A content marketing plan and you ensure that every piece of content has a reason for existing as it helps ensure your content works towards accomplishing your goals. You want to first of all attract your audience to you and then you want to improve your audiences’ experiences by educating and informing them. Your content should also establish trust with your audience and build your credibility and authority. Properly crafted content can achieve all of this and more, but you need to create a solid content marketing plan first if you want to achieve this.
Content Marketing Plan Stage One – Goals
You cannot hope to ever achieve anything if you don’t know what it is you want to achieve, if you have a team get them together or alternatively do it yourself or with a few trusted advisors. You need to work out some realistic goals, you need to understand what success looks like in twelve months’ time, twenty four months’ time and sixty months’ time. By having these three goals you have a long term goal, a medium term goal and a short term goal.
Content marketing is a long term strategy, it often takes four, six or more months to make any sort of impact and your short term goal needs to reflect this. When setting goals you also need to ensure they are realistic and obtainable. If you raise the bar too high when setting goals, you are never going to achieve them and you will give in before the race is run because you are not achieving anything.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Two: Audit Your Current Content
It’s extremely beneficial to study the content you already have, how does it help you to achieve your goals, do you know, can you measure. You might for instance want to increase sign ups to your newsletter, email campaigns, you might want your content to attract one thousand additional visitors per month, per week as well as an increase in sales. By auditing your existing content you also get the chance to check that all pieces of content have an appropriate call to action and if they don’t, why was the content produced and what is its purpose for existing?
Content Marketing Plan Stage Three: The Starting Point
In addition to an existing content audit, you always want to document your starting point so that you always have something that you can look back on and see just how successful you have been. This means that you should document the number of websites visitors, page views, numbers of visitors from each social media platform, bounce rates, conversion rates. You basically want to document as many stats as you can, so that in six months’ time, a year you can compare numbers and measure how successful your content marketing has been.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Four: Target Customers / Audience
As a business owner you should have some research already in place about who your target customers are. If you don’t know or even if you do, you mush continuously research who your audience is. Over time your audience changes, the demographic might not but how you reach and interact with them might, for instance advertising, copy used years ago might seem offensive and old fashioned today. By studying your audience you can always ensure your message remain relevant to them.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Five: The Sales Funnel
Once you have some understanding of who your target customer is, you then need to consider your sales funnel. To do this let’s look at a simplified funnel.
At the top of the sales / buyer funnel we have the attraction phase, in terms of content marketing this is the content that you produce that attracts people to your website. This is the largest part of the funnel as it encompasses all of the people you attract. This means that the content you create must be attractive to every persona type that makes up your general audience. This could be one, two, three or more different personas for example you might attract. You should aim to identify each of these personas if at all possible, general information is sufficient to allow you to create the content that brings this audience to you.
The engagement phase of the funnel is where you content starts to engage your audience and push them through to do something. As your audience progresses through the sale funnel your audience personas can change, for example you could have a receptionist of office junior attracted to you during the attraction phase, but further down the funnel they might have past your details on to their purchasing office or senior management. This means that the personas of the audience can change, and you should try to be aware of each persona at each stage of the sales funnel.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Six: Understand Your Purpose
Once you understand the different personas in your sales funnel, the content you create can have a purpose. Each piece of content that you create needs to fulfill a purpose, if its purpose is to attract people to your website it will be created to feature well within the search engines, to make people want to share it via social media, etc… That is its purpose. All of this can take some time to sit down and analyse properly. Once you have done this for each stage of the sales funnel, you can start to analyze some of the content you already have. What was your thought process as you created it and did it meet its specific purpose and overall did your content help you achieve your goals. If you are like most people, you content creation process will be focused mainly at the top of your funnel and not necessarily on the other areas which if mastered will lead to many more customers from the same amount of website visitors as you currently experience. It’s also worth pointing out that you might find gaps in what you currently provide to your audience and this will give you opportunities to develop new products and services.
Pro Tip – For each phase of your sales funnels you should have a goal, this is what you want each piece of content to achieve. When each goal of the entire sale funnel is added together this achieves your main goal. As each main goal is added together in the end you will achieve your twelve month, twenty four month and sixty month goals.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Seven: Develop an Editorial Calendar
Based on your product/service offerings and launch dates, as well as already built-in holidays that your audience recognizes, you can develop an editorial calendar that will help you reach all of your goals. A complete editorial calendar includes meeting the needs of all personas that you attract and it also includes product development, blog content, sales pages, social media content and much more. Include every last bit of content you will need for every single persona, product or service you want to promote on every single site that you want to place it on. It is often better if you create a master editorial calendar and then separate it up into different categories to make it less overwhelming.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Eight: Develop the Content
The purpose of content is to tell a story that attracts and engages your audience, the purpose of marketing is to get your audience to do something and only when these come together, is this content marketing … Steve Cartwright
Now you have to really get to work, developing any products to fill the needs of your audience as well as the content you need. If you create great content it will educate, inform, engage and get your audience to do something. Just ensure the content you create has a purpose for existing, and don’t just create one type of content, mix it up with voice, video and text to ensure maximum results.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Nine: Promote Your Content
In essence all you need to do, is create lots and lots of search engine optimized content and eventually you will feature well within the search engines for your chosen market. This works and is content marketing in its truest form, however in my opinion content creation doesn’t stop when you have created the content, that’s just the beginning.
You now need to promote this content, or as some would say market your content, every last piece of content needs to be promoted. Promote it via social media, email marketing, everything that grabs the attention you want it to. The attention that each piece of content gets will mean more visitors, more newsletter subscriptions and ultimately more sales. My advice is don’t rely solely on search engine optimization to get word out about your great content, do whatever you can to help it.
Content that isn’t promoted properly isn’t working to its full potential and means it will take you longer to achieve your goals, if you ever actually achieve them… Steve Cartwright.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Ten: Measure the Results
If every single piece of content you create has a purpose, then there is a metric that you can use to measure the results. It’s important to always measure the results of everything you do if at all possible. The reason you do this, is so that you can make changes as and when required. If one particular type of content is working better than another, then you can create more of that content. If a piece of content isn’t attracting the audience you expected than you can change the title and measure the results, simply by doing this you can often increase the effectiveness of a well-crafted piece of content. This is what being able to measure gives you, the ability to make small changes to increase the effectiveness so test, test, and test.
Content Marketing Plan Stage Eleven: Refine and Perfect
As mentioned as you measure the results, you will want to modify things, refine them and perfect your content as you go. By doing this, you actually learn more about what your audience wants and your job therefore becomes easier, especially if you’re active on social media as many times your audience members will interact with you and provide your feedback, straight from the horse’s mouth so to say. As you figure this all out, you’ll get better and better at content creation and promotion as you go.
Finally, and you can call this step twelve if you want to, as you find out what works you’ll want to do more of that, and less of what doesn’t. It’s really is as simple as that, provided to meet all of the stages of your sales funnel. Each year or so, you’ll want to start over, with a new content marketing plan however it’s easier the second time around as you’ll start over with the prior knowledge of what worked best previously and so can build and improve upon this.
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