How to Start a Content Marketing Strategy with 6 Questions
Our Customer Success Team is the day-to-day touch point for our customers, and they are absolutely incredible at helping our stores make their marketing processes more efficient and successful. One of our Customer Success Team members, Rachel Parks, has heard many customers say that they don’t know where to begin with content marketing, so today she is sharing with us how to lay down a firm foundation for your content marketing strategy in order to make things easier down the road.
It’s a well-respected adage in marketing that content is king. Even for eCommerce, engaging content on your social media channels, blogs, and email campaigns is a key driver of traffic to your store. Although I’m sure you love your customers, you can’t always count on them to recognize how perfect your product is for their needs without spelling it out via an email campaign. Nor can you count on even the most loyal customers to pay attention to your brand without some piece of eye-grabbing content on your Instagram to entice them into your store. After all, your customers are exposed to nearly 5,000 marketing messages daily.
In spite of the statistics and the evidence supporting its necessity, many of our customers struggle to create, maintain, and execute against a content marketing strategy. When you’re an army of few with many demands on your time, it’s tempting to fall back to the obvious promotional messages: Buy This, Shop Now, etc.
Your brand and your business are more than what you sell – and your content should be too. By developing a content marketing strategy, maintaining a store of resources and accurate audience information, and tactfully executing against your plan, you will grow your brand’s influence over your customer base and receive scalable, measurable, and cost-effective traffic generation for your online store.
What is your Goal?
Before you start producing content, it’s very important to identify the differences between Goals, Strategies, and Tactics. People often confuse these terms for each other, so it’s worth defining them first before we get too deep into the weeds.
A goal is the ultimate end point – the specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound reason for doing a marketing activity. For example, if you were planning a cross-country road trip, the goal would be the destination point you plug into the GPS. For most small businesses, goals center around increasing revenue or site traffic by a specific amount within a specific timeframe.
A strategy is one or many methods you will employ to reach your goal. Think of strategy like subject areas that you will need to master to get to the goal. If you were planning that cross-country road trip, strategies are the possible routes for getting to that destination. For small businesses, strategies can be things like cutting down on your marketing expenses or developing engaging content to bring new customers to your store.
A tactic is the action you will take that fits within a defined strategy. In our cross-country road trip, tactics are the precise left and right turns you will take to get to your destination. For small businesses, tactics are things like posting 3x/week on Facebook or using trackable links on your YouTube videos to measure traffic.
It’s important to remember that we are developing a strategy, not tactics. Content is not the end goal but rather one of many things you are doing to ultimately support an end goal. Tactics, while important, are only as good as the strategy they are supporting. Your business’s strategy is more than the sum of its tactics.
Developing your Content Marketing Strategy – the Six Question Words
Now that we’ve got some basic terminology, we can begin to develop a content marketing strategy. This planning process is crucial for the success of your program and is worth the investment of your time (and possibly some capital in the form of hiring writers, designers, etc. to help distribute the responsibility of execution. More on that later). We recommend running through the 6 major question words for the plan:
- Who is responsible for what?
- When will you be publishing content?
- Where will you be publishing each piece of content?
- What kind of content will you be producing?
- Why are you creating this content?
- How will you be creating/publishing the content?
Who are you talking to, and what should you say?
We understand that answering these questions can be a daunting task. If you’re not a confident writer or are an over-worked business owner, answering this question may be intimidating. Of all the content out there for mass-consumption, what could you possibly say to get customers’ attention? How should you say it to stand out? And who are you talking to, anyway?
Just like when you started developing your content strategy, we recommend breaking it down into sub-categories. Always be thinking about your audience and what they are interested in. You can also go into more detail and develop customer profiles detailing everything from age, income, gender, to education, interests, and more. Check out the pre-built demographic customer segments in Springbot if you want to get more information like this about your customer base.
Then, break down that content into 3-4 topic “buckets”. It’s okay if you want one of these buckets to be promotional – you are running an online store and looking to make revenue after all – but your customers will tune out too much promotional content. People don’t like feeling like they’re being pitched all the time. Make sure your other topics align with the interests of your target audience. Aim to be both useful and entertaining (kind of like this post!).
Now that you’ve determined who your audience is and what kind of content they will care about, it’s time to realistically determine how often you will create content. Know what you are capable of and answer honestly. We don’t want to you ever feel overwhelmed and lose confidence in your plan. If you need a starting off point, we recommend committing to at least 2 emails per month, and a social media post every 2-3 days. You can always add other channels like blogs, forum posts, guest articles, videos and more to your calendar when you are ready (we are big advocates of an omnichannel approach to social media marketing too!).
To answer “How will I create and publish content?” use an editorial calendar, a living document that helps you plan weeks or months of content in advance. If you’re unsure how to go about it, Buffer has a great template you can use to get started in writing out your strategy.
Our Customer Success team members, myself included, are happy to lend our opinions and advice as you undertake the task of planning, researching, and executing on your content marketing strategy. Stay tuned for upcoming articles where I’ll share our top tips for curating high quality content via researching tools and features found within your Springbot dashboard.