Did you know there is a lot of work that has to happen before one begins creating a content marketing strategy? There is and I am going to give you some strategies that will help you begin and also explain some important “non-negotiables”, as I call them.
First, Create a Team
Your business will need at the least a team of two people. This is especially true when your are writing/rewriting the content for the main pages of a website. They need to work together to create the content you need. There should be brainstorming and as they say, two brains are better than one. Seriously, this task is a two person job at a minimum.
There is Work to Be Done Before Your Team Begins:
There are no short cuts for effective and organized content marketing. The non-negotiables below have to be completed before writing begins. They apply to the writing of main content pages of a website and all other forms of content marketing.
A goal-oriented plan.
What is the goal(s) of the content marketing? Without establishing goals you are wasting your time. What parameters will you use to measure success of this campaign? Who will monitor the campaigns effectiveness or lack thereof along the way? Always remember that a lack of success is a learning tool, not a failure. Try and try again – experimentation.
Create a spreadsheet or document for each goal and each of the following:
Colleagues, clients, competitors ideas, social media ideas and blogs ideas.
As you collect data you place it in the right file to not only stay organized, but also to prioritize easily later. Often a rating scale for ideas is great to start with. It will help you narrow down and compare ideas later.
On your goal spreadsheets you can list all strategies tried and rate them. You can later review what worked at different times of the year, what didn’t work at all, what only worked when certain marketing strategies where in place, what always works etc.
The team should speak with their colleagues before anyone else.
Your team cannot create effective content without talking with those that deal with your clientele (sales, accounting, legal etc.). They need to hear what works in sales, what fails, what makes clients happy, what irritates clients and they need to fully understand what potential clients want to hear before they buy. When your team continues with their research they will always have their colleagues’ ideas in the back of their minds; this is good.
I am assuming making sales is one of of your goals. What are the priorities of the sales people? Perhaps they should be priorities in the marketing as well and perhaps not.
I always tell businesses to give a small spiral paper pad to every person that deals with clients/customers. This pad is to be used for one thing, to write down the common questions they hear daily/weekly. If it is a common question for everyone then those are questions to be answered in your content marketing. Each week the list of question should be handed to your content team. (Keeping track of new questions is important too.)
This data will help provide ongoing content.
They should talk to and listen to your clients.
If you have some clients that are nice, happy people and don’t mind a phone call, let your team call them and ask them some questions. Make the clients feel good and let them know you value their opinions. Your team can also sit in your waiting room and just talk with clients. They can bring clients into conference rooms before meetings, get them coffee and leisurely ask some questions. Let them read complaint emails and positive ones as well. They need client input.
The team should take colleague / client data and then research competitors.
With data in hand your team should look at your competitors content marketing strategies. Are their ideas similar? There are ideas to be gained from competitors, failures to be avoided and you can avoid looking like you are copying/stealing ideas. I also suggest researching similar businesses throughout the country that may not be direct competitors, but are larger than your company. Seeing what works for others might confirm a direction for you.
There are ideas and strategies to be found in blogs and social media.
Content marketing is a huge part of social media so you need to have an actionable plan for the medium that will serve you the best. Dig and find. What is working for others? Infographics, videos, ads, links, information in sidebars? I could go on, but you get the point.
Examine everything and keep track of the ideas that attract you, those that are inventive and those to avoid.
Look at goals and ideas and determine target audiences.
Define your target audience(s). How will you reach them? What is a conversion for each audience? Is it sales, proof of advertising reach or an interaction? Whatever the goal is there should be some proof of success. Track it!
Important point - The content of your website is essentially the foundation of all marketing efforts. Make sure visitors coming to your site, from external marketing efforts, will find content that will support what they have already seen.
The Actual Writing of Content
I have worked as a copywriter. It can be easy at times, but at times it is a nightmare because the writer doesn’t have enough information to write copy that will reach and/or convince a target audience. Do not assume you can hire a copywriter to do this work for you all on their own. It will not be effective.
To sell with content you have to have the background in whatever industry you are writing about. A copywriter/copyeditor can help assist your team in putting ideas together and making the message flow. An experienced SEO copywriter is even better because they also know what the search engines want and they understand how important the user experience is. (When I say experienced I mean they have a working knowledge of SEO, not “have written SEO articles”. Run Forrest! )
If there is content being made for a new website give the writer the page layouts first! The writer needs to know how much room they have to get the right points across. They need to know where images will be so they can layout the content well. Scannable content is key. Headlines are crucial.
Nothing can or should be written without an idea of the layout. OR let the writer make some suggestions on the page layouts and images/graphics.
I am going to say something here that is most likely going to irritate a lot of web developers, but with all the blogging done today it is time.
When a web visitor uses the search box they are often given everything related to the topic. Typically they are looking for a specific service/product and cannot find it because the blog has several posts on the topic and those posts are given first.
I believe that business sites with blogs need to find a way to have a main site search and a blog search. If the goal is conversion then let people find the service or product they want. Those that understand blogging will be happy to see they can just search the blog. Those that are looking for the service will be happy to avoid the blog (or won’t know what it is and avoid it).
Let the user find what they are looking for. If they have the option to search the site, blog or both you have given them everything they need.
Here are some other quick suggestions for really making your content work for you:
- Don’t forget page-specific priorities. What has to be said on each page?
- Related services need to be integrated in pages even if it is just a link.
- Find a way to integrate related posts. We all know that seeing “related articles” or “learn more about” makes people click. If a user is interested in a service and then reads your blog post about it they gain knowledge and also (if the blog post is done right) trust. I believe that creating trust is the key to making an online sale.
- Don’t forget rich snippets, sitemaps and specialized XML sitemaps.
- Become friendly with Schema.org.
- Have a great blogger on staff.
- Have legal review everything! Writers & web developers don’t always know what could get you sued.
All of the suggestions I have made above will give you running start at content marketing. Nothing of quality comes easily or cheaply. And again, much is learned from things that are not successful. Don’t get mad at your team for what you might see as a “failure”. Examine the data and see what was learned from it. Then you will know what didn’t work and which direction to move.
Image credits: Shutterstock / doglikehorse, : Nenov Brothers Photography, Grasko & ronstik.