You need a content marketing plan: Here’s how to create a great one

There’s more to content marketing than writing blog posts, creating ebooks and promoting your content through advertisements and social media post.

To be successful, you need to be active and engaging and offer information people they are looking for.

One of the biggest mistakes that brands make when they are creating content thinking in terms of sales and advertising. Their focus is on what they want their audience to know about them.

This was how marketers thought for a long time. However, content marketing is an evolving organism that changes alongside technology and consumer preferences. Not too long ago it was easy to create content or an outbound message and grab the attention of your target audience. Today, however, consumers are confronted by outbound strategies constantly through commercial interruptions, pop-up ads, junk mail, and unsolicited emails. Not only have people become numb to it, they are using technology to block it. 

To be fair, promoting content all about your brand is an honest mistake because the questions you start with when you begin to craft a strategy start with focusing on your business goals. When I sit down with a client I start with the questions what do you want your audience to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do?

If your content planning stops there your strategy will be very one-sided and one-sided relationships are never very successful.

The next step of developing your content strategy is understanding what your audience wants from you.

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Without a holistic plan, your marketing efforts can be a waste of time – or worse a recipe for a failed relationship with your prospects and clients.

If you want to develop quality relationships with your audience develop a plan to be there when they search for answers, be engaging,  and inspire action.  Here are a few ways to make that happen. 

You Need to Know your Audience

Your goal is to attract the best potential customers, not just anyone with a pulse.

To do this you need to know more than demographic information of the people you are trying to reach, such as income, zip code, age, or gender. If you are looking to develop a content strategy that builds relationships which lead to sales and brand advocacy, you need to know their story.

To develop their story, look beyond the problems you solve for your customers and reflect on who they are. What are their goals? Who would they turn to for advice? What do they value? Who are they trying to impress?

Knowing these answers will help you to create content that is more than information. By knowing their story your content can create a picture of a solution that not only meets a need but aligns with their identity.

You Need to Stand Out

When everybody and their mother is able to create and publish content the Internet becomes a very noisy place.

A 2013 Nielsen survey showed that 27 million pieces of content are shared every day and according to the 2015 Content Marketing Institute survey 86% of B2B marketers and 77% of B2C marketers use content marketing.

So how can your content stand out?

1. Make your titles actionable or tangible. Let people quickly know what they will get when they tune into your content.

2. Be sure that your content is easy to quickly scan. Many people now scan through the content first before deciding to invest the time in reading your content or watching your video in-depth.

3. Make sure you are using the keywords that your audience is using.  This not only helps you rank higher in their search results, it also means you and your audience are aligned with how you speak about and think about the topic.

4. Don’t put obstacles in the way of your content. Don’t litter your content with several call-to-action buttons or advertisements. Your audience is giving you their attention to learn from you, not to be sold to.

5. Take your audience on a journey. Make sure your content is organized with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end that had valuable nuggets of information to discover each step of the way.

Bonus: Let your personality and personal stories shine through.

Right Time Right Place

If you spent your late nights calling on your daytime business prospects and then slept during the day when they returned your calls, your business would definitely suffer.

The same is true online. When you post your content, not just time of day but also day of the week, time of the month, or season of the year will have an impact.

Knowing who your audience is not only helps you write content the feels personalized for them, it also enables you to know how they spend their days, weeks, and months and what content may be relevant to them at a specific point in time.

Getting your content published at the right time is only the beginning. Through targeted advertisements on the various social media sites, you set your content to show up right when your audience is writing about or search for a specific topic.

With each piece of content, you publish and promote you can track various analytics to learn more about your audience so that you can make continuous improvements

The final step of your plan is to make sure you have not lost focused on why you are creating content in the first place. It is about supporting your business goals. Every piece of content you produce should have an actionable and measurable goal attached to it that is tied to moving your prospects through the sales funnel.

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