Jun 26, 2018

Your Ultimate Content Marketing Checklist

by Digital Marketing Institute

One of the main reasons that content may seem like it’s not as important as some other more sales-oriented materials, i.e. copy, is because it tends to be focused at the top of the sales funnel – content is what you use for relationship building, brand awareness, and lead generation, rather than conversions.

First impressions can go a long way to long-term engagement and customer satisfaction, and that’s why, when it comes to marketing content digitally, no business or entrepreneur can afford to slouch. In other words, great conversion rates often start with a solid content strategy.

Content marketing campaigns always have been – and still are – effective modes of marketing for businesses of all sizes, as well as independent entrepreneurs. So, what does a marketing team truly need to have in place to produce effective marketing content? We’ve created this handy guide to help you stay on top of all your content marketing activities.

What is Content Marketing About and Why is it Important?

Before we go any further, we should clear up the fact that content marketing isn’t really about just blogging and sharing any old thing you think of. To do it well, you have to integrate a solid plan strategically.

Content marketing is important for lead generation, but effective engagement only works when you are educating and engaging your audience. You can build brand awareness via blogs and articles, offering solid, informational content to interested parties, with the result being that they continue to choose to come to you.

So, unlike traditional marketing, which is more of a ‘pushy’ sales approach, content marketing should be based on offering something to your target audience. This is, in part, because there is so much content and information out there that you must offer it to users in such a way that they are making a choice to notice you and come back around to purchase your products.

Consumers have never had so choice and access to products as they do now, and their decisions are increasingly being made at a quicker pace. That’s why digital marketers must use an approach that helps them to understand and engage consumers, rather than traditional techniques that aim to get them to buy.

Some Common Problems with Content Marketing

Here are some common content marketing mistakes that people make when implementing a content management strategy:

  • Not leaving enough time
  • Organizing content poorly
  • Having too much content
  • Having irrelevant content  
  • Not having skilled content managers or creators on board
  • Not paying attention to how SEO-friendly your content is   

If you’re just starting out here, the main thing is to keep it simple. It’s better to have one fantastic blog article and a few connected social pieces that are well integrated into a social and sales strategy than having lots of irrelevant or disorganized content that is shared thoughtlessly.   

So, what does a successful marketing strategy look like? According to data reported via the Content Marketing Institute, the most successful content marketers share a few common traits:

  • They have a detailed marketing strategy that they are committed to following
  • They are realistic about what they can do
  • They deliver content consistently
  • Their content has a clear call to action (CTA)

Here are a six steps to creating and following a content marketing strategy that truly serves your business without taking too much time.

1. Understand What Metrics Match Your Goals

One of the reasons why content marketing can feel overwhelming is that content can essentially ‘do’ a lot. But in order for it to truly be effective, you’ll want to bear in mind that some metrics will be more meaningful than others. Here are a few examples:

  • If your goal is brand awareness, keep track of page and video views
  • If your goal is engagement, look at things like comments and shares
  • If your goal is upselling, focus on sales
  • If your goal is lead gen, focus on form completion and email open rates   

2. Build Your Funnel Carefully

Content strategists should always be thinking about four key stages of the funnel:

  • Engagement and education to attract fresh traffic
  • Creating offers that lead them to a buy-in
  • Closing the sale
  • Retention / re-engagement establishing brand loyalty and returning customers

As you go through each phase of the funnel, you have a chance to get to know your audience. Understanding their core needs is crucial when it comes to knowing what you need to do to attract and retain more leads in future.    

3. Create Quality Content

Content must not only be engaging but also be constantly revealing your brand story. There are a number of things that you can do to ensure that your customers can access your content and that it stands out amongst the clutter. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Know how to incorporate tags and keywords: These will be key in getting your content noticed and flying in the right directions.
  • Use readable fonts: You probably want to go bigger than you think you need, especially on your website. Typography also matters in that it should be consistent with the overall look and feel of your brand.
  • Offer a clear, value-based call-to-action: Your goal is to take the customer to the next phase of their journey, so ensure that you have a clear offer at the end of each blog post or article. This is a very useful place to have an opt-in or email list signup.

4. Keep a Database of Key Content Topics

Some businesses may be sustained well by time-related content, and when you hit on a topic that’s trending, you can improve your chances of shares and overall virility with social and blog content. However, it’s important to always keep a ‘stock’ of engaging content handy so that you can reuse, repurpose, and repost.

To this end, you’ll want to understand your key topics ahead of time. To help determine some key topics, you can:

  • Survey your audience – it is also important to do this regularly for market research, so it’s essentially killing two birds with one stone.
  • Use Google analytics to track key pages, articles, and social metrics.
  • Use social engagement to guide your topics.

Content is a versatile and conversational way to essentially connect with customers, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different formats and even repurpose it now and then. Here are a few suggestions:   

  • Create an infographic out of a slide show (or vice versa).
  • Use short videos to market products across a number of platforms.
  • Convert blog materials to whitepapers or short e-books.

5. Hire an Expert

What can a content manager or managing editor do? A lot. In fact, they’re probably going to be key to helping you really get your content strategy up to par. There are so many things to think about, from creation to engagement and from social to scheduling, that having one (or a few) great content people can be a godsend.

These people not only have to understand how to create great written content that’s high quality and of value, they’ll also need to have a good understanding of how to optimize your content for SEO.

Here are a few examples of the tasks they can take over:

  • Content taxonomy
  • Editorial calendar planning
  • Workflow management
  • Content team (writers, editors, social media) coordination
  • Content repurposing
  • Measuring and testing

This is a huge job and while you may already have a solid grasp of it all, if your key role is running your business, you won’t have time to build an effective content strategy all on your own.

6. Test, Test and Try Again

Everything about content marketing is really about data collection – and this means you actually have to learn how to see your content not only as stories but also as data. Search engines are really just looking at a whole range of things related to your content and website when they are figuring out ‘how’ to rank you, so you need to learn to ‘think’ like them.

Understanding content marketing thoroughly can be an uphill struggle. You have to always keep looking out for what’s working, and continually adjust your strategy based on analytics results and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Always keep an eye on what’s working and what’s not. You can easily grab reports from Google Analytics, for instance, that focus on your KPIs.

The landscape is constantly changing, and you won’t have it down from the very start – but that’s okay! Just remember that you will want to be constantly redefining and refining your strategy as you work through different levels of it.

Conclusion: Never Forget Your Brand Story

Content marketing is both an art and a science, which is what can make it so fascinating but also frustrating. No matter what you do, you need to remember that marketing in any form is about telling a story not just about your brand, but also about the people you are selling to.

The more relatable and meaningful your content is, the more likely people will be to notice you and come back for more.

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