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Strategic Planning – the Heart and Soul of Content Marketing

When you think of content marketing, what comes to mind? Facebook posts? Promotional articles? Or may be Youtube video classes? Whereas all these elements are an indispensable part of content marketing, they are merely instruments. And without a solid strategy they are absolutely useless. Well, not absolutely. By using them sporadically you will raise brand awareness to a certain level. You may even win a few clients along the way. However, if you truly want to know what you are capable of as a marketer, I recommend you to start with a plan. Otherwise, it will be very hard to prioritize tasks and be effective.

Promotion has never been so exciting: there are hundreds of channels at our disposal. But which ones will better serve your business needs? A few days spent on a strategy in the beginning will certainly pay off. Time and energy will be saved. Steps will be made in the right direction. Your experiments will be justified and stress – reduced. Careful planning will reap you generous rewards. So take a breath, read this post, jot down crucial insights. While there is no universal template that works for every company, the main components of a good strategy are always the same.

Back to basics

Content should not be created for its own sake (unless you promote a magazine or a personal blog). It is a powerful tool that helps marketers retain existing customers and attract the new ones. Use it correctly – and content will do wonders to your popularity. Miss the opportunity – and your time/money will go down the drain. To create exceptional promotional materials you need to understand why your company has once entered the market, what problems it solves and who is interested in buying from you.

It would be wise to begin with a mission statement and a value proposition. These two terms constitute the core of strategic marketing.

Mission statement explains why your company exists. Try to outline your main purpose in a concise and comprehensive fashion.

Value proposition is the main benefit you offer to your customers. How are you different from your competitors? Why your company deserves to be in the marketplace? There are three types of value proposition. Choose operational efficiency if your company’s primary focus is an optimized business process. By eliminating traditional overheads and removing bottlenecks such companies achieve greater convenience and lower costs. Pick product leadership if your company strives to produce only state-of-the-art products or services and is highly innovative. Keep in mind that this category is not pursuing affordability. The main goal here is to be perfect and meet the requirements of the most demanding customer. Last but not least is customer intimacy. Your company may follow this path if it aspires to foster great relationships with each particular client. Firms that choose customer intimacy over the former two options usually offer personalized products/solutions and want to build customer loyalty over time. Which value proposition best describes your company? Why is it so? Back your position with a few arguments.

Then think about your business goals. How will content help you achieve them? Do you try to help a new market entrant raise brand awareness or your purpose is to support an already established name of a strong player? Or maybe your efforts in this area reinforce the efforts of the sales team and are directly tied to customer acquisition strategy?

Defining mission statement, value proposition and top business goals is crucial if you want to craft the right messages and influence the behavior of your target audience.

content marketing strategy

Customer/buyer personas

Now it’s time to imagine your perfect customer. Things to consider are:

  • His (her) gender;
  • Age;
  • Level of education;
  • Profession;
  • Interests;
  • Personality traits.

This type of insights will help you choose the right writing style. Stick to it in all your external communications. Customer portraits will assist in selecting the best content forms and appropriate channels for promotion. Whereas investors prefer official language and fact-based articles in reputable media, teenagers are big fans of chatty wording and concise posts in social media.

Sometimes, customer personas are not limited to one particular type. If this is your case, use client segmentation technique. Decide on the exact number of buyer groups and then describe each one. For example, you offer an automated investment management service. Who might need it? I see three different categories of people potentially interested in this type of tool: seasoned investors who are tired of paying high fees to their human consultants and therefore looking for lower-cost investment management options; young investors who are comfortable with technology solutions and hence are likely to give robo-advisors a try; flesh-and-blood wealth managers willing to delegate part of their tasks to a machine. Pay close attention to every possible client segment.

Content calendars

Create and publish new content according to the plan. Consistency is very important, because this way your audience knows when to expect messages. Planning allows you to organize yourself – you’ll be able to evenly spread your writing workload, test different types of messages and define  the best time for publishing. With a coherent content calendar in place, you can always go back in time and see what kind of information has been shared. Planning ahead will help you remember all important dates, holidays, professional events. In case you get sick or take a few days off, a colleague would be able to help out. A thorough content plan is your map of corporate web presence. Don’t leave this important part of your job to chance – produce calendars on a regular basis and stick to them.

To prepare a blog content calendar:

  • outline topics that are relevant for your target audience (for example, corporate blog of a robo-advisor may include articles on investing, financial technology and general budgeting);
  • define percentages for each topic to set priorities (for instance, robo-advisor targeting first-time investors should focus on general budgeting articles to explain the benefits of investing, to prepare these individuals for a switch from banking accounts; starting out with financial jargon and complex concepts may discourage audience from trying new things);
  • write the titles of the blog posts (for the first month at least);
  • choose authors responsible for delivering articles on time (you may work with different subcontractors to minimize risks);
  • pick the deadlines for each blog post (final delivery of the draft);
  • mark the dates for publishing.
  • Content distribution plans

Once you have content prepared, think about the channels to promote it. No matter how exceptional and useful your content is, it might remain hidden from the audience for a very long time. In the era when almost every human being on this planet is a publisher, you have to fight to be heard. Imagine that you work for an investment management company and have recently written a lengthy, profound article you really want to share with others. Where do you start? You may publish it on your corporate blog or offer it as a guest post to some of the industry’s star bloggers (the best ones have your country’s domains, appropriate categories and massive traffic). If you choose the last option make sure you get at least one backlink to your company’s website – after all, you have spent a lot of time and energy creating that article! When your content goes live make sure to promote it on:

  • corporate social media pages (try Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn – they are all free so why not take advantage?);
  • personal social media pages (ask loyal people to do you a favour);
  • thematic LinkedIn Groups (“Finance Club”, “Personal Finance and Investments” are a great choice for investment management company);
  • SlideShare (make a presentation where each slide is dedicated to one main idea from your article);
  • social news sites (try submitting it to Reddit, Slashdot, StumbleUpon, FireSpotting etc);
  • questions & answers sites (Quora is a perfect example);
  • discussion forums (MoneySavingExpert.com has a forum dedicated to finance/investments);
  • reputable media outlets (by leaving comments under the articles written on a similar topic);
  • same-domain web pages (for instance, post a link to your article on the main page).

Do you think strategy is important? Have you ever written one?

Please, share your experiences and offer suggestions in the comments below.

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