So you've made the decision to invest in content marketing. Congratulations - do it properly and you won't regret it. But where do you start?
Your first step is to determine exactly what you want to achieve. Is it brand development, creating good will or building an audience that's most important? Or is it purely about conversions and sales? Chances are it'll be a combination of things. But agreeing on what your priorities are from the outset is essential for success.
The most important thing here is to be realistic. Research suggests that it takes between six and nine months for content marketing to start making a significant difference, so don't expect overnight success. But be specific - for example, you could aim for a number of page or video views per day after, say, six months and a year.
Decide precisely what it is you want to be considered an authority on. The Internet has created a highly segmented marketplace, so don't spread yourself too thinly. Decide on your niche and stick to it.
Identify who you want to target and how they negotiate social media. Ask yourselves what sort of content they'd like to receive. Particularly think about the problems they're facing that you might provide an answer to.
If you sit down and think about it, you probably already have much more content than you imagine. Audit your existing content, identify any of it that can be freshened up and re-purposed - and work out what you're short of.
If you don't have a full-time content marketing officer, give a senior team member responsibility for overseeing your content strategy. It's his or her job to pick a content team, and to decide who produces what.
Having a content calendar laying out what content you'll publish when is vital. Factor in key events in your industry, such as peak sales seasons. If required, Google Docs provides editorial calendar templates and WordPress has a plug-in. Otherwise, there's plenty of advice available online.
That's right. Devise a content marketing plan first, and only then consider your social media strategy. So many organisations get it the wrong way round and find themselves in a mess. Don't choose too many outlets - only as many as you have the time and resources to focus on. At the very least you should be posting every piece of content to LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.
Now if that all sounds rather daunting, then yes, don't believe anyone who tries to tell you that content marketing is anything other than a serious commitment. It requires a significant investment of time and money - and the will to stick with it when the results aren't immediately obvious.
One question you might be asking is whether you should hire in some outside expertise. Whether or not to outsource all or part of your content marketing is the subject of my next post.