Content marketing is an undeniably important tactic for your business. But without a proper plan, the time and resources you put into content creation can be fruitless. Thoughtful content planning can maximize your campaigns by creating value in the eyes of the consumer, reaching the right people, and developing a strategy for measurement and optimization, all while setting your internal teams up for success.
Know your brand
Knowing your brand tone, voice, and message is critical to your content strategy. Your business should have a brand identity that clearly illustrates its value proposition, explains why it’s relevant to the audience, and differentiates it from the competition. Before you begin content planning, it’s important to truly understand what your brand stands for and how audiences will emotionally connect with it. Whether your tone is formal or informal, trustworthy or silly, your brand is how your customers perceive and value your business.
An effective content strategy spans multiple channels and tactics, so driving a clear, cohesive message across all is essential. Think about what users should take away from their experiences with your website. What do you want them to understand and believe about your business, and how is that message best conveyed?
Know your audiences
Once you’ve established your brand identity, do some legwork to understand your audiences. Different users will have different priorities and be at different stages of the consumer lifecycle. The content you create should be appropriately tailored and targeted, and designed to solve a problem or address a need. Remember, your content is only effective if it’s relevant to the people who see it.
While it’s easy to focus on sealing the deal at the point of conversion, cultivating relationships throughout the consumer journey will build loyalty and benefit your business in the long run. If users trust your business to help answer key questions during the awareness and consideration stages, they’ll be more likely to return when it comes time to convert. And while it’s important to move users through the funnel, pushing them to convert before they’re ready may antagonize them, much like being accosted in a store while casually browsing.
Website personalization provides an excellent opportunity to serve customized content to defined audience segments and personas. Whether content is personalized based on a user’s last engagement with your site, or custom-tailored based on what that user previously searched for, website personalization creates a better connection to a visitor’s wants and needs. The more specific and relevant a user’s experience with your brand, the more impactful that experience will be, making these interactions more valuable and ideally driving conversions.
Know your content
You now know what messages to convey and to whom. But what’s the best way to get those messages across? The next step is to map out your content. Blog posts, financial literacy articles, white papers, and multimedia supplement the user journey with thought leadership and interactivity. Aim to develop one large, heavy-hitting piece of content per quarter to lay the foundation for subsequent campaigns. This provides longevity and drives continuity from one campaign to the next. Note that the frequency of content production will be unique to each business and dependent on your resources.
Upper-funnel users in particular will look to you for guidance and expertise. They not only want to understand why they should bring you their business, they also want to feel comfortable that your business will provide continued support past the point of conversion. This is especially true with financial institutions, for example, since customers and members want the confidence of knowing their money is in good hands.
Know your tactics
After you’ve developed a brand voice, identified users to target, and begun mapping your content, think about how best to reach your audience segments. Understanding user behavior and preferences is crucial. How do your audiences typically consume content? Which social media channels are they leveraging, and which align best with your type of business? Paid search and social media campaigns can surface blog posts and thought leadership articles to upper-funnel users who may not otherwise encounter your content. If users are prepared to make a decision and shopping around for competitive rates, remarketing ads can keep your business at the forefront.
One thing is certain: no matter how valuable your content, it’s not enough to simply put it on your website. Inbound marketing and conquesting are essential to lead generation and should be integral to your content strategy. Know your audiences and use that knowledge to identify the marketing tactics most likely to reach them.
Know your plan
Proper planning can make or break your content strategy. Campaigns should be well timed, well executed, and continually nurtured. Rather than standing apart as disparate initiatives, campaigns should build upon one another. This creates cohesion and helps your audiences recognize what your business stands for and why it should matter to them. While it may be more work, it’s the right way to keep your content marketing plan robust.
For this reason, it’s important to develop a content calendar that integrates each campaign into your high-level marketing strategy. This not only reinforces your overarching message or value proposition, it also streamlines execution. Plan your campaigns so your business constituents know when they’re launching, how long they’re running, and how they intersect. Content calendars can be as simple as Excel documents or Google spreadsheets, or you can use more sophisticated task management platforms such as Trello or Workfront.
Your content planning and creation process should be a well-oiled machine. When internal stakeholders are enrolled at both the strategic and executional levels, you’ll have the time and resources necessary to craft thoughtful, deliberate content and ensure deadlines are met. Effective content planning starts with internal awareness and collaboration.
Know your goals
After your content is planned and generated, it’s time to set performance goals and optimize against them. Content can ladder up to one of several goals, including brand awareness, traffic generation, lead generation, conversion, retention, and upsells. Have a plan for each piece of content and what it aims to accomplish, then determine how to measure success. This will help inform your optimization effort, which is just as important as initial launch.
Use website analytics and performance metrics to determine how each campaign is performing—and be prepared to pivot if something isn’t working. Remember that content marketing has both qualitative and quantitative impact—so it’s important to look at the value of both. Think about what each piece of content needs to accomplish and do frequent pulse checks. Is the goal to drive traffic or engagement? Is the campaign meant to generate brand awareness or increase conversions? Understanding the intent of each piece of content will help you develop a performance baseline and equip you to effectively measure and optimize. This will also provide valuable insight to inform subsequent campaigns.
Develop a process
Consistency is key when it comes to content marketing. One or two heavy-hitting pieces of content can kickstart your marketing plan, but it’s important to keep the momentum going and continually engage your audience. This fosters lasting relationships by giving users a reason to return to your site. For content planning to work, it must become part of your ongoing business process.
The experts at ZAG can help you develop an effective content plan. Contact us today to get started.