For memorial day weekend I wrote about my alter ego as a soldier in the Army National Guard. If you remember that, great (and thank you for reading!), if you don’t, now you know.
About halfway through Basic Combat Training, we went to the thick Missouri woods where we would stay for 3 nights. My battle buddy and I were given the mission to dig a trench for two, and to use our ponchos, sticks, and rocks to make a tent.
Because (if you can believe it) I’m the least outdoorsy person I know, I severely lacked the necessary skills to build a strong, sufficient shelter. I did my best and created a haphazard, pathetic excuse of a tent. Sure, it sagged in the middle and you couldn’t really sit up under it, but mission accomplished.
That evening, it started to rain. Just a sprinkle at first, then to full-on downpour. While patrolling in the dark with just my red lens flashlight, I thought, “good thing I made that tent!” and finally laid down for an hour or two of rest before my next shift.
Somewhere between slumber and delirium, my legs began to float. Was I an astronaut? A deep sea diver? I was tired enough to convince myself it didn’t matter which. When I finally woke, I realized both me and my battle buddy were in a growing pool of muck and rainwater. Sh*t! I’d dug our trench at the bottom of a hill.
While sitting on a log, chin tucked into my vest, rain pouring relentlessly, feeling like a complete idiot, I’d wished I strategized better. I’d wished that, instead of diving headfirst into the execution of my mission, I’d have thought out a better plan, step by step, that would have kept my partner and I dry and well-rested.
“But Lindsey, why are you rambling about the Army again for no apparent reason?” There’s a point to this story. You see, content marketing without a content strategy is a lot like waking up to your legs floating, every inch of you miserably soaked in rainwater and mud in a crappy trench and tent at the bottom of a hill.
Lucky for you, I’ve learned from that mistake. So get ready to learn the 5 steps to a successful content marketing strategy and avoid waking up in the middle of the woods with a soggy bottom sleeping on a log.
Step 1: Have a Goal
Take a minute to define what your goal is. If you can’t think of a clear goal, you might need to go back to the drawing board. Taking time to map out your goals will make it easier when it comes time to working on the strategy. One great way to create a goal? Use the SMART goal format.
- Specific—Answer the 5W’s. Be as detailed as possible.
- Measurable—How will you measure you’ve achieved your goal? Use numbers, distinct time periods, etc.
- Attainable—Be ambitious, but not so much you set yourself up for failure. Make it a goal you know is possible.
- Relevant—The goal should be relevant to you, your company or your business.
- Timely—Set deadlines for yourself or your team.
Adhere to these principles when creating your goal and you’ll have a tangible finish line that you are pretty sure you can reach.
Step 2: Identify Buyer Personas
If you’re developing a solid content marketing strategy, it makes sense to do a little buyer persona work, too.
Define who the audience is for your content. Doing this will allow you to develop more relevant and valuable content. And when the content is more relevant and valuable, your prospects will actually read what you’ve spent time writing and convert.
This step is important for both the newbie marketer and the expert. For newbies, knowing your audience is the first step to producing the right content and attracting the right people. For seasoned pros, make sure you update your buyer personas if they’ve changed. Maybe you shifted to a different target market or increased your range. Whatever the reason, make edits when necessary.
Step 3: Put a Content Management System in Place
Content Management Systems (CMS) provide an easy and valuable way for you and others in your business to access, manage, publish and analyze content. Even if you’re not technologically savvy, CMS can be uncomplicated. Use anything from a google doc, to a spreadsheet, to HubSpot or any other method in between that works for you to manage your content.
The point is, a good CMS allows for multiple users, vastly improves your site maintenance regarding both copy and design and of course, manage other content, from blogs to the copy on your website to any offers you have available.
A quality CMS is an invaluable resource for any business, small or large. Being in control of your content is empowering, and having the ability to analyze how well your content is doing at your fingertips is a powerful tool that can drive your company's success.
Step 4: Brainstorm What Types of Content You Want to Create
Now it’s time to start brainstorming and get concrete plans into place. Brainstorming can be quite difficult at times, no matter how talented of a writer you are. Here are some helpful tools to use to get the juices flowing:
- Popplet—Despite the quirky name, Popplet is an excellent resource to help generate ideas you may be lacking.
- Coggle—Develop (and share) complex information in this free website.
- Mind Meister—Capture and share ideas on this award-winning app.
- Buzzsumo—This tool uses social media to analyze the most popular topics so you can see which content ideas work best.
- Content Forest—Helps you find popular content and keywords from your competitors.
After you’ve developed ideas, it’s time to determine which types of content you’re going to create. At this point, you might be thinking, ”wait, there are types?” The answer is—many. And while there’s no need to use each one, find the ones that work for you.
Maybe it’s a couple of blogs each week, or maybe it’s creating an offer, like an Ebook, template, infographic, video or podcast. The important thing is whatever you’re creating, keep the buyer persona at the front of your mind and make sure the content is valuable and original.
Lastly, think about repurposing content. If you’ve done a series of blogs on a related topic, create an Ebook from them. If you had some meaty stats from a video you produced, create an infographic. The point is, content doesn’t have to be a once and done situation.
Step 5: Manage, Publish and Promote in All the Right Places
Just because you’ve created a profound piece of content doesn’t mean your job is done. The point of becoming a content-producing machine is to attract, convert, close, and delight your target audience and current customers, which means getting the content you’ve created in front of them to consume.
Keep your content organized with content calendars in your CMS, so your schedule is balanced and diverse. Note holidays, important days and anything else you can take advantage of regarding content creation and promotion.
Key to the success of your content is promoting it on the right avenues to ensure engagement. No one knows your brand’s voice better than you, so find the channel that best matches your brand and cross-promote when able. Limiting yourself to only social media or just email will cut off potential new customers, so keep your options open.
Research what’s trending on different channels and check out what headlines have the most clicks. Pay close attention to what types of content get the most engagement on various channels. This is the most important part of your content strategy, and without it, your plans will inevitably sink (or in my case, float).
Remember, strategize before you execute. This is key for any plan, but especially a content marketing plan. If you don’t, you might find yourself in the middle of the Missouri woods at night, legs afloat in a trench with someone you barely know wishing you’d brought another pair of underwear.