I recently painted nearly every room in my house. It was an ambitious and laborious DIY project (respect for all professional painters). Although I couldn’t be more satisfied with the completed product, I underestimated the total effort and time involved in the process, from picking out paint colors and taping off trim, to actually doing the painting, not to mention all the touch-up afterwards (more props to the pro’s).
Developing a content marketing plan follows a similar process of planning, creating and applying what you’ve created, and continuously touching up to maintain and optimize your content. To achieve the results you’ll love, those that produce sales leads and provide a return on your marketing investment, requires more than simply writing a blog or two each month.
As I discovered through my home improvement painting project, a considered approach to content marketing goes through four similar stages that create a lasting content marketing program.
1. Planning and Preparation – Content Marketing Strategy
A lot of planning goes into a quality paint job before the first coat of paint is applied. From picking colors to scraping, spackling, sanding, taping, and priming, the preparation can take more time than the painting itself. But the result is a better finished product.
With content marketing, as with painting, do the prep work. Marketers often skip this important marketing planning and strategy work and jump right into sexier marketing tactics, like blog writing or a website redesign. But to achieve your marketing objectives, you first need to understand your broader business goals and the precise marketing activities that will get you there.
A well-researched inbound marketing strategy will guide all your marketing tactics from keywords and content, to messaging, ads, and even sales emails, saving time and disappointment down the road.
Content marketing strategy starts with a laser focus on your customer. This is why our first step is to create a limited number of core personas to focus on from the beginning. Understanding what motivates your ideal customers will help you create marketing content that most appeals to them to attract them to your website. A few questions to consider when developing your content marketing strategy are:
- What are your current website metrics (visits, most popular pages, etc.)?
- How many leads come through the website?
- What percentage of leads are qualified?
- What is the value of a lead?
Each persona will then receive a full lead nurturing strategy designed to educate them through their buyer’s journey. These nurturing emails will answer common questions and address their objections, all while directing visitors back to the informational hub, your website.
Marketing automation tools enable you to trigger targeted follow-up actions, when set up properly. Your content marketing strategy should combine an understanding of marketing software and marketing research to outline a system that will deliver a personalized experience for each persona.
2. Do the Work – Content Creation
In this content creation phase, your focus is to attract visitors by creating content that answers their questions and solves their problems. Based on your research in the planning phase, you’ll identify the questions that potential prospects have as they begin their online pre-purchase research and produce content that answers those questions.
Much of this inbound marketing content is given away for free in the form of blog posts, social media posts, and website content. Other content requires visitors to “pay” by sharing their contact information. These assets deliver value to the prospect by going more in-depth on a topic, being easier to download and save, or the asset provides a tool to help make their lives better. By accessing this content, a prospect signals greater interest and becomes a lead in your marketing automation system.
3. Show Your Colors – Publication and Distribution
With the smell of fresh paint lingering, I wanted to invite people over to show my work. Your content marketing should attract visitors to your company’s website. While blogging is perhaps the most common form of content marketing, your various visitors may like to consume content in different formats, such as infographics, videos, or podcasts. As you write your blogs, consider how many different ways you present the information.
The broad brush of content marketing also includes your static web pages, such as your website’s home page or “about us” page. Consider adding new static pages to your website to answer specific questions being asked by your key personas.
- FAQ page: Bring all the biggest objections into one place and share your best responses. This is a place to be honest and transparent. The more “real” the answer, the more a prospect will trust your brand.
- Problems We Solve page: A page that outlines the specific problems that your best customers are facing. Include glowing testimonials from happy customers. This page is your opportunity to build trust and educate new prospects.
- Customer Journey page: Outline the process a “customer like me” would follow when working with your company or using your product. This helps a prospect get a picture of what they can expect on the journey ahead.
- Pricing page: People want to know how much it costs. If you know the price, share it. If you don’t know, share how you arrive at the price you charge. Adding a calculator can help prospects do it themselves.
4. Touch-up and Maintenance – Measuring and Optimizing Content Marketing
As time goes on, walls get scuffed, paint chips and needs an occasional touch-up. Your content should also be revised from time to time.
As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets improved. Continuously monitoring your content marketing activities will uncover areas that can be updated or optimized to keep it performing at an optimum level.
Marketing automation and analytics software, like HubSpot, can measure your digital marketing campaigns and present the data to show whether you’re on track to reach the goals you set in your planning phase. Regular monitoring will show you:
- How many visits do you get to your website?
- How many visits do you get to specific important campaign pages?
- How many visitors fill out a form to download a content offer and become a lead?
- How many website leads would you consider qualified?
- How many qualified leads become a sales opportunity, and if they close, what would be the value?
Use these metrics and other website data to find ways to improve low-performing content, opportunities for new content, and rationale to promote your high-performing content and make continuous improvements over time.
These four phases paint a clear picture of a content marketing strategy and details the elements to be created and the systems that need to be configured. Heinzeroth Marketing Group can help you achieve your business goals with a complete inbound marketing strategy centered around your buyer personas – your ideal customers. Contact us here to start a conversation about your marketing and business growth goals.