Did you know that only 37% of B2B businesses have a well-documented content marketing strategy?
Source: Content Marketing Institute
This is shocking. After all, much of today’s marketing campaigns use content marketing in some way, shape or form. However, no matter how surprising as this may seem, this is very much the reality faced by many businesses, mainly by startups.
Much of this lies in the misconception founders (and even marketers) have towards content marketing. For many, they see content marketing merely as a process of creating content in different formats to use for their marketing and advertising campaigns.
In reality, this is but the tip of the content marketing strategy iceberg. Sadly, it is this lack of a documented content marketing strategy that is the reason why there are so many startups struggling to experience those stellar results others experienced.
This is why I decided to create this article. Here, you will learn the definition of content marketing, the different steps to produce a content marketing strategy, and some tools that you can use.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on creating and distributing content that your target audience will consider as valuable and relevant. The end goal for any content marketing strategy is to propel your target audience to take some form of action.
Content marketing vs. inbound marketing
From the definition, content marketing sounds almost like inbound marketing, especially since the core of these two is creating and using high-quality content to reach a specific goal. So, are the two really different?
When HubSpot surveyed to answer this question, the majority of the marketing, sales, and services professionals that participated in the survey agree that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing.
That’s because inbound marketing is more than just producing content, and publishing it online. According to SocialMediaToday, inbound marketing combines a variety of tools, technologies, and processes that help you increase your website traffic, generate leads, and convert to customers.
Inbound marketers use content marketing to bring in the traffic. Once they are on the site, they now implement other inbound marketing tools and methods to like capturing contact details, and nurturing leads through email marketing and marketing automation to guide them down your startup’s buyer journey, and eventually become customers.
Content marketing strategy vs. content strategy vs. content plan
Many articles that talk about content marketing tend to interchange these terms with each other because they are very similar. However, according to the Content Marketing Institute, there are subtle differences between them.
Content marketing strategy
When you talk about a content marketing strategy, this refers to the why behind you are creating content, whether it is bringing the right kind of visitors to your website or increase your brand awareness.
Content strategy focuses on your content, from creating it to publishing and monitoring. This covers all the content that you put out, online and offline.
This talks about the specific tactics and methods on how you will carry out your content marketing strategy. Your content plan is also where you determine who will create it, when and where you will publish it, and what types of content topics and formats will you create.
Is content marketing still effective?
Simply put, the answer is YES.
In fact, content marketing has become one of the mainstream strategies in the marketing world.
Source: Growth Marketing Conference
The reason? Customers no longer want just to be pushed into making purchase decisions. These days, they prefer to research on their own to learn more about the brand and the product before making a purchase.
Content marketing helps you get these pieces of information about your brand and product out there for your customers to find as they do their research.
If you do it right, content marketing can help increase your traffic with the right kind of people. Here are some brands that have successfully used content marketing to reach their goals.
Founded in January 2013, LeadPages created a blog that didn’t just talk about its lead generation services. Instead, the topics it populated its blog with articles that offer tips and solutions on how aspiring online entrepreneurs can improve their online marketing efforts. It also created other pieces of content like webinars, free downloadable reports, and live demos of their lead generation platform.
Within the first nine months, LeadPages were able to earn $3.5 million in revenue. Today, it has over 16,000 paying customers using its lead generation services.
Emily Weiss started Glossier as a personal blog where she would write articles about different topics on beauty and skincare.
The quality of the content she published became extremely valuable. Today, her audience is over 900,000 followers on Instagram and more than 140,000 on Facebook.
Eventually, Weiss converted her blog into the famous online retail store for beauty products it is known today.
Game Theory is not a startup. Nevertheless, its story is worth adding here because it shows how effective content marketing is in helping you reach any goal.
Owner and host Matthew Patrick aka MatPat created this YouTube channel out of his love and passion for video games. This, combined with his expertise in mathematics, he would publish a video each week analyzing a specific subject or story related to video games. He’d also collect feedback from his audience to find out what they would like to see the following week.
Because he provided content that’s exactly what his target audience wants, he successfully grew his YouTube channel from 0 to over 9 million subscribers.
Reasons to develop a content marketing strategy
One of the common questions I am often asked by clients about content marketing is, “if content marketing is really still effective, then why is my business not getting any results?”
The answer to this is very simple: you need to have your content marketing plan written down and tied to measurable KPI’s.
Of the 91% B2B marketers that say they are using content marketing 72% say that this is the reason why content marketing has been highly effective for their business.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
In fact those that have a well-documented content marketing plan not only are more successful but also are less likely to experience challenges that can jeopardize the overall success of their efforts. They are also more able to justify the marketing budget they are asking from their bosses.
If you are still unsure about developing a content marketing strategy for your startup, here are a few reasons to help you out.If your prospects are searching for answers related to problems you can solve then you should be doing content marketing.Click To Tweet
More focused and balanced content
The early years of your startup are the most exciting. That excitement tends to transfer the content that you create. Unfortunately, this causes many startups to talk about topics that are not aligned with their marketing goals. Having a well-documented content marketing strategy will help you make sure that your topics are aligned with your niche and goals and not just about your most recent product releases.
Having a content marketing strategy will also make sure that you have ample amount of content spread across your entire buyer’s journey. Far too often, brands end up creating too much content in one area and too little content on the others. You need to make sure that your content marketing plan can adequately support your startup’s inbound marketing strategy so you can reach your marketing goals.
Become more productive
Taking the time to create a content marketing strategy will also give your marketing team a guide on the style, tone, and even types of content to create for your startup. That means that they will not only spend less time trying to figure out what content to build but also produce them more quickly.
Get new team members onboard faster
You will eventually be bringing in new people on board as your startup grows. Your content marketing strategy can help you train the new people you hire without having to worry about standards and quality.
How to create a content marketing strategy
Step 1: Know your goal
To create a useful marketing strategy, you need first to build your foundation. This starts with developing your goal for your content marketing efforts. This mission will be the central focus of the specific goals that you aim to achieve through content marketing.
Here are six questions you will need to ask to help you create your content marketing mission for your startup.
1. What is it that you ultimately want to achieve through content marketing?
Are you looking to generate buzz around your startup’s brand? Alternatively, are you going to incorporate this into your inbound marketing playbook to generate leads?
2. What type of content is your audience demanding?
Find out if there’s a demand for the content you are planning to create. A great starting point is by determining which of your buyer persona’s pain points that your product can address.
We will talk more about this in a bit.
3. What valuable experiences can you provide to your target audience?
You need to have ample content throughout your buyer’s journey. At the same time, your target audience needs to find it extremely valuable so that they can keep coming back for more.
4. Do you have sufficient resources?
You need to make sure that you have enough resources to allocate for your content marketing strategy. You also need to ensure that other core business processes will not get affected.
5. How much time can you allocate?
Just like inbound marketing, content marketing takes considerable time to execute and monitor. The average time to write a blog post is between one and two hours.
Also, it may take some time before you can start seeing results in content marketing. That said, you need to make sure that you are willing to commit to this long-term.
6. What happens if you fail?
Content marketing is effective. However, that does not mean that it is foolproof. There is always that possibility that you may not get the results you hope to achieve the first time around.
You need to be honest about this, and jot down what failing in content marketing would mean for you and your startup. Having these written down will, in turn, help push you to ensure that this does not happen.
As a personal brand I’m consistently publishing content, often I remind myself worst case scenario I’m building up my presence as a thought leader, building my personal network, and staying on top of new marketing trends.
Step 2: Create your content marketing persona
One of the things that you need to know the kind of content your audience wants. The way to do this is by creating what’s called a content marketing persona.
A content marketing persona is very much like a buyer persona. It is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal target audience.
Most marketers tend to focus on demographics: age bracket, gender, education and income level, marital status and the like. You need to go beyond this to create a compelling persona. Some of the things you need to include in your content marketing persona are:
- Goals your buyer persona wants to achieve
- Pain points and challenges currently faced
- Type of content they prefer
- Social media channel frequented
The rule of thumb here is that the more detailed you are with your persona, the more effective it will be for your content marketing playbook.
What makes a content persona different than a buyer persona is that it focuses on your target customers as well as key influencers you plan to reach out and collaborate with through influencer marketing. While they may not necessarily end up buying from you, influencers can help you promote your content—and eventually your product and brand—to your potential customers.
Step 3: Choose your content marketing framework
There are three different types of content marketing frameworks that you can use, depending on the goal you have set.
This is the typical framework used by most businesses attempting to do content marketing for the first time.
As its name suggests, those that use this type of content marketing framework create different types of content based on a theme, publishing it out there, and then monitoring to see which ones are the one that resonates with their clients the most.
The Skyscraper framework is designed to create content that builds upon a topic or idea that’s already written by someone else.
This framework works best if your goal is to promote brand awareness through influencer marketing. That is because once you have created a spin on an existing piece of content and added additional value to this, you can now leverage this to reach out to the influencer that wrote the original content. The goal here is that they not only see the added value of your content but also get them to promote it on your behalf.
Tofu-Mofu-Bofu stands for “top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel.” This content framework is the one commonly used by inbound marketers because it ensures that you create content that can be used on each of the sections of your sales funnel.
At the same time, this content marketing framework ensures that you do not make the mistake of oversaturating one section of the funnel.
Step 4: Develop your writing process
This is the meat of your content marketing playbook because this is where you now create the editorial guidelines and workflow for your team. This helps ensure that the quality and standard of each content you publish is the same.
Guidelines on how to write up a piece of content to publish for your site are not fixed. However, I will be sharing with you here the writing process I personally use to help you get this section started.
1. Choose a topic
When choosing a topic to write about, I tend to start out with a keyword phrase related to any of the services I offer my clients and do a search on it on Google. I then take note of the titles of articles that come up on the first page the Google’s search results because these are the ones that are the highest ranking.
I also scroll down the bottom part of the results page and take note of the phrases listed in the related searches.
These are the keywords Google found to be the ones that my target audience most frequently use when searching for content online.
Other useful platforms you can use are:
- Blog Ideas Generator by HubSpot
2. Do a brain dump
Once I have selected on the topic that I want to write about, I set a timer for 10 minutes. I then begin to write down everything that I know about the subject. Sometimes, it is just phrases, and other times its whole sentences. The idea here is to start getting the juices flowing.
3. Arrange everything into an outline
Once I get everything down, I begin to arrange the points I have written into an outline format. This will help me figure out the flow of the article that I intend to produce.
Arranging the points also helps you get an idea of which areas you will need to do some research to strengthen it further and make the entire article more substantial.
When doing your research, don’t forget also to take note of the source where you get the additional information. The last thing that you want to happen is someone calling you out for plagiarism.
4. Take a break
Instead of going straight into writing the rough draft, what I like to do after researching is to move away from the computer. This gives your mind enough time to process all these ideas you have gathered, and give you a clearer idea of the angle and approach you will use for your content.
5. Write your rough draft
The moment you get your “A-ha” moment, it is time to get writing and creating your rough draft.
As you write your draft, resist the temptation to edit it as you type. There will be plenty of time for that later. What is important here is that you get everything written down on paper or a Word document.
6. Take another break
Break times not only give your mind some time to rest but also prepares it for the editing process. That is because after working on an article for a couple of hours or so, you tend to be so familiar with it that some grammar and spelling errors can easily be overlooked.
A quick power nap will give you a fresh pair of eyes that will help you through the editing process.
7. Edit your draft
For this step, I recommend that you read your article out loud. This will help you catch any spelling and grammar mistakes. It will also help you pinpoint sentences that can be shortened.
Using a tool like Grammarly can also be very helpful, especially if you need a deadline. Grammarly helps you check not only spelling and grammar errors, but also suggest sentence structure edits to make your content easier to read. The paid premium version also comes with a plagiarism checker you can run to make sure that your content is original.
8. Format and optimize your post
The final step involves adding the reference links to your content as well as graphic elements, headings, and subheadings.
Step 5: Select your distribution channels
Knowing where you will be publishing the content you have worked so hard on is just as important—if not, more important—than creating the content. After all, no matter how spectacular your content is if you are not able to get your target audience to find and consume it, it is useless.
Take a moment to review your content marketing persona when selecting the distribution channels you will use. This helps increase the chances of your content being seen by the right audience.
Step 6: Measuring your effort
This is perhaps the most critical step in developing a content marketing playbook. Just like any marketing strategy, it is crucial that you can monitor the content you publish. Without this, you will have no way of knowing which content is effective, and which ones need to be improved.
Start off by determining the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) that you’ll monitor. Your KPIs must align with the goals you’ve set at the beginning. Below are the most common groups of metrics used as content marketing KPIs:
- Consumption metrics. This includes which channels your content is most viewed and the length of time they spend consuming your content.
- Sharing metrics. In addition to measuring which content gets the most shares, KPIs that fall in this group include which channels the content is shared, how they are being shared, and how often.
- Lead metrics. KPIs that fall under this group are those that help you measure how effective your content is supporting your inbound marketing strategy in terms of lead generation.
- Sales metrics. Similar to lead metrics, except that these focus more on how effective your content is supporting your lead-to-customer conversion ratio.
The Next Step
Developing a playbook is critical to the success of any startup planning to venture into content marketing. This is a comprehensive guide that provides members of your team detailed steps to design, create, distribute, and to monitor the content you create to reach your desired goal.
While the rewards are high, it is clear to see that creating and executing a content marketing playbook does take a lot of time and effort. Because of this, many startups choose to hire a professional content marketer to handle this.
This is where I can help you out. Feel free to check out my growth marketing course if you’re interested in receiving some 1 on 1 help.