It’s time to review your content marketing activities and assess how, or whether, they have delivered the results you expected. Even though many businesses have a regularly updated Facebook page and Twitter account, most don’t know how to measure the return on their content marketing investments. What’s a “like” worth? How about a “retweet” or a comment on the company blog?
The truth is that you can’t make much headway in evaluating content marketing unless you first have a clear content marketing plan. And for some business owners and managers, creating such a plan seems overwhelming. It doesn’t help that every day your email and social accounts bulge with messages promoting this or that eBook, or blog post, or tip sheet, or seminar, each with different ideas and advice on how to create a plan.
So I offer to you my fast and friendly, DIY format plan for a basic content marketing strategy. True, it’s yet another piece of advice. But I promise you that this one will make your content marketing focused and rational. It won’t take too much time and it will prepare you to separate the useful from the bluster in those emails that arrive each morning.
Five Steps to a Content Marketing Plan
1. Identify the Action You Seek. (The Goal)
Ask yourself, what specifically do I want people to do? If you’re a florist with an attractive storefront, for instance, you might want to generate more street traffic. If you sell a service such as graphic design, you may want to draw potential new customers to your online portfolio so they can see your work. (“Action” means an observable behavior, not an attitude or a feeling.)
2. Identify Who Can Give You the Action. (The Target Audience)
For the florist, people who are walking down his street or who live near his shop are the ones who can give him what he wants, which is to visit his store. For the graphic designer, it’s people who are online looking for graphic design services. (The target audience has specific characteristics. Avoid thinking of your audience as the “general public.”)
3. Decide How to Reach Your Audience. (The Channel)
The florist, or indeed anyone with a physical store, is often best served by using local search — a way to help local people discover the shop when they search Google for a florist. The florist might also want to take out an ad in local shoppers and weekly newspapers or even create an attractive poster to tack up on bulletin boards around town. (Sometimes low tech still works.) The graphic designer could create a gorgeous Facebook page and promote it with a few, low-cost “boosted” posts.
4. Determine Your Offer. (The Content)
What’s going to motivate your target audience to act when they see your Facebook page or find you through local search? The answer to this question may cause you to rethink how you define your target audience. For example, the florist thought his audience was people living and working near his shop. While that is logical, it isn’t focused. In fact, unless a person who lives in his area wants flowers, they are unlikely to visit his store. So the florist is better off refining his target audience to be people who live or work nearby AND who are looking for flowers. He might also stretch that a bit to include those who live/work nearby who need a convenient gift.
That widens his target market and provides more opportunities for him to get creative with content marketing. Now, this content might highlight the ease and speed of acquiring a quick hostess gift by stopping into his shop to buy flowers on the way to a dinner party. (There is, of course, a great deal more to this step once you get deeper into the finer points of marketing strategy, but this will do to get you started.)
5. Decide How You’ll Know If It Works. (The Evaluation)
This is the key question to ask at the beginning of content marketing planning. It’s why you expressed your desired action in behavioral terms. If more local people come into your florist shop, then it worked, right? If more potential customers view your design portfolio, it worked. The only trouble is if your goal was achieved, how do you know it was because of content marketing and not some other reason? That’s the challenge of the evaluation stage: connecting your results to your content marketing activities.
In the case of the graphic designer, it’s not too difficult to make the connections. Using free or low-cost metrics she can track the numbers and demographics of people who first visited her Facebook page (where she offered her content) and then came to her website (where the portfolio is posted). Further, she can identify which pieces of content were most effective in driving traffic to her site and then refine her content marketing efforts going forward.
For the florist, things are more complicated. In planning his content, he will want to include ways of tracking consumer activity. He might, for example, include a different promo code in each piece of content so that he can identify the customers that came to his shop as a result of a particular search query. And, as noted above, sometimes low tech still works: the florist might simply ask a purchaser how they heard about his shop!
This is post one in a 5 part series on content marketing. Until next time, I hope you will agree that these five steps give you a lot to think about and the motivation to get started.