Content Marketing Plan: The Complete Guide!
Content marketing is undoubtedly one of the best investments a company can make. It is undeniable that it increases traffic and generates high-quality contacts, which explains why many companies decide to include this activity in their communication strategy. A survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, in fact, showed that 92% of marketing experts say that their company sees content as a corporate resource.
Therefore, marketers must do everything possible to maximize ROI
The ROI (Return Of Investment) is the return generated by a given investment, less the cost of the investment itself. ROI is generally the measure of content marketing.
But being successful with content marketing may not be easy, even if that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And the same can be said of success on Socials, the exponential increase in followers and engagement. Engagement, from English “engagement”, is a term that indicates the level of user engagement with a company or brand, often used in Social Media Marketing. If you’re wondering if there really is a secret to achieving your marketing goals, the answer is yes. By doing things simply and correctly.
Often, when it comes to digital, experts tend to complicate things in order to get great results, without ever thinking that a simple strategy can be more functional to their interests. So here are a few tips to help you succeed with Content Marketing, provided you are simple and practical in planning your strategy.
IS CONTENT MARKETING PLAN A GOOD STRATEGY?
The Content Marketing Institute defines Content Marketing as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and ultimately to drive profitable customer action, so yes. Content Marketing is actually the first thing you have to take care of your strategy.
Just enough time to write the word “content” and you’re already thinking about blog posts. But what is actually a Blog? A blog (short for “weblog”) is an “online newspaper”, or informative website, that displays information in reverse chronological order…
…But it´s not as simple as you might think!
Everything you publish online is part of your content marketing strategy. Including content that some people never consider, like short tweets, Instagram Stories or comments posted on LinkedIn. As strange as it may seem to you, this change of perspective will help you achieve significant success in your content marketing strategy. If you can group every single piece of content you post on the Web into a community, it will make it easier for you to plan your future actions. Gather all the content into one strategy and make sure that it is in tune with each other, and not in conflict. This will help you a lot to win your audience.
What are the goals of content marketing?
Talking about content marketing today means opening the door to a topic that has been addressed a thousand times before. Especially with regard to the usefulness of this investment: doing content marketing means satisfying all the players involved. Satisfy the desire for fresh content that Google has, and give your potential customers exactly what they want: news, directions, insights.
That’s what inbound marketing strategy is based on. Attract potential customers to your site thanks to the content you push through socials and a good SEO – Search Engine Optimization: the set of strategies and practices to position sites or web pages in the organic results of the engines, create content is the first step, then you have to be found by the right people. And to do this you need search engine optimization. But also a good social media marketer that pushes content on socials.
The summary is this: to get the benefits in the content marketing sector you need to invest, and you need to move with a broad perspective. A perspective that is not devoted exclusively to the creation of content, and not only to the publication of articles for blogs.
This dimension is important, but it is not the only way to do content marketing: there are also ebooks, videos, infographics, reports. It all depends on your goals.
Exactly what are your goals?
Insidious question. In most cases, the answer seems simple, and ties in with the universe of measurable data with a simple visit to Google Analytics. Analytics, or web analytics, is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for understanding and optimizing web usage. I push out content to increase site visits. The more visits, the more opportunities to turn a user into a customer.
Visits are important, nobody denies it. But there is much more to consider and analyze. In reality, doing content marketing in 2020 means getting different results, results that you can’t measure immediately. But they allow you to achieve goals that are difficult to touch in different ways. Take a look, for example, at Contently’s forecasts: this infographic summarizes the trends in content marketing.
Let’s focus on the main B2C goals for a moment: According to the marketing experts surveyed by Contently, this is the situation. Sales are one of the main objectives, of course, but there is something more important to pursue. Among them we have:
1.The brand awareness activity
Brand awareness is a marketing term that describes the degree of recognition of a product by the consumer through its name. That is, the possibility to make your brand known.
A brand is an identifying symbol, brand, logo, name, word and/or phrase that companies use to distinguish their product from others. Think of all the advertisements that use storytelling. Are they only useful content to sponsor a product or service? Are you sure Apple only uses its ads to sell the iPhone?
2.Let’s not forget the various native advertising activities
Advertising (abbreviated ADV) means advertising, it is a paid message that a company sends with the purpose of informing or influencing the people who receive it: are they only used to bring people to the website? Brand awareness is important, it allows you to position your offer according to your scale of values, and you can do it by publishing great content.
3.The customer at the centre
Look at the first place in the chart: it’s occupied by customer relations. And there’s a heart in the centre to summarize your goal. That is to make sure that a customer doesn’t see you as just a salesman but as a point of reference for his business. As a set of knowledge and relationships that can solve the problem better than others, and add value. Something special. Something that today is not easy to find.
Something that corresponds to human relationships. Relationships that are built slowly, even with a tweet. Just like Starbucks does, trying to answer practically every question that comes up on Twitter.
The customer is at the heart of your content marketing activity. And if you notice that most of the objectives indicated in the graphics concern the direct relationship with the potential customer, a relationship that does not end with the sale of the product. The content continues to fuel your interests, continue to link you and your business with useful information, tailored to your specific needs.
What is the strongest and most effective form of advertising?
The one that comes from the heart, from one’s own conviction, the one that is not rewarded. If I can turn a client into an evangelist, I can count on the strength of word of mouth, of advice without forcing. How to be successful with Content Marketing:
- Before you look at content marketing strategy in detail, you need to understand the first fundamental rule.
- If you want to be successful, you need to make sure that every content you publish meets two important criteria in the digital world: education and entertainment.
- If content does not meet these values, it means that it does not contribute to your cause, let’s be clear.
There are content marketers who work on the number of posts. Their goal is to publish as much as possible. An incredible effort, which translates into poor performance for every single post (in terms of views and engagement). But that’s not all. Too much content can end up boring or annoying users, and even cause a burn-out.
As sensible as it may seem to you, this strategy is actually counterproductive. If you want to succeed, you have to focus on quality and not quantity. And as mentioned earlier, there are two values in the digital world that the public particularly appreciates. If you can incorporate them into your content strategy, the results can only be positive.
Include one of these two things in each of the content you publish:
The most searched word in search engines is “how”. Don’t be surprised, users are curious. They want to know how to do things, how they work, how to solve problems.
All this brings back to a value that cannot be missing in the content, information.
Educational content positions you as an expert in an area strengthens user confidence and puts you in line with your niche.
But let’s take a practical example: imagine you have a back problem and are looking for a chiropractor. Search search engines and find two possible solutions: a study with a website and a sporadic social presence, and one that has an excellent online presence.
By visiting the second chiropractor’s website you will also find interesting content that deals with back problems and explains to users how they can solve them themselves, or what an expert would do to treat the different problems. Now I ask you: which of the two chiropractors would you choose? The second, of course. Like 99% of users.
And do you know why? Simply because he shared educational content with you!
Items like this will set you apart from your competitors and gain more customers. But these don’t have to be your primary goals. When you create educational content, you really have to do it with the intention of helping people. Many entrepreneurs are afraid of this because they think that content can help users do things for themselves, thus eliminating the need to use the service they offer.
But it doesn’t…
Information content will ensure you have customers in the future. If a problem comes up again, or a user needs help in your industry, then you can rest assured that they will contact you. If you are not interested in sharing educational content, then make sure it contains the entertainment factor anyway. Many brands, for example, like to entertain their online audience by highlighting the people who work in the company. This way they create a connection with users and make everything more real and concrete.
But creating content that really entertains audiences is not easy. Generally, when it comes to “entertainment,” it’s always confused with “fun”…
And that’s where a lot of brands fail
Often, when companies try to share fun or humorous content on their socials, 95% of the time they fall into the trap of “cliché”, being boring and even alienating themselves from users. Humour is one of the most difficult features to put into the content. But there is an easy way to entertain users: tell stories in your content. Don’t imagine you have to write a novel. A story requires three simple elements, structured in a story that has a beginning, a middle part and an end:
- A character
- A target (or target) for the character
- An obstacle that prevents the character from reaching his goal
- And if users identify with your character, then you’ve achieved the desired effect. Of course, creating creative content is more difficult than any information post.
But how many stories happen in front of you every day? How many things do users tell you themselves? And there you have your story. Ask permission to use it and then turn it into irresistible entertainment content!
Now we can move on to strategy
How to create an effective Content Marketing strategy if you want to get results that pay back the time? A budget is an estimate of income and expenses over a given period of time in the future and is usually compiled and reassessed periodically. With the money and resources used for your content marketing business, you need to invest not only in content but also in strategy.
Here are the steps you need to take to create your content marketing strategy:
- Formalize your content strategy: Be careful! I don’t want you to take the term “strategy” under advisement, and see it as a generic jumble of good intentions and general principles dictated by common sense.
- Change your mindset: “I create my blog because I want more traffic on my website” is not a strategy.
Simply because it doesn’t explain anything and doesn’t establish what the answers to the four key questions of your content marketing activity are:
- What benefits do you intend to bring to your business through content marketing?
- What audience are you addressing?
- How do you intend to engage them?
- How do you intend to measure results?
Designing a content marketing strategy is first and foremost about providing an articulated (and possibly written) answer to these questions.
Why, if possible written?
Because writing means making an effort of analysis and rationalization, during which it will be easier to heal any contradictions and make consistent the path that will become, in practice, your funnel. Funnel (also known as sales funnel or marketing funnel) is the process through which companies guide customers in the purchase of products, in order to make a conversion.
In web marketing, the conversion is when a user performs a specific – measurable – action that is important for your business.
How to create a Content Marketing Strategy
The questions you need to ask yourself in this regard relate to the general principles of your marketing activity. What are you getting at? What is the general need you want to answer through your content marketing activity? Which branch, sector, the channel of your business do you intend to strengthen and strengthen?
If you start by asking yourself these questions, it will be easier for you to design the entire conversion funnel based on content marketing, because you can more easily determine the ideal path you want your customers to take.
Strengthening customer service requires different resources and methods than optimizing your lead generation business.
Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting potential customers into leads, then obtaining contact information.
Choose where you want to go, describe it and outline it as much as possible: it will be easier for you to determine your target tomorrow. Target refers to a group of potential customers to whom a company wants to sell its products or services. The Target is therefore also the act of writing the right content to bring it towards your business goals.
Define the target
It is clear that the definition of the target is the first step towards the formalisation of a sensible strategy. Writing means, first of all, addressing a reader, an ideal audience.
This audience, however, cannot be chosen at random: it must be determined according to your marketing needs. The risk, otherwise, will be to create interesting content, which will bring thousands of people to your site but without making you earn a penny.
Defining your audience, as usual, is more than just establishing a generic profile suitable for all seasons. Even in the lucky event that your business has a very large potential customer base, it will be described in the best possible way. “I reach out to everyone” doesn’t work in content marketing: those who try are ultimately in the unpleasant situation of not being able to address anyone convincingly.
The solution? Carefully describe a marketing person, a detailed profile of your interlocutor. Only in this way will you be forced to choose, to determine a tone of voice and content cut on this ideal reader: in this way you will have taken the first step towards a truly effective content marketing.
Involve your audience
Once you have established your strategic and fundamental objective and determined your ideal target, it will certainly be easier for you to understand how to involve it and how to bring it to reading and interaction with your content that can then be transformed into conversion. Each of your content should be aimed to satisfy a need, to solve a problem, to answer a question. What are the needs expressed by your customers, which of their questions do you intend to answer? What objections could they make to you, and how would you answer them?
Here: all these questions, and the answers that will come out of them, will be the backbone of your Content Marketing business and your editorial plan: the only ones that will keep you on the right track at all times of your business.
Measure the results
You’ve made a good project, written an editorial plan, started to publish and distribute your content. I mean, you’re finally doing content marketing. Is it working? There’s only one way to know: establish a strategy for measuring results already at the project level. I recently read an aphorism that said more or less like this: “Web analytics is like sex among teenagers: everyone talks about it, everyone is convinced that others do it, and in reality, no one knows how to do it”.
Measuring results in a way that’s useful for your marketing doesn’t mean taking a measurement every now and then to see how many visitors have seen your website. It means, instead, to plan upstream, when planning new marketing activity, the measurement and control activities necessary to be able, in the future, to optimize that activity itself.
A content marketing strategy, therefore, will not be complete if you have not also determined KPIs.
KPIs, which stands for Key Performance Indicators, are a set of quantifiable measures that a company uses to assess its performance over time.
In short, to develop a winning strategy, it is not enough to say that you want to “improve the lead, i.e. an individual or company that has shown interest by sharing contact information, such as e-mail address, phone number.
How to optimize your Content Marketing strategy?
The first point I suggest is the critical approach. Never think you can reach the ideal solution at first, you must always question what you have done with objective spirit. Testing is your first commandment to respect.
Other advice to activate?
- Study the people you need to reach well: you want to optimize your content marketing strategy but don’t know where to start? I suggest you give priority to this element: the target. That is to say, the audience for which you are creating your work. Having in mind the audience that is going to receive your work is always useful.
Where does the reflection start? A good search for reader personas can give a hand to understand what characteristics must have the content you are forging. In this way, you avoid publishing without a compass.
There is no greater waste for a content marketing strategy: work at random, hoping to intercept the favours of a part of the audience. The personas, instead, take inspiration from empirical data (analytics) to build hypotheses of an audience to satisfy.
- Adapt your content to the target audience: Now you have clear data about the target audience to reach. And it is an endless waste of resources if you continue to invest in content creation without assessing the relationship between target and content. A concrete example: You want to sell a basic SEO course through an email marketing funnel. To make lead generation you thought to create an ebook to give to those who leave the mail contact. But you have packaged an advanced SEO guide for senior professionals.
Because you’ve played the exclusive, high-quality lead magnet card. Completely ignoring the target audience!!! The guide will be downloaded mainly by advanced users who will not be interested in the course. Completely nullifying your content marketing activities.
Studying the target does not mean combing the dolls but giving a precise address to your online content.
- Always set clear goals for your content: Another aspect that is often overlooked: what should your planned publications for blogs, websites and newsletters do?
Each action must be directed towards a clear objective, not forgetting the possibility of obtaining secondary benefits and related to the final result.
Again I want to give you a concrete example. The ebook I mentioned can be used to make lead generation, but not only. If you associate the launch of the content with a digital PR and blogger outreach work you can aim at a result in terms of link earning. You get an advantage for the SEO strategy as the incoming links – which arrive naturally and spontaneously – contribute to organic positioning. In summary, you give a goal to your content marketing strategy by expanding your perspective and scope.
- Learn how to reuse and exploit publications: Content has different lives and the idea that each channel should be enriched and animated with specific works is not always valid. This means that work can be adapted and transformed into something different. To animate another channel and save time. Any examples?
- Videos become podcasts by extrapolating audio.
- Blog articles turn into ebooks.
- Slides become extra content to download.
- Of course, you don’t have to fall into the temptation to recycle without adapting, improving and optimizing. The publications of a corporate blog can become material for a newsletter but this is not enough to justify good email marketing and DEM.
- Define KPIs to monitor results over time: another big mistake that prevents the take-off of the content marketing strategy: the absence of clear parameters to define the performance of the content compared to what you do. How do you understand where, when and why to improve your actions? With KPIs.
What is it KPIs?
That is to say key performance indicators, useful parameters to understand the quality of the actions you have activated. To explain this concept I take up the case of the ebook: which KPIs do we define?
- Several downloads made and links received on the page can be useful references, also because the documents downloaded coincide with new leads added to the database that will be exploited in the funnel.
- Define KPI to monitor results over time
- How many KPIs can you define
- How to optimize your content marketing strategy? There will be other KPIs to evaluate the different tasks. For example, those used with direct email and marketing automation.
In short, each phase has its own parameters to evaluate: not to include the observation of KPIs in a content-related action means approaching failure. And, as always, you have to move away from this eventuality.
How to choose the best KPIs for Content Marketing
As we saw in the last point, working around the KPI content marketing concept means identifying gaps and weaknesses in the strategy.
The goal? To improve what doesn’t work and to make sure that there is an adequate ROI for the investments you have made.
Click-Through Rate (CTR) or click rate means the number of times users click on an advertising link or banner. A very broad topic, true. But the summary is clear, the explicit one with a question: do you think the task of SEO is only about positioning for an interesting keyword? Yes if we take as reference only the On-Page and Off-Page optimization activity. But it is a short-sighted perspective. Those who do SEO, at least from my point of view, must work closely with the general perspective of strategic digital marketing generating positive results.
One of the richest sectors when it comes to content marketing is in fact also email marketing. Because the work you do with email is related to the content you send to contacts: When you send a certain content people open emails? Do they click on the call to action you have inserted in the message and increase the conversions? Or maybe they leave the list?
Robust analysis and testing of results are essential at this stage. But the fruits you can reap, perhaps thanks to marketing automation work, are exciting. It’s a crowded market, where it’s not hard to make mistakes.
To conclude, and to help you manage your strategy even better, here are some of the most common mistakes that experts make. And also some advice on how to avoid them.
- Don’t create reusable content: a one-way approach, when it comes to creating content, may not be a good idea. On the other hand, creating quality content takes a lot of time and resources. That’s why it’s important to try to maximize the return on investment by creating content that can be reused later, perhaps on other channels. This also means being able to reuse a blog post for something totally different like an infographic or a video.
- Don’t create enough content during the sales funnel: A buying process consists of several steps, and you must think about each of them when creating content. If you focus too much on producing information content, made to attract users in the knowledge phase, you may risk losing buyers later in the sales funnel. You would do well to create appropriate content for all stages of the sales funnel.
- Don’t have a content approval process: let’s make one thing clear: creating content doesn’t just mean producing a perfect piece and publishing it. Before this happens, among other things, it would be necessary for your team and the client to review and approve the content itself. Building such a review process is critical because it ensures that the published content maximizes every element of the brand, and is published on time. Many marketing experts manage this review process through email and/or spreadsheets, which only slows down the work and puts the relationship with clients at risk. As already mentioned, the ideal solution would be to create a kind of template that includes every single step of the review/approval process and its duration.
Otherwise, you can also use a platform to write, publish and approve content in time. In this way, it would be the tool to monitor revisions and changes, without the need to use email exchanges or spreadsheets.
- Not reviewing content marketing performance: this is perhaps the biggest mistake you can make – not reviewing the performance of published content. Without data analysis, it is impossible to understand what is working and what is not working in your marketing strategy. For example, knowing if one piece of content is working well might help you understand how to reuse it or how to produce another in the same vein.
Conversely, knowing that it’s not working can help you understand the need to change your strategy. In principle, you would need to analyze the data with your team at least every three months. On the contrary, you should consider that metrics such as page views, social media shares and the time users spend watching content could help you improve your marketing campaigns.
- Don’t promote content enough: Content marketing doesn’t stop at just publishing content, keep that in mind. To make an impact on your audience, you need to continuously propose content to users. Therefore, you should spend more time promoting content rather than creating it.
The perfect idea would be to follow the 80/20 rule: 20% to be dedicated to the creation of content and 80% to its promotion through social media, blogs or other channels. Having clarified what the most common mistakes in content marketing are, it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid slipping into your strategy. Knowing the pitfalls of the industry will undoubtedly help you maximize your results. Are you ready to jump in then?
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