- What is content marketing?
- Why is content marketing important?
- Why do you need a content marketing strategy?
- How to begin a content marketing strategy (& the important elements you need)
- Who is it for? Identifying the target persona
- Creating the right content at the right time (with a audience journey map)
If you’re ready to grow your online organic traffic and get more eyeballs on your content, a strong content marketing strategy is the way to go. It’s not a painful process; rather, you should think of it as a strategic process to create better and more valuable content for your audience that will help them reach their goals and help you reach the target numbers you wish to see.
As a seasoned content creator, it comes to no surprise that I love content creation. I love it so much that I started a content marketing agency to support and educate startups and online entrepreneurs on the value and use of content marketing.
…and there’s so much to learn.
I’ve been in the game for almost eight years, either as a travel blogger, working as a content marketer with a company, freelancing copywriting projects, or conducting one-on-one coaching. After thinking about these collective experiences, I have one phrase that comes to mind.
‘Content is king.’
Oh, yes it is. This little phrase packs a big punch for three words and a short sentence, but I agree with it. The online world is changing. Content is catching on, and it’s growing exponentially. It’s more difficult now than it has ever been before to rank your content, get it noticed and have more eyeballs seeing it. It’s hard, but it’s not unrealistic.
This is why you need a strategy.
I don’t mind if you’re a startup creating content, or an online travel blogger creating content. I believe every human online that is putting the blood, sweat, and tears into creating quality content needs a strategy to back it up.
If you don’t, you risk falling into the dark reaches of the internet and your content will never reach the number of humans that you ask of it to attract.
Let’s not allow that to happen.
In this blog post, a series of different sections are presented on how to begin your content marketing strategy. This is your beginner’s guide with actionable steps and informative instruction to get the ‘brain gears’ rolling and your content moving in the right direction.
To begin, I’m jumping all the way back to the basics, and I’m starting with a common question that many readers have.
What is content marketing?
Hey, I’m glad you asked! Content marketing is a collection of content pieces (i.e. blog posts, downloads, Instagram pieces, and other) that are created to educate your customer (or blog reader) about your products, services or topics by the means of quality, relevant and helpful information.
But those content pieces didn’t just appear. That’s all about strategy (and planning) – and approaching your ideal reader with the right information, in the right format and at the right time in order to attract a well-defined target market and retain them. [We love second-time buyers.]
Content marketing is a broad term, and it encompasses a variety of different approaches to content creation.
For example, content marketing can be developing a webinar series, or it involves creating valuable content on Instagram. It’s two different distribution mediums, but both have to do with content marketing [and it has to do with strategy].
Just right here, I stated a few keywords that will come up in later paragraphs of this content piece. It’s words like relevant, helpful, target market and right format that will play a huge role to creating a strong foundation for a content marketing strategy.
Why is content marketing important?
Now that you understand what content marketing is, then the next logical question is why [in the heck] is it important and why should I even care.
Let’s go back to our first argument. Content is king.
Here is a brief painting of the current buyer’s landscape….readers are more educated and engaged in the buying process than ever before, and they demand relevant and useful information to inform their buying decision.
Content is the element that helps individuals make informed decisions, and they’re demanding it. The amount of content consumed before reaching a buying decision will depend on the industry, but here’s a statistic that gives us insight into the value of using content as a pre-sale educating tool in the B2B field.
47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson (Source: DemandGenReport)
Content for content sake and creating because ‘it’s hot’ aren’t the only supporting factors to why content marketing is important. There is a series of supporting reasons on why content marketing is important. These are a few of my favorite.
- Builds trust with your audience.
- Builds authority online.
- SEO loves content.
- Content supports your paid marketing.
- Content nurtures your audience and advances the sales cycle.
Do you agree? Quality content is the perspective to have, because it in the long run will boost your authentic online presence. Content is important, because it’s a major player in the online world today. And it builds relationships with your audience, and it’s a strong framework for generating online traffic. For example, this is another statistic that sums up the importance of valuable online content.
60% of consumers feel engaged/positive with a brand or company after reading custom content on their blog (Source: ContentPlus)
Read more on this subject by visiting the blog post: 5 Reasons You Need Content Marketing.
Why do you need a content marketing strategy?
Okay, Megan, I get it. ‘Content is king’, and I see why I need it. But why do I need a strategy? Can’t I just start creating valuable content? Won’t that in itself attract quality readers?
Yes and no. Yes, you’re directly targeting your ideal audience with content they’ll love. No, because it’s like trying to find a ‘needle in a haystack.’ Your content might be the best in the industry, but if it’s not structured correctly, distributed correctly and consistent, it’ll go nowhere.
You need a content marketing strategy to keep your content writing focused, purposeful and scalable.
One thing that I see with a lot of content creators, they begin creating content with no content marketing strategy. The content is okay, but I always end up asking these important questions to them.
- What is the purpose of your content?
- How will your content be ‘helpful’ to your audience for the relevant topic?
- What types of content formats are best for your audience?
- What is your main goal with your content creation?
A strategy will give the content creator the right focus to achieve their goals, the right tools to create content rooted to their customer, and a written framework for content creation success.
And this is where a content marketing strategy begins.
How to begin a content marketing strategy
At this point, you might be overwhelmed on how you’re going to put strategy to paper. I’m here to reassure you that it isn’t hard, and it will help greatly in arranging your thoughts and adding purpose to your content creation.
Creating a content marketing strategy is a series of important elements and steps. I can’t possibly give you all the bits and pieces in this article, or it’ll turn into a rather large content piece that you’ll be reading for hours.
This informative guide should be rather viewed as a beginner’s framework for creating a content marketing strategy. [You can find an additional resource on strategy creation at Optinmonster.]
The first approach to content strategy creation is understanding the mission and goals for content creation. As I discussed in ‘why do you need a content marketing strategy’ section, the very beginning portion of the strategy is to answer those four major questions.
This will give you the ‘why’ you’re creating content and the purpose for doing so.
At this point, I’m going to assume that you’ve taken around fifteen minutes to answer these questions and write them down on a piece of paper. Now, I wish to discuss the beginning elements of a content marketing strategy.
A clarification, the elements that I will be referring to from here have everything to do with strategy. At this point, we’re not to the content marketing planning yet, and this is a topic best saved for another article. Content strategy and content plan are two different entities that are closely linked together. Content strategy will only be discussed here, which is right up until would start planning the types of content you will pursue.
The content strategy is a collection of important elements, answering the why you’re going to do it, who is it for, and the what content & in what order. [P.S: I’ve decided not to add the very last portion of the content strategy, which is distribution. This article is already long as it is. A content distribution strategy can almost be treated as a separate entity, and it will be the means of how your content sees the light of day. Start with this great article.]
Who is it for? Identifying the target persona
Know your audience. In order to create quality and purposeful content, you need to understand your target persona (or audience) as a best friend.
If you think towards your best friend, you’ll know what keeps them up at night, what their everyday struggles & challenges are, and how they think and search out answers. This is the state of mind that must be developed for your audience.
It begins with crafting a target persona visually. Draw your target persona as a human being; given them a name, an age, location, educational background, and a generic story. This big-picture approach to identifying your target persona will help you create better and more valuable content for them.
How do you paint a picture of your ideal audience member? How can you really understand them and know them better? It’s done by asking. In order to complete this exercise and define the target persona, you will need to do a thorough intelligence gathering session.
You’ll start by gathering demographic information on the target persona by looking at analytical tools like Google Analytics. Start with these questions to create a framework.
- What is their gender?
- What is their education background?
- What is their location?
- How do they get their news?
- What social media platforms are they on?
- What are their values?
- What challenges do they face in their career or personal life?
- What are their pain points (i.e. what keeps them up at night worrying)?
Once you’ve gathered what you can from Google Analytics, I suggest sending an audience survey using a tool like TypeForm. The key here is making sure your online survey is short, concise and easy to navigate. I’ve seen success when survey questions are shorter, fewer and written in the language of the target persona.
Once you’ve gathered intelligence from Google Analytics and a survey, the next step is meeting in person. Take your ideal audience persona out for coffee and ask them a few of these questions. Make the meeting relaxed and meaningful with open-ended questions that allows your audience persona to just talk away.
Creating the right content at the right time (audience journey map)
You’ve completed your intelligence gathering portion, and it’s now time to make that even more visual with an audience journey map.
A customer journey map (or audience journey map) is a visual representation of a customer (or audience member) and their journey with your organization to reach a desired goal. It takes understanding their needs, challenges, pains and motivations in order for you to provide them with the best and relevant content to helping them achieve that goal.
An audience journey map at this point might not be entirely clear without laying it out in context and that is what I’ll try to do for you know.
Usually this map is applied to a product or a solution offered by a company. By mapping our a customer’s journey, a company can better identify the needs and challenges of the customer at each stage of their buying journey.
These stages are awareness/consideration, purchase and advocate. I’ve shorten the audience journey categories here to accommodate small startups and online content creators.
But…it’s always easier to define audience journey and show it visually through an example. That’s what I’ll do now.
Let’s say…you’re a travel blogger, and you’ve identified the target audience to be a woman, between the ages of 18-28 years old and a full-time employed person.
A ‘need’ or ‘challenge’ was identified as… they only have one week of holiday a year. They still enjoy traveling, and they want to maximize their time on a travel trip.
Challenge: one week of holiday, or time constraints
Now, let’s say you want to monetize the blog and sell customized interiories to your content readers. Would this target audience that doesn’t have time to plan a trip be interested in this product?
Now that you’ve identified the target persona and the need. You can create a custom audience journey map to ‘fit’ their buying process from ‘I’m looking for short holiday destinations that are easy to plan’ to ‘how can I plan this quickly’ and ‘I’ll pay for a customized travel itinerary to tell me where to go’. So, a rough audience journey map for this target persona would be something like this.
- Awareness stage: 5 Easy Vacations for the Busy Professional
- Consideration stage: 5 Reasons You Need to Hire A Vacation Planner (to save you time)
- Purchase stage: Email pitch as a vacation planner
This is a rough sketch of a possible audience journey, and it paints a picture of how a potential reader can move from ‘they’re generally interested’ to ‘I’m ready to buy a solution’ via an audience journey map and quality content.
If done correctly, content tailored to the audience journey can influence and motivate an everyday blog reader into a buying customer. In order to do this, it takes having a content marketing strategy with all the fundamental steps.
- Answering the ‘mission’ and reasoning behind a content marketing strategy
- Identifying the target persona
- Creating the right content at the right time (with an audience journey map)
Once you’ve sketched these fundamentals out for the content marketing strategy, you’re better suited to moving on to the content plan and distribution elements of your content.
In a next post, we’ll define a few content basics that will jump start the content plan, while staying rooted to the audience journey that was just created.