Have you ever walked into a room and said “alright, what are we doing today?” and have everyone look back at you with a blank stare? That’s kind of what maintaining content marketing without a strategy feels like. Not great, right?
A content strategy, at its essence, is a road map for you to follow as you develop content for your brand. It ensures that all content is published consistently, at the right time, on brand, and targeted to the right audience. A great plan also establishes goals for you to meet throughout the year.
Research by the Content Marketing Institute shows that 72% of B2B marketers attribute the development of a content strategy to the overall success of their organization’s content marketing. Furthermore, 40% attribute the lack of a strategy to the decline in success of their content marketing.
As you can see, having a game plan is one of the biggest assets to being successful with your content marketing. Without a map, how do you know where you’re going and what steps you’re going to take to get there?
Although a content strategy may sound a little overwhelming, I’m going to break it down for you with this quick guide to strategizing your content marketing as a designer.
Step One: Discover Your Sweet Spot
When I heard about this method, I thought that this has to be the perfect first step to developing a strategy that goes deeper than simply which blog to publish every week.
For example, as a designer, your knowledge and skills are likely related to branding, illustrating, UX or UI. Furthermore, maybe your passion is to help people or support small businesses in America or in your community.
Putting together your passion and your knowledge will result in a sweet spot that will be at the very core of everything you do. This is crucial because, with any content that you are preparing to put out into the world, you can ask yourself: does this fall within my sweet spot?
Step Two: Establish Your Goals
How do you know if you’re successful if you have nothing to compare against? You may have gained 100 new email subscribers, but what does that mean if you have no relevant time frame or starting point to refer to?
When establishing your goals, make them SMART. No, this doesn’t mean don’t make dumb goals (although, of course, that’s implied). Rather, it means to make every goal:
S - Specific - None of that “increase by 10-60%” b.s.
M - Measurable - Must be something you can put a number to
A - Agreed Upon - Run them by someone on your team to get their opinion
R - Realistic - It’s highly unlikely you’ll increase your Twitter followers by 1,000% in one week organically
T - Time Based - So you want to get to 2,000 subscribers...but by when?
An example of a SMART goal would be something like the following: “I want to increase my web traffic by 15% in three months.”
Note: Don’t forget to write down your goals and check your metrics against them on a timely basis! This way you can make any necessary changes along the way in case you’re not meeting up with your goals.
Step Three: Identify Your Target Audience
In other words, who are you providing value to? Who is your customer?
Some things to keep in mind when you’re mapping out your target customers are demographics including:
You’ll also want to consider psychographics such as:
You might also want to do research on industry statistics within your niche. These may include small businesses in America, restaurants, fashion lines, and any other industry you focus on.
To go the extra mile, you can also put together a sample target customer profile. This is a fictitious person based on your research and built from the answers from your target market. The goal is to have this profile resemble your daily and/or ideal client. For example, a short target customer profile would sound like:
“Alexa is a full time business owner, wife, and mother of two. She owns a local fashion boutique and has an eye for new trends that haven’t yet hit the mass market. In her very little free time, she likes to help out in the community and spend time with her two children, Fred (8) and Max (12) and baking on the weekends. Her husband, John, works as an account manager at a sales firm. Together, their household income is $80K per year.”
Try to be specific as possible at this step. If you need to, take a few people you already know (i.e. clients, friends, family) that fit within your target audience and base this fictitious person on them. I won't tell, I promise!
Step Four: Choose Your Keywords
Now that you have your sweet spot, your goals, and target audience, the keywords should be fairly easy. Ask yourself: what does my customer need? What are his or her challenges in work and in life, and how can I solve them?
Let’s use Alexa’s customer profile above as an example. As mentioned, she lives a busy lifestyle between work, family, and helping her community thrive.
Her mission for her boutique is to provide local first adopter women with the latest fashion trends, even before they become popular in the mass market.
However, because of her lack of time and resources, her website hasn’t been updated since it was quickly thrown up in 2005 and her logo was something she pieced together in the free version of Photoshop CS2.
Her branding strategy is essentially non-existent, and her bright pink and purple color schemes do not mesh well with her target audience.
Your goal is to base your strategy around her challenges and ultimately convince her that not only does she need to update her branding, but she also needs to do it through your studio. You might then target keywords such as “boutique branding” and “how to get new boutique customers.”
Doing research at this stage is crucial so you know which keywords are relevant, searched for, and realistic to attempt to rank for.
For example, “boutique” may be too broad of a search term (what would this person be looking for with a boutique?) but “branding a boutique” is a long-tail keyword that narrows down your audience to just the right people.
Step Five: Create an Editorial Calendar
Once you know what kind of content to publish and to whom it will be shared, you just need to know when and where it will be posted. An editorial calendar is a great way to keep track of what you want to create and when you would like to publish it.
There are many ways to create an editorial calendar for your content marketing. You can download a free template, or create your own with an Excel spreadsheet. Whichever way you choose, ensure that at least most of these elements are included:
Due date - This is when you’d like the piece of content to be created by
Publish date - This is when you’d like the piece of content to be published
Content Title - Title of the blog post or other type of content
Keywords - Which keywords are you optimizing for?
Outcome - What will your reader ultimately get out of this article?
Promotion - What channels will this be shared on?
Creating a calendar with these elements will ensure you and your team will stay on track when it comes to creating and sharing relevant content.
Pro Tip: Make sure you include any relevant social media holidays and events. These will help you stay organized when it comes to planning out content that is timely. You might also want to leave a few blank spaces, or at least keep your calendar flexible. This way, when relevant events occur or inspiration strikes, you can easily move around your plans and publish accordingly.
Putting It All Together
There you have it. A content marketing strategy that makes you look like a total hero to your agency (or to yourself if it’s just you).
While it may seem like a lot of work at first, I can promise you it’s worth it getting all of your plans put together. It will save you a lot of headache, stress, and guesswork when it comes to implementing your content marketing.
Another benefit to having a complete strategy is that it will give you guidance in case you decide to outsource your content creation. You’ll have already thought out your desired topics, keywords, and how they relate to your target audience. This makes it much easier for your writer to put together something that is sure to help your business succeed.
Speaking of Outsourcing…
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to outsource both your content creation and strategy.
Click here to find out how I can help you streamline your content marketing with a free 30 minute content consultation.
Ashley Hoffman is a freelance content marketer based in Seattle who writes for businesses in the tech and design industries. She has studied digital marketing for over five years and has worked as a marketing professional for over two. She loves good books, awesome design, coffee, and natural disasters.
Find her on Twitter: @ashhmarketing