A 10-Step Guide to Content Marketing for Beginners

If you’re new to the world of content marketing and want to create your first strategy, this is what you need to know to get started.

According to HubSpot, 63% of marketers list traffic and lead generation as their top marketing challenge; a challenge that can easily be overcome with a content marketing strategy.

Creating quality content that is valuable, educational or entertaining is one of the most effective ways to attract and engage with your target audience, drive more traffic to your website and increase your conversion rates. In fact, 74% of companies have found that lead quality and quantity increased after they introduced a content marketing strategy.

If you want to incorporate content into your digital marketing efforts for 2018 but aren’t sure where to get started, this 10-step guide should help.

Content marketing strategy 101: A guide for beginners

Below are the steps that you should follow to create and implement an effective content marketing strategy.

1. Start with some content-related questions

To get the ball rolling and the creative juices flowing, start by asking yourself a few key questions:

  • What topics of discussion or questions do my clients usually bring up? Turn to your social media pages, sales team and customer service team to help you with this answer.
  • How are we currently answering these questions or engaging in these discussions? Look at how active your brand is on social media, what sort of customer service and added value you’re currently providing and whether you have any content such as ebooks or FAQ sections available to customers.
  • What keywords are currently driving the most traffic to my website? Using tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner, identify the keywords that are sending the most traffic to your website to get an idea of the information and content that customers are looking for.
  • What kind of content is my competition currently offering? Identify content gaps that your brand could potentially fill based on competitor activity.

2. Set your goals

As with any other digital marketing tactic, it’s important to understand your reason for developing a content marketing strategy. Examples of goals include:

  • Brand awareness: Use content to promote your brand in order to make more customers aware of it.
  • Customer acquisition: Gain new customers by persuading them to purchase your product or service using content.
  • Lead generation: Offer valuable content in order to attract prospective customers with the aim of getting them to convert later on.
  • Customer retention: Encourage existing customers to stay loyal to your business by providing them with quality content.
  • Website traffic: Drive more traffic to your website by promoting your content online.
  • Engagement: Use engaging content to get existing and prospective customers talking.
  • Thought leadership: Position your brand as an industry thought leader using informative content.
  • Conversions: Generate more sales with the help of quality content.
  • Lead nurturing: Use content to move leads through your sales funnel with the aim of getting them to convert.

3. Identify your target audience

Now that you’ve identified your own goals, you need to understand what motivates your target audience.

Creating buyer personas is the most effective way to better understand your target audience. According to Curata, 63% of marketers create content by buyer persona; 38% by vertical; 30% by geography; and 30% by account or customer.

Along with the usual geographic and demographic details, your buyer personas should also look at:

  • Customer pain points and how they go about looking for solutions online
  • The type of content they consume. Videos, ebooks, blogs, white papers, and infographics all being examples
  • The social media platforms and websites they use to consume content, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, LinkedIn and YouTube

4. Research your competitors

Competitor activity is an important factor to consider when developing a content marketing strategy. Fortunately, there are a number of great online tools that make competitor research easy.

When researching your competitors, pay attention to their following:

  • Blogs: Do your competitors have a blog and how often are they uploading content?
  • Social Media: Which social media platforms are your competitors active on, how many followers do they have and how quickly are these numbers growing?
  • Content: What type of content is being produced by your competitors?
  • Advertising: Are your competitors running any paid advertising campaigns? If so, where?
  • Lead Generation: Are you aware of any lead generation tactics that your competitors might be using? For example, exchanging an ebook for email addresses.

Even after you’ve finalized your content marketing strategy, it’s crucial that you continue to keep a close eye on your competitors to ensure that you’re always staying one step ahead.

5. Create a topic map

A topic map will help you deliver the most appropriate content to the right people at the best time.

To create a content map, you will need to know who your target audience is, what their interests are and how your brand can add to their lives using informative, engaging, and entertaining content that’s relevant to your products and services.

Your content map should also take your sales cycle into consideration. Each customer will be at a different stage of the cycle at any given point and your content needs to cater to each of these stages.

Basically, you want to give your customers the information they need before they even ask for it, which will increase the chances of them converting.

6. Define your editorial and graphic charter

Your editorial and graphic charter will play an important role in the creation and distribution of your content.

An editorial charter defines your brand’s key values as well as its unique selling points. Most importantly, it also outlines your editorial guidelines.

A graphic charter is similar except it speaks to the rules around the use of any visual elements that will be associated with your brand. This includes your logo or any images that will be used with or to promote your content.

By outlining these graphic and editorial do’s and don’ts, your content and brand identity will be consistent and cohesive across all touch points.

7. Create an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is important because it ensures that your brand is creating and distributing relevant content on a regular basis.

Your editorial calendar will indicate how often you will be creating and distributing your content, the type of content you will be creating, who will be producing it, and when and where you will be promoting it. For example, you may want to create two blogs and one video tutorial per week and promote it on your website, Facebook, YouTube as well as in your weekly newsletter.

Share your editorial calendar with your entire digital marketing team so that everyone is aware of future content and promotional requirements and can plan accordingly.

It’s also a good idea to include any major holidays or events taking place during the year that are relevant to your brand and your target audience so that you can work them into your content plan.

8. Create exceptional content

Now comes the fun part!

Using all your research, you can start deciding on the topics and types of content that you want to create so that you and your team can get to work.

Start by looking at any existing content that you might have available that can be repurposed. Next, move onto your fresh content ideas. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Product demos or how-to videos
  • Customer review or interview videos
  • Ebooks
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Gifs or infographics
  • In-depth guides
  • Research reports
  • Expert opinion articles
  • News pieces or repurposed news pieces

9. Distribute your content

Now that you have some content ready to go, you need to upload it and promote it.

If you don’t have a blog, it’s time to create one. According to IgniteSpot, websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages than those that don’t, which goes to show how big a difference a blog can make.

If for any reason you don’t have a presence on social media, now is the time to create your social media accounts. Only setup profiles and pages on the platforms that are most relevant to your brand and that you know your target audience frequents.

Lastly, look into other tactics and websites that can be used to distribute and promote your content, including newsletters, SlideShare, Medium, Reddit, and Quora.

10. Track your performance

Once you start creating and distributing content, tracking your performance is going to be incredibly important.

By measuring your content’s performance across all platforms you’ll start getting a better idea of the topics and content types that appeal to your audience the most. In turn, this will ensure that you use your time and resources more effectively going forward and that you’ll be able to increase your conversion rates.

You may find that you’ll need to update your editorial calendar throughout the year based on your content stats in order to create more of what your target audience wants.

For more, read: 8 Essential (and comprehensive) Metrics to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Content Marketing

If you’re looking to reach more customers, generate more leads, increase sales, and make a bigger impact online, it’s essential that you include content in your online marketing strategy in 2018 and beyond.

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