10 steps to a strong content program

Is a documented content marketing strategy REALLY necessary? Yes!

Why?
A content marketing strategy is the basic building block of an effective and solid marketing program. By planning and then creating good quality, branded content with a consistent message and then posting that content on media outlets that reach your audience, you deliver content that gives your current and potential customers ongoing, consistent, engaging material and value added information.

So what?
The advantages are numerous—a positive brand image, the opportunity to build trust, increases in sales and the ability to save money and time creating marketing materials.

How do I start?

1. Investigation
Take a step back and look at your program with a critical eye. This is a good time to either hire or enlist an individual(s), who represent your target audience and are not associated with your company, to candidly give feedback on your communication materials and program.

After collecting their responses extrapolate the information and review what you learned.
network-gray-dots-960network-gray-dots-960Is the graphic identity and message consistent?
What does the design and message say to your audience?
Is that what you want to or intend to portray?
Does it communicate your unique selling proposition?
Is the message directed to your target audience? Do they understand what you wanted to communicate?

When you have identified and evaluated your current program then you can start to look at what is working and what areas need strengthening, omitting and changing.

2. Decide and focus on your primary objectives
Now that you know what you are doing and how it looks to those people you want to define your content strategy goals.

If your goal is sales, what specifically do you want or need to do to move your audience from lookers to buyers?
Then identity each media outlet you are using or want to start using and define specific content goals for each medium.
As you are defining these goals keep in mind your competitors and where they are and what content strategies they are using.

3. Defining specific audiences.
There could be multiple audiences involved. Define each audience.

What does your audience need or want from your company?
What do they expect from your company/products?
What content would benefit your audience as well as your company?
How you are going to measure the success of each program? How and where does your audience get information about the group that you represent in?
Research what other communications your customers receive from you and your competitors.

Targeting different types of customers through segmented content makes the this process more efficient and cost-effective. Depending on what you find, consider producing different versions of your publication and digital content for each audience. If you want to segment, you will need a database or list that offers that segmented information. If you don’t have one, consider what you need and start building the database that allows for segmentation. This is as simple as a spreadsheet to begin this process. Once you have finalized what data and criteria you need then you can look for a more advanced, productive method of handling your customer database.

4. Develop your media strategy
What specific media outlets (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) reach your current and potential customers? What combination of media channels best fit your target audience? From print to online, digital to video, there is a huge range of channels to choose from. With the large amount of online resources/channels available, this process can be overwhelming. Consider adding one media channel at a time. unless you have more resources available.
this will help to manage the process of your online strategy and implementation.

5. Plan measurement
Developing regular, high-quality content is an investment of time and money for your company and developing measurement criteria for a successful program is important. What results do you want and what will you use as a measurement tool to track those results? What will define a successful program? How will what you are doing benefit the bottom line, brand image or awareness of your company? This work will need a budget and an internal commitment from applicable departments and/or your team.

6. Consider using an outside consultant for content development
It is difficult to have either the resources or ability to effectively develop creative, high quality content in-house consistently. When hiring an agency or consultant be very specific about what you need, what is important to you, project limits and a target budget. Not every agency or consultant will fit your needs or work best with you and your company. Look around, ask colleagues for referrals network and then have those select few meet with you and present their services and what they offer.

7. Implement development of content.
Use a planning calendar. Start by adding important events such as product launches, public relations announcements etc. Then look at what content and channels you will use to build up to those events or build on those events.
Do you have a launch date in mind? Are you going to include any research or user feedback from a sample group of your trusted, loyal customers and get their opinion? Also be sure to include introducing the content program to your internal company audience first.

8. Start slowly
Take the time to launch systematically in case there is something that you did not expect. With limited resources and time, starting slowly allows you to access what is working, give you and your team time to learn how to use various media channels and learn what is most effective for you and your organization.

9. Implement organization tools
One of the most effective ways for a business to gather more organic traffic to their website is through effective management of a social media campaign.

Hoot suite does this by allowing a user to manage several different profiles, schedule posts, and track brand recognition through one easy-to-use platform. Other resources include Buffer, Social Oomph, SocialFlow, SproutSocial and CrowdBooster. All of these resources have their own features and benefits. Determine what would be of help to you and your team and research the various options. Many are free or offer free trials. The best way to know what works for you is to research, try and test.

10. Ongoing Planning, Analyzing and Debriefing
With implementation the content strategy plan becomes real and measurable. With a regular review of the analytics collected you can make necessary course corrections.
There is no need to have “paralysis by analysis.” This is a time to see where there were spikes in your readership, where and with what content the audience positively connected. Based on your goals, was the strategy effective at moving you towards or meeting those goals?

Evaluating your current program, defining content goals, incorporating measurable goals, verifying that the planning and implementation is on track and meeting your goals gives you the tools you need to make intelligent changes, if needed.

No strategy or plan should ever be set in stone. There is too much that changes. Business climates change, technology changes, competition changes and with changes come the need to reevaluate your strategy and plan to make sure it is still effectively working for you and your organization.