The 1-Hour Documented Content Marketing Strategy
Developing a content marketing strategy doesn't have to be a nerve-wracking endeavor. Columnist Quinn Whissen believes you simply need one hour to align with your team and decide on an overall vision.
Content marketing strategies can be intense.
After all, there’s a lot riding on the plans that will guide all your efforts ranging from who to target, what type of content to create, what KPIs to measure, where to promote, how to distribute, how to segment your list, what numbers to hit… OK, STOP!
Let’s take a big deep breath together for a second… and start over.
Content marketing strategies can be intense.
But they don’t have to be stressful.
What you really need is a little good old-fashioned teamwork, a checklist, some thoughtful conversations and 60 minutes on the clock. Just by bringing these few elements together, you’ll be on your way to creating a documented content strategy.
Key word: documented.
In recent research from Content Marketing Institute, it was found that 53 percent of the (self-reported) most effective B2B content marketers have a content strategy, AND it is documented. Compare that with just 13 percent of the least effective content marketers who do, and the numbers clearly tell us that creating a document that outlines your strategy and guides all implementation is not only helpful but vital to your digital success.
The B2C research was done a bit differently, but reflects this same trend.
The 1-Hour Rule
So why only one hour, you’re probably wondering?
And the answer is this:
Because that’s the arbitrary number I picked to help you sit down and get sh*t done.
Let me be clear — by no means can a comprehensive, detailed and thoughtful content marketing strategy be completed in one hour. Goodness knows if I ever told a client that we would build out their whole year’s plan in 60 minutes — they would look at me like I was crazy. (Maybe I am.)
But that’s not what we’re trying to do here.
The point is that with just one 360° cycle of the minute hand on your clock, you will have started. As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin so eloquently put it in his blog: “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”
[pullquote]Sit down for one simple hour to align your team within a broad-strokes vision to get buy-in, commitment and just some plain darn excitement for what you’re going to do.[/pullquote]
Use this one-hour framework to put yourself in a constrained box and make a one-percent improvement to your content marketing strategy. Discuss the big picture, and leave the deep dive into specifics for another time.
Speak about the intentions for your content marketing and what your overall vision is first.
It doesn’t matter if this is your first content strategy rodeo, or if you do one every quarter. Sit down for one simple hour to align your team within a broad-strokes vision to get buy-in, commitment and just some plain darn excitement for what you’re going to do.
Here are eight checkpoints from Kat Robinson, Director of Strategy at Vertical Measures (my employer), for creating your first documented content strategy. If you need a template to help you do this, here’s a download to guide you through it.
What Are Your Business Goals For Content Marketing?
Whatever it is you want content marketing to do for your business, it’s important you identify it now, since it will be the guiding intention behind every piece of content you publish. Maybe you want to:
- Increase lead generation.
- Improve your brand awareness.
- Retain more customers.
- Become a thought leader in your niche.
- Open up consumer engagement.
- Lower customer service costs.
- Open new markets.
Decide What You Want Your Content To Do!
Narrow down your overarching business goals into specific content goals.
Let’s look at an example in a question-answer format that will save time:
- What are your business goals? We want to lower our customer service costs.
- How can you do that? We can answer questions we get asked all the time, so we can take some burden off our internal resources!
- What does your content need to do? Simple: It needs to answer, educate and inform.
Different business goals will require different content goals, so focus on how to find harmony between the two, even if you have more than one.
Paint A Picture Of Who Your Audience Is
You can have the most insightful goals in mind, but until you know who you are addressing in your content, what’s the point?
Focus on these five traits to get started with persona development:
- What are their demographics (age, gender, location, etc.)?
- What problem do they need help to solve?
- Where do they hang out online?
- Where are they along the consideration/conversion path?
- What do they care about?
You can even get creative and name your persona if you want (Founder Fred, HR Hound, Couponing Candi) — whatever helps you create a picture of this person in your mind so when the time comes, you’ll be able to map your personas to the buying process and create some serious “strategery” with your content.
What Are Your Competitors Up To?
Everything is revealed with contrast. Check in on what your competitors are doing to see what you’re not doing, and understand better what you should be doing (or vice versa if you’re already killing it!).
Take note of a few things:
- How crowded is the content space in your niche?
- Are you ahead of the game or falling behind?
- What formats do most of your competitors stick to?
- Where is content most routinely distributed?
- How often is content produced?
- Where are the gaps you can fill?
What Content Can You Actually Create?
Be honest with yourself here — if you have aspirations to create attractive data visualization content, but you don’t have a graphic designer lined up, maybe you’re not ready. But I bet you do have resources and the ability to start somewhere.
With your budget and resources, what could you create?
Twenty articles a month? Two? Video or GIFs? Infographics or just Instagrams?
Put an emphasis on quality, but remember frequency matters, too. Start with the basics, and build up from there as you become more confident in your content creation abilities, and you have set down a good foundation.
Where Will All Your Content Live?
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The jury’s still out on that one.
But I’ll tell you one thing’s for sure: If you publish a piece of content and no one sees it, that’s a #contentmarketingFAIL.
Decide up front where your content will live once you press “Publish,” and devise an outline for your content promotion and distribution strategy:
- Your site: blog, resource section, learning center, web pages
- Off site: social media platforms, external publications
- Other: RSS feeds, syndication, email
Go where your audience is and help your content get more legs than it could just by sitting pretty by itself on your own website.
[pullquote]If you publish a piece of content and no one sees it, that’s a #contentmarketingFAIL.[/pullquote]
Who Is Doing The Work?
Unless you have an existing trove of content talent on your team, implementation of your grand plans may need a bit of work to pull together. Here are some roles you may need to fill:
- Content Marketing Manager — The person who owns the whole content marketing process and oversees that your strategy gets implemented.
- Subject Matter Experts — Those people across your company who have the nuggets of content gold in their brains waiting to be mined. They will provide the expertise for your content creators.
- Content Creators — The talent who can take raw material and subject matters and turn it into great content, whether they are writers, designers, photographers or video creators.
- Promoters — The chosen ones who can take the next step and get more eyes on your content through promotion and distribution.
Ensure that you document who could fill these roles, and consider working with freelancers or a reputable content marketing agency if you can’t get it done on your own.
How Will You Know If You’ve Done What You Set Out To Do?
Decide now what success looks like for you. Ask yourself: What do we want to be different one year from now?
Then get into the details of how you will measure that. This KPI should go directly back to your business goals. Come up with a simple statement that you can revisit when it’s time:
- Within six months, we will increase our website traffic by an average 10 percent monthly.
- By the end of this quarter, we will generate 700 new leads.
- In one year, we will improve our conversion rate by at least 25 percent.
You now have your preliminary documented content marketing strategy — congratulations! Use this as a road map to identify those areas you need to look into further and infuse with thought and research.
But for now, give yourself a pat on the back for just getting started. You’re already ahead of many of your competitors, and I can’t wait to see what you end up doing.