Ideas

Building a Content Marketing Strategy from the Ground Up

September 24, 2015

You wake up with a sense of purpose. This is the year you’re going to shake up your marketing strategy. Years of the same old playbook have and landed you in plateau-land when it comes to lead generation. Things haven’t been bad...they’ve just been “meh.”

So, you’re reconsidering. You’re beginning the work of adding a content marketing strategy to the mix that will help you attract new leads instead of having to bribe or buy your way to them. You’ve seen it work for other organizations. Why not yours? New approaches can be wonderful, invigorating things for your team. But they can also come with a rush of uncertainty and doubt.

To help you navigate those questions and build a strong foundation for your content marketing strategy, allow me to present: The five biggest panic-inducing moments of building a new content marketing strategy.  You’re going to encounter them anyway—why not knock them all off in a three-minute read?

Does it Work?

Most marketing teams exploring content marketing already have some sort of marketing engine running.  It may not be the best engine. It may sputter and stall at times. But keeping that engine running is a top priority. Taking anything on that distracts from the work of feeding that existing engine can feel high-risk and prompt the inevitable question: How do we know this new approach will work?

Let’s take the question in two parts:  Addressing the proof points behind content marketing and then addressing the fear behind switching strategies cold turkey.

In 2014 the State of Inbound Marketing report interviewed 3,500 professionals representing a mix of industries and company sizes about their marketing strategy. The report found that marketers who emphasize blogging are 13 times more likely to have increased ROI year over year.

Previous state of inbound reports have found that 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly—which, by itself, is still an impressive result.

Social Media Examiner conducted a similar study on content marketing in 2014 and found that more than half of marketers with at least one year of social media experience were generating leads with social platforms.  These organizations also saw improved search engine rankings with 58%+ reporting a rise in their ranking after having an established social strategy for a year or more.

Regularly publishing content whether it be to a blog, landing page or social channels gives search engines a reason to crawl your site and visitors a reason to come.  It opens up the top of your funnel in a budget-efficient way.  That said, building a content strategy can and should be a gradual thing. Instead of cutting your outbound budget and ad-spend immediately, start by adding a single content creator to your team and committing to a couple of posts and related shares a week.  Content marketing can take time and consistency to grow an audience. As content marketing strengthens, you can start to scale back your other efforts.

What should you write about?

We’re all familiar with the gnawing panic brought on by a blinking cursor on an empty page. Smug little bastard, that cursor is. This anxiety is exacerbated when it’s not just a single blog post you’re aiming to create, but a whole content marketing strategy.

The best way to get past feeling overwhelmed is to start backwards. Content is built to serve a purpose and your content needs to work for you.

  • Step One: Figure out who you are trying to attract to your website.
  • Step Two: Identify the questions and search terms that would likely lead them to you.
  • Step Three: Identify the different stages of their purchase decision and how their content interests could change over that process.
  • Step Four: Build content to map to those interest areas and stages of interests.

Once you get the fundamental content framework down, your team can continuously build upon those foundations. Carry a notebook. Turn support questions or customer conversations into topic ideas. Keep brainstorming.  As Brittany Berger, Content & PR Manager at Mention explains:

“I think the most effective content marketers live in 'idea mode.' They've learned how to come up with blog post topics almost passively -- going through life with part of their mind always engaged in how their experiences may translate into content topics.”

If you get stuck, fall back on The Blog Topic Idea Generator, Buzzsumo, or other idea resources for help.  As you build out your strategy, you’ll also want to experiment with the right mix of topics to drive traffic.  Not every post should be a listicle or a how-to post. At HubSpot, we’re constantly looking at our metrics to determine the right combination of topics.  We have a mix of tactical, editorial (opinionated), light and fun topics and syndicated posts from other blogs.

How can you get traffic?

When you’re starting from zero with your content strategy one of the early panic moments can come in figuring out how to get your content noticed. Across the board we’ve found that high-quality content that is well optimized for search is the primary driver of whether or not content gets found. That said, there are some tactics that can help in promoting your content out to social channels.

  • Add images to social shares: adding a photo URL to your Tweet can boost Retweets by 35%. (Source: Twitter)
  • Reformat your social shares for multiple releases: Start by sharing out the headline, but schedule future shares with key pull-lines and data points from the article.
  • Experiment with different formats:  Templates, infographics, and other formats that can standout among standard blogs can work in your favor if done well.
  • Put budget behind what you know works:  There’s no reason not to coordinate your advertising and content strategies.  Find a piece of content that has naturally done well on social channels and promote it on Facebook or Twitter with some added paid budget.

How do I find the time?

This is one of the big ones. Finding time in a schedule already overcrowded with email, meetings and work can feel impossible. There’s no way around it, content marketing may not require a lot of budget, but it does take a time investment.  Here’s the trick: Start with the time you do have. If you have two hours a week, you can get a blog post a week done.  If you can expand that you can add infographics and other content. Watch your metrics to see what kind of outcomes that time produces. There are also a few approaches to squeeze more out of the time you have:

  • Writers’ Markets: If you have more budget than you have time, you can hire freelancers by the article to help you build your baseline content.  Outsourcing content is on the rise in marketing. In our research we’ve found that 13% of companies outsource some of their content to freelancers or markets like Writer Access and Zerys.
  • Content Refresh: Once you’ve been creating content for a while, you can go back to old posts that did well and spend some calories refreshing them with newer data or content, then re-publish them.
  • Crowd-Source:  Multiple times a week someone on my team will send out a request for example ideas to include in his or her blog post.  Crowd-sourcing the creation of the content can help compile your posts faster and bring in new ideas.

How to measure it?

What you measure will depend on what your organization is hoping to get out of having a blog. In my company, we care a great deal about having a blog that attracts first-time visitors to our website and converting those visitors into known contacts or leads. To begin with, create a spreadsheet that tracks the following:

  • Visits: Probably the best sign of a healthy content strategy, an increasing number of visits shows that your content is getting found and bringing people into your website through a number of channels.  You can look to which channels generate the most visits and double down on those efforts that work.
  • Leads: Leads or contacts measure how many of those visitors dig deeper and request information about your company. Because leads are a driver of business, we measure this closely.
  • Inbound Links: Whenever another website or blog finds your content good enough, they’ll link to it. These inbound links are an important ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Better content brings more links, and more links raises your website in the search rankings.
  • Social Shares: Like inbound links, social shares are an indicator of the quality of content and can bring reach that your wouldn’t otherwise have.
  • Subscribers: Most blogs have some subscriber functionality built in.  Growing your subscribers creates a new promotion channel for you and helps you develop an engaged and active audience.

Building a strong content strategy can be transformational. Remember—82% of marketers who blog daily and 57% of marketers who blog monthly have acquired a customer through their blog. It takes time and persistence, but if you build a consistent strategy and set meaningful goals, it can be an investment that pays off significantly and allows you to reduce your spend in other areas.

 

Are you going to Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts October 19-20 in NYC? Check out Meghan's Boot Camp session from 2015—How to Develop a Content Strategy that will Draw People In. 

Digital Audit & Tune-Up, Social Media Strategy, Search Engine Optimization

Author

Meghan Keaney Anderson
HubSpot



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