If we asked how many marketers out there have a content marketing strategy in place, 72 percent of you would raise your hands. But how many of you could walk your strategy back to the genesis of what got you there in the first place? Suddenly, hands have gone down.
You see, you need to have a thought-out, documented purpose and mission that drive a content marketing plan. That’s what sets the successful apart from the strugglers.
Building the case for content
Traditional marketing and advertising efforts are becoming increasingly less effective. To compete in today’s digital world, marketers know they need to appeal to their customers in more engaging ways. Enter content marketing.
According to Content Marketing Institute,
“Content marketing is 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.”
Unlike traditional marketing efforts, which interrupts customers to get attention, content marketing provides customers with thoughtful content where and when they want it.
More specifically, Content Marketing Institute explains that there are three key reasons — and benefits — for enterprises that use content marketing:
- Increased sales
- Cost savings
- Better customers who have more loyalty
Does it really make that big of a difference? Actually, it does. And it’s because of two important words in that definition we just saw: relevant and valuable. Distributing valuable and relevant content to audiences is the true differentiating factor between traditional marketing and content marketing.
Alright, now that we understand the benefits, we can really get started.
I’m not going to lie to you; your content marketing journey is going to be long and require hard work. But just like anything in life, the million dollar question is, “Why am I doing this?” Or, in this case, “What’s the purpose of going on this journey?”
Your purpose and strategy should be centered around the specific goals you want to accomplish. To get those results, you need to clearly define those goals.
I know we just met, but your purpose for this journey probably includes one or more of these:
- Reduce advertising expenditures
- Increase brand awareness
- Position your company as a leader in its field
- Attract prospects and convert them into buyers and brand advocates
Though these aren’t the only reasons for embarking on a content marketing journey, they’re all good reasons. Once you know and understand your purpose, you’re ready to move on to the next phase of your journey.
State your mission
Is your mission to make every girl feel that she can be beautiful and confident? No, probably not – however, this was Gurley Brown’s mission for Cosmopolitan.
Just like any publication needs a mission or a purpose for their content, marketers need to have the same approach. By creating a mission, you can ensure your brand and your brand’s content are aligned. Good mission statements resonate with your audience, but the best mission statements inspire.
To create a good foundation for your mission statement, figure out what you have to offer the world. Of course, you know what that is, but the key is to make sure everyone else does, too.
In the words of content marketing master Andy Crestodina,
“Documenting your mission statement is surprisingly simple, but most
content marketers haven’t done it. To make it easy, fill in the blanks…”
While that IS the simplest way to get started, do not create your mission statement like you would a Mad Lib. The most successful publishers have deciphered what it is their audience wants without even asking them.
Harvard Business Review said it best by explaining;
“Editors like Anna Wintour of Vogue and David Remnick of The New Yorker didn’t get to the top of their profession by chasing readers, but by attracting them. It is their commitment to an editorial mission – whether that’s a belief in the power of exquisite taste, or a belief in the power of intellectually curious journalism — that inspires others to join them on their journey.”
Now, while your mission statement may change its mold a few times before you find the perfect one, we can help you with a formula we apply here at PowerPost:
Remember, experimentation shouldn’t represent failure – it should represent growth. When your audience finally starts giving you some love back, that’s when you know you’re onto something.
Study the competition
Whether you want to admit it or not, your competitors are out there, and they’re publishing content too. It’s also likely they attend content marketing conferences, read books and blogs about the field, and work with consultants.
In other words, they have access to the same wisdom you do, so do your due diligence and evaluate the niche you’re in.
“By monitoring competitors on an ongoing basis you get to know their behavior and so can start to anticipate what they will be likely to do next,” says Arthur Weiss, managing director and founder of AWARE, a consultancy specializing in competitive and marketing intelligence.
“You can then plan your own strategies so that you keep your customers and win (not steal) customers away from competitors.”
Another benefit to doing your homework is finding your own space to dominate, also known as a point of differentiation or content tilt. In order to do that, you must ask yourself:
- What are competitors doing well?
- What are they missing?
- What’s not being articulated?
- How can you win an audience?
One of the best places to start looking for answers to these questions is social media. By looking at social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you will pick up interesting facts about your competition and even your industry as a whole through social listening.
Michael Meschures, the president of Spaphile.com, a weekly deals site that shares high-end spa and beauty offers, explains,
“We find that monitoring tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and other new media mentions of our competition is an easy, cost-effective way to stay in tune with and in the know about the public’s sentiment about our competitors.“
Social is just the start of your competitive analysis, though. Use it as the entry point to your competitor’s blogs, newsletters, gated content, and more. When you’re ready for a more advanced approach to your competitive analysis, you can utilize content intelligence to benchmark your brand against others in your field.
Establish SMART goals
You stated the purpose of your brand publishing and documented the mission. Next, you’ll create a list of SMART objectives.
In order for them to work, SMART goals need to be well, smart. The idea is that by carefully considering each of these elements as they pertain to your goals, you won’t just be passing mile-markers, you’ll be creating powerful, effective targets that focus your efforts.
While it is a relatively simple concept to grasp, don’t be surprised if establishing your SMART goals take a few rounds of refinement.
Create compelling content
You can’t just snap your fingers, click your heels and hope that compelling content will fall into your lap (though, it’d be nice if it did). Marketers do need to think more like publishers, but they also need to act more like publishers.
This means actually doing some legwork and take a look at higher-order problems than just what’s in front of you. What problems do your customers face today? What problems might they face tomorrow?
Think through these problems, determine relevant insights and decide how YOU are the answer to those problems. If you can’t create a compelling experience, it doesn’t really matter what your content strategy is, because it will fail.
One of my favorite examples doesn’t come from a big name company, but from a pool company – River Pools. In 2008, Marcus Sheridan felt the repercussions of the recession and found his business struggling. Rather than throwing in the towel, he continued to serve his remaining customers with content marketing. Through a prolific, insightful blog on his website, he answered questions that potential pool owners had on their minds and in their search browsers.
Today? Business is booming, and he also travels as a marketing consultant, speaking to his success. If a brick and mortar pool company can garner success from content marketing, imagine the possibilities for your brand.
Track your progress
As we learn more about the processes involved, develop better strategies and improve the quality of content distributed, we’ll continue to see the return on investment that content marketing can provide.
In fact, according to Curata,
“Seventy four percent of companies indicate content marketing is increasing their marketing teams’ lead quality and quantity.”
One point of content marketing is to bring in new sales-ready leads, right? Well, an informed content strategy is the best way to get there. Map your path to success, and determine some measurable benchmarks along the way to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
In terms of content marketing, all roads lead to numbers. Remember, M is for “measurable.” With analytics, you’ll be able to track your progress toward achieving your goals.
The called KPIs, or “Key Performance Indicators.” One of the first pages of your Brand Publishing Roadmap should include a list of KPIs that map to your objectives.
This is just the start of your content marketing program, though. Once you have the initial groundwork, the next steps are to configure resources, define your audience and take a deeper dive into your brand’s story.
Ready for what’s next? Download our new eBook!
In this eBook, The Brand Publishing Roadmap: a 7-Step Guide to Creating a Content Marketing Program That Delivers, we lay down the framework to organize, structure and scale your publishing operation like a real media company.
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