan synthesizes your answers to the previous considerations into a targeted plan of deployment. At this stage, you’ll decide who you want to reach, and how. This part of the model involves distribution and metrics. Where will you post your content, and how will you monitor its success? How many content marketing initiatives can you afford, and how will your audience most likely encounter them? Use this final-assembly stage to prepare for your content marketing launch.
Content Marketing Covers Many Types of Content
Now, let’s move beyond the four-part model and remember that content marketing has many shapes. The term encompasses more than video: it includes blog posts, Ebooks, case studies, templates, infographics, podcasts, social media, and discussions on forums and other online communities. So if a video isn’t in budget, consider another medium.
You might even find that your audience is better suited to a non-video approach, anyway. If you’ve positioned your brand as a mature, seasoned person’s brand, then written content might already be a better choice.
Speaking of audiences, why limit yourself to just one?
Identify your top five audiences instead. This approach is more realistic since your video will inevitably reach beyond just your preferred audience. And it’s a great way to make an opportunity out of each of those cross-overs.
If our fictional pen company has a target audience of older Millennial office workers, a little imagination can help us see four more audiences they’ll probably reach.
First, there’s the younger Millennial office workers, who are only separated from your primary audience by a few years, and share many similar interests.
You’ll also probably get interest from office workers in their forties.
And probably also in Millennials of both groups who write for a living but don’t work in office environments.
A fifth audience might be college students, or professors, or another group, depending on your brand positioning and value proposition.
Audience vs. Segment vs. Persona
Consider the difference between audience, segment, and persona when thinking about audiences.
A segment is a cross-section of an audience that contains individuals with a common trait or traits, like movie-going parents.
A persona, by contrast, is a fictitious customer character whose personality is created through research, like a hard-charging executive or a tech-trend late adopter.
Understanding these distinctions can help how much you want to narrow your content.
When you segment your target audience, you can target not only specific traits of the segment but their particular place on the buying cycle. This way, any content marketing intended to raise awareness can be targeted at new visitors. And repeat customers are directed towards newer, retention-focused content.
As you continue to develop your content marketing strategy, make sure your goals are measurable, similar to your thinking during the business case part of the SEMrush model. Obviously, content marketing can increase conversions, revenue, and traffic. But you won’t know if your efforts are effective unless you can track their results.
Set a goal—how much of an increase in lead generation do you wish to see? With benchmarks in place, you’ll know when it’s time to double down on successful content, and when to change direction due to low performance.
Finally, build into your content strategy a prioritization of search engine optimization (SEO). This means finding best keywords to appear on search engines, including links to your website and social media, and metadata tagging to move your content up the list when people search by your product or tags. SEO is a crucial part of your strategy, as it ensures that your content gets the exposure it needs to make a difference.
Your content strategy is to your content marketing what any strategy is to a plan’s execution: a necessary roadmap. Your strategy will help you define your brand’s characteristics, set expectations for your content’s format and style, plan financially for your efforts and set goals for returns, decide where and how you’re going to release your content.
Add some serious consideration of audience and search engine optimization, and you’ll be ready to create and distribute your content marketing. Having a strong content strategy focuses your resources and time on well-researched, well-crafted content marketing with measurable goals.
Does your company have a content strategy?
How do you approach creating content marketing?