Content marketing is a broad topic – so broad that many people easily get lost and overwhelmed. Instead of getting hung up in the weeds, you really need to think about content marketing from a strategic perspective.
You likely already have a marketing strategy and an advertising plan. Well, you need to have a content marketing strategy as well. This ensures that every marketing move you make lines up and drives towards your goals.
One random white paper for a specific ad is NOT a content marketing strategy.
When I think of a content strategy, I see a piece of yarn that weaves all of your marketing together. Everything from your website, your social media, your blog, every white paper and case study, videos and podcasts, as well as your advertising. A content marketing strategy connects all of your marketing – knitting it all into a finished piece – giving you multiple opportunities to engage with people who are willing to spend more time with your company, products or services.
Best Practices for Developing a Content Marketing Strategy
How do you build out a real strategy for content? What are the best practices? There are a number of steps in any strategy build out, but these are the 6 key areas to address.
1. Identify the audience.
As with everything in marketing and sales, it all starts with your audience. You need to identify everyone in your intended audience. By this, I mean everyone involved in the decision-making journey.
Your company may need to look at your audience by persona – or by vertical and then persona. For instance, if you sell into one marketplace, you likely have several personas with different needs. If, however, you sell into multiple markets – such as biopharma, diagnostics, food and beverage, and instrumentation – you need to address each vertical’s needs as well as each persona’s customer journey within the decision-making process.
2. Pinpoint your messaging.
Content strategy must be based on what your customers’ needs are – not what your company does. Your messaging platform is at the heart of your content strategy. Before you start to create content, you must have a solid messaging platform that all company stakeholders agree on. When everyone uses the same clear language and proof points you ensure that every engagement with a potential customer (or current customer!) is consistent.
3. Define your goals.
The content marketing strategy you create must move your company toward your marketing goals. After all, you’ve invested time in preparing those goals, so set yourself up to achieve them. Use content to help bring your clients along their journey from awareness to consideration to purchase.
What are your goals?
- Are you trying to create brand awareness or demonstrate thought leadership?
- Are you trying to generate leads?
- Are you nurturing an audience?
A successful content strategy for one goal could be very different from another. One size fits all doesn’t work.
If your goal is leads, for example, you know you need names. Therefore, you need content that is downloadable for lead capture. If you want to create awareness that your company exists, that calls for a different approach. You want to make sure that the content plan fits your goals.
This will ensure that your budget investment pays off.
4. Content audit.
Before you begin work on your content plan you have one more task. The content audit.
Sometimes when marketers start to think about all of the content needed, they become overwhelmed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Oh my God! How am I going to get all of this done?”
My answer is always: Let’s not panic. Let’s see what you already have.
Your company likely already has content. It may be somewhere on your website, it may be on a salesperson’s hard drive, it might be in a marketing library, or in an out-of-date folder somewhere. All of that content needs to be reviewed and mapped to a vertical, a persona and a point on the customer journey. It may need to be updated to fit your audience and marketing goals.
Once you have a clear map of the content you have on hand and what needs to be updated, then you can identify the gaps you need to fill. There will be gaps and new content will need to be created.
The content audit also provides a way to see what content can be repurposed. By repurposing content, you can easily fill some of your content gaps. For example, an app note might be repurposed into a white paper, an ad, a blog post and social media content.
5. Create the content plan.
As a science marketer your entire job is to help your prospect or customer with a problem that they have. This means creating a content plan that matches your customer’s journey.
Your content strategy must be built based on customer needs – and what they want to buy. Not your company’s divisions. Not silos within your company. Not services you provide that no one is spending money on. This content is not about you – it’s about addressing a customer need and taking them on the journey that moves them through the buying cycle – enabling you to move them from an MQL to a SQL.
At this stage you should be asking, “What content do I need to write or create to meet each stage of the customer journey?” Once you have that mapped out then have a look at your content audit results. Ask yourself, “What do I already have available?” and “What can be repurposed to fit into the content map?” After you’ve identified each of these, look at the big gaps to determine which need new content creation.
When planning your content, you need to remember that it’s not limited to written content such as sell sheets, white papers or blog posts. Content also includes categories such as websites, email, videos, podcasts, webinars, public relations, article opportunities, and graphics. Whatever medium you use to tell the story about why you’re important to the customer, who you are, and what you do is content.
When you develop your content strategy you are making a case for your technology, your services or your products from the customer-need perspective. Your content should be providing prospects ideas and information that they may not have realized they needed to know.
While you’re identifying and mapping the content you need to create, you also need to be determining where and how you’ll use that content. No one should be creating content just to say they have it. (If you do, you may want to give us a call! We can fix that.)
Just because you write a white paper or a blog post, it doesn’t mean that anyone will know about it or care. Which brings us to the last step in developing your content strategy.
6. Content usage.
You need to remember that customers aren’t keeping up with everything happening within your company. Therefore, every piece of content in your content plan must also have a use strategy attached.
Your audience will need to be served your content. That may mean your digital ad serves up the white paper. Your article may be published in an association publication. Snippets from blog posts may be shared in LinkedIn Groups. And everything produced may be emailed to your audience in a newsletter.
Your content marketing is part of an integrated marketing plan, and you must ensure that the content has a purpose and a method – or multiple methods – of delivery.
What do You do if You are a Smaller Company Without a Budget for Content Marketing?
We know every company is in a different place when it comes to the content stage in marketing. Many are just starting out. You probably don’t have a content strategy or much content, and you have a limited budget.
As you start to build your content library – perhaps with a white paper or two – the first questions we ask are:
- How will you use this content?
- What is the value of this content?
We never want customers to spend money unwisely. It’s critical that those white papers address a customer pain point.
Even if you’re brand new at content marketing, you need to remember that it’s all about your customer – not your company! If you can’t address what the customer needs or a pain point in every area of content you can create, that potential customer is not going to visit your company again. They’re not going to download the white paper you have and you’re not going to get the lead you need.
Powerhouse Marketing Through Content
Having a content strategy provides your marketing team with a clear content path. You won’t waste dollars and time creating collateral without a real purpose. You’ll know exactly what pieces you need, where and how you’ll use them, who you’re targeting and how the content aligns with the rest of your marketing plans and budget.
Leveraging a data-driven content marketing strategy to create relevant, valuable and timely materials for customers and prospects is vital to the success of your broader digital marketing program.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.