Actionable tips, community conversations, and marketing inspiration.

Content Marketing: 9 Steps to Create a Killer Strategy

Angie Tran

Content Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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Back in 2015, scientists at the University of Leicester in the U.K. determined it would take about 136 billion pieces of paper to print out everything on the internet, which translates to approximately 16 million trees. Thankfully, it was only a thought exercise.

It does go to show, however, just how much content is actually out there. In fact, according to a report from marketing software platform HubSpot, nearly 70% of businesses are investing in even more content production this year. If your brand is one of them, it’s time to implement a content marketing strategy to ensure you don’t clutter the internet with additional pages no one will see or care about. 

Research shows brands that execute a documented content marketing strategy feel significantly less challenged when it comes to content marketing. They also consider themselves more effective and command a higher percentage of their marketing budget, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, we do have nine tips that will lead you to success as you embark on your content marketing journey. 

Visualize Your Goals

First, you have to figure out what you want to accomplish with a content marketing strategy. Sample goals may include boosting brand awareness, generating sales leads, or squashing competitors. The CMI recommends outlining these goals in a formal business plan, along with the value you intend to provide readers and any foreseeable challenges. 

Defining these goals early on will help steer you toward an ideal plan. It also increases your chances that executives will sign off, thereby buying you more time to demonstrate the value of said strategy. You may need that additional time, especially in the beginning, according to CMI.

For additional reading around goal setting: 

Identify Your Audience 

Next, determine who you want to reach. Later, you’ll map content types to these audiences. But, for now, just focus on who these buyer personas are and their needs. Remember to be specific. As Hubspot points out, having a clear picture of who you are trying to reach makes it easier to produce relevant content they’ll engage with. 

Plus, the more you zero in on a given niche that you relate to, the greater the likelihood you’ll form meaningful connections and establish your brand as an authority, says entrepreneur Neil Patel

For more on how to find your target audience:

Contemplate Your Value

It’s also a good idea to spend time thinking about your own brand and messaging. What do you want your audience(s) to know? How do you distinguish yourself from competitors? How can your products or services solve problems? This is the kind of information you’ll want to weave into future posts to hammer home brand value. 

Conduct an Audit 

If your brand already produces content, this would be an ideal time to run an audit to determine what content types and topics resonate the most with your audience. Use that information to strategize for the coming year. If viewers watch and share your videos, for example, you’ll want to produce more. But if there was, say, an eBook with few downloads, you should examine why. Was it too long? Was it not relevant? Did you not do enough to get the word out? This introspection can help avoid content misses in the future.

An audit should also include the timing of your posts. Is there a particular time of day or day of the week when your audience is most likely to engage? Help your content reach your target by timing it accordingly. 

For more on how to conduct a marketing audit:

Map Your Content Types

You have many different content types at your disposal: Blog posts, eBooks, videos, and podcasts, to name a few. But remember, you’re competing for consumer attention with virtually everything else on the internet. Make it worth their while by thinking about your audience segments and what exactly you are trying to communicate with each one. That will help zero in on which content types are best for each message, and ensure you’re reaching the right customer at the right time with the right offer.

You’ll also want to consider which part of the sales funnel you’re creating content to tailor content further, Patel recommends. 

For more on the different types of content:

Determine Your Channels

Similarly, you have plenty of options for publication. You can post a blog or an eBook on your site or a platform like Medium. And, of course, you can share content, such as videos or podcasts, on social media. Tapping into different platforms is a great way to evangelize your message — but you’ll want to think ahead of time about cadence to ensure posts roll out as part of a cohesive brand conversation, CMI recommends. 

Also, consider where your audience spends their time already to help figure out where you should post what. This is another easy way to help connect consumers and content. 

Create Your Calendars

With all of these options, you’ll need a clear plan of attack about who within your organization is producing what and when. That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. HubSpot recommends implementing a social media content calendar to keep track of promotion as well. 

Scheduling posts is also a great time to think about evergreen content, which can be reshared or repurposed periodically. In the same vein, you can update older posts that may be out of date and push them back into circulation. 

Brainstorm Ideas

With all of these content strategy elements in place, you’re finally ready to brainstorm some topics. Think about newsworthy events in your industry or beyond to use as potential hooks. According to HubSpot, you’ll also want to think carefully about the problems you’re solving for customers and prospects, and how to educate them and reinforce your offering as the best possible solution.

HubSpot has its own Blog Ideas Generator to develop topics, but it also recommends Feedly’s RSS feed and BuzzSumo as sources of content inspiration. Patel recommends using Google Demographics and Interests to research the sites your audience already visits, as well as what content they engage with and what social media platforms they use. 

Measure Your Results

Finally, you’ll want to keep track of engagement metrics through tools such as Google Analytics, which will tell you the average time a reader spent on a page and overall page views and bounce rate. Use this information to hone your strategy to better cater to what users want. Then focus on producing the most effective content. You should also monitor how your content is impacting sales leads and how much revenue your content generates.

Also, you may want to ask your customers for their feedback as they are the best source of what resonates with them.

Follow Your Content Roadmap

Research shows content marketing done right yields cost-effective traffic and leads — sometimes for years to come. But no good ever comes from simply jumping on a bandwagon. Instead, use a content marketing strategy as a roadmap for the content types and channels your customers and prospects want to find and will find valuable.

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