The smart money is betting on content marketing.
It’s not just power players like HubSpot. Smaller digital marketing firms and brand agencies are embracing the persuasive, informative power of targeted content delivery. And they’re attracting real money from angels, venture capitalists and tech hegemons better known for high-risk, high-reward investments.
Last year, Content Marketing Institute shocked the world (at least, the content marketing world) with the announcement that it would combine with UBM, an events organizer. The New York Times deepened its devotion to digital with the acquisition of a content marketing startup devoted to VR and AR marketing. And Castle Venture Group, the Nashville-based venture capital shop run by William Michael Keever, added to its burgeoning content marketing portfolio with two more targeted acquisitions.
Getting Content Marketing Right – 7 Questions To Ask
The benefits of effective content marketing are self-evident. But that doesn’t mean your content marketing strategy is going to write itself.
If you’re serious about developing a coherent content marketing strategy, you’ll need to ask yourself (and your company) a lot of tough questions. Start with these seven.
- Why Are We Developing a Content Marketing Strategy?
Don’t be insulted. It’s not at all uncommon to start drawing up lofty goals for the “what” behind a content marketing strategy before settling on the “why.”
That approach is not necessarily a recipe for disaster. But it’s almost sure to lead to unnecessary duplication of effort.
The “why” behind your content marketing strategy doesn’t have to boil down to a catchy slogan. But it should be concise and compelling. Consider the following
- The business need for your content strategy (comparisons with competitors help here)
- The desired big-picture impact of your strategy—it’s all about outcomes
- Potential risks to your content strategy—what could go wrong and how to address those shortcomings
- Who will own the content marketing process
- What resources (personnel, creative assets) the strategy will need to be successful
- What’s My Brand’s Story? Its Mission?
Above all, content marketing is about stories. A single content marketing plan can make allowances for multiple discrete stories, of course. But it also needs to be coherent. And that means weaving together a high-level organizational thesis that incorporates the brand’s origin story, mission and ongoing raison d’etre. This thesis won’t quite be short enough to fit on a bumper sticker, but it doesn’t need to expound at length either. That’s what collateral is for.
- Who Am I Marketing to?
Who’s your target audience? If you have multiple target audiences, what sets them apart? Your goal here should be to segment your prospects into neat “ideal buyer” groups, each with shared motivations and demographic profiles. Once you know whom you’re speaking to, you’ll have a clear path to developing appropriate, resonant messages for each subgroup.
- How Will Each Audience Consume My Marketing Messages? What Channels Are Most Appropriate for Each Group?
These questions grow naturally out of No. 3—the flesh on its bones. You’ll need to develop a separate channel strategy for each subgroup…
- What Are the Most Effective Messages to Reach My Prospects?
…and devise effective messaging to capture, hold and convert their attention. As you get into the nitty-gritty of your plan, this will involve a lot of testing and tweaking. For now, it’s enough to architect the broad strokes, the two or three core selling points likely to resonate with each ideal buyer group.
- Is My Plan Integrated With and Additive to the Organization as a Whole?
As envisioned, is your content marketing strategy a drag on your organization as a whole? You can’t afford that. It’s especially important for your content marketing strategy to integrate seamlessly with business development, sales and fulfillment. Less overlap means less duplication of effort—and fewer wasted resources.
- How Often Should I Update My Strategy?
Some say quarterly; others say annually. Remember, updating any strategy diverts resources from other projects. You have to balance the need to keep your content strategy fresh with the reality that your company’s needs likely won’t change from week to week or even month to month.
Next Steps: From Planning to Action
These seven questions can form the basis of an effective content marketing plan. But they’re not the last word on the matter. As I said up top, your content marketing strategy won’t write itself—and it’s certainly not going to execute itself on your behalf. To move your strategy from idea to action, you’ll need a clear plan of attack, along with the will (and personnel) to implement it. You’ll also need a streamlined content plan—an action document replete with topic details, resources, creative assets and deadlines.
Maybe we’ll discuss that in a follow-up.