What do consumers want? For a long time, when you researched that question you’d get the expected responses: service, quality, convenience, a brand they know and trust, and a fair price.
All of that is still true, but today’s shopper has more choices, is more savvy about the marketplace, and hopes for not just satisfaction, but delight. By 2017, studies were already showing that a whopping 84-percent of people want and expect brands to create content for them to enjoy.
Branded content is now firmly entrenched as a powerfully effective catalyst for initiating customer journeys. It raises awareness, breeds credibility, creates positive brand associations, spurs engagement, and ultimately influences buying decisions. Not to mention, it’s also an essential component of well rounded search engine optimization and marketing (SEO + SEM) strategies.
“With a whole year to fill, and a bottomless appetite for new media, the task of sourcing, distributing, and promoting a steady stream of content should be a well thought out consideration in every modern brand’s marketing plan.”
Despite those benefits, only 8-percent of respondents to a 2018 survey by the Content Marketing Institute rated their content creation project management as “Excellent.” The biggest issues they say they face are poor planning, lack of planning, and unfocused strategies. Their mistakes are both a cautionary lesson to the rest of us and a valuable opportunity to win the mindshare that’s being left on the table.
Strategize, Plan, Implement
The terms ‘content planning’ and ‘content strategy’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but in actuality, the former is really a smaller part of the latter. Strategy always precedes planning. Before you can start parsing out the low level specifics, including scheduling content down to the daily and weekly level, you have to take into consideration who you are trying to reach, how you intend to connect with them, and what tangible business objective you expect to achieve from those actions.
Here are the seven steps you need to answer those questions and execute your plan:
STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE
What is good content? Production quality is a big part of it, but the single most important factor is relevance. The key to creating content that speaks to your customers, answers their questions, solves their problems, and appeals to their tastes and character is a deep understanding of who they are, how they behave, and what they expect.
STEP 2: SPECIFY YOUR GOALS
Typically, content strategies are not heavily focused on revenue generation. That’s not always the case, some content is designed to sell, but the majority of it is built for less direct marketing. One top goal is increasing brand awareness and trust by staying top of mind and relevant. Flooding your audience’s feed with content is a turn off, but disappearing entirely is a surefire way to be forgotten. Thought leaders and solution brands generate a steady supply of useful, relevant content that their customers learn to rely on.
Another important goal is creating avenues for interaction. The beauty of the internet is that everyone is connected. A TV show is a one way street, it talks, you listen. Blogs, social media posts, and online videos encourage feedback. They create a space for your brand to hear from its fans and followers, which is both a source of hard data to analyze and a chance to quickly respond to their queries and comments.
STEP 3: PERFORM KEYWORD RESEARCH
Your content strategy should harmonize with your SEO strategy. To do that, each piece of content must be centered around one or two keywords that would be valuable to associate with your brand. Paid tools like Serpstat and free ones like Google Adwords Keyword Planner help you find terms trending in your industry, which can then be categorized and analyzed to find long-tail searches that won’t be as competitive and will get you more bang for your buck.
STEP 4: CHOOSE YOUR FORMATS
There’s no shortage of options out there and each has its own strengths:
- Blogs are among the most popular because they are a flexible format for sharing short to medium length content and are relatively inexpensive to produce at volume.
- Ebooks or eguides are a longer format option common among B2B brands because they give ample space to discuss more sophisticated topics and are reliable lead generators. Blog posts, eguides, and ebooks can also be used in concert. An introductory 1000 to 2000 word article might conclude with a link to an ebook that delves deeper and a form requesting contact information to download it. It’s a low friction way to subtly nudge people into an inbound funnel. To see an example of a useful eguide take a look at The Blueprint for Successful Branding.
- Templates and Tools, like a Marketing Budget Calculator, are great because they don’t just provide generalized advice and information. They solve specific problems and provide actionable solutions.
- Video requires a larger investment than other forms of content, but it’s unbeatable in terms of engagement metrics. Four times as many customers would rather watch a video demoing a product than read about it, shoppers who use video are more likely to make purchases, and videos get an amazing 1200-percent more shares than images and text. Plus, there’s no shortage of platforms to host your content, and since most of them, including YouTube and Facebook, are built for sharing, anything you post will spread that much further.
- Podcasts are a newer area for branded content that is growing in adoption every year. These audio only programs are well suited to an audience that is on the move, lacks the time or inclination to read long articles, or is frequently engaged in activities where their hands are not free (e.g. commuters and gym-goers).
STEP 5: SELECT THE RIGHT CHANNEL
Generally, if your brand is heavily B2B, more formal platforms like LinkedIn and your own website should be the primary source for sharing content. Consumer-centric brands, especially those that target younger demographic segments, should focus on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
However, these rules are hardly written in stone. More and more brands of every stripe are experimenting with every channel. It just may be that buyers of industrial equipment like seeing the latest gear on their Insta feed. You’ll never know until you find out, and the risks and costs for trying are incredibly low.
STEP 6: SET A SCHEDULE
Develop a good mix of evergreen content that will provide a cost-effective source of web traffic through the year, as well as topical material devoted to both major and minor holidays. Also, be prepared to shift things around to take advantage of opportunities that pop up. For example, if the latest viral craze fits in perfectly with your brand, always be willing to bump something scheduled to take advantage of it.
STEP 7: EMPLOY A CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM (CMS)
There’s a lot of work involved in planning, producing, and publishing content regularly, but fortunately there’s plenty of options out there to centralize your process. SharpSpring, WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are the market leaders. They all have various feature and pricing differences, but each is an effective means of creating, organizing, and implementing a content plan if you don’t want to do all the legwork yourself.
One nice advantage to using a CMS is that it makes the process of collecting and analyzing engagement data seamless. You can see down to the minute, when and what type of content is getting viewed, shared, and commented on. Over time, patterns will emerge that enable further optimization.
With a whole year to fill, and a bottomless appetite for media, the task of sourcing, distributing, and promoting a steady stream of content should be a well thought out consideration in every modern brand’s marketing plan, and always with a well-defined business objective in mind. If you need assistance with any of it, we do this all the time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.