Creating content can feel discouraging.
For instance, you might spend hours producing something that's amazing, only to get little engagement, traffic, or leads. What's more, later, you'll have to explain that ROI to your boss — talk about a dreadful workday.
If you're feeling frustrated or burnt out with your content creation process, you're in luck. Here, we've created a complete blueprint to a successful content marketing strategy.
In this post, I'll walk you through the different aspects of the content blueprint and why each facet is so important for marketers to include in an overall strategy. For more information on content marketing strategies, we've created a content marketing workbook that's free to download.
Otherwise, let's dive into creating a content marketing strategy that will bring you that ROI you're looking to earn.
How to Develop and Implement a Successful Content Marketing Strategy
We're going to look at three different stages that make up the blueprint. These stages will outline the main steps you can take to create your strategy. Then, we'll go into depth with details about making that happen.
Let's start with step one — getting decision-makers on-board with your strategy.
Stage 1: Getting buy-in from your stakeholders in order to green light your strategy.
All great content marketing plans start with getting people within the company to buy into your vision — basically, the people who can give you the resources, budget, or information that's required to make your plans a successful reality.
For example, internal customer-facing teams, such as customer support, can share their expertise and help fuel your content creation efforts. Because they have regular contact with customers, they'll know some of your audience's biggest challenges or what they care most about — which comes in handy when you need to create content those customers care about.
Additionally, your marketing team likely has a limited budget. To implement certain strategies and forgo others, it's vital you're able to get leadership on board with your vision.
To make this happen, you'll need a pretty awesome pitch. Generally, this pitch should do three things:
1. Talk about key challenges you will solve with your strategy.
You'll want to give an overview of the key challenges your content marketing plan will solve. Instead of complicating this step with an overload of data points, keep it simple and concise. Summarize your key challenges in just a couple of charts so it's more comprehensive.
For example, in this chart below, the marketer's key challenge is that their overall CPL (cost per lead) is being inflated by the amount of money they are spending to acquire leads through paid programs.
By implementing a solid content strategy, CPL can be reduced. Notice how this chart states the need for a strategy, presents key supporting data, and makes that information easy to comprehend.
2. Talk about how your strategy will relate to business metrics.
Try to always keep your audience in mind. Senior management will be focused on cost and revenue. How can your marketing strategy help with those metrics?
In the example above, the answer is clear: Reducing the CPL reduces the cost it takes to acquire a customer, which can increase profit down the road.
When you present your pitch to decision makers, make sure to outline how reaching your goal will also help reach the greater goals of your business.
3. Give high-level details on your strategy to achieve these goals.
Finally, you might consider talking through how your content strategy is going to help solve these key challenges and influence those business metrics. You can use this template generator to help you organize your ideas. The goal of this step is to prove to senior-level management that you've thought through your plan and what resources you need to make it a reality.
Now, you've created your pitch and you're ready to present to upper-level management. Remember, this pitch will help you convince the right people that your content marketing strategy will be successful.
You should have a pitch before you begin planning your content strategy because you'll stakeholders will be aware of what campaign you plan to run to achieve your business goals. However, while you don't need to fully develop your strategy until you get support from leadership, it's still critical you spend time reviewing metrics and making a tentative game-plan for when you do develop the strategy.
Next, we're going to talk about how to develop that aforementioned winning strategy.
Stage 2: Develop your content strategy.
In a HubSpot report, it was found that 56% of survey respondents said they were doing content marketing without a plan. Content creation can definitely be difficult, but having a content plan helps. It takes into account key challenges, business goals, and metrics, which will make you more successful in the long term.
Let's talk about what a winning content strategy should include.
1. Include the buyer personas you are targeting.
At HubSpot, we align content around different buyer personas. This allows us to stay really focused on for whom we're creating content. We keep our buyer personas' goals and challenges in mind so we can address these at each stage of the buying process.
As an example, here is a persona I've built for a company software company that provides tools that streamline day-to-day business processes, offers inbound marketing courses, and makes reporting easier.
Meet "Marketing Macy":
To make this persona, I used a free persona builder that made the process incredibly fun. In addition, I was able to point out exactly how to connect with a target audience by identifying why they would love a company and what challenges they were looking to solve.
To create content that's going to be relevant to Macy at each stage of the buying cycle, we've included key information about her goals, challenges, and why she would love a company that offers CRM and CMS software. Knowing an ideal target customer like Macy makes it easier to connect with them.
2. Understand where the content gaps are in your buying cycle.
Make sure you understand where the content gaps are in the buying cycle for your buyer personas. To achieve this, you should conduct a content audit. Additionally, ask yourself if your buyer persona has the information they need at each point of the buying cycle.
For example, at HubSpot, content is created that attracts Mary to our site and helps her evaluate our software based upon what we know about her goals and challenges. We then ask ourselves if she has everything necessary to feel confident in purchasing our product based on those goals and challenges.
If you identify those gaps, you can focus on making sure that content is in your strategy. For instance, let's say that you have a gap in content for the evaluation stage. Identifying that is the first step in creating helpful content for that stage.
Next, we'll talk about how to create and push the content that will bridge those gaps.
3. Create relevant content ideas and stick to an editorial calendar.
Once you have identified your personas and understand what content you need to move them through the buyer process, it's time to brainstorm content ideas to fill in those holes.
When you understand to whom you're marketing, it can be easier to come up with relevant content. To ease the process further, check out our post about how to map out content. Ultimately, though, make sure every piece of content you create is engaging, delightful, and created with intent.
Ask yourself during the creation process if your content achieves those three things. Let's look at this social media post as an example:
This post is engaging because it includes a graphic that attracts the attention of audiences. It's delightful, because the graphic and supporting copy are easy to comprehend and uses emojis to illustrate a point. Additionally, it's created with the intent to provide value to customers who may be looking for remote working tips.
Creating content is half the battle, though. Another thing to figure out is when to schedule the publishing of that content so it gets seen by the right people and is delivered consistently.
That is why all great content plans have an editorial calendar so that people within the company can see what content is being published and what dates that content is going live. Editorial calendars keep teams in sync and organized — as far as visual workflows go, it's a necessity.
When you've identified your persona, created content for them, and have finalized a calendar-based schedule, this stage is complete. The next stage is to figure out the publishing details.
Stage 3: Determine a publishing plan for your content strategy.
One of the biggest shifts in marketing today is transforming our mindset from that of a traditional marketer to that of a publisher. Sometimes, as marketers, we think in terms of immediate wins, which is why we tend to prioritize our ad budget for paid media. We invest a certain amount of spend in return for an approximate number of leads and customers.
Moving to a publisher model means investing more upfront to start creating content assets that will have a far greater impact over a longer period of time. For example, the HubSpot blog generates most of its traffic from blog posts not published in that month. This is because the content we've created in the past has long-term value for the company in both the leads and customers they generate each month.
A lot of companies talk themselves out of publishing before they even get started due to a lack of immediate resources. However, a content team of one can be successful if they know how to source content effectively.
Here are two tips to keep in mind to become a publishing rockstar:
1. Think about scaling your content by repackaging in several formats.
Consumers today connect with brands across different channels, whether that be on social media, through email marketing, or on your website. When developing a new piece of content, think about how you can repurpose that content into various formats.
For example, if you've developed a series of blog posts, such as a series about customer retention, you could turn them into a comprehensive customer service ebook.
2. Make sure the quality of your content always remains high.
Whether you're creating a single piece of content a week or several pieces a day, the quality of your content should always remain extremely high if you want it to pay off in the long run.
Creating an editorial checklist will help you manage this process. With a checklist, you can quickly check each piece of content for quality issues and educate your team on what it takes to publish content for your company.
In HubSpot's content blueprint, you'll find a range of templates that make scaling content really easy and provides an intuitive, ready-made editorial checklist.
Stage 4: Promote your content early and regularly.
So, you know about your target audience and you've created content specifically tailored to them. The task now is how to distribute that content to your audience effectively.
The key to effective distribution is to increase the number of distribution channels, such as blogs, email, and social properties. Additionally, you have to expand the reach of that content to a broader audience.
Promotion is a critical part of a content blueprint and something marketers should think about at great length during their planning phase.
To become an expert at promotion, you should:
1. Make promotion an essential part of the planning process.
When my team is planning out a content campaign, we put as much thought into the distribution of that content as we do into the campaign development. We want to know who that content is for and how can we make sure they get it.
For instance, if you are distributing content on social media platforms, discuss in great length how to prioritize budget, posting schedule, and using the tools offered by social channels to expand the reach of your content.
2. Make sure your team is equipped with promotional skills.
Being able to promote content to the right audience isn't an easy job. Over time, the skills to distribute content effectively will be critical to long-term success.
If you want to learn more about how you can be effective at promoting your content, we have lots of information on outreach, seeding your content, and even the best way to repackage it for different networks to increase its exposure right inside — you've guessed it —our content blueprint.
Sometimes, learning the proper promotional skills comes with trial and error. You have to figure out what your audience responds to the most. For instance, you can create an A/B test with the content you want to push on social channels to see what types of messaging your audience prefers.
Additionally, you can experiment with multiple content types to get a gauge of what targeted content really resonates with your audience. To get an idea, check out what your competition is doing, and what works for them. You can also do some social listening to observe the patterns in web behavior of your target customers.
How are you doing with your content strategy so far in 2020? Where do you hope to improve your content marketing the most this year? With this guide, you'll be fully prepared to take on the world of content marketing, and do it successfully.