Don’t Panic: A 5-Step Content Marketing Strategy

Maybe you've been asked to increase website traffic for a non-profit. Maybe you've recently been handed the login credentials to a startup's WordPress. Or maybe you've been kidnapped by an inbound marketing cult and forced to start building a content marketing strategy to attract new members. No matter what the situation is, I refer you to Douglas Adams's timeless advice:

Don't Panic - content marketing strategy
Don't Panic - content marketing strategy

A lot of content marketing involves asking the right questions, and executing thoughtfully on the answers. If you're wondering how to build a content strategy and where to start, here are five steps for putting a content marketing strategy together from scratch:

[bctt tweet="#DontPanic: A 5 Step #ContentMarketing Strategy, by @attackofthetext" username="StartupInst"]

1. Partner with sales to build buyer personas and map out the buyer journey

Whether you're marketing sneakers (B2C; business to consumer) or software (B2B; business to business), your content won't be effective unless you tailor it to your future readers.

[bctt tweet="Building a #contentstrategy? Work w/ sales to understand your customer, says @attackofthetext" username="StartupInst"]

Before you start composing your first blog post, it's worth sitting down with a sales member or the head of marketing to determine who the target audience of your content will be.

Ask the following questions:

  • Who is our ideal customer?
  • What gets customers most excited about our product?
  • How often do people interact with our business online before they make a purchase?
  • What do shoppers need to know about our product before they become buyers?
  • Are there any common roadblocks to making a sale that I can remedy through education?

2. Source topics from your customer support and product teams

Collaboration is also a key component of step two. You can make your best guess as to what your target audience would like to learn from your content, but a safer bet is to ask the people on the front lines.[bctt tweet="Don't guess who your #targetaudience is - ask the ppl on the front lines, says @attackofthetext" username="StartupInst"]

Customer support teams are constantly fielding inquiries, so they're a gold mine of information. Likewise, your product team knows exactly how many people have requested a specific shoe color or software feature.

Suggested questions to ask:

  • Do we have a list of FAQs?
  • Do we have troubleshooting documents?
  • What do people want to know about our product after they've made a purchase?
  • Do our customers use certain industry- or occupation-specific terms when asking questions?

That last bullet will help you build lists of keywords for search engine optimization (a handy way to amplify your content beyond the methods listed in step 5 - but I'm getting ahead of myself).

3. Set up a content calendar

Now that you understand who you're writing for and what they'd like to know, it's time to turn your research into a framework for your content marketing strategy. Establish a cadence (Will you be publishing daily? Weekly? Monthly?) and use a free tool like Google spreadsheets or Trello to sketch out your strategy.

You'll want to alternate as many of these components as possible to keep things fresh:

  • Keywords (subjects your customers are interested in)
  • Writers (who's authoring your content)
  • Buyer personas (who your content is aimed at - it could be students or it could be IT executives)
  • Stage in the buyer journey (are they unfamiliar with your business, or comparison shopping?)
  • Content meant for prospects (what keeps them interested)
  • Content meant for current customers (what keeps them loyal)
  • Curated content (pieces of helpful information you collect from the Web and add takeaways to)
  • Original content (pieces sourced from you, another staff member or freelance writers)
  • Formats (the shape that your content takes)*[bctt tweet="Alternate #content format, keywords, author, persona + stage often, says @attackofthetext" username="StartupInst"]

*Content can take many forms. Here are just a few to explore and mix into your content calendar:

  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Reports
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • Video
  • Podcasts

4. Amplify, amplify, amplify

Once you've published your content, it can be tempting to take a break or get started on the next piece. Unfortunately, if you're not getting your work out in front of people, steps 1-3 of your content marketing strategy have been a waste of time.[bctt tweet="If you're not amplifying your #content, it's been a waste of your time, says @attackofthetext" username="StartupInst"]

Here are some of the amplification tools at your disposal:

  1. Social media (free and operated by your business; think Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare)
  2. Paid advertising channels (search and social; Google and Facebook are the giants here)
  3. PR sites (like HARO and Muck Rack)
  4. Syndicated sites (like Social Media Today and Forbes)
  5. Content discovery sites (like Taboola and Outbrain)
  6. Your company's newsletter

5. Optimize your future content marketing strategy according to metrics

Marketing is equal parts creativity and data analysis. The most successful content professionals use upper-funnel metrics like page views and lower-funnel metrics like conversions as clues to what topics deserve more of the limelight, as well as indicators of where a paid advertising budget might have the most impact.[bctt tweet="Successful #marketers use upper + lower-funnel metrics to inform strategy, says @attackofthetext" username="StartupInst"]

Free tools like Google Analytics offer a wealth of information on website visitor behavior. You should always be aiming for lower bounce rate, an increasing number of sessions and a healthy mix of new and returning visitors.

If you’re feeling overhwhelmed by everything that’s on your plate, just remember:

Don't Panic - content marketing strategy
Don't Panic - content marketing strategy

Tackle your strategy one step at a time, and acknowledge that you have a lot to learn. Sometimes that’s the most exciting part about marketing.[bctt tweet="Acknowledge you have a lot to learn - it's the most exciting part abt marketing, says @attackofthetext" username="StartupInst"]

Photo credit: Johan Larsson via Flickr cc