Do you want to implement a content plan but not sure how or where to start? Do you know that content marketing is essential and have you seen lots of articles on a variety of types of content you can produce but still unsure what this looks like for you?
Maybe you know that it’s one thing to have a content strategy plan, but another thing altogether to have a plan that’s effective and delivers the desired outcomes. You don’t want to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks, but sadly, that’s what many businesses do when it comes to content marketing.
So where should you start?
In this blog article, we will discuss three key questions you need to answer to implement an effective content plan. Those questions are:
First thing’s first: who do you help?
According to Hubspot, a buyer persona is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
These generalized representations of your ideal customer(s) help you internalize the customers you are trying to attract and relate to them as real humans. This will, in turn, help you create content that will speak to them and resonate with them.
But, a buyer persona doesn’t just magically appear. To understand yours, you need to do some homework, such as researching, interviewing and surveying.
For example, you can research contacts in your database to uncover certain trends about them that will help identify traits. And, you can use forms on your website to discover specific information that is critical for you to know.
But, the best way to nail down your buyer persona is to interview some actual customers.
Doing so will help you collect relevant demographic and psychographic information about your ideal customer to help build your buyer profile. But one thing is still missing.
The buyer insight helps you understand why your ideal customer pulls out their credit card to make a purchase. It goes beyond collecting the demographics.
The Content Marketing Institute says that most marketers don't delve into their buyer insight, leaving the buyer persona only half done.
Buyer insight details the buyer’s motivations, feelings, and expectations relating to the part of their life that your product or service will impact. It identifies their goals and doubts, and methods of evaluating products or services like yours. It dives deep into the buyer journey, helping you understand some reasonably specific information such as the time of day they buy and under what conditions, the types of marketing they respond to and how long the buying process takes. By having this information and combining it with the demographic information you also collected, your buyer persona will be much deeper and more developed than that of your competition.
And you collect that information through interviews.
Interviews are crucial in compiling your buyer persona. In your interviews, you can talk with people who recently evaluated your product or service, or one just like yours. If they bought it, great! And if they didn’t, that’s OK, too. Either way, during your interview, ask them questions that will help you understand their entire journey from when they initially considered investing in the product/service to the point where they did – or did not – depart with their money. Guide them through questions, such as:
Once done interviewing, you can take the answers to build your list of buyer insights. You should be able to see both similarities and differences with each question; group those interviewees with similar responses together. You can then sprinkle in the buyer profile information – the demographics – to come up with a kick-ass buyer persona.
It’s true this takes time, but understanding the characteristics of your ideal customer is essential. So is knowing how they think, what motivates them and what they do throughout the sales cycle is critical if you want to write compelling content that will convert.
Content marketing is a thing. Countless companies are producing content with the hopes of hooking a prospect into becoming a customer. But although that's the ultimate goal, there's a lot more to the whole strategy behind your content plan.
We first talked about how to define who your ideal customer is so that your content speaks to him or her. You want to know the nitty-gritty details about who they are, why they want what you offer, where they buy it and when.
Once you obtain this information, you can define your buyer persona and start planning what type of content to produce.
It is true that for some, the purpose of content is simply to provide fodder. They aren’t concerned with SEO and search engine rankings, but rather want to provide their website visitors and newsletter readers with something new. They might not be in a position to invest the time or money to fully develop a solid content plan, and if that's the case, I'll argue that some content is better than no content.
But, for those businesses that are going to take the time to dive deep into who their ideal customer is, I say this: when you think about the type of content you are going to produce, also think about why your target customer wants to see it.
According to the website, HostingFacts.com, over 4 million blog posts are published on the Internet every day. Granted, many of those are on small blogs with little traffic, but it helps to make the point that the web is a very crowded place with lots of content. How can you make yours different?
That may seem obvious, but in this era of "content for content's sake" it's essential if you want your content to work for you.
This means not publishing the same old same old, or posting on every single social platform.
Along with using interviews to gather information to create your buyer persona, you also can – and should – interview your customers to collect data for case studies.
Writing case studies is a great content tactic you should employ. Why? Because chances are, your competition isn't.
In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, only 42% of respondents to theirannual survey indicated talking to their customers was a priority.
Talking to your customers to understand their story – the challenges they faced that led them to your product or service, and the results they experienced – is extremely powerful.
Conveying that information in a case study is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your value to other customers and prospects. Objective, third-party stories sell.
Plus, they provide snippets that you can use, either as a stand-alone or with a link to the case study, as social media posts.
And speaking of social media…
You should have a pretty firm handle on where your ideal customers spend their time online. You should know where and how they get their information, and which social platforms they are active on.
And that's where you should be, too.
So, just because your competitors are on Facebook if your ideal customer isn't then you shouldn't be, either.
Instead, you should post your content where your audience is.
If you find that they spend their time on Pinterest, then consider creating Infographics and other images that speak to the value you provide.
Or, if you discover that your target market spends a lot of time listening to podcasts, ask yourself if it makes sense to launch your own podcast.
The point is, your goal is to cut through the noise and provide value through your content. And the good news is, that although it sounds obvious, not everyone takes the time to do this.
Don't be like everyone else.
Don’t create content for content’s sake. Seems like a simple rule to follow, but many businesses are so eager to jump on the content train, they’re not sure what they’d like to accomplish by doing so.
That’s why following a content plan is a good idea.
We’ve already discussed the first two essentials for an effective content plan: knowing your audience, and understanding what types of content your audience consumes.
The third element is to outline the goals you’d like to accomplish with your content. After all, according to business guru Peter Drucker, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and by measuring your goals, you’ll be better able to manage your overall content plan.
Of course, the goal of your content might be different than mine, and that’s OK. The point is, your content should have a goal.
OK, so we've discussedwho your content is for (your buyer persona), and what your content will look like. Now, it’s time to determine why your content exists.
The overall reason we publish content is to inform, educate and engage our target market. It’s a hook; it’s fodder; it’s to help establish your credibility so that when a prospect is ready to buy, he or she thinks of you first.
That said, what are some goals you can have for your content?
Like Norm on Cheers, we all want to go to a place where everyone knows our name. Brand awareness is a good goal to pursue, especially if you are a small, regional or even start-up business with your sights on growing.
Brand awareness takes time and effort. But if you put out high-quality, high-value content that your target market wants to see, it will pay off in spades.
We know that there is plenty of content out there, so gaining eyeballs is a challenge you need to overcome. Providing solid education about your product, service, industry, challenges your target market has, and more is one way you can do this.
When you educate your audience, you empower them with knowledge and help them feel informed. To get started, think about the most common questions you hear from your customers and prospects. These questions are pure fodder for content.
When your content compels someone to like, comment or share, you are #winning. Seriously, the point of your content is to communicate with someone on a human level, and those likes, comments, and shares prove that you are doing just that.
But here’s the thing: if someone does comment, be sure to comment back. Continue to the conversation by validating their point or asking questions. The more “human” you can make your brand, the better.
It’s only natural to want your content to increase website traffic. And, while that’s a nice benefit of producing sound, engaging content, that should not necessarily be your ultimate goal.
Your audience wants authentic content that they can use. They will not stick around for gimmicks or sales pitches. So, the more authentic you can be, the more success you’ll have.
So now you know what goes into a content plan and how to think about your content, what is your next step? Are you going to update or create your buyer personas and insights? Are you going to figure out what goals and key performance indicators you're going to pursue with your content?
Leave a comment; I'd love to know. And, if you need some help on getting started, please feel free to contact me.