Do you have a content marketing strategy for your business?

Do you plan to spend more on content this year than the last year?

If not, you should.

On average, businesses spend 28% of their total marketing budget on content marketing. There’s a reason why businesses spend so much on content marketing and why you should do the same.

Content generates massive ROI.

Statistics show that businesses produce 3x mores leads for every dollar spent on content marketing as compared to other marketing techniques.

Your brand can’t go without a solid content marketing strategy.

The guide below will show you the exact steps that you can follow to create a content marketing strategy for your business.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

 

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a type of marketing that primarily uses all forms of content (e.g., articles, videos, podcasts, ebooks, infographics) to connect with the target audience and build a relationship with them.

It involves the creation, publication, and distribution of content to attract the ideal audience and eventually make money from them . The content has to be:

  • Relevant
  • Valuable

Content here doesn’t just mean text but content can take any form ranging from text to videos to infographics to slides to podcasts to eBooks and more.

When you write and publish any type of content, you’re actually doing content marketing.

 

What is Content Marketing Strategy?

A strategy is defined as a plan of action that’s designed to achieve a goal or an objective.

A content marketing strategy, therefore, is a plan of action designed to help you achieve your content marketing goals.

A content marketing strategy is the actual plan that defines the what, why, how, and when of your business’ content marketing endeavors.

It tells your team what type of content to generate, why it has to be published, how it will be created, and when it has to be distributed.

You can have a written and documented strategy or you can have a verbal content marketing strategy.

However, a documented strategy is preferred because it helps your team to stay focused and organized and everyone knows what has to be done at a particular month (say, July and what has to be done in November and how it will impact the success and ROI of the brand in December).

So a content marketing strategy is a simple design and layout of the specific steps and phases that you have to go through to achieve success.

Why Your Business Needs A Content Marketing Strategy

Truth is, all brands, small and large, have a content marketing strategy. Although, not many of these brands know this. Actually, by default every business is riding on one strategy or the other.

Think of Rolex, Nike, Coca Cola, New York Times, and several others. They’re all using content marketing. Question is, “is every brand effective at it?”

Your business needs a content marketing strategy for the following reasons (and benefits):

1) It gives direction: The core purpose of any strategy is to define the plan of actions and the steps that will be taken to reach the goal.

A content marketing strategy will give direction to your business and to your marketing team. It acts as the reference point for everyone in your team.

They can look at the strategy at any given time to see where they’re now, where they would like to be, and what steps they should take to reach the goal.

2) Better understanding: A content marketing strategy will make your business, marketing, and content marketing goals understandable. Your team can look at the goals and make sense of it.

A strategy will answer questions like:

  • Why we are creating so many videos for your YouTube channel?
  • Why are we sharing our infographics with other blogs?
  • How do the blog posts that I write impact the business?

It doesn’t just enhance understanding but it helps your team relate their activities with you. It helps them understand how the work they do adds to the business and overall marketing goals.

3) Helps monitoring and analysis: One of the best reasons why your business should have a content marketing strategy is that it helps in monitoring, tracking, and evaluating success.

For instance, the goal is to publish one infographic every month for a year. You can monitor the backlinks and traffic from a single infographic.

Next year, you can move to two infographics a month if it really worked for your business.

4) Integration: A well-crafted content marketing strategy should ideally link to business goals and marketing goals. Because:

  • It cannot exist in isolation.
  • It should never exist in isolation.
  • If it’s integrated, it will eventually help achieve business and marketing goals.

5) Better resource allocation: One of the best ways to reduce resource wastage and to work with limited resources is to plan and have a strategy.

A content marketing strategy helps you do exactly the same.

 

How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy

Don’t let that desire to build a successful business online turn into a daydream that never manifests.

You might be feeling great whenever you look at your written goals. Most of the time, the tasks seem fair — even before you embark on them. But if you don’t have the right strategy in place; a step-by-step plan, it may be hard to get beyond that phases.

The big question – how do you create an effective content marketing strategy?

Theoretically, it sounds great to have a strategy.

When you do it practically, it feels even better because the results speak.

Follow the six steps discussed below to have your content marketing strategy created like a pro.

 

1) Define goals

Nothing works without setting goals.

No two content marketing strategies have the same goals and objectives. Your competitor might have totally different goals, certainly, they should.

Defining the goal of your content marketing strategy should begin from a single question:

Why do you need a content marketing strategy?

The answer lies is your big goal.

  • Do you want to increase traffic?
  • Do you want to acquire more backlinks?
  • Do you want to generate leads?

What exactly you plan to achieve from content marketing.

To help you get started, HubSpot has a goal planning template that will help you create goals for your content marketing strategy.

Defining goals itself is a task that needs a lot of time and brainstorming. The easiest scientific approach to goal-setting is none other than SMART goals.

A SMART goal is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable/Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Here’s a practical example of setting SMART goal for your online marketing strategy.

Your goal should be measurable.

For instance, increase in organic traffic by 23% seems to be a measurable goal. You can easily check how much organic traffic increased in a specific duration.

Here are examples of core goals for content marketing strategy:

  • Increase in traffic
  • Increase in leads
  • Increase in sales
  • Increase in revenue
  • Acquire backlinks
  • Increase user engagement
  • Increase number of page views

Your goal should be specific. Increase in traffic doesn’t seem to be as specific as increase in organic traffic by 300% in 12 months.

This seems to be time-based and specific. It helps your team exert force in the right direction.

Write down the goal and communicate it with your team so that everyone knows what your business is up to.

 

2) Create buyer personas

Who are your buyers?

You probably know them very well but not all of them will be interested in all types of content you produce.

You have to create buyer personas for your content marketing strategy. These will be the people who you intend to target with content.

A buyer persona, according to HubSpot, is:

“A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

The Buyer Persona Institute defines buyer persona as:

“Built from interviews with real buyers, a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options.”

It tells you:

  • Who your buyers are
  • What they do
  • What they like
  • What they don’t like
  • What type of content they like to read
  • What their biggest challenges in life are
  • How they spend their day

You’ve got to make the buyer personas as detailed as you can. A detailed buyer persona like this will tell you everything about your buyers.

To get started, use the following template by Single Grain.

It has eight essential sections which you have to fill.

  1. Find a name for the buyer (e.g., Brian)
  2. Add a background brief of the buyer. That is, history, education, job description, etc.
  3. Demographics are self-explanatory.
  4. Goals are a crucial section that should include the general goals of the buyer and product-specific goals that your business or one of your products tend to solve.
  5. Add the hobbies and interests of the buyer.
  6. Challenges include general life challenges and challenges that you’ll solve through your products.
  7. List all the objectives of the buyer.
  8. List all the fears faced by the buyer.

The final persona should look something like this.

Since you’re creating these personas for content marketing, therefore, you should include an additional section about the type of content the ideal buyer likes.

Most of the information that you have to include in the buyer persona needs market research. For instance, the hobbies, interest, challenges, objectives, fears, etc. is the type of information that must be collected from the buyer.

You’ve got to conduct interviews, surveys, focus groups, and must collect data from online sources such as social media, government reports, and other third-party sources.

This seems to be a lot of work, and sure it is, but it pays off. Use these tools for market research.

You will be able to product the right type of content that your target audience will love.

Create multiple buyer personas for different market segments. Create a separate persona for a target group that’s unique. This will help you create extremely personalized content that will target the exact type of buyers.

 

3) Choose the right content types

The data you collected in the previous step will be used to choose the most appropriate type of content that your target audience will love.

You can create several types of content but the thing that really matters is “does your readers/audience truly want to read that content?”

Not everyone is interested in watching videos. Not everyone likes infographics. Not all of your buyers like reading long articles.

You have to see what your buyers prefer in terms of content type.

Look at the buyer personas and analyze them. See what type of content each buyer prefers. Create the exact same type of content.

The simplest approach is to ask your target audience. When you conduct a survey or interviews in the previous step, add a few questions about content type preference.

The content type should be relevant to:

  • Buyer preference and interests
  • Buyer journey or phase in the conversion funnel
  • Business strategy

This relevance is crucial.

You have to develop a strategy for content for all the phases of conversion funnel.

Here is a basic overview of the type of content that you should create for readers based on their journey in the funnel.

You might be targeting buyers in one state through case studies while in another city, you might be targeting buyers in the same funnel phase with videos.

It all comes down to what type of content your buyers prefer.

 

4) Create a content editorial calendar

A content editorial calendar is used to control the publication of content across different media. It tells you:

  • When to publish
  • Where to publish
  • What the purpose of the each piece that you publish is.

A typical content editorial calendar will look something like this.

If you’re targeting multiple target markets through content marketing across several target markets, you’ll end up having a large editorial calendar that will keep your team busy throughout the month.

Follow the steps below to create an editorial calendar for your content marketing strategy.

Step #1: Download this free editorial calendar template from HubSpot.

Step #2: Visit Google Calendar and create a New Calendar.

Fill the details and click Create Calendar.

Step #3: Click Other Calendars and then click Import Calendar.

Click Choose File and select the CSV file that you downloaded in the Step #1. It is titled as ‘Blog Editorial Calendar – Google Calendar’.

Select the Calendar that you just created in the Step #2.

Step #4: Make adjustments to the calendar based on your content marketing strategy. Personalize it.

Once you’re done with the customization, start filling the publishing details. Start adding the post titles on the calendar when you want them to be published.

You can assign posts to team members by clicking Edit Event and enter the email address and invite others.

Step #5: Finally, share the calendar with others.

Click My Calendars and choose your editorial calendar and then click Share this calendar.

Congratulations, you now have an editorial calendar that is shared with your entire team.

You can expand it and add more fields and tasks.

Another technique to creating editorial calendars is to use Gantt charts.

Gantt charts are best when you’re dealing with several types of content and there are multiple teams working on various aspects of content marketing. It keeps your team right on track.

Normally, content marketing is much more complicated than it may look.

For instance, once you publish a blog post, it has to be shared on social networks, it has to be syndicated on different networks, you might have to convert the blog post into a slideshow, video, and a podcast.

Once the blog post has been published, it has to be promoted too.

This is where Gantt charts are so handy.

Download Excel editorial calendar templates here and get started right away.

 

5) Distribute and promote

Content marketing isn’t just about creating and publishing but it’s more about distributing and promoting what you’ve published.

There are several approaches and techniques that you can use to distribute and promote your content across multiple channels.

Content distribution here means syndication. How you make your content available across multiple channels throughout the web.

Digital Current generated 1500+ shares, 80+ backlinks, and more than 3500 page views for a single blog post. They used syndication to generate quality backlinks.

All the big brands syndicate content. Consider CNN.

If you’ll publish content on your own blog, it will sit there for years without making any impact. It has to be distributed throughout the internet.

A single blog post can be converted to a video, podcast, Slideshare, eBook, images, and other content types.

Convert a blog post into a video and target another buyer persona. Convert the same blog post into an email course and target a different buyer persona.

If you don’t do this, your content is potentially underutilized.

According to Search Engine Land, content syndication boosts authority.

Content promotion is the next step.

Once the content has been published on your blog and other sites, how you promote it will make all the difference.

You have to tell your buyers about the content you just published. It’s your responsibility to make it available to them.

The only way to do it is to promote it.

Here’s a list of some of the best content promotion techniques that should be a part of your content marketing strategy.

  • Divide your content into small chunks and share it on social networks for several days. For instance, if you published a blog post that is well over 2000 words, you can create 20 or more small snippets from the piece. Post these snippets to social networks with a link to your post.

  • Send an email to all the sources that you’ve used in your content and ask them to read and share with their audience. You can use the following template.

  • Convert content into a presentation and post it on sites like SlideShare and Slideshow. This will make your content available and accessible to a whole new audience that is more interested in slideshows as compared to text.
  • Convert your blog posts and articles into PDFs and upload the PDF version on Docstoc, Scribd, and other PDF sharing sites. Better yet, hire a designer to create a PDF template. Use the same template for all the PDFs to make your brand stand out from the crowd.
  • Use Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer to find people and webmasters who have linked to similar type of content. Reach out to them and show them your content. If it is appealing enough, they will link to it.
  • Add a link to your new content from your best and most popular blog post. This will make it accessible to a lot of eyeballs in no time.

 

6) Analyze and tweak

How effective is the content marketing strategy?

This is a challenging question.

Over 33% of B2B content marketers say that their biggest challenge is the inability to measure content effectiveness.

If you don’t know what type of content converts, what is the ROI, and what your buyers seem to like (and don’t like), you’ll not be able to make the best use of resources.

Let’s look back at the purpose of your content marketing strategy. The goals will help you track the performance of the content.

If the goal was to drive organic traffic, check Google Analytics to see if there has been any increase in organic traffic?

What are the top performing pages, content, and keywords in SERPs?

The six different goal types according to Moz are:

  1. Traffic
  2. Brand awareness
  3. Engagement
  4. Sales
  5. Lead generation
  6. Customer loyalty

Here’s an overview of the goals and corresponding metrics that you should measure to see how well your content is doing.

Tweak your content strategy based on the results.

It’s a continuous process. The results from this stage must be used to tweak the strategy.

After implementing the changes, analyze the content marketing strategy again and then make adjustments along the way.

 

Content Marketing Case Studies

So far you’ve read all about content marketing strategy, how to create and manage one.

Great.

Let’s look at some of the best content marketing case studies for inspiration and ideas.

 

1) Rental History Reports increased organic traffic by 400%

Rental History Reports was interested in increasing its organic traffic and to build trust.

The brand used original content to attain great heights. It started its own blog and created its content editorial calendar. They started off with publishing three blog posts a week.

This is what it resulted in:

  • Increase in organic traffic by 400% in just six months.
  • Ranks on page one in Google for several keywords.
  • Page views increased by 260%.
  • More than half of the sales are attributed to the organic traffic.

 

2) InsideOut Development

InsideOut Development is a corporate training company that used content marketing to increase lead generation by a whopping 388%.

Here is a detailed guide on how they did it. A detailed content marketing strategy was developed for the company to achieve its goals. It was a four-step strategy:

  1. Create great content that is simple, visually compelling, bite-sized, and unique.
  2. The focus was put on three types of content; articles, videos, and slide decks.
  3. Become an authority in the industry. They used two great sources including the founder of the company and the professional services group that included partners and professionals.
  4. Content promotion was done through email marketing, social media, website, PR, and other sources.

The goal was to increase lead generation and it worked.

The content-based emails worked like a charm for the company.

  • Lead generation increased by 388%
  • Opt-out rate reduced by 87%
  • CTR increased by 20%

 

3) ShoreTel Sky

ShoreTel Sky used content marketing to increase inbound links 3x in six months.

The goals for the content marketing strategy were to:

  • Increase authority
  • Boost SEO
  • Boost conversions

The strategy was quite simple – generate high-quality content. The writers started generating content that was keyword-focused and was extremely detailed. All the posts were in-depth.

One new article was posted every single day and in six months, this is what they achieved.

  • Organic traffic increased by 50%
  • Inbound links to the website tripled
  • Reduction in bounce rate by 3%
  • Goal conversion rate increased by 42%

 

4) Vero

Jimmy Daly of Vero generated 1,000 new email subscribers from a single blog post using the Skyscraper technique.

He created a post that was better and highly valuable. He used Skyscraper technique.

  1. He found the best performing content that was already ranking well and was shared by a lot of people.
  2. Created a similar post that was better than all of the previous best performing posts.
  3. He promoted his post religiously by email outreach.

His post generated around 5K pageviews in the first week.

Besides, he acquired backlinks from some top sites like Inc. The post jumped to number two in Google for the main keyword.

Above all, he gained 1k new email subscribers from this single blog post.

 

Content Marketing Tools

Content marketing gets easier if you use the right tools. It doesn’t matter whether you’re targeting desktop users or mobile audience, the right tools will get the job done.

Sadly, you’ll be struggling to scale in this marketing strategy if you ignore tools. So let’s consider a few that you should be using:

1) BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is the best tool for content marketing. It helps you analyze the best performing content for a particular industry/niche within a period of time (e.g., 6 months)

Though it is a great tool with tons of features but broadly speaking, it helps with two things:

  • Find the best performing content based on a keyword or by entering a URL
  • Find influencers to promote content

Using BuzzSumo is easy and fun.

i).  There are two ways to get content ideas and to find the best performing content in terms of shares and links. You can enter a keyword or a domain name.

ii). Click Top Content and enter the keyword or the domain name and hit Enter. You can apply filters if needed.

iii). You’ll see articles with social shares and links they have generated.

iv). You can view backlinks and sharers to see more details.

The articles that have a lot of shares on social networks and have acquired a decent number of backlinks can be used as seed articles. You can take ideas from such articles.

You can even create similar articles that are better than the ones already doing well.

2) Outbrain

Outbrain helps you promote and distribute your content. It amplifies your content and helps you reach a wider audience.

You can watch the video below to see why Outbrain is such a great tool for promoting your content.

Your content appears as suggested content on other blogs. You must have seen this type of content suggestions on several blogs, most of these blogs use Outbrain.

Follow the steps below to get started with Outbrain:

1. Create an account and use Amplify your Content feature.

2. Choose the type of content you want to promote. You can choose RSS feed or a hand-picked article. To get started, select hand-picked.

3. Set budget, cost per click, and enter a start and end date for your campaign.

4. Click proceed to checkout and wait for the confirmation email.

5. You can change the campaign settings from the dashboard.

Outbrain delivers cheap clicks to your content. Using it isn’t a big deal as long as you have money.

3).  Buffer

Buffer is a smart tool that helps you share your content on social networks by making it easier to manage social sharing and scheduling posts.

You can use the Google Chrome extension. Simply click the Buffer icon in the browser and schedule the post on the social network.

But it is more than a post scheduling tool. Here is how to use Buffer smartly.

1. After you’ve registered, link your social accounts. It supports all the leading social networks. You can link multiple accounts with the premium account.

2. Schedule posts on different social networks using the Schedule feature.

3. Install and start using the browser extension to share and schedule any page on social networks.

4. You’ll see Buffer icon in Twitter. You can use it to retweet any post.

5. Choose when to share any given post.

6. Add RSS feed to your Buffer account to start adding new posts to your account instantly.

7. Use the Analytics tab to see popular posts, retweets, mentions, and potential of your each post.

Buffer can help you show your content to the right people at the right time. This is one of the best tools that will supercharge your content marketing strategy.

 

Conclusion

Creating and managing a powerful content marketing strategy is not really a big deal. If you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, things will get easier.

Follow the 6-step process discussed in this guide to create a content marketing strategy for your business, get inspiration and insights from the case studies, and seek help from the tools discussed above.

Don’t forget to tweak your strategy when the need arises.

The content needs of your target audience change rapidly as they use the internet and come across content from your competitors and other sources.

Make changes to your strategy and buyer personas with the same pace. There’s no room for delay.

Above all, keep learning about your audience. Because the more you understand exactly what they need, the easier it’d be to communicate your unique value proposition—which is key to standing out in a crowded market.