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The year 2017 is now underway and many startups are looking for new ways to bolster growth and increase engagement within their communities. We’ve seen time and time again that content marketing is an approach that can create long-term value for a brand and serve the needs of a business.
But if you’re new to content marketing (or want to rethink your approach), what are the first steps to getting started?
You should begin by building a framework for your efforts.
In this guide, we’ll go through a five step process of building a simple content marketing framework to get your business off to the right start.
Step 1: Define your business goals
Any content marketing strategy should begin with the end in mind. What is it that you want to accomplish through content marketing?
These goals should be specific to your business, and should be high-level objectives.
Avoid goals like “engagement” or even “traffic” and focus instead on the real business goals that matter to your bottom line.
Consider things like:
- Increasing sales
- Improving customer retention
- Lowering expenses (cheaper cost per acquisition)
Many people will encourage you to create very specific and actionable goals. For the sake of creating a framework, just having a target is enough to string together the remaining pieces.
Step 2: Create customer personas
Once you’ve defined what it is you’re hoping to accomplish, the next step is to look at who you’ll reach with your content.
You should define clear personas for three to five target customers types.
These are archetypes. They should be as detailed as possible to give you a rich understanding of each persona’s particular circumstances, needs and goals.
Create a matrix that shows each of your personas along with some key components of each one:
- Name (make up a fictitious name for each persona, like “Marketing Mary”)
- Role (company type/size, responsibilities)
|SMB Marketing Director
Leads small team (2 to 3)
|Not meeting growth projections
Day-to-day tactical operations
Leads cross-functional team (5 to 10)
|Growing the right team
Hiring vs. outsourcing
Works for $100M company
Leads team of more than 50
Keeping trained staff
Take the time to carefully consider each of these aspects about your customers. They provide important depth and insights into how you can create content that really speaks to your target audience.
Step 3: Understand customer goals
Successful content marketing will serve to bridge the gap between your business goals and the needs or goals of your customer.
For example, when I speak to potential customers about content marketing, I don’t sell the virtues of content marketing. I crouch it from the perspective of their business and how content marketing can help meet their goals.
This essential shift of perspective allows you to create content that connects with specific needs of your audience rather than serving as just promotional fodder on your blog.
Your specific content ideas will come from this intersection.
Let’s look at this in practice:
- You own a window-washing business
- Your main goal is to increase sales leads
- One of your target personas is facilities director at a large company (“Facilities Phil”)
- Phil’s goal is to reduce the number of complaints from staff about facilities
You should cover topics that speak to Phil’s needs and offer potential solutions to their problems while also serving to meet the goals of your business.
So, you may decide to write a blog post called “13 Ways to Reduce Facilities Complaints.”
Of course, this is a natural opportunity to discuss how hiring a window washing company can help keep the windows clean so there are fewer complaints. It meets the needs of the customer and serves the goals of the business.
Step 4: Develop metrics
In step number one, you outlined the high-level goals that you want to accomplish through content marketing, which is a great place to start. However, you’ll also need to define metrics that you’ll use to measure your success.
These metrics are often lower-level, tactical data like traffic, shares or other numbers that point to the success of your content.
They should come directly from the preceding information we’ve already determined.
So, if your window-washing business is trying to increase sales leads, then your metrics might be contact form submissions. You can further qualify this by looking at contact form submissions that first come to your website via the blog.
Create a list of one to three metrics for each high-level goal.
These metrics tell you how well your efforts are supporting your overarching business goals, and that’s what really matters.
Step 5: Prescribe tactics
Lastly, you’ll need to determine specific tactics that you’ll pursue.
If you begin with this step, then your approach is unhinged, merely a collection of activities.
However, because we have outlined the prior specifics of our framework, tactics now become an extension of these other components. You have clear direction about what you’re trying to accomplish, who you’re speaking to, what content they’re interested in consuming and how you’ll measure your success.
Each of these pieces informs the “how” and “what” of your strategy, including what content you’ll create, how you should promote it and more.
Of course, this is just a framework.
It doesn’t hold all of the answers, but it does give you the bones of a successful content marketing strategy full of the details you need to be successful.
What other questions do you have about getting started with content marketing?
Feel free to comment below.