Content marketing is a huge part of modern marketing strategy and crucial for almost any business with an online presence. Not only does it help your website succeed in search engines like Google, but it also helps build a loyal following by providing your audience with consistent, relevant content. Sharing content regularly helps define your brand’s voice and build brand trust with your audience. The challenge comes in sticking to a regular posting schedule and keeping up with changes both in the market and on online platforms. That’s where our 10 steps for a long-term content marketing strategy can help.
A long-term content marketing strategy is important because it allows you to plan well in advance, clarify the needs of your target audience, set goals that align your content with the direction of your business, and refine your approach as needed within the structure you’ve outlined. A clear strategy is the only way to be goal oriented, consistent, and flexible at the same time.
When you’re just starting out, creating a long-term plan can feel overwhelming, but we’ve broken down the process into simple steps you can follow for ultimate success.
1. AUDIT YOUR EXISTING CONTENT
It’s difficult to figure out where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. Take the time necessary to fully review your existing content. Evaluate your processes, the quality of your content, what worked and what didn’t, and where your business is at number wise.
Make note of the areas where you have been successful in your content marketing and where you can improve. It can be helpful to make a spreadsheet of your content (topics, where it was shared, when it worked) so that you and your team can make educated decisions about what comes next and avoid repeating content topics, approaches, or distributing processes that didn’t really work.
2. SET GOALS
Once you understand where your company is, you can start to set goals. Long-term, yearlong goals and smaller quarterly or monthly goals are both important. Make goals that are specific and measurable with set time constraints so you will know when to reevaluate. See how many ways you can measure the success of your content and set goals with those measurements in mind. Don’t forget to consider the platforms you will be using to share your content and what types of analytics they offer.
Think about the outcomes you want (for example, an increase in sales) and how you will keep track of what gets you leads and that eventual outcome. Keep the big picture in mind as you plan out just how far you can take your company with content marketing.
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
The types of content you create and the platforms you use will largely depend on your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? Think about the individuals or businesses that may be interested in your product and why. Be as specific as you can in creating personas (characters created to represent user types) and mapping out their journey. What brings them to your site or product and what leads them to buy your product or service? It’s crucial to keep your audience in mind as you plan out content long-term.
4. GATHER IDEAS
Work with your team and decide what ideas, themes, education materials, events, or products you want to focus on and highlight throughout the year. Utilize topic and keyword research, see what is trending and what else your audience is looking for that you might offer. Do some keyword mapping for your website and identify ways you might add content to web pages or write blogs that allow you to target the keywords you aren’t yet utilizing.
Look at your competitors and identify gaps in the market. What other events or releases do you have planned this year? Brainstorm types of content that can go along with new products or services. Make lists or spreadsheets of your content topics and ideas with a focus on the exciting things coming up in your company that you will need to market.
5. PLAN THE BEST WAY TO CREATE AND SHARE THE CONTENT
After you have figured out the “what” when it comes to content, consider the “how.” Consider the type of content you want to use to market each product, event, program, or idea, and then decide which platform will be best for sharing the content. This could be a new blog post on your site, email marketing, paid ads on the radio or social media platforms, or social media posts themselves.
Use the right tactics for your audience. Is this best received through video? Blog? Email? Decide what will work best for each topic or product based on who the product is for. Keep in mind who you know you are reaching on what platforms based on the numbers you currently have.
6. CONSIDER YOUR RESOURCES
Plan out your resources. Consider the members of your team and their skills. Can this all be done in house, or will you need to outsource parts of your content marketing plan? Is there something your marketing team can learn and add to their skillset? Think about the time it takes to create content, what is doable in what timeframe, and what sort of budget you have. Plan what funds will be best used where.
7. MAKE A PLAN AND SCHEDULE CONTENT
At this point, it’s time to make a thorough content marketing plan. Look at the calendar for the upcoming year. Are there any new releases or seasonal events you can line the content up with? Plan with sales and promotions in mind and how your audience’s needs may change throughout the year. Schedule the content and distribution on a detailed, shareable calendar.
Consistency is key with content marketing, so make sure you have content spread out throughout the year on a regular basis, sharing new content regularly and as often as you can. Make sure it will help you meet your monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals. Share the calendar with your team and make sure everyone is on board. Adjust as needed based on feedback. As crucial as consistency is, be flexible where needed for success.
8. START CREATING CONTENT
Create, publish, and promote your content! Whether through blog posts, email marketing, social media posts and engagement, or website updates, making quality content is as fun as it is challenging. Each content piece needs to be created with your objectives in mind. Utilize your team and always be willing to learn how to make your content better as you follow your content marketing plan.
9. BE FLEXIBLE
Don’t be too rigid when it comes to your content marketing schedule. Consistency is still key, but the market changes rapidly and you need to be able to adjust as necessary. Be aware of trends and updates to algorithms in search engines and social media platforms. When an adjustment is required, see if there are ways you can still meet your timeline goals and stay on schedule.
You won’t get far without a long-term content marketing strategy, but you won’t grow without listening to the market and making changes either.
10. EVALUATE AND ADJUST
Measure your results regularly. Look at the numbers monthly, quarterly, or yearly based on your goals. Did your strategy work? Did they click? Did you get more leads? Were the keywords you chose effective? Are you reaching the right audience? Are you on track to meet your goals? Monitor your content strategy all along the way and refine it as you go. Reevaluate your goals and adjust as needed.
Without a plan, content marketing will inevitably fail. Your content marketing will only have the necessary focus and momentum needed to be successful if you’ve developed a well thought out long-term strategy. A plan helps guarantee that your content follows your business goals and that it supports the growth of your business instead of accidentally hindering it. Consistent, unique content cultivates a devoted audience.
Following these 10 simple steps will help set you on the right track for success in content marketing with a clear long-term content plan for your business. Get started today!