Content Marketing Strategy Guide: Step-by-Step Actionable Tips

content-marketing-strategy-guide

What is Content Marketing?

Get ready for a ton of actionable content marketing tips that will consolidate your brand and authority online. At the same time, this content marketing strategy guide covers how this will help you generate more traffic, more leads and ultimately more sales.

However, before jumping into the specific steps to take in order to grow your blog and business, let’s first define content marketing. Why does it matter and how can it be helpful?

Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action. – Joe Pulizzi

So How is Content Marketing Different?

Well, it capitalizes on the latest trends in how people consume media.

We are bombarded with advertising everyday. This means that companies try to interrupt us from whatever we are doing and force us to pay attention to what they have to say.

Content marketing on another hand is a permission-based marketing approach that aims to attract a clearly defined audience, via providing helpful content.

content marketing

Photo by: Fernando Amaro

Think of epic content as an authority-building tool. You’ll be able to build productive relationships.

Your community will follow your lead, as you demonstrate knowledge and expertise through content that adds value.

Nowadays there is an overwhelming amount of content online. However, there is a shortage of truly great content.

This means that there is a huge opportunity for you to start taking advantage of this trend right now. Content is the present and future of marketing. So don’t miss out!

What is the Difference Between Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing?

A lot of people asked me this question. And in case you also find it difficult to differentiate between content marketing and social media, here’s the difference:

  • In social media marketing,the marketing activities are focused within the social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • In content marketing, you have a content hub (typically a blog) in focus, while the social networks are simply media channels used to promote the content.

OK. Now, let’s jump right in and see how you can grow your blog and business with content.

content marketing versus social media marketing

Photo by: Yoel Ben-Avraham

Set Your Content Marketing Objectives to Get the Most Out of This Content Marketing Strategy Guide

Let’s start our journey via defining clear objectives.

How will you use content marketing to grow your business? What is your end game?

I suggest picking a primary goal and two, three secondary goals.

Let’s look at a number of examples, to kick-off your thought process:

  • Build your brand and authority online
  • Create awareness
  • Generate leads
  • Make Sales
  • Build a community
  • Improve loyalty and retention

You might decide for example that the primary goal is to build your authority and your email list.

In a second step, you may focus on converting those leads into customers, then into repeat customers and brand advocates.

Define Your Unique Value Proposition

What is your “one thing”? What is the one element you focus on, in order to deliver a superior experience to your customers?

unique selling proposition

Photo by: photosteve101

Answering this question will provide clarity in terms of what differentiates you from the competition.

It’s also an answer to the following legitimate question your prospects my have: Why should I listen to you?

How to Identify Your Target Audience

Listen, you should never try to speak to everybody. You’ll dilute your message and you’ll miss out on strongly attracting anyone.

Instead, focus on a niche and define your audience personas.

We’ll get to audience personas, or avatars, as I like to call them 😉 in just a sec.

But before, should you choose a niche based on your passion? Or based on profit potential?

Stuart Walkers from NicheHacks has gathered a number of expert opinions on this. And like you would expect, there is no definitive answer.

You need to make this decision by yourself.

In any case though, you should be able to solve a problem people face in that niche.

Have you made your choice? Good!

Now, let’s double-check that you picked a profitable market.

There are a few checks you can quickly run:

  • Google Search: type in a few keywords related to your niche and see if there are other sites covering the topic and selling products. Are there paid ads? Click on them.
  • Google Keyword Tool: If you don’t have one, create a Google AdWords account. Then go to Tools > Keyword Tool and search for your main keywords. The tool is free and shows you the monthly volume search for that term in Google. The main keyword should have minimum 10,000 searches per month.
  • Amazon: are there any books covering your topic?
  • Udemy: go ahead and type your keywords in the search bar. Is there anyone selling courses related to your niche?

Create a persona of your Ideal Customer or Reader:

Why should you create an ideal customer persona, or “avatar”?

Because this brings you clarity when developing content.

Create a profile of an ideal person in your audience.

Ideal Customer Profile

Photo by: fogfish

This will help you have a specific person in mind when you craft your content. And it’s just for you. It’s not something that you’ll share with the rest of the world.

You’ll see that taking this approach will make people more engaged and receptive to your message.

The first step is to really get to know your audience. And to this end, spend some time on relevant forums and representative blogs for your niche.

Get an in-depth understanding of what are the big challenges in your market.

In order to create successful content, you should be able to help people with one or more of these challenges.

OK, now who is the ideal customer that can benefit from your solution?

Here are some elements to consider in order to build a helpful profile:

  • Demographics: age, gender, location, education level, occupation
  • Psychographics: Values, Lifestyle, Attitudes, Personality
  • Where can you find him/her: blogs that he reads, communities he’s a part of, types of content he consumes
  • Dreams and aspirations: what is your ideal customer trying to achieve, what are his long term and short term goals

Give him or her a name and pick a picture to use it for profiling purposes.

I suggest in the beginning to focus on one avatar.

However, you typically have several consumer personas within a niche. Eventually, develop an avatar for each consumer type.

You’ll likely end-up with one to five such avatars, depending on your niche.

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy?

There is no universal template for a perfect content marketing strategy. This is specific to your blog, to your business and to your goals.

content marketing strategy

Image by: Olivier Carre-Delisle

Let’s go through the key principles that will allow you to build a strong strategy.

1. Be clear on your content marketing objectives. We covered these above. Just make sure you spend enough time to get crystal clear on your end destination. This will have a big impact on all the strategic choices you’ll make along the way.
2. Develop your core and secondary messages. This will help you stay consistent in your content efforts.

Let’s take an example. Neil Patel, a very successful blogger and entrepreneur, shared on his blog the mission, core message and secondary messages of one of his companies, Crazy Egg.

Mission

To provide affordable, effective heat-mapping technology that helps people improve on-page conversion.

Core Message

You can boost your website’s profit within 30 days.

Secondary Messages

Web design, conversion optimization, blogging for business, conversion, copywriting, scrambled eggs, and analytics.

3. Decide what are the types of content you will use. While it’s a good idea to use several types of content and take a multi channel approach when it comes to promotion, take care! You need to be careful how wide you spread your efforts.

Start with blogging first. This means writing posts both for your own blog and for well-established blogs in your niche. Especially if you’re in the beginning, you should include guest-blogging on your list.
Guest-blogging on top blogs in your niche allows you to build your brand and authority in your market.  In the beginning it’s also one of the best ways to build your email subscribers list.

Here is a list of the most common types of content you can consider to add on top of blogging:

  • Ebooks
  • Video
  • Webinars
  • Tutorials
  • Podcast
  • Infographics
  • Special reports
  • Interviews
  • Newsletters
  • Products
  • Lists
  • Giveaways

content marketing types of content

Photo By: birgerking

4. Build Your Content Marketing Plan

In order to create a successful content marketing plan, you need to map your content on the ideal customers personas you created.

Ideally, you should also map your content based on where your prospect is along the buyer’s journey.

  • For example, in the beginning you expose a new prospect to content designed to increase awareness about your blog and business. Your objective is to build trust, via sharing helpful content that helps him address a challenge he faces.
  • In the second phase, your goal is to share content optimized to convert your prospect, from a blog reader into an email subscriber, then from an email subscriber into a customer.

The next section covers precisely the key elements of a good plan, so read on.

5. Define Your Content Marketing Metrics
Having clear objectives, a good strategy and an effective plan is all good, but we need to measure results against objectives.

Don’t over-complicate things. Think about your objectives and think about how you’ll measure them.

Say your objective is to get to 10,000 email subscribers in 12 months.

So the key performance metric is the number of email subscriptions.

content marketing metrics

Photo by: Gaurav Mishra

Before sharing what are the key types of content related metrics, let’s take a step back and consider how it all ties together:

BUSINESS OBJECTIVES > MARKETING OBJECTIVES > MARKETING STRATEGY > CONTENT OBJECTIVES > CONTENT STRATEGY > CONTENT TACTICS > CONTENT METRICS

Jay Baer from Convince and Convert, together with the guys at Content Marketing Institute, classified content marketing metrics  in the following 4 buckets:

  • Consumption metrics: page views, video views, document views, downloads, social chatter;
  • Sharing metrics: likes, shares, tweets, +1s, pins, email forwards, inbound links;
  • Lead Generation metrics: email subscriptions, blog subscriptions, blog comments, form completions and downloads, visitors to leads conversion rate;
  • Sales metrics: online and offline sales.

6. Leverage Content Amplification

Once you create great content, you need to promote it, to put it in front of your ideal audience, in order to be consumed.

This is easier if you already have a large audience – say a large blog readership and a big list of email subscribers.

If you don’t, then you need to find the places where your audience hangs out and find a way to let them know about your content.

blog content hub

Photo by: TopRank Online Marketing

Here are a few options to consider:

How to Create a Successful Content Marketing Plan

Good news! Once you’ve made the strategic choices above, it’s easy to translate them into an actionable plan that will get you results.

In this section we’ll cover:

  1. Content Creation
  2. Content Publishing & Distribution
  3. Content Management
  4. Content Promotion
  5. Results Measurement

1. Create epic content

All right, you got to the stage where you actually need to start producing the content you planned for. So, where should you start?

(i) Research. Pick a topic from the key areas you plan to cover with your content. Then run a little desktop research, to see how other players in your market cover that topic.

Subscribe to the top blogs in your market, to stay in-touch with what is being published and to get inspired.

You can use for example Feedly to group together everything you need to read in one place.

Check out the “Tools for Content Marketing” section below, for a tool that can greatly help you in this process.

(ii) Create a rough outline of your content. Have an introduction, conclusion and a number of key ideas, supported by sound argumentation and by relevant data.
(iii) Make a first draft, then edit and fine-tune it.

You can also outsource content creation, totally, or partially. In such a case, make sure you work with writers that provide top-notch posts.

Or you could write the blog posts yourself and only outsource certain types of content, such as video and/or infographics.

2. Content Publishing & Distribution

Publishing platforms. Decide what are the publishing platforms for each type of content you decide to produce.

  • For blogging, I suggest a self-hosted WordPress blog.  WordPress is the platform I’m using myself and the most popular blogging platform in the world.
  • For video you also have a number of options. Get started with YouTube. Then you can also look into Vimeo, Metacafe, or even into self-hosting your videos with Wistia, for example.
  • Ebooks. The big gorilla in this space is Amazon Kindle.
  • Slide shows and PDF sharing. Get started with Slide Share and Docstoc. Then there are many other options, as well.
  • Podcasting. iTunes, Blubrry and Stitcher are all great podcasting platforms.

content marketing channels

Photo by: AltimeterGroup

Successful Blogging Tips. I suggest making your blog a content hub that you can leverage further. Here are a few blogging tips to get the most out of it:

  • Model what works. Check out Google Trends  to come up with topics that are popular now, use BuzzSumo to get inspired from the most successful blog posts in your niche and Qualaroo to survey your visitors and gather valuable ideas.
  • Headlines are crucial for getting attention in the very cluttered environment we operate in. Spend enough time to make sure your headlines are punchy and trigger curiosity. The objective of your headline is to make potential visitors click and read the article. Here are 10 proven formulas you can use.
  • Use a conversational tone of voice. Write as if you would talk to a friend. Stiff corporate language does not serve you well when blogging. People value authenticity.
  • Become a storyteller. We all love stories, right? These are powerful tools to hook your readers and increase their level of engagement.
  • Support your ideas with data and case studies. People love case studies. Use authoritative sources your data to prove your points. And whenever possible, showcase a member of your ideal audience that got a certain result via using something you teach.

3. Content Management Workflow

You also need to decide what your editorial calendar is, publishing schedule and overall workflow. How often will you create and publish content, by content type?

I know it all adds up and it’s a good idea to get organized. Start using an Excel spread sheet or tools such as Trello and CoSchedule.

CoSchedule

4. Content Promotion

Once your content is live, the work is not over yet. In fact you should spend a significant part of your time and resources promoting your content. Many online marketing experts suggest that you spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% of your time promoting it.

Let’s go over a few of the best ways to market your content effectively:

Email Marketing. If you’ve been in the digital marketing space for a while, you already know that building your email subscribers list should be one of your key priorities. Develop content, share it with your list of subscribers and you have traffic on demand.

email-marketing

Image by: Danard Vincente

Say you have a list of 1,000 people. When you mail your list, you can expect around 20-30% of your list to open your message. Out of those who open the message, around 30% will also click on the link. The percentages can vary of course, depending especially on how targeted the list is and how strong your relationship with the list is.

If you build a list of 10,000 subscribers, you can generate a traffic of 600 – 1,000 people to your post via simply sending a message.

Social Media Marketing. There are so many platforms out there and you might feel pressured to be active on all of them. Don’t worry, you don’t have to.

It is important to determine what are the social media channels that are important in your market. Where does your audience hang out? Where do they look for content to consume?

In order to make sure you’re making the right decisions, check out the leading blogs in your space. What social media channels do they focus on?

social media marketing

Photo by: DigitalRalph

Choose one to two channels to focus on and maybe a third one at max.

  • Facebook is usually a channel used across markets.
  • Then, in some markets that are very visual, Instagram and Pinterest play a key role. Not so much in other markets. http://www.melanieduncan.com/how-to-grow-your-email-list-using-pinterest
  • How about Twitter? This is a channel that not only allows you to share content, but also get in-touch easily with your audience, peers and influencers.
  • If you blog, then a Google+ presence may be beneficial also from a SEO Perspective.

Run your research and make choices. Instead of maintaining a diluted presence across a large number of channels, you’ll get much better results if you focus on one, two of them.

Blogger Outreach and Relationship Marketing. While you may not have a large audience right now, there are others in your niche that do. They are referred to as influencers.

So wouldn’t it be a great if such influencers would share your content with their audience?

This is what influencers outreach is all about. Create content that delivers massive value and then contact influencers. If your content benefits their audience, many of them will be willing to share it.

Direct Audience Engagement. We are trying to get our content in front of a certain audience. Let’s think about it. Instead of trying to get that audience to go and be exposed to our content, we could also approach this the other way around.

Let’s see where our audience hangs out, go there and place your content in front of them. Here are 3 effective techniques to consider:

  • Forums. Go right now to Boardreader, enter your keyword and you’ll instantly get a list of forums that are relevant to your keyword. Now, don’t turn this content marketing tactic into an excuse to spend tons of time in forums. Pick the top 2 or 3 in your market and start adding value to the community.
  • Twitter Search. Head over to Twitter and enter your keyword in the search bar. You’ll be presented with lots of opportunities to engage in conversations that are happening in your market right now.
  • Blogs. Comment on related blogs that cover topics of interest to your ideal audience. You can leverage Google Alerts to get a nice list of recent blog posts that fit your search. Start engaging and you’ll accomplish 2 things: get in-touch with your audience and build relationships with influential bloggers.

Repurpose Your Content. Since you’ve put in the effort and create valuable content, why not make the most of it?

  • Turn your blog post(s) into an ebook that you can share on ebook sites.
  • Then into a PDF and respectively into a PowerPoint presentation. You can then post those on PDF and Slide sharing sites, presenting your content to new audiences.
  • Then turn the PPT file into a video, via using a screen capture software, such as Camtasia (for PC) or Screenflow (for Mac).
  • And you can also create an audio file and post it on SoundCloud.com and on other audio sharing sites.

Paid Content Amplification. If you want to give your content a boost, there are a number of options to do this, without breaking the bank.

  • Retargeting is huge right now. In short, it allows you to show ads to the people who visited your site, when they are browsing Facebook or other websites on the internet. It’s cost effective and if done well, it has very good conversion rates.
  • Native Advertising. This is advertising that is blended into the content consumption experience of each specific platform. Think Facebook promoted posts, Twitter Ads or StumbleUpon paid discovery.
  • Outbrain is a content discovery platform. Your articles get featured on top websites such as CNN, Slate and so on, as “recommended articles”.

Outbrain

5. Measure Your Content Marketing Results. Remember the content promotion metrics we discussed in the strategy section? Whatever your goals, you need to establish and measure clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).

It’s easy to get lost among lots of metrics. And it’s even more dangerous to lose sight of what really drives your business forward, and focus on the wrong KPIs, such as on vanity metrics: likes, shares and so on.

Content marketing is a tool that should support your business growth.

My recommendation is to focus on growing a targeted list of email subscribers and on building a great relationship with your list.

Add massive value to your list and you will be rewarded with high responsiveness.

Once you do that, the possibilities are endless.

Weather you’re a coach, a consultant, an online service provider or if you sell information or physical products online, a targeted, responsive list of leads is pure gold.

It’s the closest thing to printing money on demand.

Coming back to the KPIs, using Google Analytics or an alternative, such as Get Clicky is a must.

GetClicky

However, you’ll also need to measure performance of content that is published outside your blog, on platforms you don’t directly control.

For such cases, you need to use link tracking tools such as HyperTracker or ClickMagick. These are paid tools and I’m personally using ClickMagick.

However, you can also track links via the free Google Analytics, if you use the Google URL builder tool.

This allows you to build an URL that has a number of link that has a number of parameters attached, such as the campaign source (eg. Twitter) and of the content marketing campaign that you need to track.

Although this part is a bit more technical, it’s important to dedicate some time to put a simple tracking system in place.

You can then see what works, what doesn’t work and do more of what works.

Once you master the basics you can start to also experiment with A/B testing and with more sophisticated content performance measurement tools.

Content Marketing Tools

BuzzSumo. This is an useful content marketing analysis tool. You can use BuzzSumo to see what is the most shared content in any niche. You can also discover influencers.

This information is highly useful if you’re researching what works the best for a certain audience.

You can create content on the most sought after topics.

And you can even model the headlines of the post which got the most shares.

BuzzSumo

Canva. Visual content marketing is on a rise and for a good reason: it simply works. As a content marketer you need tools that allow you to create appealing visual content fast.

Canva is a free web based tool that allows you to do just that.

Moreover it has social media templates that you can use to create quickly images optimized for the main social networks.

BuzzStream. This is a tool that helps a lot in the blogger outreach process.

Make no mistake. Building productive relationships with fellow bloggers in your niche can greatly help you grow your blog fast.

The challenge is that the whole process is time consuming.

This is where BuzzStream’s features come in handy, to help you connect with influencers in your niche.

BuzzStream

Uber Suggest. This is a free keyword research tool that is very simple to use. When you write content, you wouldn’t mind if Google sent more search traffic your way, right?

If so, it’s a good idea to include in your posts lots of so called “long tail” keywords.

These are low competition keywords that are easier to rank for. Just enter the main keyword of your post into the Uber Suggest search bar and you’ll get a big list of long tail keywords.

Thrive Leads. When you read interviews with the top internet marketers, you get various perspectives on what marketing strategies and tactics work best.

But there is ONE thing everybody seems to agree with: building a list of email subscribers should be your top priority if you’re growing a blog and an online business.

Thrive Leads is simply the most powerful WordPress list building plugin I know.

It has all the templates you need for all opt-in form types, it’s easy to use and customize.

Moreover, it gives you advanced page targeting and split testing functionality. If you’re serious about building a list, I suggest you check it out.

Thrive Leads

Your Content Marketing Sales Funnel

Let’s not forget the primary objective of content marketing, which is to enable growth for your business via driving a significant increase in traffic, leads and sales.

You are already creating content that adds massive value to your audience and you share it for free. This is great. You’re building your brand and authority in the market.

However, in order to make money online with your business, you need to monetize your blog for profit.

[Infographic] The Digital Marketing Funnel - An Infographic from Convert.com

Embedded from A/B testing software

Let’s dive together into the content marketing funnel model that allows you to turn a prospect into a (repeat) customer and a brand advocate.

  • Free Content is the content you share in your blog posts, in the free videos you post on YouTube. It’s any type of content that you produce and share with your audience at no cost.
  • Lead Magnets. On the journey to turn a prospect into a customer, don’t go directly for the sale. We start with a micro commitment. More specifically, we offer something in return for the prospect’s email address.

This allows us to build a relationship with these prospects and transition them from free to paid content.

Lead magnets can be cheat sheets, mind maps, short reports, free courses providing the solution to a specific problem.
  • Tripwires.Some successful marketers such as Ryan Deiss are proponents of the following approach: make it a “no-brainer” for prospects to be become buyers.

Why?

Because they cross a significant psychological barrier. Once they buy from you, even a $1 product, they are more likely to buy from you in the future.

So you could offer short reports for $7 – $19.

Online-marketing-Tripwire-Product

There are pros and cons for this approach. Some experts, such as for example Todd Brown argue that via pricing something ultra low, you attract less than ideal clients.

It’s your decision if you want to test this or go directly for the next tier of paid content.

  • Entry Level Products. These are inexpensive front-end products in the $19 – $97 range: eBooks, special reports, short video trainings.
  • Core Products.Long term you should consider developing your own signature information product and sell it on the back-end.

The price range for these more in-depth courses is $97 – $497.

  • Profit Maximizers.These are more comprehensive products, like multi-format trainings that usually include a form of group coaching.

You can also simply offer one-on-one coaching. In any case, at this level, you need to offer some form of personalized attention.

High-end products are usually priced $497 – $3,000.

  • Continuity Products. As your content driven business grows, you should definitely consider recurring revenue models.
  • Think for example about a subscription based membership site.

For example, members could pay a $19 – $97 monthly fee for access.

It’s easier to keep existing clients versus gaining new ones. And you also get to enjoy more revenue predictability.

Of course, you don’t necessarily need to have your own information products, although I believe you should definitely strive to eventually get there.

Once you build an audience you have a lot of option to monetize your content: sell advertising, sell other people’s products, sell coaching, consulting or other online services and so on. Sky is the limit!

I hope you enjoyed this content marketing strategy guide. They key element is to take action! So get to work and let me know about your results! 😉