Imagine you’re embarking on a cross-country road trip, but you set off without a map or GPS. With no clear route in mind, you’re making random turns at every intersection. Sure, you might stumble upon some interesting places. But you’ll also waste time and money, burn through a lot of gas, and miss out on the most unforgettable use of your vacation days.
As absurd as it sounds, this isn’t too far from the approach many content marketers take. No concrete goals, strategy, or plan — just throwing random blog posts at the wall and hoping something sticks. This approach might make you appear busy, and it might even get you some clicks. But it’s not an effective way to drive leads and revenue for your business.
If you’re serious about content marketing, it’s crucial to have a strategic framework in place. Think of a content marketing strategy framework as your roadmap to develop and execute a successful content strategy. It should outline your business goals, target audience, content types, and promotion strategies. Having one will help you focus your efforts, increase efficiency, and measure your results.
Step 1: Define your goals
If you’re like most business owners, you’re not creating content because it’s your passion project. You’re investing in content marketing because you want your audience to buy from you. That’s the final destination — to drive revenue for your business. But how will your content guide your audience toward that destination?
Think about the biggest challenges your business faces. How could marketing have the biggest impact?
For example, let’s say you’re a local insurance broker who delivers world-class service and customized policies. But when customers in your area search for insurance, national insurance giants bury your website in search results. Would it be most valuable if your content helped your website show up more prominently in local search results?
Or, perhaps your law firm specializes in complex technical cases that other firms don’t understand. Unfortunately, even your own clients rarely understand how complicated the space is. Is the goal of your content to establish your firm as the thought leader in your space?
Considering questions like these will help you narrow down the big-picture goal of your content marketing efforts.
Step 2: Do your research
You might be tempted to skip this step, assuming you already know your customers and competition. Don’t. Research is the foundation upon which you’ll build a successful content strategy.
Your target audience is the compass that guides your content marketing efforts. You need to know them inside and out to create content that resonates. Here are key questions to consider:
- What are their goals? Knowing your audience’s aspirations can help you align your content with their ambitions. If you can assist them in achieving their goals, your content will be more valuable.
- What do they need to understand? Identify the pain points, questions, and challenges your audience faces. Your content should provide solutions and answers.
- How do they consume content? Are they avid readers of blogs, active on social media, or do they prefer video content? Understanding their preferred channels will help you tailor your content delivery.
A thorough analysis of your competitors is a strategic move. It helps you identify gaps in the market and areas where you can outshine your competition. Here are some aspects to focus on:
- What are your competitors doing to fulfill the goals of the target audience?
- What do you want to avoid that they are doing? What can you do better?
- What do they do well? What do you want to emulate?
Step 3: Set KPIs
Think back to the big-picture goal of your content strategy. Your KPIs are leading indicators that you’re making progress toward that goal.
The specific metrics to watch will depend on your unique goals. Here are a few common KPIs for content marketing:
- To measure brand visibility: impressions, brand mentions, social media views.
- To measure online traffic: clicks, website sessions, keyword rankings.
- To measure engagement: pages per session, returning users, clicks to monetized landing pages, newsletter sign-ups, lead magnet downloads, social media shares.
- To measure conversions: conversion rate, cost per lead, closed business.
Step 4: Identify opportunities
Your research should reveal opportunities that align with your audience’s needs and preferences. Guided by those insights, you can start brainstorming content creation ideas. Here’s what you should consider during this process:
Keep your ideal customer top of mind
Effective content sits at the intersection of what your business offers and what your ideal customers are looking for. This is where lots of companies miss the mark: they create content that misses at least one of these points.
For instance, imagine your law firm specializes in estate planning for high-net-worth individuals. If you publish a blog explaining the basics of how wills work, some people would read it — after all, 67% of Americans do not have a will.
However, the readers of your blog wouldn’t be your target audience. High-net-worth individuals already know they need to have a will in place.
Instead, offer insights into recent changes in inheritance tax laws, or legal strategies for minimizing estate taxes. This way, your audience gains valuable knowledge that directly relates to their needs, reinforcing your expertise in the field of estate law.
Look at search volume
Once you’ve brainstormed a solid list of topics you might want to cover, use keyword research to narrow down your ideas and set priorities. Go wide when conducting keyword research. Look for relevant keywords with decent search volume. Keep in mind that you can’t create demand if no one is searching for the topics you plan to cover.
That said, while high search volume keywords can bring in more traffic, but also have higher competition. If you’re just starting out, it’s wise to avoid targeting the most competitive keywords. Start with less competitive, long-tail keywords and gradually build your authority.
Pay attention to what already exists
Google your topic or keyword and review the top results. What kind of content is currently showing up? What are your competitors doing right? What can you create to set yourself apart? Understanding what you’re up against is crucial to success.
If you already have a lot of existing content, it’s also wise to perform a content audit at this stage. A content audit is a systematic review of all the content in your inventory. This will help identify gaps in your existing coverage and determine whether older content needs to be updated, repurposed, or deleted.
Step 5: Get clear on your ideal user journey
Now that you have a clear vision of the content you’ll create, it’s time to map out the user journey. Understand how your audience will discover your content and what the logical next steps are once they engage with it.
Consider the various touchpoints where your audience will first encounter your content. This could be through search engines, social media, email, or even word-of-mouth referrals. Understanding the point of entry will help you tailor your content distribution strategy.
Every piece of content should guide your audience toward a specific action or goal. Determine the logical progression for your users. For example, if they find your blog post through a Google search, the next step might be to lead them to a related e-book or webinar. This step should align with your overarching business goals, whether it’s lead generation, brand awareness, or sales conversions.
Step 6: Put together a content calendar
Creating a content calendar is one of the most important steps in planning your content marketing strategy. A calendar will help you set priorities, keep track of what you publish, and ensure your team is aligned on expectations.
Regularly review data and analytics to guide decisions about what types of content should be produced next, how often they should be published, where they should be posted, etc.
Ensure your calendar has clear, realistic deadlines for content creation, and that each contributor understands which elements they’re responsible for.
Step 7: Create high-quality content
You can know your ideal customers like the back of your hand. You can understand exactly which topics will pique their interest and ultimately lead to a sale. You can schedule out those topics in a thoughtful calendar with clear deadlines and responsibilities. But none of that will matter if the content sucks.
When it comes to content, quality is king. Ultimately, the topic of creating high-quality content is a meaty one — which is exactly why we wrote an entire article about it. That said, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Create a content overview before you start writing
- Structure your outline with the user journey in mind
- Focus on making it digestible and engaging
- Pay attention to SEO
- Include a call-to-action
- Check for quality using a checklist & content analysis tools
Step 8: Promote your content
Creating high-quality, relevant content takes a lot of work. The effort will only pay off if you successfully get it in front of your ideal customers.
If you’ve done a good job optimizing your content on SEO, you should see at least some organic traffic coming in through search engines. However, you can supplement organic traffic by promoting your content on other channels to maximize its reach.
- Organic social. You can use your social media accounts to share links to your content for free. This is a cost-effective way of getting your content out there — but it’ll only be effective if your audience follows your social media accounts.
- Email. If you have an email list, sharing new content with your subscribers is a no-brainer. Craft compelling subject lines and provide a sneak peek of the valuable content inside, enticing recipients to click through.
- Paid advertising, such as Facebook ads or Google AdWords campaigns. These will cost money up front but may prove effective at driving traffic back to your website if done correctly. (Hint: accurately and narrowly targeting your ideal audience is key to success here.)
Step 9: Measure your results
Before you launch your content marketing strategy, it’s crucial to establish baseline performance data as it relates to your goal. After all, if you have no idea where your journey began, how will you ever know if you’re headed in the right direction?
From there, continually monitor your KPIs and assess performance so that you can repeat successful strategies while avoiding unsuccessful ones.
Step 10: Continually update & optimize
Content marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy. To maintain its effectiveness, you must continually update and optimize your content.
Stay current with industry trends, changes in search engine algorithms, and evolving consumer preferences. Refresh outdated content, repurpose successful content into new formats, and explore new topics and angles to keep your content fresh and valuable.
Regularly revisit your content creation plan and make adjustments based on your ongoing research, feedback, and performance data. Adapt your strategy to incorporate new opportunities or address any shifts in your target audience’s needs and interests.
Remember, your content marketing framework should be flexible and adaptable. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement and refinements, and know that the best content strategies are the ones that evolve over time.
The key to successful content marketing is to craft your strategy with a clear goal in mind. You can’t just throw things at the wall and hope they stick — you need a plan. This framework will help you create one that fits your brand, your audience, and your priorities.
Of course, understanding what it takes to develop a successful content marketing strategy framework is one thing; having the time, energy, and experience to do it right is a different story.
That’s where we come in. If you appreciate the importance of content marketing in 2023, but you’d rather focus your energy on running your business, reach out to us — we’ll handle the rest.