How to Build a Content Marketing Program

With so much buzz about content, you already know you need to incorporate it into your marketing strategy. What you may not know is how to get started, or how you’ll put out good content day after day.

The most important thing is that you do start; here’s how.

Assemble a Content Team

The first step is establishing who will be making and promoting your content. Your team should be led by a content manager (someone who sees the big picture). You’ll also need a writer(s), a graphic designer, and a promoter.

When just starting out, or if your company is small, members of your team might wear more than one of these hats. As your content volume and mix of formats expand, your team can grow as well. For more on creating a team that works best for you, see Corey Eridon’s “How to Structure Your Content Marketing Team.”

Define Your Goals

Before you create content, you need a good understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish (and how you will know if you succeed—more on that later). How will your content support your business?

In “2 Essential Elements for Getting Started With Content Marketing,” Michele Linn, the Content Marketing Institute’s VP of Content, suggests asking yourself and your brand-new team these questions to help identify your goals:

  • Do you need to raise awareness for your brand?
  • Do you need to build your email list?
  • Do you need to nurture prospects along their buyer’s journey?
  • Do you need to convert your audience to paying customers?
  • Do you need to retain customers and/or increase their purchases (up-sell/ cross-sell)?
  • Do you need to convert customers to evangelists?

Linn also recommends (based on Joe Pulizzi’s advice in Epic Content Marketing) writing a mission statement that outlines your target audience and what your content will do for them. You need to know your audience to create content that is relevant to them.

Setting clear goals and writing a mission statement will help guide every piece of content you create. Conversely, each blog post, video, or infographic you produce and promote should support these goals.

Diversify Your Content

Maximize your reach by creating a varied mix of topics and content types—including blog posts, infographics, ebooks, podcasts, and more. Audience members consume content in many ways, and each social or promotional channel plays well with specific formats. Think about the different formats that your audience will be most drawn to, and which types will be best suited to the platforms you use most.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start from scratch with every individual piece of content. You can easily—and effectively—repurpose text and data from one format to another. “A single blog post can be purposed into an infographic, a SlideShare, a podcast; multiple blog posts on similar topics can become an ebook,” writes Gal Rimon in “Getting Started With Content Marketing: 9 Takeaways From One Company's Experience.”

Create an Editorial Calendar

Plan ahead—it’s difficult to create content that supports your goals (or even think of what to write!) on the fly.

Sit down with your team and brainstorm content ideas for the next three to six months; then map out a schedule of posting and promoting them. Of course, as you develop your calendar, you’ll need to think carefully about your goals and your audience.

Support Your Content with Good SEO

Once you’ve created fantastic content, you need to make sure your audience can find it! A big part of being “findable,” of course, is search engine optimization.

Linn writes in “The Basics of SEO for Successful Content Marketing” that there “is no downside to optimizing your content for SEO.” Adding metadata such as keywords, tags, and meta descriptions to your content postings will greatly increase its visibility. (Not sure what “metadata” is or how to use it? Don’t worry; Linn breaks it down clearly.)

However, SEO is just “one part of the puzzle” when it comes to your content promotion. Paid search, direct site visits, social referrals, email campaigns, and more help get eyes on your content, too. Don’t neglect any of these essential channels in your promotional strategy.

Even more importantly, says Linn, don’t let SEO become such a priority that it overtakes creating quality content. SEO “should not be your primary consideration...Write compelling content about the things your target audience would be most interested in.”

Match Your Channel to Your Content

As mentioned above, SEO is only one part in what should be a multi-channel distribution plan. Prioritize the platforms favored by your target audience and those that are best suited to a specific piece’s format.

It’s also crucial to consider the ongoing relevance (or lack thereof) of the topic when promoting your content, advises Linn. “Search is a great way to support long-tail and evergreen content; but we’ve found that topics that are more forward-looking (i.e., those that people aren’t necessarily searching for, specifically) are usually better supported by social media techniques.”

Measure Your Success

When you set your goals, you’ll also need to define how you will measure your progress towards them. This means first identifying metrics you’ll use as benchmarks for success, then consistently tracking, analyzing, and implementing them. A rule of thumb from Lars Lofgren’s “Metrics, Metrics On The Wall, Who’s The Vainest Of Them All?”: good metrics help you make decisions about what to do next.

While analytics can be daunting, there are many tools and tutorials to help you. (Keep in mind that you’ll need a combination of tools to follow what’s happening on all of your channels.) Google Analytics is free for basic functionality, user-friendly, and accompanied by tutorials. Dashboards like HootSuite, Buffer, and Hubspot help you manage and track activity on your social media platforms; they also provide advice for making the most of your data.

With some research and thoughtful planning, you can take the content marketing plunge now—and soon see its benefits. There’s no time like the present.

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