If you want more leads, you have to create and publish more content. That’s easy to say, but what does it really mean?
Content marketing can be complicated if you’re all staring at one another trying to decide what to publish and when.
If you want to create a more fluid, organic and easy-to-manage content marketing effort, you need to install some best practices for planning your content in advance.
Here are a few of the best practices for a content marketing plan that we use in our inbound marketing agency.
Quarterly Content Planning
Without doubt, the most important best practice is quarterly planning. Once you have three months worth of content, blogging and offers all down on paper, the rest of the content exercise goes much more smoothly. Consider using a template to make quarterly planning even more of a routine. Start with the personas, as this ensures that you have content for your most important people: your prospects.
Then, work through the issues, challenges and pains that each persona is dealing with, and create content that helps them with the questions associated with those issues, challenges and pains. This content should also be mapped to the sales funnel, with content for people at the top, middle and bottom of the sales process.
When you’re doing the mapping, you’re going to want to have whitepapers, e-books, tip sheets or how-to videos for people at the top of the funnel. Why? Since they’re still in the awareness stage and doing a lot of research, they probably don’t want to give you too much information. So, by only asking for an email address, you have a better chance of converting them from visitors to leads. That’s why we call these offers No-Risk Offers.
Middle-of-the-funnel offers, like webinars, workshops, assessments, polls and quizzes, work well for people in the consideration phase. These people are willing to give you more information, such as name, company and title. They might even be willing to share some of their challenges. These offers are referred to as Low-Risk Offers.
Finally, there are bottom-of-the-funnel offers. These are usually in the form of "contact us" requests – but this is a mistake. You need Direct Business Offers that deliver value to your prospects. Try something like, "Get 10 Ideas In 10 Minutes," or offer a Personalized Review. This does wonders for letting your prospects know that they’ll be getting valuable information during the call or meeting.
Short-Form From Long-Form
One of the secrets we learned early on was that your blogging efforts, also known as short-form content, need to be tightly integrated with your long-form content, e.g., whitepapers, e-books and tip sheets. To do that, write your long-form pieces first and then pull blog content from them. You can literally copy elements from the long-form content, rework them into a blog article and post away. Another advantage of this approach is that you’re able to promote your long-form content directly from the short blog article.
If you’re doing quarterly planning, you’re able to spend the entire quarter focusing on a specific issue, a particular persona, a set of keywords that you want to rank more highly for or any other marketing-related focus. If this sounds familiar, it should. This inbound marketing campaign approach is excellent for focusing your effort and driving results. We typically run campaigns for 60 to 90 days.
Planning is great, but it assumes that you have data to drive your planning quarter over quarter. To get the metrics you need to make solid decisions, you need to look for certain key measures of performance. The first is how often the content piece was clicked on and how often it was downloaded. The visit to the landing page is actually the only measure to validate that the content was on target. Whether someone converted or not is more a measure of your landing page than of the actual content. You’re going to want to look at both, but the first is a better metric to indicate whether your content is on target.
Blog views are also a good measure of the quality of your content. And if you're pulling blogs from long-form content, blog views give you insight into the quality of your other content.
Once you apply some regular planning, best practices and solid thinking, content becomes a lot less complex. More important, we’ve found that planning and strategy actually impact results significantly. So, if you’re seeing less-than-expected or even slower-than-expected results, a planning and strategy session might just be the ticket.
Start Today Tip – First, schedule the session. Invite a handful of people who are creative, who understand inbound marketing and content marketing and, more important, who know what questions your prospects are asking before, during and even after the sales process. Once you get these people talking about prospects' questions, the content marketing strategy becomes much clearer. As you start to work toward answering those questions and delivering them in the format they require, you’ll find that your three-month content plan is actually easy to implement.
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