22nd May, 2013

Some things in life are just meant to go together – like strawberries and cream, bacon and eggs, fish and chips … you get where this is going!  Well, content is very similar in that, having a website without a content strategy is like having a car with no fuel – however many times you turn the key, it just won’t work!

At Essential Marketer we’ve invested a lot of time over the last six months looking into the whole content marketing debate in detail analysing the likely future content marketing landscape.  Let’s suppose your business has been around now for a few years.  You’ve got an internet presence and you’ve been working on your social media and things seem to be pretty static – both from a website traffic perspective and social media.

Then it’s time to take a step back, take stock of what you’ve got that you know works well, then start looking at your future content strategy.


So where do you begin your content strategy?

Let’s start with Who.  Who do you need to communicate with?  What groups do you want to be engaging with?  You may think you’ve got a pretty good idea of this already, but think again.  Remember the reason you want to communicate – you want to engage your audience, it needs to be relevant and timely would certainly help.  In social media there are many ways of finding out who your target groups are, where they’re hanging out, who they’re hanging out with and above all, what’s the latest thing they’re talking about.  There’s no point coming into a group that is completely irrelevant to what you want to talk about – they simply won’t be interested.

Next we will look at what.  What do you need to talk about?  This is often the tricky part and one that people get very wrong.  Take a look at what your business is about – what sectors are you in?  Are you a B2B or B2C – this makes a big difference when planning content.  Do you have a marketing department that plans a series of campaigns throughout the year taking into account potential seasonality of your products and services?  All of this could give you a good idea of the type of content to plan for and knowing what your focus keywords are.

How do you want to be perceived?  This is where your branding comes in.  Your communication style will very much be part of who you are as a brand and what your image – or what you want your image – to be perceived as.  So for a law firm, your brand values and image persona that you want to portray to potential clients would be: expert, credible, professional, reliable, etc., whereas a graphic design company is likely to have very different brand values such as:  unique, fun, quality, modern etc., which better fits their image within their line of business.  Many large companies will already have spent large budgets with marketing agencies and they will have brand values well established, but for a lot of small companies this could be an area that they struggle with and they might well have been putting out messages in the wrong communication style for their particular business.  Taking a step back to understand (i) how you want to be perceived and (ii) how you are already perceived is a huge area that it’s well worth investing time into.

Once you’ve identified the above, it’s time to have a look at the many different types of content out there.  For example, let’s go back to the law firm.  If your objective is to set yourself as a ‘thought leader’ on a particular business area you specialise in like ‘sports injury’, types of content could include well written case studies.  These are very underestimated, but if used in the right way, can be extremely powerful.  A well written case study has a great lifecycle and can often be used for many different purposes: on your site, in social media, blogs, press releases, advertising, white papers and many more.  Whereas a graphic designer will also have case studies, but these can be used in a different style to the law firm’s case studies – video testimonials are becoming increasingly popular and are great for sharing on social media and will fast become a popular landing page on your site.  Whatever the content you have, finding the right mechanism and style for publishing and sharing the content is really important.

How do you plan content?

Content planning is where a lot of people become unstuck.  They have something great that they want to share with the world, they think they’ve got the mechanism right, but they need to know when the best time to put the content out is and also to remember to do it.  There’s a lot of tools out there that will help with this – and even a basic content management system will enable you to select a date for when you want to publish on your site.  In addition to this, there are many tools that will help you to plan your social media.  These are great – but to have all this in one place to see a plan for the day – broken down by hour for all your communications vehicles is the way forward.  We have developed just such a tool that we are using on ourselves in a ‘live’ content marketing case study.  The system has been built to meet the needs of all these different areas so you can see at a glance when the content is due to be published and using what mechanism.

How do you monitor?

Talking about a content strategy wouldn’t be complete without looking at evaluation.  At the end of the day, you could have a fantastic content marketing and social media strategy, but if you aren’t getting increased traffic to your site and ultimately new clients or sales, then you’ve got to ask yourself – where are we going wrong?  It’s a bit like making a cake – you follow the recipe, but the cake doesn’t turn out right!  All the ingredients were there, but what went wrong?  That’s why we’d never recommend talking about a content strategy without talking about having effective measurement and evaluation techniques.  Again, we at Essential Marketer have considered this and that’s why it’s built into our content planning tool.

So, in answer to the original question about fuel for the car – I think it’s about time you took a petrol can to the nearest petrol station to make your car work again.

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