Whether you are building brand awareness, customer retention, thought leadership, a competitive edge or sales, creating content is a necessary piece of your marketing strategy. While determining specific ROI remains a burr in the side of most marketing teams, companies like Kraft and Neustar report that their content marketing ROI is 4x greater than targeted advertising. (FWIW, a useful piece of writing on a topic selected to provide benefit to your audience also tends to annoy people less.)
There’s an old rule that says that you have to earn the right to talk about yourself. You can do that by putting out content that clearly acknowledges and tends to the needs of the people you serve with your business. Think of it like a conversation. Putting out a lighthearted blog that shares a topic of shared interest or a whitepaper that offers empirical, step-by-step knowledge of a technical subject is more valuable than continually trying to garner attention by waving a bright flag (or banner ad) that just adds to the noise and clutter. Frankly, it’s also a lot more evergreen – which may account for the higher ROI. You’ll get a lot more miles out of some smart, thoughtful content than you will from a straight digital ad.
(Don’t get us wrong – digital ads have their place! We’re not knocking them. Just making the case for how you fill that bucket.)
Okay. We’ll stop banging the drum and start helping you think through how to make this magic happen. Over the past few weeks, we have teed up this topic with some high-level suggestions about choosing topics and whether or not to write. This week, let’s get into a little bit of the how to make it happen.
How to create and schedule content marketing
Rule one. Not all noise is good noise. If it’s true that only 35% of online content actually gets used, what happens to the remaining 65%? It gets ignored. Lost. Skimmed and trashed.
Don’t be that guy.
Here’s how. Plan. Strategize. Schedule. Then be disciplined.
A content strategy and plan will do wonders to help your content gains traction. It ensures you’re a regular, interesting, and valuable voice speaking to your audiences. Make no mistake, this is a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race situation. But that’s okay. If you’re steady. (Remember. Eyeballs are good. Conversion is better. Retention is gold.)
Here’s a quick and dirty guide on how to mine your gold. Start with a detailed plan that structures your objectives, content topics and types, and amplification opportunities. If you’re a relatively small company, you can use your favorite spreadsheet format for this process. Grab yours. (We’ll wait.)
Along the left side, you’ll create three line bundles that have:
- Draft date
- Publication date
These will repeat for each week – or every other week. (Sidebar. Don’t be overly ambitious. You can’t run a marathon if you’ve never done a 5k. Schedule what you can manage or afford to have someone help you manage. You can always add to the calendar.)
Across the top, create your columns, starting with one for your author/date info. You can tailor your columns based on what will be most helpful, but we recommend a few core categories:
- Topic details
- Internal links
- Reference links
Set your objectives
Objectives work in two directions – for your company and for your audience. Clarifying your objectives involve a complete evaluation of what your brand needs, key performance indicators (KPIs), and operational demands. Your audience’s objectives will be dictated by what information they need or decide if and how they want to work with your company. Those objectives should guide how you create content to match the sales funnel and audience journey.
Know your audience
Who is your brand attempting to reach? How well do they know you now? What do they ask you? Think about how your audience makes decisions – mind or heart. If they’re rational creatures, give them details, numbers, and such. If they’re emotional creatures, tell stories, use pictures. Chances are, you’ll need to do both, but you can lean. And don’t forget to think about the reading level. (That’s a post for another time but we’re glad to chat if you have questions about readability.)
Keywords and links
Don’t let topics be a hurdle. If you’re not feeling creative, think about the keywords you want to rank for and pages in your site you’d like to drive people to see. Craft your stories to highlight those more tactical elements.
Knowing what and when to post is important, but your efforts will be thwarted if your content is lacking. The author should be knowledgeable – whether naturally or because they’ve done their homework.
Channels and amplification
You know the big ones – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube (add Instagram for good measure – people respond more to posts with photos and video.) If you don’t fit everywhere, don’t blast everywhere. Be strategic. The channels you choose are so important because they are your catalyst for reaching your audience. Use them to your advantage. Also, follow best practices for scheduling. (Again, a post for another time, but we’re glad to advise. Holla.)
Amplification is mostly about how and where you push the content into the world, but it’s also about the number of ways you can use a topic. You may have a series of blogs on a topic that could be combined and sent out as a high-value, gated asset. Or a technical concept you could simplify into an infographic. Think outside of the box and you’ll bump your ROI.
The Nitty Gritty
If your company has set 2019 goals to accelerate your brand awareness, position an executive as a market leader, deepen relationships with clients for upselling opportunities, accelerate your competitive stance (really, pick from just about anything on your marketing, sales, and operations list), content marketing should be part of the plan.
Your strategy and schedule will turn your plans into successes. Also, admit it – it’s fun to see your name on a smart piece of content that people are liking on social media. Even if you know you need to do it, be honest about your capacity and desire to create content. It might just be more cost-effective and productive to hire a ghostwriter or editor to get your thoughts into the wild. No shame in that – a good one will delight in putting in the sweat equity on something you’ll put your name on – we take our sense of success from yours.
With that in mind, we have a handy version of the content marketing calendar that we’re delighted to share. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for your very own plan (and even a little bit of free strategy to help you get rolling.)
Watchword produces intelligence-driven branding and content that works efficiently across many channels to help businesses articulate who they are and what they do to the people who matter most. We listen carefully, communicate thoughtfully, respond consistently, and deliver absolutely – that is our rally cry – our watchword. What’s yours? We’d love to hear your story.