Posted on: February 27, 2020
The last decade has seen an explosion of content being created and shared online. Fuelled by social media, the ease in publishing online (in blogs and other channels), plus changes in the way Google ranks sites, the pressure is on everyone to publish and broadcast quality content.
Businesses and organisations have felt obliged to jump on the bandwagon to ensure they remain visible, carve out their share of the noise and engage with their customers. The web and social networks are, however, hungry beasts and can easily devour content 24/7.
At the same time people are complaining of information overload and are developing good ‘screening-out’ techniques so they only engage with a fraction of the content thrown at them.
The need for an easy to follow content marketing plan
So where does that leave businesses? How do they balance the need to remain current to their stakeholders, create great content and do so in a way that all their effort brings tangible returns to their business?
And how do they do this without feeling like a hamster trapped in the marketing content wheel and seeing all the time and effort eating into their profitability?
If you have been asking yourself these questions and want to get back some control of your marketing content (rather than it control you!) it’s important to have a plan at the heart of your content marketing approach. To be achievable the plan needs to be:
- Clear to understand and simple to action
- Influenced by the interests/preferences of the target audiences you wish to engage with
- Focused on the communications channels they prefer
- Accommodating of the time it takes to produce decent quality content (and playing to your team’s strengths)
Here are some helpful tips when putting together a plan which is built on these 4 pillars:
1. Be clear who you’re communicating to… and what you ultimately want
The web and social media may be free to publish on, but good content takes time (and as a result money) to produce. Whilst there’s a big world out there at your keyboard fingertips, you need to be clear who exactly you want to engage with.
So what are you trying to achieve from content marketing? More sales of specific products or services? More customers? More loyalty from your existing customers? More referrals from third parties or intermediaries? See this article about different content marketing strategies and their subsequent different approaches.
Being clear about the audiences you want to reach will guide you as to which marketing channels are best to reach them. Check out those channels’ demographics and if possible engage in them first to determine what you need produce to be visible – what type of content is most engaged with?
Set targets for the quality of your online interaction and engagement, not just the volume. It may be great having 1000 twitter followers but if none reflect your target customers (or other stakeholders you wanted to reach) is this involvement a really good use of your time?
2. Resist the pressure to ‘just say anything’
There is a lot of noise out there and only a fraction generates engagement. Resist the pressure to create masses of content (articles, blog posts, social media updates, videos etc) of average quality. Instead opt for smaller amounts of really, really good content that people enjoy and engage with.
They won’t mind that you’re not publishing every day or every week. If what you produce is good, they’ll know to look out for what you share.
How you achieve quality comes from understanding your audience and knowing what will interest, engage and amuse them. If you can create something they value they’ll be more likely to share it and widen your audience.
3. Create a six month content marketing plan
It’s hard to think on your feet and if you find yourself pondering ‘Heck I’ve got to publish something, what shall I write about today?’ chances are you’ll struggle to think of anything that’s half decent. Ideally it’s good to create a six month content marketing plan which maps out the key topics, themes and messages you want to cover each month.
These should tie in with other aspects of your marketing and be led by the marketing strategy your business is working to. In planning your topics, think in terms of what you want to happen as a result of the content you share and the audience you want to stir engagement from.
Whilst you don’t want to come across as salesy, you do ultimately want that engagement to have a distinct benefit for your business and give a return on the effort you’re investing here. Think back to the point we made in 1 – why are you doing this?
Draw inspiration from any seasonal issues, the interests of your target audience, news in the market and create a schedule of what you’re going to publish and when. A six month plan gives you and your team more time and warning to prepare quality content.
4. Don’t forget to respond to real-time developments
Whilst it’s good to plan and preset your marketing content’s publishing date (say using technologies like Hootsuite, buffer app and the functionality in your blog or website content management system), don’t rely solely on this.
Ensure you respond to any feedback or dialogue from your audience in real-time. That shows you’re listening and responsive – qualities which really do impress in an age when everyone’s broadcasting but few are listening.
At the same time be mindful to any changes in your audience’s world, which you either need to comment on or adjust previously crafted content to reflect. Monitor trends and emerging preferences – the more agile you are to respond to these the more current you’ll come across. Don’t be afraid to adjust your 6 month content marketing plan if a development has made certain activities less relevant or appealing to your target audience.
5. Share the load
Even the most accomplished authors and creatives get writer’s block (or the equivalent) from time to time. Within your business spread the burden of content creation to harness different people’s thoughts and ideas. They’re more likely to remain fresh that way.
Ensure though that there’s a consistent tone of voice in the messages and content pieces you publish. If your team is struggling to create content, consider bringing in a specialist – such as a freelance writer, marketing consultant or creative agency to give a helping hand.
6. Check if it’s working and tweaking is good
Besides the online analytics you can access to check your volumes of interactions, blog visitors, shares and the like – don’t forget to track how all that engagement is translating in the wider context of the business. If you were after more sales of a specific product – have you generated them? If you were after greater customer loyalty – how’s your attrition/renewal/repurchase ratios now?
Look beyond the numbers to evaluate the quality of your online followers – are they the people you wanted? If not, look at the behaviours and engagement of those who fit your ‘ideal’ profile and who did engage with you. Explore what it was they liked in your content? Produce more of this type of content.
It’s easy to get sucked into producing content for content’s sake and losing sight of who you really want to engage and have a dialogue with. In most cases less is more, but with a healthy sprinkling of being there when people respond.
Similarly, don’t make an initial commitment to content marketing and then falter as other work and projects get in the way. A regular presence is key if you to keep on your audience’s radars.
And you don’t need a massive marketing team or resource to produce good quality content which gets shared. It just needs a bit of careful planning and a firm focus on the audience you’re aiming for. Rest assured, you can remain in control and achieve your content marketing goals. If you do feel you’re sinking though, give us a call.
By Michelle Daniels