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“Never ask for anything, especially from those who are stronger than you. They will make the offer themselves and make it of their own accord” – that is a popular quote from Mikhail Bulgakov’s book, The Master and Margarita. Even if Bulgakov didn’t mean that in the context of marketing, that’s generally a good rule. Content marketing is something that gets the most inbound requests. In other words, get people to come to you first and offer themselves.
According to SEMRush, 78% of companies with a documented content marketing strategy produced effective, meaningful content. Content marketing generates more than three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less. However, it is essential to ensure that your brand creates content that is useful to your customers and that can further your company’s long-term goals. There is an overwhelming amount of content available in digital spaces, so here are five critical steps your brand needs to take to create a content marketing strategy that delivers:
Related: 4 Easy Steps to Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
1. Find out what your story is
The most memorable and successful brands have one thing in common: they tell a compelling, consistent story. Storytelling is the heart of a great content marketing strategy, so it’s important to invest the time and resources it takes to perfect this aspect of your business.
Psychology Today notes that stories help people increase feelings of empathy by releasing the “happy” chemical oxytocin and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. The right story still awakens that primary part of the human psyche that engages our emotions and fosters a sense of meaningful connection with each other and the brand that tells the story. In essence, stories are how we think and give meaning to our lives.
Anyone can create a meaningful story around their product or service, and 92% of consumers say they want to see ads that feel like a story. Ikea is a prime example of this. Buying furniture is not exactly the most exciting task. However, customers are incredibly loyal to Ikea, not because of their quality or price, but because they have created a compelling story around experiencing the ambitious joy of designing your home with simple, elegant pieces that reflect who you are.
2. Research your target audience and channels
Before you create a compelling story, you need to know who you are telling the story to. Generating leads and traffic is consistently one of the most challenging aspects of marketingthat’s why it’s essential to thoroughly research your target audience.
Create an avatar of your ideal customer and spend time working out this person’s backstory. What is their age? Sex? Average income? What kind of career would this person want? What do they do for fun? What kind of personality do they have? The more three-dimensional you can make this avatar, the better you can understand your target audience.
For an example of how this is done well, scroll through MoonPie’s Twitter. They’ve perfected their brand voice to reflect their target audience: someone who likes quirky humor and doesn’t take themselves too seriously. As a result, they are highly recognizable to their audience and facilitate engagement in a seemingly effortless way.
Related: To Reach Your Audience, You Must Use These 5 Steps
3. Generate content ideas
Did you know that average 35% of companies do not have a dedicated content marketing staff? This means it’s hard to consistently come up with new content and stay on top of trends. Tools like UberSuggest, Google Trends, and Buzzsumo are all great ways to maximize your content generation ideas if you don’t have a dedicated team, but there are other things your brand can do too.
Depending on your goals and audience, there are many ways to generate eye-catching, shareable content ideas. You can set up trend alerts on platforms like Instagram and TikTok to take advantage of viral videos and memes, or you can even turn to your user base to create a user-driven campaign.
Neutrogena is an example of a successful user-generated content campaign with their Neutrogena Studios platform. To this end, they have enabled clients to create video content submissions focused on skin health. Not only does this leverage brand loyalty and provide an evergreen source of marketing content, but it also requires minimal resources for a great ROI.
4. Decide on Distribution
No matter how good your content is, your time and resources are ultimately wasted if you can’t get it to the right audience. From ebooks, blogs and podcasts to social media images and webinars, there are countless ways to distribute your content.
Which channels you choose depends on your goals and target audience. However, there are three main channels: paid (e.g. Instagram ads), owned (e.g. email newsletters), and earned (e.g. social media shares). In most cases, a successful content distribution strategy will be a combination of all three channels.
The optimal distribution strategy comes after defining your target audience and figuring out your story. These two steps provide information about the types of content you will focus on so you can determine the best channels to show and share your content.
An important part of distribution is making sure your own channels are optimized as this is the path you have the most control over. Oracle Vitrus The “Like Can Never Replace Love” campaign was a huge success as the company emphasized promotion through its own distribution channels (e.g. staff, partners, influencers and customers).
Related: 4 Content Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Business
5. Measure your results
Every content marketing strategy needs goals and measurable KPIs to determine whether a campaign was effective or not. KPIs such as content impact, engagement, traffic and sentiment are good starting points. Still, these can be further broken down into more nuanced metrics like unique page views, conversions, top exits, bounce rates, and social shares. Keep in mind that the metrics will be different for each distribution channel and understand that figuring out the right baselines and metrics for your brand will likely take time (and some adjustment).
In the case of Casper, a sleep startup that built its brand on content marketing, those metrics could be features in top magazines that bring recognition from a wider audience. Despite the financial difficulties that followed, Casper had grown rapidly at first, generating $30 million in revenue and expanding his team from five to hundreds of people in less than a year.
The company was named one of the most innovative companies by Fast Company in both 2016 and 2017. “The brand made an impact on social media, releasing a series of creative Snapchat and Instagram stories,” they wrote. Casper also hired journalists and announced the launch of his own editorial company focused on all aspects of sleep. So no matter what happens, Casper has its own identity and a permanent place in brand history.
Related: How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy That Works
Remember that your content needs to be emotionally compelling and targeted. Great content marketing strategies enable brands to make real connections with their audiences. Don’t be afraid to research what works best for your brand and try different options. Ultimately, it is essential to recognize that content marketing strategies are dynamic, ongoing processes that will shift and change over time. So it makes sense to put the time and resources into it now to jump start for the future.