Developing a content marketing strategy for your organization can get overwhelming really fast.
After all, organizations are made of multiple stakeholders, an array of teams, and people with varying perspectives.
Here’s a method you can use to sift through the complexity of a company as you develop your content marketing strategy.
It involves answering four questions.
Who is your target audience? What is your messaging? What channels are you using to share your content? What is the content creation workflow like?
Knowing the answers to these four questions will help you shape your content marketing strategy. Let’s take a deeper look.
It’s important to define your target audience in depth. Marketers often create brand personas around customer segments. This could look like a fictional character who represents a typical targeted customer—Aliyah is a 38 year-old chief technology officer at a new start-up, for example.
Speak to various stakeholders in your company. They might have different ideas around who your target audience is, but getting this information down from the start will help you create the right content for the right personas.
Messaging is the information you want to share with and get from your audiences and users. While companies often send out a tailored message, customers often see the messaging through their own lens. That’s why it’s important to get your audience’s take on how they view you as a company.
Messaging is also about creating a consistent narrative and tone in your content. It’s necessary to align on messaging with stakeholders across your company.
Most mid-sized and large companies have brand guidelines around messaging that will help you kickstart your content marketing strategy.
Channels are mediums through which content is shared. Depending on how your audience digests content, you might consider using one channel over the other in order to share your content. For example, in 2020, we saw more people take in video and audio content. In turn, companies began telling their stories through podcasts and short video snippets.
There are also various social media channels you can use to share your company’s story. Again, depending on what industry you’re in, certain social media channels may work better than others.
Creating content involves many people from different teams and various levels of an organization. It’s why understanding the content development workflow is important as you craft your content marketing strategy.
It’s necessary to develop roles for various individuals in the content develop process. Who publishes content? Who provides the exert advice for the blog posts and podcasts? Who approves the content before it’s published?
Who designs the assets for storytelling? Understanding who takes on each role will help you create a workflow that runs smoothly as you execute your content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is about creating accessible content catering to your audience with the end goal of funneling in leads.
There’s one great way of figuring out what your audience wants, and it involves an underrated tool: listening.
Listen to subject-matter experts. Listen to your product teams. Listen to your sales team. Listen to as many people as you can in your company.
This isn’t the type of listening you’d do in a second-year English literature course while sitting in the back of the lecture hall.
This involves active listening. The type of listening that demands your participation and follow ups.
As a former journalist, I can attest that journalism schools teach you this skill. But it’s a skill anyone can learn. Here are a few ways you can begin to actively listen.
Enjoy The Silence
Ever notice how many of us want to fill those voids of silence in conversation with more talking? It’s because long pauses of silence can get uncomfortable.
Yet it’s in these long pauses you can get great bits of information from those you interview. If you jump in to kill the silence, it could make the conversation less illuminating. And if you’re interviewing someone for a story, that means the story may miss valuable insights.
Next time you’re stuck in a spell of silence during a conversation, don’t be so keen on jumping in to talk.
Think Like A Journalist
When reporters are taught to speak to sources, they ask open-ended questions. These are questions that get the reporter to participate in active listening. The questions are: Who? What? Where? Why? When? How?
Get used to asking these questions. They create responses that you can delve farther into with your interviewees. It’s important to avoid asking questions that lead to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers, which don’t really add much to your story. Nor do they utilize your active listening skills.
There Are No Dumb Questions
I noticed a dramatic shift between the culture of journalism school and business school. When I was completing my undergrad in journalism, I was taught there are no dumb questions.
Teaching this to budding reporters allows them to ask questions without inhibition. This helps you get to the bottom of a story.
Meanwhile, when I was completing my MBA, I noticed that business school students were more prone to asking questions that seemed tailored. There was a hesitancy around asking questions that might make you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
As content marketers, however, we should think more like journalists, and not worry about asking questions that we don’t have the answers to no matter how dumb they sound.
This is especially important as many content marketers work in technical spaces where language is often weighed down by complex terms and jargon.
Most may pretend they understand the jargon, but you, dear content marketer, aren’t one to pretend.
It’s important to remember that if you don’t know the answer to a question, chances are members of your audience won’t either. And by asking questions that comes across as dumb, you’ll find yourself participating in active listening as you listen to your source’s response to a question they’re rarely asked. You might even get more colourful quotes for your story.
Most importantly, you’ll be creating content that adds value for your listeners and readers. All thanks to your wonderful questions and listening skills.
Here’s my favourite definition of marketing.
“Marketing is everything connected to the process of PROFITABILITY by offering the right product or service, to the right person, at the right time, in the right manner, through the right channels, at the right price.”
I picked this definition up during my MBA, and it stuck with me.
The definition is all encompassing.
It addresses the crux of marketing, which is predicated on the 4Ps.
The 4Ps of marketing are product, placement, promotion, and price.
Essentially, the 4Ps help guide your marketing strategy. For example, you wouldn’t sell a Rolex watch (product) in a vending machine (placement).
Doing so would be a bad strategic move.
The 4Ps are the pillars of marketing and they’ll continue to remain that way.
But in our current milieu where data and information reign supreme, we’re seeing greater use of content in marketing strategies.
Companies are taking up inbound marketing—that is, content marketing—to draw in leads rather than using outbound marketing, which consists of targeting customers through advertisements across various channels (radio, print, television, among others).
But did you know that content marketing has its own 4Ps?
These help with developing a solid content marketing strategy that, like all marketing endeavours, helps a company with profitability.
Let’s take a look at the 4Ps of content marketing.
You first have to get to the drawing table to develop a strategy. There’s several questions you want to ask yourself here: what is the end goal with the marketing content you’re creating? Who are you targeting with this content? What will this content look like? How is this content going to be digested by the audience? What are the key performance indicators you’ll use to measure content success? This could by SEO ranking, lead generation, brand awareness or any other metric that work to achieve your revenue targets.
Now for the part that’ll get your creative juices flowing: create content!
Whether that’s a podcast, a video or a blog post, the best content marketers excel at developing content that hooks audiences. It’s important to develop a tone, or voice, with the content you’re creating. If you’re working in the health-tech space, for example, your content will be slightly more formal than content produced in the fast-food industry. Understanding your audience will be key here.
At the promotion stage of your content marketing strategy, you’ll use channels that will reach your target audiences. You want to promote using social media channels where your target personas usually hang out. You can figure this out with a little bit of research during the planning phase.
If you’re targeting a c-suite audience, for example, LinkedIn may work as a great channel to promote your content. If your target audience is Gen Z, consider TikTok.
This is the final stage of your content marketing strategy. This is where you measure how well your content did based on metrics you developed back in the planning phase. It’s important to remember that content marketing is a long-term game.
A study from Hubspot found that companies with more than 400 published blog posts get twice the amount of traffic than those with less than 400 blog posts, according to neilpatel.com.
With content marketing, performance should be viewed with the long term in mind. By remaining consistent in your content production, and looking several months ahead, these 4Ps of content marketing will definitely help the profitability of your business.
I help companies grow by telling their stories.