Content Marketing: The Planning Stage

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From Little Acorns...

Content marketing is the most effective long-term marketing strategy around, but we all have to start somewhere. A fruitful content marketing plan is built on scrupulous research, with information gathered from surveys, studies, social media and SEO tools.

Wherever the information comes from, you will have three main areas to consider:

Your Goals

Before you begin, you need to be clear about your goals. Think what you want your content to achieve for you.

  • Do you want an increased social following?
  • Are you more focussed on driving conversions?
  • Is this really about creating a stronger brand or establishing a reputation as an expert in your field?

With clear goals, you can create a targeted content marketing strategy to help you to build your brand in exactly the way you want.

Your Readers

Now think about you content's target audience, your 'buyer persona'. This is particularly important if you're only just starting out.

  • Who are your audience?
  • What are their values and opinions?
  • What online channels do they use?
  • What are their worries?
  • How can your content help them with these?

By knowing your target audience, you can make sure that your content is relevant to them and therefore more likely to be read and shared.

Your Competitors

Now it's time to eyeball the competition and consider these questions:

  • Who are your main competitors?
  • What makes them successful?
  • If they are failing, why is that?
  • What can they do that you can't?
  • What can you do that they can't?

Understanding your competitors will help you to locate your brand in the market. It may allow you to spot opportunities and help you learn from others' mistakes.

Research

Your content marketing strategy should be based on your answers to these questions. And remember, you will have to do a lot of research. This research will determine what content you will create, how often you will do this and where you distribute it. To help with site analytics, consider using some of these tools:

Buzzsumo – search for the best performing content for a specified keyword. This allows you to see what has previously done well and what types of content work for particular social networks.

Talkwalker – a social media analytics site. Give it a set of keywords and you will receive an alert every time one them is mentioned online. This means you can monitor other brands to see how successful their content is; you can also follow trends around particular topics, allowing you to connect with news events.

Common Pitfalls

The most common mistake that companies make is thinking that just creating great content is enough. Your content could be absolutely fantastic, but if it doesn't interest your audience then it won't be read.

Equally, your content could be tremendously engaging but fail to connect with your company's goals and objectives, in which case it isn't building your brand.

A good understanding of your audience is vital to ensure that you get your content in front of the right people.

Doing it right: an example

For a combination of style and substance, take a look at online dating agency OkCupid's dictionary of modern dating terms. Caution: some of the material is a little racy.

Here's the entry on sexting:

"
Sexting (v.): a fun way to turn the eggplant, peach, splash, and saxophone emojis into a dirty conversation

Partner: Stop sexting me at work.

Me: I'm not, I'm just trying to hammer out plans for tonight. Should we ?"

This sort of carry on may not work for your brand. But what it shows is that OkCupid know their people. They have found a way to deliver to them that engages, entertains and cements their position as a fun, flirty dating agency.

Content marketing is about achieving well-defined business goals. Once you know what those are, understand your audience and your position in the market, you're well on your way to producing quality content that will build your brand.

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