How to Develop an Effective Content Marketing Plan

Content marketing is a marketing strategy which enables brands and individuals to reach out to the audience through different types of content such as written, audio, video, photos, and images. The methodology, however, revolves around attracting, engaging, and converting the audience into paying customers. In simple words, when we use content to market our product or service, it’s called content marketing.

The fascinating part about content marketing is that a lot of people don’t know about this. You might have seen or worked for companies that advertise in newspapers and magazines or spend money on TV commercials and billboards. The purpose of utilizing such mediums is sending the message across. What content marketing does is that it provides an avenue to connect, talk, and communicate with your audience. All this happens when you create content and put it out there.

How many times have you seen companies paying attention to content marketing? Sure, you’d find businesses figuring out Facebook ads or hiring social media managers to manage their Facebook and Twitter, but that’s not even remotely close to what they could learn from this article.

In this article, I’ll try to answer the following questions:

  • Why is content necessary for marketing?
  • Should every business do content marketing? Is it necessary to create all types of content?
  • Is content marketing the alternative to social media?
  • What are the essentials of a successful content marketing plan?

There are three fundamental elements of developing an effective content marketing plan. Not only do they strengthen the content marketing efforts, but they also bring clarity to the process. Let’s take a look at three core elements of an effective content marketing plan

1. Identifying the Audience

Before digging deeper into the steps of developing a content marketing plan, let’s touch some basics. One can’t build an effective content marketing plan without knowing the audience. If you aren’t sure who you want to reach out to, then it’s useless to spend your time, energy, and resources on creating content. So figure out who the right audience is and hone your content strategy accordingly.

2. Setting the Goals

If someone jumps in and starts creating content without deciding what the purpose of content creation is, then it won’t do any good. Goal setting determines the direction of the content marketing plan. It clarifies whether you want sales, subscribers, downloads, or anything else from your content.

3. Leveraging the Content

A clear sense of direction would always pay off. Therefore, one of the benefits is that you can leverage your content to find the new audience, solve the audience’ problems, build a connection with the prospects, and engage the existing customers. A lot of companies use content to grow their social media followers just because they publish a ton of content; it helps them communicate with the audience.

Now, let’s take a look at the important steps of developing an effective content marketing plan:

1. Clarify Your Purpose

Content marketing is a good way of starting a conversation and helping out the audience through your content. The biggest mistake you could do is turn a blind eye to your purpose. What it means is that if you

don’t clarify what you want to achieve, you won’t get where you wish to be.

You’d always see companies and blogs publishing content hoping that it may turn things around for them. First of all, you need a concrete plan, and second of all, you need to understand who you want to benefit it from. It does look difficult at times to come up with genuine and helpful content, especially if the previous content hasn’t performed up to the mark. But the answer is that you can’t compromise on the content quality.

As Gary Vaynerchuk rightly says, “doing the right is always the right thing.”

content marketing strategy - ContentStudio

So you can’t take the route just because it’s easy. It’s fascinating that how clarifying your purpose would make you see the clear picture.

For example, if a female fashion brand launches new summer articles, they won’t necessarily target men who want to buy an iPhone. This is the clarity of purpose. There is no rocket science required to make things happen. All you need to sit down and figure out the following things:

  • Why do you want to create content?
  • What do you want to make it happen?
  • Who are you creating your content for?
  • How does your content help the audience?
  • Why do you think your content is different from others?

When you’d ask those questions to your marketing team, they’d be able to comprehend the idea of using the content for marketing the right way.

content marketing software - ContentStudio

One of the essentials of bringing clarity in your content marketing plan comes through the right selection of blog categories. What blog categories do is that it gives your blog a sense of direction. Not only do they guide you on the type of content to publish, but they also educate the audience about what to expect from the blog.

content discovery platforms - ContentStudio

This is the screenshot taken from Buffer. You can take a look at the popular blogs and publications, they always have defined categories to talk about. So having specifics in mind before starting a content marketing campaign won’t be a bad idea.

2. Choose a Market Segment

It’s true that marketing is a perception-building strategy, but it becomes ineffective when you aren’t clear who your market is. No matter how much you spend on content marketing, if you’ve taken the wrong turn, you would lose the track. So it’s important to know the target audience before starting any type of content creation.

The market segment doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s understandable that it requires some due diligence before anyone jumps to the conclusion. So here are some of the key indicators one should consider analyzing before presuming the market segment:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • How your product works
  • Who your customer is

Once you figure out more through above-mentioned indicators, you’d be in a better position to identify your market segment.

content marketing tools - ContentStudio

For instance, we at ContentStudio know our audience. Therefore, we create content on our blog that is specifically relevant to our target audience. There are key elements that you should learn from ContentStudio’s blog:

1. Understandability of the Audience

As mentioned before, we know our audience. We create content that helps people understand content marketing, social media management, and content promotion. Since ContentStudio is a social media management tool so we look out for the attention of the entrepreneurs, influencers, brands, small businesses, and online marketers who create and share content on social media.

2. Content Relevancy

You may notice that we stick to our niche when it comes to content creation. Have you ever read an article on cars or cameras on this blog? You didn’t because we know what readers expect from us and what type of content we should be creating to attract and engage the audience.

So the point is that specify your market segment and create content for them. A lot of you don’t pay attention to this and bypass this step instead. Sure, you know what you want to make it happen but choosing the market segment would take you to the next level. Once you figure this out, it’d make a lot of difference.

3. Deliver Valuable Content

Creating content isn’t enough in content marketing, but instead, it should be valuable for the audience too. Some bloggers and SEOs make this mistake; they often get carried away by the keywords selection process and pumping out content so much so that they ignore the quality of content.

Sustainable delivery of content is necessary, but the value in the content is imperative to content marketing. There are four aspects of cementing deliverability of value through content:

I.  Relevant Topics

Relevant topics seem obvious when it comes to creating content, but bloggers and brands often go off the track while creating content. So specify your target audience and decide whether or not the topics are best for them. The reason it’s important is that content creation takes time, money, and energy so you might not want to waste all those things.

II.  Providing Solutions

The best way to create valuable content is to provide solutions. There could be many options in content creation such as how-to tutorials, listicles, product reviews, and case studies. The purpose should be giving away the solutions.

III.  Well-written Content

There are many pillars of creating valuable content such as a great topic, clarity of message, providing a solution, but if the content isn’t well-written, it won’t work. The reason is that the readers won’t continue to read if there are grammatical errors or the content is stretched up just to fill up the pages. So make sure that the content is well-written.

IV. Audience Engagement

One of the essentials of delivering value is audience engagement. Sometimes, the audience needs to talk to you after consuming your content for further explanation. Engagement through blog comments and tweets can help convey the crux of the message. Don’t underestimate the power of audience engagement.

Delivering value is an integral part of the content marketing plan. For instance, Gail Boenning wrote in an article about how James Altucher’s content helps her. Take a look at the screenshot below:

content discovery tools - ContentStudio

It clearly depicts that value matters in the content. I can’t stress enough how much it matters to your content marketing plan when you produce valuable content for your audience.

4. Engage through Every Medium

Content marketing doesn’t only mean creating and publishing content, but instead, the engagement of the audience has a huge role in it. Now, we’ll look at the audience engagement, especially what we can do to get started with engagement and where to begin from.

You don’t have to do anything extraordinary to pull this off. All it requires is to communicate more, talk to people, respond to their queries, and use multiple mediums to interact.

A lot of people share their content on the Facebook page and Twitter account, but they don’t think of starting a conversation with their followers. To make your content marketing campaign effective, you have to engage people so that your content gets more attention on the platform. Here are three simple ways to start engagement:

I. Start Conversations

Starting conversations may look tricky at first, but once you get used to of, it won’t affect you much. People start off conversations in social media through different channels. Some of them tag their friends to respond, others wait for them to like and then they start with a comment, and some send their content through Messenger or DM to start a conversation. I’d highly recommend sharing your content with a proper explanation and starting a conversation with people who like or comment on your content.

II. Answer Queries

If someone asks a question through a DM or a comment, it’s a great way to start a conversation, especially if the question is being asked in the comments section. Some people don’t bother replying to the comments for some reason, which is a destructive strategy for social media in 2019.

III. Thank Loyal Fans

Thanking you fans who show up to consume your content and respond to your questions could be a good way to start a conversation. You can mention them in social media; it’ll help you strengthen your relationship with them.

For instance, I came across Stefanie Flaxman’s blog post; I was surprised to see how she took the time out to respond to every comment:

Neil Patel, a popular content marketing expert, blogger, and entrepreneur also replies to the comments. He knows the value of engagement with the audience.

content marketing - ContentStudio

These expert bloggers and marketers understand that when you reply to the comments whether on your blog or social media, it brings people back to your site or social media profile. So not only does it give you engagement, but it also sends a message to the platforms that your audience is engaging with you.

content insights - ContentStudio

For instance, Google Analytics also has an engagement section which educates a user on the site engagement. It helps them understand how long the visitors are staying and what may causing the bounce. It’s understandable that more visitor engagement means visitor retention so always try out different engagement tactics to keep visitors on your site or bring them back to it.

5. Analyze the Outcome

It’s important to analyze the outcome of the strategy or the investment you’ve made after a specific period. Outcome analysis should be done, at least, after three months of building a content marketing plan. There are certain things that must be analyzed such as:

  • Keywords Selection: Go through your website statistics and see for yourself how your selected keywords are performing. It’ll help you comprehend whether or not you chose the right keywords to use in your content. It doesn’t necessarily mean keywords only matter in the content; keywords influence lots of things such as topics, meta tags, image tags, and URLs. If you understand SEO, you’d know all these things. If things are looking better from the keywords standpoint, then continue using those keywords, but if they aren’t, consider testing new keywords.
  • Content Strategy: Content strategy is a content creation plan that encapsulates the ideas, keywords, and topics that are suitable for the audience. If you feel that there is something needs to be fixed in the content strategy, then go ahead and alter a thing or two.
  • Conversion Rate: This is one of the crucial things to be analyzed. The conversion rate is the ratio of sales as compared to the total clicks. If the conversion rate isn’t impressive, you might want to make a few changes here and there. You don’t get to the perfect combination of keywords, topics, and market segment immediately; it always takes time to achieve that.
  • Customer Acquisition: Customer acquisition is a necessary element of content marketing but the ultimate goal of content marketing is engagement and attraction. It doesn’t mean sales aren’t important in the process. What content marketing does is that it builds your loyal fan base, which eventually paves the way for more paying customers.

The reason outcome analysis is important is that it provides you with a chance to analyze what’s working for you and what’s not working for you. In case, things aren’t going well, it’d be better off if you alter your strategy after a period rather than keep pushing the same strategy. So outcome analysis is pretty much like a short break when you’re on a road trip and pull over for a cup of coffee and refueling.

Takeaway

The idea of this blog post was to give you a roadmap for getting started with content marketing. A lot of you might not be creating content at all — some of you might be doing it wrong.

So developing an effective content marketing plan requires steps like:

  • Clarity of your purpose
  • Identification of a market segment
  • Creation of suitable content
  • Connecting with the audience
  • A thorough examination of your plan

Once you go through all these steps, you’d be able to take your content strategy to the next level.

What else would you advise someone who wants to make a content marketing plan?

 

About the Author

Wasiq Naeem is a content and digital marketing veteran who is passionate about his writing. Extensive research and producing high-quality content is just another day at the office for him.

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