It’s getting quite loud out there and people are beginning to ignore content as much as TV commercials. It’s not that content is a disruption like an ad – we can simply choose not to view or read it. It’s that in this “jaded” Internet world, only the latest “shiny new objects” get attention.
Couple this with the fact that we have a rising generation (millennial) that is impatient, wants its information/answers quickly via its phone, relies on social media, and values the recommendations of others more than content presented by a company.
These are serious challenges for content marketers who must compete for attention. Any content marketing plan must provide for these challenges. Here you will find 4 steps in developing an effective marketing plan, with some very specific suggestions for content creation and distribution.
Identifying Marketing Goals
Marketing goals should be re-visited on a regular basis, probably every six months. And those goals will vary depending on your current situation:
- Are you relatively new and still trying to introduce your company or are you trying to re-introduce your business in new ways based on changes in the marketplace?
- Do you have new products or services to launch? You will have to develop an action plan for a roll-out schedule that includes where, when, and what type of content will be best to do that.
- Do you need to establish relationships with your target market or, as an existing business, are you going to expand your target market? What research needs to be done to plan for this?
- Do you want to expand what worked well over the past six months or are you ready to experiment with new platforms and content types based upon those “shiny new objects,” like Periscope or augmented reality?
Once you have your goals, you can develop those action plans and timelines, and, if you are not going solo on this, delegate the tasks.
Identifying/Refining that Target Audience
There is a lot of advice out there about developing a single, very detailed customer persona and using that persona to drive your content and your distribution. This is an excellent strategy if a business product or service is uniquely suited for a specific persona.
Multiple Customer Personas
When a company has a more diverse product or service line, however, and thus appeals to a wider demographic, developing a customer persona can be much murkier. Consider, for example, that an insurance company may serve customers in all demographics – there is no single customer persona. In this case, there will be a lot of research to do. And multiple personas will be developed because content must be designed based upon each one and where they may be found both online and off.
Select Types of Content
Marketers will determine content type based on customer personas, of course. Whether there is one persona or many, there are ways to determine which content will be well received and where is should be published.
- Spying on competitors is always a good thing. Check out their websites, their blogs, and their social media platforms. Pay attention, not just to the content but which content is getting the most shares and stimulating the most conversation.
- Use sites like Buzzsumo that will tell you which content topics in your niche are getting the most “play.”
- Be mindful of the content delivery models that your demographics like – your goal is to educate, inspire, entertain, and engage, but you have to know what delivery system is best.
Millennials use their iPhones for communication, to get information, and to connect with their communities. They rely on recommendations from other consumers as opposed to company content. They want to be entertained, and they love content that is humorous and engaging. They use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The types of content delivery they most engage with are video, photos, and, increasingly, live streaming.
Content for millennials must not feature products and services – they abhor any type of “selling.” What they do want to see if the value or benefit that you provide, and they want that delivered in an engaging way.
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Do the Analytics
If you don’t run the analytics to determine the effectiveness of your content, you are “shooting in the wind.” And the amount of information you can get just from Google Analytics alone will tell you exactly who is accessing your content, where they are accessing it, and when. You will know which types of content are most popular with our audience and which are not. All of these will drive your marketing plan, as you review and evaluate it regularly.
- Content Management
This final prong relates to finding topics, creating the content, developing a publishing schedule, and using those analytics to alter all of these things as necessary.
- Ideas for topics come from many places. Using that of your competition is certainly a good place to begin. There are also influencers in your niche whose blogs and social media sites will provide topics.
The other important concept in topic idea generation is to avoid any projection that you are going in “for the sell.” Your content marketing strategy should not directly relate to your product or service. In fact, it should not. Stay up on current events and use them when you can. When there are tragedies, man-made or natural, how can you provide help and encourage your customers to do the same? Always be on the lookout for ideas and encourage others in your business to do the same.
- Experiment with content types. Visuals are more important than text – keep that in mind. Videos, infographics, photos, animations – all of these things and convey content more effectively than words. Try to go through writing companies reviews to choose one. Experiment with methods of using live streaming to develop relationships with your customers – video your company and your staff at work; interview staff and customers; participate in events and live stream them. Converse with your viewers as you do this.
- A publishing schedule is absolutely necessary. As a small-to-medium sized business, you know you cannot be everywhere on the web. Choose a couple of social media platforms and do them really well. Post every day. Keep your blog posts on a regular schedule. Readers will come to expect that, and you can lose a following if they are disappointed. This takes lots of time and effort, but it must be done.
Nothing happens until a sale is made. And sales are made through the right marketing. Content marketing plans are complex, and they require a “buy-in” by everyone in a business. They are not sales tools, and everyone must accept that.Today’s consumer is smart. S/he recognizes a hard sell, lack of genuineness, and hypocrisy. Your job is to develop a plan, create content that your audience loves and show that you want a trusting relationship before a sale.