Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is an important steps in starting to grow your business, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Content creation, curation, distribution, consistency — there’s a lot that needs to be juggled, and its easy to get lost if you’re going at it on your own, which is why we’ve created this starting guide.
So why take on the task of creating and implementing a content marketing strategy?
Content marketing is the kind of investment that pays off over time with consistency. Writing articles, posting videos, or creating other kinds of content toward a specific audience gives you a platform through which you can position your company, communicate what kind of knowledge and services you’re offering, and generate potential customers.
Great content can also be paired with SEO and SEM techniques to improve search engine rankings that can make your company easier to find, as well as continuously generate leads. With things like SEO ranking and keyword density adding even more to the list of things that your content team has to look out for, it’s quickly sounding more and more overwhelming.
We’ve boiled it down to a few essential themes that you’ll need to prepare for in your content strategy and some helpful tips that we wished we had when we first got started.
A Content Marketing Strategy is a Long Term Commitment
Staying afloat of all the content that’s out there along with trying to curate and write your own stuff is a full-time commitment.
If you’re looking to have someone on your team take charge of your content marketing strategy, they’ll have to shift it toward the top of their priority list. Otherwise, keeping up with writing, distributing, and curating quality content can quickly become too much if you’re simultaneously juggling multiple high-demand roles in your startup.
Content marketing also isn’t something that you can expect easy and quick ROI on. Establishing your credibility, refining your target audience, and forming a reliable readership will take time.
If you’re also hoping to implement things like SEO and keywords, you’ll have to prepare your team for the long haul. And if it’s your first time trying anything, be prepared to sink a lot of time into iterations that may not always be fruitful. After all, one of the most important things in entrepreneurship is to fail fast and learn from it.
But if you’re looking to get a feel for and want to implement a simple strategy first, it might be helpful to think of the steps for content marketing in three simpler steps: generating ideas, writing compelling content, and distribution.
Gathering Ideas Doesn’t — and Shouldn’t — Happen in a Vacuum
We’re living in the age of information overflow. Thanks to the internet and the ability for any person to write and publish information online, there are a million voices on just as many topics, fields, and conversations.
One way that you can keep afloat of all the information and conversations in your space can be through aggregate news sites. This will give you some insight on what’s trending, what people are talking about, and will hopefully give you a starting point for your next post. A few of our favorites are the following:
Feedly lets you create boards populated by publications that you can customize and share with your team. You can bookmark and favorite articles that you want to save for later.
AllTop aggregates news and headlines in real time. You can look through headlines in AllTop’s most popular sites, or you can search by topics like tech, sports, entertainment, business, among others.
Startup Digest is a personalized newsletter service that lets you receive curated news and stories in given areas to things like design, fintech, and social enterprise.
There are infinitely more sites, blogs, and newsletters that can provide a steady flow of information, but hopefully these provide a concrete starting point.
But one of the best ways that The Portal team has found inspiration for some of our articles is in connecting directly with our intended audiences.
We initiate these conversations through our personal networks to talk to them about things that they’re struggling with or problems that they encounter.
They talk to us about their pain points, and we create the articles and content that will hopefully help them out.
With most of our longer content pieces, The Portal writes with the goal of giving businesses the resources they need to successfully solve their challenges. The only way we’ll know that we’re doing the job is if we check in to see what problems need to be solved in the first place.
Writing Content and Telling a Compelling Story
Sitting down and writing articles is where you put the content in content marketing. Everyone writes a little differently, and every team has different tools and procedures that they like to follow.
Rather than giving you resources like GSuite and Evernote (which you should look into if you haven’t already), we’ll talk a little bit about some of the other things that you should keep in mind.
If you opt to generate the content within your own team, be sure that the people that are writing — or at least those supplying the information to your writer(s) — are experts in their respective fields.
Tapping into expert-level insight will help you build your team’s reputation as a source of credible insight in your space, or show that you’re well-connected and can provide digestible information from those that are.
Corralling your team members into writing your own content comes with the added benefit of guaranteeing that they’ll have knowledge of both your industry as well as your company’s mission, vision, and the values that you want to communicate to potential clients, all of which can help build and maintain a consistent and cohesive brand voice.
As you’re doing the writing, you also have to make sure that your article is accessible. Filling an article with jargon without any explanation can quickly alienate anyone who’s looking at your article for help — plus, you may be sharing something that they’ve never heard of before.
It’s also useful to remember that personal anecdotes and tapping into genuine emotion can be powerful tools as you’re writing your article and forming the overarching narrative of your brand and services. It’ll establish you as a professional who’d done this before, and it’ll give you the opportunity to speak more about specific experiences and anecdotes that can make your point more memorable.
If finding full-time members of your own team write content for you isn’t something that’s in the cards, finding an agency is always a viable option.
The Portal’s own content marketing teams do our best to understand both the clients that we’re working with along with their industry.
We work closely with our clients’ teams to develop their strategy and voice, to make sure that anything we write is consistent with their goals and strategies and better positions them as both reliable and experienced.
Distribution and Your Target Audience
Once you’ve written what you want to say, the next key step is to get it out to your target audience. In marketing, we have something called the 80/20 rule. 20% of your time should be spent writing and generating the content while the other 80% of your effort should go into distributing it to your target through your chosen channels.
Your target audience is the group people who are active and interested in your industry, and your potential customers. Distribution and finding and refining your target audience are closely linked as the data you gather during distribution will affect how you interact with them.
How and when you send out your information will vary based on what your goals are. CoSchedule has put together an entire guide on the best times to post on different social media channels to generate views and engagement, along with a few tools that will help you stagger your posts and updates to hit the right audiences, although it’s ultimately up to tailoring your plan to your audience.
As you conduct your distribution through your chosen channels, try to gather as much data as you can.
If you’re directing people toward content on your site, consider installing tools like HotJar and Google Analytics to get some insight on what your visitors are clicking on, how long they’re staying, what they interact with, etc.
The data you gather will give you a good idea of whether your audience is reading through the articles you send out, or if the bounce rate is too high, meaning that they’re immediately clicking off.
But of course, data doesn’t mean much if you don’t have things with which to measure your success.
It’s a good idea to pick a few KPI (key performance indicators) to measure consistently across your channels and campaigns to keep track of long-term performance. Something else that we like to do is create goals for all of our deliverables.
For example, our goal for this piece is to share what we’ve learned while we’ve been developing and refining our content marketing strategy so that anyone interested in the space can learn about it.
We’ll look at our metrics to determine whether or not people are reading and sharing the article, which would indicate whether or not people found it useful and whether we’ve accomplished what we wanted to do.
From there, you can continue to tweak and adjust how and when you distribute, as well as what kinds of content to focus on based on what’s performing well.
You’ll hopefully be able to figure out when the most active members of your audience are likely to respond to an email campaign or catch your social media posts, as well as what kind of topics and content resonate well with them.
As you continue to work on your content marketing strategy, make sure that you focus on the quality of what you write, not just the quantity.
Keeping a regular stream of content is helpful to maintaining your company’s presence, but it’s only realistically possible if you have multiple contributors working on concurrent schedules.
Even if your blog posts aren’t frequent or regular, it’s more important to focus on providing quality information that people can actually use rather than short posts with no direction.
It’s better to focus on building a good foundation about your company, your services, and your experience in the industry you’re working in — you’ll be better positioned as a reliable and specialized expert.
Forming and executing a content marketing strategy is a long journey with as many ups and downs as putting your startup together in the first place. Hopefully our guide has given a few helpful pointers for anyone looking to start and can provide a few resources we wished we had when our team began.