Content marketing has emerged as one of the most effective marketing tactics currently in use. It also can be extremely complicated and requires a lot of critical thinking before it can have a sizable return on investment. For example, the standard content marketing tactic that many companies turn to as their first foray into content marketing—business blogs—rarely return what a business owner is looking for. Instead, content marketing’s success relies on carefully crafted strategies and implementation that puts audiences first before any word is put on paper. A plan isn’t just good to have, it is necessary.
Due to the need for heavy customization, it’s difficult to explain exactly how businesses should create a content marketing plan, but the approach and process can be defined to at least get a business looking in the right direction. High ROI is possible, but it’s not easy.
Find Out What Your Audience Wants
Before you even think about content marketing, you’ll want to point your compass to your audience—the people who will be engaging with your content. If you’re not serving their needs, content marketing will fail. There’s no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about it.
You’ll need to understand that audience and the “journey” they take before they actually purchase your product. Who they are? What info do they need? How do they prefer to consume that information? Where would they consume it?
Tip: A company’s sales cycle is not the same thing as a customer’s journey. Due to the availability of info, a customer will often do much more research before ever contacting a salesperson. However, being able to engage with an individual during this early top-of-the-funnel stage makes it more likely that a prospect will turn to your company when it comes time to make the purchase.
Brainstorm Content Ideas That Will Help Your Audience
Once you understand your audience’s needs, then you can start brainstorming ways to engage with them. What information do they need to get closer to a purchase? How can that information be delivered in a way that will interest them? At this planning stage, feel free to use all the creativity you got. By the time you’re done brainstorming, you should have something of an “idea inventory” you can turn to at the next stage of planning.
Conduct a Content Audit
After concentrating so much on your audience, it’s now time to actually take a look at your own business. Through website development or other business initiatives, most businesses have created some sort of content that they’ve used in the past. You’ll want to track these items (this should include anything that the general public has had access to) and figure out where this current content may fit into a customer’s buying journey. A good content audit will map existing content according to audience, buying stage and type of media.
Fill in the Holes of Your Content
Once you’ve finished the second and third steps, you should have two documents—a content audit laying out all existing content and an “idea inventory” created to address your audience’s obstacles to purchase. The next step is marrying the two documents—finding holes in the content audit and filling them with ideas from your idea inventory.
When you’re finished with this step, this new document should be your optimal content marketing plan if you have the resources to fulfill it. A business may not have the in-house talent or the cash flow to hire an agency. To overcome this problem, a good practice is aiming for the creation of the lowest hanging fruit—articles or blogs followed by some of the more design-heavy visual components.
Also, be aware that some particular pain points in a buyer’s journey are pushing people away from an eventual purchase more than others. If you know which obstacles are causing the most problems, you’ll want to create content that addresses those obstacles first. The difficulty is balancing the resources and pain point priority.
Testing and Optimization
Once you’ve finished creating your content marketing plan, don’t think you’re done with it completely. A content marketing plan is a living document, and a good content marketer will make changes depending on the results he or she gets back once new content is developed and published. Any time a new piece of content is published, you’ll want to listen to your audience’s feedback and make changes to your plan accordingly. Realize that it’s rare for a business to completely understand the buyer’s journey the first time around. Also, the buyer’s journey is rarely set in stone. It will continue to fluctuate as audiences and markets shift ways of thinking.
Tip: Sometimes, it’s not your content that isn’t engaging, it’s your distribution method that’s unable to spur action. If a content piece is failing, don’t rewrite the whole thing. First, try to figure out a way to get more people to look at your content.
A content marketing plan is often a tremendous endeavor that requires deep industry knowledge and a great understanding of what can engage an audience. For this article, we’ve covered the basics in little detail. If you find that you would like to pursue content marketing and would rather outsource the process, check out Access Marketing Company. Our team of content marketers have experience in all stages of content marketing. If you want more info, look at our portfolio here.