Across the World Wide Web, the digerati are now absolutely and completely fascinated by the concept of content marketing. But despite a seemingly endless supply of blogs and websites flooding the 'Net with advice, as well as numerous agencies and consultancy groups ready and willing to handle it on behalf of their clients, many are still left awash in buzzword philosophy that just isn't grounded in actual practice.
Website Magazine has put together a resource for those considering a content marketing initiative, containing details on the best course of action for planning the content marketing experience - from audience research to content production and analysis.
: Objective Identification :
Every enterprise has a different objective. While they may not differ dramatically from one company to the next, having a firm understanding of what needs to be accomplished, as a direct result of content marketing efforts, helps the entire organization be on the same digital page while performing specific tasks. There are, as you might imagine, an infinite number of scenarios. An objective might be something general such as to increase the number of prospective (new) customers that arrive on a website; in which case a business analyst aware of this objective should take the initiative to monitor this metric and regularly report it to others (e.g. those responsible for digital advertising or social media marketing). Objectives can also be very "granular" like to increase the number of repeat visits from existing customers of a specific demographic, in a specific geography and with a specific behavioral pattern...on a Tuesday at night when it's raining.
GUIDANCE: Explore Analytics, Identify Objectives, Report
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: Audience Research :
Once the objective is clear and set (uniformly decided upon and understood in every facet of the organization), it's time to explore the audience that will need to be converted. Every product from any and every company has an ideal audience, but understanding what it is and learning what it takes to find out what motivates them is not an easy task. The use of digital survey solutions is a useful audience research project for building user profiles.
GUIDANCE: Deploy Audience Surveys, Build Audience Personas
Read the Quick Guide to Developing Audience Personas
: Competitive Content Analysis :
Just as a head coach would watch game tape, content marketers need to understand what their business competition is distributing to their customers (and their prospective audience). Subscribing to your competitors' data feeds, newsletters and social profiles is an essential element of success with content marketing. To conduct a content analysis of your competitors, there's no better place to turn to than the search engines, as they index content from most of the important consumer-facing channels. Try keyword combinations that align the competitor's brand name with a type of content. For example, enter "BRAND, video" or "BRAND, blog" (other possible combinations include "BRAND, PDF" or "BRAND + PPT" [PowerPoint]). Take note of every brand, every content type that is produced by each, the theme and focus of the content asset.
GUIDANCE: Find Competitive Brand Content, Identify Opportunities
Discover how to perform a Competitive Content Analysis
: Information Research :
All productive content assets (those that provide direct support for accomplishing business objectives) are well researched. The most share-able items, the most well-cited items as well, are those that provide a layer of data and insight that can only be acquired through in-depth research. Take the time to be truly involved in the topic, not just somewhat familiar. Download apps on your mobile phone that help you consume specific types of content like Flipboard, participate in product and topic forums and network with the industry on social networks (e.g. LinkedIn). Be it quantitative data in the form of survey results, or qualitative in the form of insights from other forum participants, it's all information that can be used in your content marketing efforts.
GUIDANCE: Aggregate & Curate Information for Specific Audience Segments
Super Segmentation for Retailers for some practical strategies
: Content Development :
Think of what you've already accomplished; objectives are set, audience personas are defined and a wealth of information is at your disposal. Now it's time to start actually developing the content. There are different types of content (the approach or angle), different formats of content (images, videos, article, whitepapers), and different distribution channels (email, social, search) to consider, but you have to start somewhere. Most enterprises will need to create an array of content for different uses, but it is possible to start slow. For example, consider taking some photos of people and things in and around your business for future sharing on social media destinations.
GUIDANCE: Create Content Assets for Business Objectives & Audience
Keep in mind the rules from Website Magazine's 5-Point Content Optimization Guide
: Asset Design & Production :
It's important for content marketers to seriously consider the content product packaging. The design and production of content assets play a significant role in the success of marketing initiatives, impacting the level of trust put into it by consumers, share-ability and virality. Take the time, however long it takes, to develop a final product that not only represents your brand but also defines it.
GUIDANCE: Build Content Assets That Exceed Consumer Expectations
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: Content Distribution :
It's time to put your content to use in the distribution phase. So what are you waiting for? Put the content on your own site, post it on your social networks profiles and send it through email. Any opportunity you have to "send" or "submit," just do it. If you have approached content marketing strategically thus far, you've got nothing to worry about - the magic (objective completion) will happen but it needs to take its course. The more aggressive you are in distribution the greater the success of these initiatives.
GUIDANCE: Distribute Content to All Available Marketing Channels
: Analysis :
Congratulations, you're in the final stage - analysis. Now is the time to explore how individual types, style and formats of content performed in different distribution channels. If you've managed to properly tag content before distributing, create some specific reports about the general performance (impressions or page views, unique visitors and visits, leads or sales, etc.). When you know what's performing best, future energy and resources can be invested in those approaches.
GUIDANCE: Analyze All Content Performance
an important data point again! Check out Website Magazine's
Insights on Analytics Channel.
You're Almost Done!
Keep in mind that plans will (and should) change depending on a number of factors. What's important, despite this ever-present digital shifts, is to have the right tools in place. From research and analytics solutions, to distribution and full on social marketing automation platforms, check out Website Magazine's Content Marketing Toolbox (2013) to find almost everything (outside of your own creativity) you will need to make content marketing simple (and successful).