Content marketing is a crucial piece of any high-performing marketing strategy, but too many people set out to create content without first mapping out how it will bring the business results they need.
I applaud anyone with a “just do it” mentality, but it literally pays to do a bit of planning before you begin. Just ask these five questions for every piece of content you make to create a profitable content marketing strategy.
1. Who is this for?
You need one specific person to target. Think about it — the advice you give to Friend A is going to be different than the advice you give to Friend B. You will tailor what you say and recommend based on what you know about the person on the other side of the table. Content creation is the same.
Who is your target customer? What is their daily experience like? What problems are they dealing with that you want to solve? How do they feel about those problems? How will they feel once they implement the expertise you’re sharing? What history have you already built with them?
You need to nail these details before you begin creating each piece of content because it drastically changes your messaging and what you need the consumer to do with this info (more on that later).
2. Where will it live?
Is this content going to be an article for a niche industry outlet, a short video for Instagram and TikTok or a multimedia piece of content that lives in your company’s blog? Each format and each platform has its own nuance to account for when creating, so you need to know where your content will live, and by extension, what details you should include or exclude.
Ideally, you’ll create lots of content, some for each of the different platforms where your customers spend their time. To save yourself time and headaches, I recommend picking one topic and creating different pieces of content around that one topic for each of your primary platforms. This way, you’ll be able to reach people however they choose to interact with you or however they may come across your brand.
3. What do I want them to know?
Do not begin creating content based on what information you want to share. Begin creating content based on what information you want viewers to remember. They will not remember everything, so you’re usually best off making one clear point — or answering one question clearly — per piece of content and reiterating that point throughout the content.
It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how entertaining your content is, people are not going to remember everything. So, pick one takeaway, and nail it. There are exceptions to this, like “state of the industry” reports and comprehensive guides, but nailing one point or answering one question is generally the best approach.
4. What should they do with this info?
When I was new to marketing, all the blog posts I wrote shared what I thought was interesting information and a compelling reason to start using our services. But that was it. None of those blog posts told readers what to do with that information. They brought in traffic, but no conversions. Then I went back and added in “contact us” or “schedule a demo,” as appropriate, to each post, and leads started funneling in.
Most people won’t connect the dots on their own. You need to connect the dots for them. Most people are also prone to inaction but will move if you tell them to. So, tell them.
As you craft your content, keep in mind what action you want viewers to take after they consume it. You should not always ask for a sale or lead capture, or people will begin to tune you out. But perhaps your call-to-action (CTA) is to subscribe for more insights, to share it with co-workers or to take some steps to help themselves without having to buy anything at all. Whatever it is, tell them.
5. How will I get it in front of them?
I always recommend spending four times as much time, money and effort on distributing your content as you do on creating it. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how great, insightful, entertaining or helpful your content is if no one sees it. Distribution makes sure the right people see it. Distribution makes content marketing profitable.
But how will you distribute your content?
Search engine optimization, search ads, social media (organic and sponsored), industry events, webinars, email, and text message — all of these and more are distribution channels to leverage for getting your content out there. The best places to distribute your content are wherever your customers spend their time. If you know who you’re targeting and what platform you’re targeting them on, this part becomes easier, but you still have to take it seriously, typically for longer than you’d expect. For instance, let’s say you think you can promote one article on LinkedIn for two weeks and see results, but really, you need to promote it for three-to-six months.
Related: 5D’s of Digital Marketing
The best content marketing strategies ask these five questions for every piece of content that’s created and also ask these questions for the strategy as a whole. It may feel like a lot, but take things one step — or one question — at a time, and you’ll see that creating content that reaches the right people and brings them into your sales funnel is easier than expected.