Smart marketers have realised that they need to build relationships with their potential customers and that the most natural way to do this is via great content. But where on earth do you start? Your first task is to build a content marketing strategy that relates to actionable business objectives.
“We need to create a business strategy for our content. That means saying no to many channels and content types, and focus on where we can build an asset, an audience, over time.”
Joe Pulizzi, Founder, Content Marketing Institute
Content marketing takes a lot of time and effort, but if you have a strategy and measurable objectives in place, at least you’ll know that your time and effort is moving your business in the right direction. This article will help you get started on building your content marketing strategy so that you can turn content into one of your most valuable sales tools.
6 steps to creating your content marketing strategy
Step 1. Define your business objectives and budget
Before you start to get creative, you need to write your objectives down. It will help you to decide which pieces of content are worth putting time and effort into.
You may actually have multiple goals that relate to different market segments or stages in the customer purchase cycle. You should try to list out all of the objectives that you are going to build your content strategy to solve.
Objectives could include: brand awareness, lead conversion, industry presence, category dominance, launching a new product or entering a new market.
Ensure you get buy-in from all stakeholders and agree on a budget before you move to the next step. This is the first page of your content marketing strategy document.
Step 2. Update your customer avatars or personas
When you started your business you most likely segmented and defined your customers by creating personas or avatars. If you haven’t done this yet, there are plenty of places online to grab a persona template, including this one from Hubspot.
Many businesses have a variety of customers segmented by various elements such as demographics, interest, location and psychographics (values and attitudes). Your personas should also state where these customers hang out online – the social platforms they use, the blogs and news sources they visit and the shops they buy from.
The below example is from property website propertyconnect.me.
If you haven’t done already, list their potential pain points and barriers to purchase. These are great platforms from which to brainstorm content.
Start to populate your content strategy document with your customer personas. It will help you to keep your ideas focussed on the end user and their needs.
Step 3. Segment by marketing funnel stage
A great content marketing strategy will aim to build a relationship with potential customers by easing them through the marketing funnel from awareness to consideration to purchase (and hopefully to brand evangelist).
Building awareness via TOFU content
The top of the funnel (TOFU) is the awareness stage. It’s where most marketers spend the majority of their effort and cash. After all, no enterprise is sustainable without new business.
This is where you introduce your brand or business to a potential customer and let them know how you can help them.
What can you do for them? What problems can you solve? Your goal is to position yourself as an expert in your field, someone they can trust.
At this stage poeple find value in resources, education, insights, data and expert opinions.
Examples of content at the TOFU stage include:
- White papers
- How-to or tips blog post, infographic or videos
- Social content including inspiring imagery, funny gifs and short videos
Remember, at this stage you have no relationship with these people, they have never heard of you and you’re just one of the many voices trying to catch their attention.
You should probably forget the selling and try to catch their attention by offering something of value.
Below is an offer I downloaded from media monitoring company Mention for a ‘How to’ e-book.
Warming customers up via MOFU content
The middle of the funnel (MOFU) is the consideration stage. This is where your chance comes to convince people who are aware of your brand that they should make a purchase.
“The reason we struggle with content marketing is because we haven’t started with ‘Why?’ Customers don’t care about your vanity metrics. Ask them, ‘How can I help?’”
Kristina Halvorson, CEO and Founder, Brain Traffic
How can you address their pain points? What do you do that’s better than anyone else? How can you prove that you’re the best choice?
At this stage people find specific product information valuable – they are evaluating your product or service and need to be convinced.
Examples of MOFU content include:
- Case studies
- Free trial offers
- Free trial games
- Online reviews and ratings
You can start to introduce some selling at this stage, but try to give your prospective buyers great value or offer them a ‘taste’ via a low dollar product or service.
I received this great MOFU offer via email about a free virtual conference session from Marketing Professors – they definitely know how to reach people at each stage of the marketing funnel via strategic content.
Making your sales pitch via BOFU content
The bottom of the funnel is where most of the transactions are made. This is where you can make your sales pitch.
Customers may still need that final bit of convincing to push them into a purchase.
At this stage customers really want to get to grips with pricing, value and make sure they are getting the right product for the right price.
Examples of BOFU content include:
- Free trials
- Proposals and estimates
You’ve worked really hard to bring your customers to this point in the funnel, so don’t neglect this content and the value it can bring to your business.
Here’s a great BOFU offer I received from Snapwire through my Facebook feed:
The POFU stage
Once you’ve made the sale, you need to keep in touch with those customers and turn them into evangelists. This is what I call POFU or the pointy end of the funnel.
Step 4. Decide on your content channels
Now that you’ve got an idea of the type of content you need to create at each stage of the funnel, it’s time to decide where to place your content.
“A good content marketer can empathize with their audience and can therefore understand what topics they should create content on, what tone of voice to use, and what channels to promote the content in.”
Pawan Deshpande, CEO, Curata
The single most important thing at this step is to know who your customers are and where they hang out online.
Go back to your customer avatars or personas
Remind yourself of where your customers go for information and entertainment online or conduct some extra research if you need to.
Different platforms offer different benefits
You should choose your content marketing platforms wisely as some channels are better for one stage of the marketing funnel than others, or better for reaching some personas than others.
Consider Facebook – it’s best for the TOFU and MOFU stages where you’re building a relationship but not pushing sales – remember that you’re interrupting people’s news feed so you need to really target your offer and come across as friendly and trustworthy.
Google/search engines on the other hand are great for short, sharp sales pitches as people are already looking for information about products and services they need.
The below chart is a handy reference with topline information about the main online channels outlining demographics, purpose and the stage of the funnel or type of marketing communication they’re best for.
Don’t forget to consider other spaces such as online retailers (eBay, Amazon), review sites (TripAdvsior) and news portals.
It’s all about creating the optimum content for the space your customers are spending their time browsing.
Step 5. Brainstorm and map your content ideas
You’ve written down your objectives and listed out your content types by marketing funnel stage. You know where to reach your customers, now it’s time to get creative.
Build a spreadsheet
Create a spreadsheet that lists out the buyer stage on the left and the channel at the top. Keep your objectives and budget listed above the spreadsheet. You might need one of these spreadsheets for each customer persona.
Start brainstorming ideas against each funnel stage
Imagine that one of your personas is an older female. She spends most of her online time on Facebook, reading emails from friends and looking for presents for her grandchildren on eBay.
You can create different types of content for this persona based on the stage of the funnel she is at and the space you want to speak with her in.
You might decide to create a piece of TOFU (awareness stage) content to place on Facebook, a free trial MOFU (consideration stage) offer via emailer and a low dollar offer to sell via eBay for the BOFU (purchase) stage.
Once you’ve created some ideas in this way, you might need some more inspiration. You can start to layer other variables into the mix.
One way of doing this is to map out the type of content on different matrices.
Matrix options to supercharge your content ideas
The below matrix maps out content ideas on an axis of type of purchase decision (rational vs emotional) vs stage of funnel (awareness to purchase) and includes the goal of the content ideas within the matrix.
Example: You may be targeting a persona who is at the awareness stage. You’re selling an education course, which falls into the rational segment of the matrix. Your content needs to be mainly focussed on educating her and could include blog articles, ebooks, infographics and press releases.
Including a matrix such as this can also help you to identify where you have holes in your strategy – you may have left out content for a particular stage in the marketing funnel or for a type of purchase. It could also help you to brainstorm new ideas.
Another way to layer your content ideas is to consider level of content by funnel stage as per the below matrix – you might want to ensure you have ‘big bang’ content for the funnel stages that you want to focus most of your energy/budget on.
Once you’ve got your ideas mapped out you’ll feel like you’ve got it all under control – seeing your ideas planned out in a visual way makes the task seem that much easier.
Example of a business content marketing matrix
Check out this cool content matrix for Scoot, a budget Asian airway.
Their content is segmented by buyer persona across a variety of areas including age, interests, deals and devices.
This could give you some inspiration on what your matrix might look like when you’re finished.
Step 6. Evaluate
Most small businesses do not have the luxury of a team or large budget dedicated to content marketing. You need to get smart about which of your amazing options you should work on now and which ones you should file away for later.
Go back to your objectives and budget
Work out roughly what each piece of content is going to cost and how much value it’s going to bring to your business.
Decide on your easiest entry point
You could also consider evaluating your content via ease of implementation as the below matrix demonstrates.
For example if you already have social media and a blog set up, these are easy avenues to implement whereas starting a podcast or getting some content animated might just be too difficult for now.
Now you’re ready to get started on your journey towards a creating a great content marketing strategy. If you need a hand at any stage of the process, including creative idea generation, drop me a line!