When it comes to content, most marketers don’t start from scratch. They join companies that already have blogs and resources. It’s a content marketer’s job to make that existing content shine, and to effectively create more successful content pieces.
But what if you work at a startup or company that doesn’t have content marketing at all? How can you create a content marketing strategy from the ground up? It’s a real challenge.
Some marketers see content as a quick way to generate stuff to share on social media, or as an easy avenue to gain customers, but content marketing is tough. You need to make sure you have definitive goals, a solid plan, and an army of talent to help execute.
There’s a lot to do, and in this post, I’ll offer my tips on how to create a growth-driven content marketing strategy from the ground up.
Step 1. Decide on Goals
When it comes down to it, content marketing is all about attracting the right audience to your business. Sometimes, that audience is ready to buy today. Or, maybe they’ll buy from you tomorrow, next month, or a year from now.
The most important thing to do when you get started is to step back and think about why it’s important to build a content marketing strategy. Here’s why I believe content marketing is essential:
- Brand awareness – Get people familiar with your brand so they’ll think of you when they’re in need.
- Opportunity for the right traffic - Whether it comes from SEO, social media, or another source, you want qualified traffic coming to your site.
- Building a sales funnel – You can use content marketing to build a sales funnel so that generated leads are red hot.
When you get started, think about your goals. Does it make sense to build a sales funnel using content, or are you more on the hunt for brand awareness? As you’re developing a strategy, you want to ensure your plan meets your particular goals.
Note that your goals may depend a lot on your product, and whether it’s targeted at consumers or those in the B2B space. A company selling goods to consumers may care more about brand awareness than a software company who would prefer to have leads.
Step 2. Research Your Audience
Your products and services were created to help people in some way. How do they help? For example, if you sell fun pool floats, then you’re helping people have fun when they’re at the pool or down by the lake.
In order to develop an effective, growth-driven content marketing strategy, you need to figure out how to solve those same problems with your content. The pool float company might create articles on how to baby-proof a pool, or how to host the world’s best pool party, all in the name of helping the audience have more fun in their backyards. These articles will draw pool owners to the site, where they’ll get introduced to an amazing array of pool floats.
When you’re building a content marketing strategy, you need determine your audience’s pain points, figure out where they need help, and provide them with resources that answer their deepest questions.
Step 3. Develop a Growth-Driven Plan
Once you’ve figured out your goals and considered your audience, it’s time to get to the meat of it. You need to develop a plan to help execute your content marketing strategy. Here’s what needs to be included in your plan:
- Topics for Posts - You should create a lengthy list of topics you want to cover based on what will attract your audience. You should also employ some SEO-driven content strategies at this stage to help your content appear in Google search results. If you feel that you’re not great at coming up with topics, a consultant can help by coming up with topics for you. If you need help with topic ideation, I’ve written about how to come up with content ideas that actually perform well.
- Style Guide Creation – A style guide is a document that explains the goals of your content marketing, the voice you’ll use, some examples of content you like, and which grammar rules you follow (most online publications use AP style). The style guide can be passed on to any freelance writer to get them up to speed on writing for your brand.
- Editorial Calendar – An editorial calendar is your content schedule, though experts disagree on how rigid you need to be. In general, an editorial calendar helps ensure you’re publishing helpful content on a regular basis, and can assist you in keeping track of which writer is working on each content piece. CoSchedule is a great tool for editorial calendars.
- Email List – You’re developing a growth-driven content plan, and your email list is an avenue that’s important to grow. Alongside your blog, you’ll need an email newsletter filled with helpful content that gets sent on a regular basis. When you’re developing a content strategy, figure out what this email will include, and how often it will be sent out. Email copy is important– here’s my advice on how to write email copy that converts.
- Promotional Plan – In order to fuel growth, you need a healthy promotion plan. Whether you encourage influencers to share your resources, pay to boost your content on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or syndicate your content at other popular blogs– you need a plan for promotion!
Step 4. Find Content Creators to Help Execute
Whether you’re a content marketer who was hired because of your writing skills, or you’re a startup founder who finds it difficult to write quickly, freelancers and consultants can help you execute on your plan.
I’m a firm believer in using freelancers and consultants. Without them, it would be impossible for me to create as much content as I’d like and still focus on my responsibilites. Running a healthy content marketing team is a job in itself, and creating all the content yourself is challenging.
I have a number of talented freelance writers that I work with, and we’ve developed solid relationships over time. These freelance writers have been working with me long enough to understand my brand, style, and how to write for my audience.
Finding talented freelancers can be a challenge, however. I recommend asking your connections for recommendations before turning to a site like Upwork. Doing searches on LinkedIn is also a good way to find writers.
Quick Note: When it comes to hiring freelancers, you tend to get what you pay for. It’s worth it to pay top dollar for a great writer. These high caliber writers are more likely to do their research and turn in what you’ve asked for, and they’re less likely to require significant editing work from you.
Step 5. Work That Email List
Like I said earlier, an email list is an essential part of a growth-driven content marketing plan. Email allows you to stay in touch with your audience, even after they’ve left your site. It allows you to show up in their inbox on a regular basis.
There are a lot of tactics you can use to encourage people to sign up. On When I Work’s blog, a pop up appears that encourages readers to sign up to get our insights via email (we use the SumoMe Welcome Mat). We’ve found that including the number of existing subscribers helps validate us in the minds of our readers.
When it comes to the emails themselves, we’ve seen a lot of success from sending plain-text emails. Plain-text emails can be a lot more impactful, mostly because they read like they’re coming from a friend, rather than a large brand.
When I write these emails, I try to use friendly, approachable language, even though the When I Work product is meant for businesses. I write these emails as though I’m writing to a friend because that’s how I want my audience to think of me– as a reliable, helpful friend.
Step 6. Bake in Promotion
Without promotion, it’s unlikely anyone will see your content. Unfortunately, even if you’ve written or published an amazingly helpful and timely piece of content, there’s no guarantee it will make it to your audience.
I’m a big believer in giving attention to content promotion, and it’s best to bake in promotion when you’re developing an overall content marketing plan. I’ve tried a number of promotional tactics and hacks to get my content out there, and I’ve seen a lot of great results.
One of my favorite ways to promote content is to find influencers who can speak to the topic at hand. After I interview them, I find ways to include their insights into my content. When the content is published, they’re likely to share the content with their audience.
Other content marketers have seen success from syndicating their content at other publications, such as the Huffington Post or Business 2 Community. Buffer has had a number of their articles syndicated on Fast Company, and it’s done wonders to help get them on the map.
Step 7. Examine and Iterate
Following the steps in this post will set you up to create a growth-driven content marketing strategy that get results. But content marketing isn’t something that you can set and forget. Instead, you need to examine which posts perform well, and where your traffic is coming from.
In order to accurately examine and improve your efforts, you’ll need to have robust analytics. I recommend Google Analytics because it’s free, comprehensive, and an industry standard. Reading up on Google Analytics will help you excel. If you know how to use the tool, you’ll find nuggets of information that can set you on the right path.
The Path to Content Marketing Growth
It’s tough to build a growth-driven content marketing strategy from the ground up. If you’re able to do it successfully, you’ll set your marketing up for success. You’ll get tons of traffic from the right sources, leading to brand recognition, conversions, and ultimately sales.
Growth-driven content marketing is no longer optional– it’s an essential part of building a loveable brand that people want to buy from. Good luck!