Start the New Year right: build a strategic launch pad to make your content marketing blast off in 2017! Use these 7 ideas to build a solid foundation for success.
1. ) Create a content marketing mission statement.
More than 3 out of 4 marketers lack a content marketing mission statement.
Use my free content marketing mission template to create a mission statement. It takes about 1 hour.
A mission statement ensures that you produce relevant, resonant content for your audience. It:
- Tells you what to put into your content and what to leave out.
- Frees you to conduct a wide range of content experiments with various topics, types and media.
- Helps you stay true to your overarching content mission.
2.) Build your 1-page content marketing strategy.
Marketers need a documented content marketing strategy, yet most do not have one, according to Content Marketing Institute (CMI) research. A written strategy makes you 4 times more effective, says CMI founder Joe Pulizzi.
If you’re imagining some thick binder that takes months to compile and then grows dusty on the shelf, that’s not at all what you need.
Instead, boil down your strategy to its high points. Put it down on 1 page. Eliminate all unnecessary elements. To get your strategy off the ground, see:
- My CMI blog on how to get your content marketing strategy on 1 page
- My free template you can use to create a 1-page content marketing strategy.
Depending on the size of your team and the complexity of your strategy, it may take half a day or several days to populate the template. In my workshops, we usually get a plan 80% done in an hour or 90% done in a half-day.
Once you have a draft that’s 90%, it’s crucial to take the time to share it with all your internal clients and executives. Get their fingerprints on it to gain their buy-in.
A completed 1-page content marketing strategy gives you the license to operate content the way you need to.
3.) Outfox competitors with a competitive content audit.
You don’t need to outspend or outwork your competitors. Instead, focus on how to outsmart them.
A competitive content audit helps you outsmart the bad guys by answering questions like these:
- Who offers the best answers to your customers’ questions on the Internet?
- Is content from your competitors or from your brand easier to find?
- Where do the best answers show up … on brand websites? Third-party websites? E-commerce websites? News media? Social media?
- Which media gain the most interactions with customers?
- What did you find that was unexpected?
- What’s working so well for competitors that it’s worth copying?
- What’s clearly not working for competitors?
A competitive content audit answers such questions precisely by revealing how well each competitor performs in search, website content, e-commerce sites, news and social media. An audit points to what’s working and what’s not – and objectively shows ways to outsmart competitors’ marketing.
4.) Gain insights from buyer personas.
Usually we see the world through the eyes of marketers. But to win at content marketing, we must see through customers’ eyes.
Imagine putting on virtual-reality goggles so you could see what customers see. That’s what gaining insights from buyer personas is like.
Use buyer persona research to expand your vision in 5 ways:
- Priority Initiatives: View the genesis of buyers’ decisions to make a change.
- Success Factors: See why buyers keep moving forward.
- Perceived Barriers: Discover obstacles that buyers encounter and must resolve.
- Decision Criteria: Peer into the “what and how” of buying decisions.
- Buyer’s Journey: Observe the internal workings of teams behind buying decisions.
5.) Make your story concise, clear and consistent with a Message Map.
The better you know your customers, the stronger your message can be. Successful marketing messages persuade buyers best when they follow the 3 I’s — inquire, inform and inspire.
INQUIRE: It’s crucial to understand what your buyers worry about most. Observe how they talk about it, in their own words. Listen hard to uncover the emotion behind their words.
INFORM: Help before you sell. Understand what buyers are looking for and answer their questions with a message that informs them fully.
Great content marketing and messaging transforms people into smarter buyers. Focus first on what buyers need to know, second on what your brand wants to say.
INSPIRE: Inspire buyers to act with ideas from the people they look up to – influencers like teachers, journalists, analysts, reviewers, subject matter experts and leaders.
Whose opinion do they seek out? Peers? Friends and family? News media? Amazon reviews? Consumer Reports? An analyst or third-party expert? The answers to these questions vary by market, product and target customers.
Boil your marketing message down to 1 page on a Message Map. For purchases that involve a buying committee, build a Message Map that addresses the needs of each buyer persona.
6.) Map content to the buyer’s journey.
Content marketing must guide buyers through the buying journey step by step.
The right content helps buyers discover you in the first place. Then, it leads them smoothly through each step in the buying journey, offering the right content at the right time.
A clear buyer’s path enables them to get to their goal easily, like crossing a river on a solid set of stepping stones.
The number of steps in a buyer’s journey varies with purchase size and complexity. Keep buyers on track step by step with the:
- Right topics: Synch content marketing topics to the needs of buyers.
- Right media: Provide content in the media buyers prefer.
- Smooth path: Flow that reduces friction, making it easy to take another step.
7.) Measure to improve your content marketing.
When you apply all-in analytics, you get smarter with every piece of content you publish.
Build and test hypotheses with all-in analytics reviews that encompass:
- Timing – time of day, day of the week?
- Media type?
- News stories?
- Competitive activity?
- New messaging?
- New products or services?
- Geographic markets?
If your content marketing is getting stuck, an all-in analytics review suggests experiments to do and reveals a path to take.
Together, these 7 ideas build a solid launch pad, so you can blast off with great content and fast-forward to good results.
For a deeper dive into all 7 ideas, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) offers my Fast-Forward Your Content Marketing workshops. The next two open-enrollment workshops will be in:
- New York City on Jan. 26
- Houston on Feb. 23.
Wishing you a very strategic 2017 and a most prosperous New Year!
As a marketing change agent, I consult with clients, lead content marketing workshops for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and write the weekly Simplify Marketing blog.
With experience from Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T, RR Donnelley and Tellabs, I've been named:
- Content Marketer of the Year by the Content Marketing Institute.
- Best Marketer by BtoB magazine.
- A B-to-B CMO to watch by Fierce CMO.