Introduction: Create a Content Marketing Strategy in 2013
Most online marketers will agree that while 2012 inspired change in our industry, 2013 will prove to be even bigger. Throughout much of last year, marketers had to adapt and reinvent strategies for success. Content marketing emerged as a major part of most well thought out strategies. For small businesses trying to adapt to these changing climates, I’d imagine it must have been frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. So much of what has been written on the topic expects far more than what the average small business has achieved with regards to content. However, realistic goals, a go-getter attitude, and couple deep breaths should get you well on your way to a successful content marketing strategy. The following is our recommendation for a step by step online content marketing strategy that even small businesses can take advantage of today:
Step 1: Identify your Media
Always start with an inventory. Content marketing is sourced from 3 areas defined as owned media, paid media, and earned media. Owned media includes content like blog articles, whitepapers, infographics, videos, and even facebook posts. Anything that your brand has published can be considered owned media. You can extend this to include print materials like pamphlets and tear sheets. Paid media is any kind of advertising you have currently running, like online ads and sponsored promotions. Earned media are pieces published by external sources that reference your brand. Earned media is synonymous with good press.
Step 2: Analyze your Sales, Production, and Customer Retention Processes
The importance of this step can’t be stressed enough. In order to create a valuable content marketing strategy, you have to be focused on the “why”, not just the “how”. As you analyze your business process, pay special attention to the questions potential leads ask, how you describe production, and what your brand has done to stimulate loyalty in the past.
As you look at your sales process, you may want to sit in on sales calls, read an e-mail conversation that closed a deal, or interview a member of your sales team. What questions were brought up during this process from both sides of the conversation? How did the sales team deal with questions from a potential customer? Were the questions asked by the sales team thought provoking and do they help identify the need for your brand? What you come up with can easily be transferred to meaningful content.
Ask similar questions of Production and Customer Retention. Take the time to identify the “why” in each stage of your process. Why would it be of value to provide additional information to a potential customer, or current customer at each an every stage? Why would your brand benefit from providing additional value through content at these stages? Why, why why? When you have your answers, you’ll also have topics that your content will need to cover.
Step 3: Create a Content Gap Analysis
If you find that potential leads are all asking similar questions, identify whether or not you answer these questions completely in any of your content. If your sales team is working too hard helping potential customers understand the value of your brand, ask whether your current content can shoulder some of this weight. This type of analysis is called a Content Gap Analysis. It’s the process of taking a list of topics that you have identified, and analyzing how completely those topics are covered within your content.
We suggest you group your current content and align them with the topics we created in step 2. Remember, these are the topics that are important, and so all the content that you have published, paid for, or earned regarding these topics should fall into appropriate categories. Some pieces may fall into several. Everything that doesn’t have a category should be put into a category called “other”.
You need to take this a step further though. You need to decide how completely the topics are covered by each piece of content. There’s many ways to calculate this, some more in-depth than others. However you decide to do this, the end result will help you understand how effective your current content is with regards to completely cover the topic. What we end up is a Content Gap Analysis, which identifies areas to prioritize and then add more content to.
Step 4: Creating an Editorial Calendar
The Content Gap Analysis has identified areas in which you need to publish new and additional content. Most often, you’ll find that you have quite the list of topics that need writing about. Creating an Editorial Calendar will help to relieve some of the initial shock that inevitably follows the realization that you have tons of work to do. An Editorial Calendar is something that will help you structure the release of new content in a way that won’t overwhelm you or your business.
Prioritizing the topics generated from the Content Gap Analysis will help in the creation of an Editorial Calendar. As you create an Editorial Calendar, pay attention to not only the topics, but also the channels by which you will publish and promote the content. Generally, you want to be proactive in content marketing at least 3-5 times a week. We suggest for businesses just starting out with content marketing that you dedicate 4-6 hours weekly. You might try something like the following, although this should change week to week, month to month:
Monday: 1 Hour | Blog Article Rough Draft
Tuesday: 2 Hours | Compose 50 Tweets about your topics, and then publish one of them.
Wednesday: 15 Minutes | Send out 2 of the tweets you wrote, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.
Thursday: 2 Hours | Revise and publish the Blog Article you started Monday, and promote your new post on Twitter and Facebook.
Friday: 15 Minutes | Retweet your link to your Blog Article, and send out two more tweets from your list of 50.
Just to note, an Editorial Calendar focuses on the creation of Owned Media. You also want to look into ways that you can cover your topics through Paid and Earned Media, or a combination of. For example, if you can identify something considered press worthy, try writing on the topic and then getting some media attention on the topic that references your piece.
Step 5: Track the Results and Let your Successes and Failures Drive the Campaign
The particulars on how to track content marketing campaigns can vary depending on the campaign. With minimal technical know how, you should at least be able to track pageviews to your posts through Google Analytics. Setting this type of tracking, along with more advanced metric reporting and analytics could be, and may be, a post all its own. We won’t get into all of that here, but assuming you have a way to collect this data, we will give you some insight on how to use it.
Content that is well received will become topics you want to continually touch on as you create more content. These are topics that are of high interest to potential and current customers. First and foremost, give the people what they want. Furthermore, this content usually creates conversations, and you can use those conversations to pull more topics and answer more questions. This is the cyclical nature of great content. Awesome content will encourage more great content.
Content that isn’t so well received doesn’t mean the topic isn’t important. We’ve already spent time identifying why these topics hold significance to both your brand and your content consumers. The fact that the content wasn’t received well means that the importance didn’t translate into the piece. For example, if you have a topic that is driven by a lot of raw data and statistics, it might be very hard to interpret that data into a blog post. That data may be better represented in a slideshow, or in an infographic. Experiment with the many different content medium available on the internet in order to release your content in the best way possible.
I hope these steps can be of use to you and your business. Overall, I’ve outlined a very simple and direct way to arrive at an effective content marketing strategy. As you go through the steps, you should understand that while this is great place to start, you can (and should) go deeper eventually. You should continue asking questions to create new topics, re-evaluate your content gap analysis, etc. Most of all, get into the mindset of a publisher. Demand compelling stories, demand deadlines be met, and never stop improving. Good luck..