It’s oftentimes a freelance writer or professional marketer’s biggest question about generating effective content: “What should I write?”
Do you struggle with content production? As you engage in content planning, do you find it difficult to identify topics to write about? Does your team toil over what type of website content or which content type will have the greatest impact on your target audience? Do you agonize over which content piece will attract your target audience? Do your marketing activities ever grind to a halt at this point?
You’re certainly not alone.
Content writing can be challenging. Highly visual content and building a strong content calendar present their own unique challenges, too. This is true whether you’re engaged in influencer marketing or building a B2B content marketing strategy. Producing engaging, effective content is the top challenge for most content marketers. More than one digital marketing strategy has stalled out at this critical juncture of the customer journey.
Regardless of the content format you select, this roadmap will help you navigate the path to achieve both engaging and effective content — and more importantly, a marketing roadmap will help you answer the question: “What should I write?”
An effective content marketing plan can help your company create consistently good content and write its own success story. Because we all know it doesn’t feel good to spend a lot of time and effort writing effective content that nobody reads, or worse, that they do read and think was a waste of time.
Step 1: Start with business strategy and audience needs.
Cascade business strategy and context.
Without a set of defined business goals to achieve, your growth marketing strategy is flying blind. A marketing roadmap brings both vision and clarity to your content plan.
A successful content marketing strategy starts with the set of business goals you’re out to accomplish — brand awareness, lead generation, sales, etc. These goals must cascade down from your overall business and department objectives to your written content and ultimately to your potential customers. OKRs — used by Google’s search engine and Intel — can give you a simple framework to think about how your marketing roadmap strategy can cascade if your organization doesn’t already have a formal process.
Even if you’ve been doing content marketing for years, go back to this step and really understand what your business goals are for your content marketing strategy. You may find that those goals and your current execution are not in alignment with a successful content marketing effort.
Don’t gloss over this step.
Before any talk of content creation occurs, write out your business goals and make sure your entire content team is in alignment with them. Everyone needs to know what the finish line looks like for providing valuable content. Your marketing roadmap must make this clear.
Understand your audience’s needs and preferences.
While you are developing your foundational understanding of a successful inbound marketing business strategy and context, you should also be doing some parallel research to identify your audience’s needs and preferences, right down to the social media channels they tend to prefer.
Don’t let the organization’s product launch objectives interfere with how you approach this step. This can influence the results, creating an understanding of your company’s ideal customers, instead of your real customers. Aim to understand your real audience and develop content that addresses their current need, not your company’s “want.”
There are many ways to do this research prior to developing your marketing campaign. Start your information-gathering initiative with the development of buyer personas. An effective content marketing strategy for your campaign should answer questions such as:
- What is your audience’s goal?
- Is there a common problem your audience is trying to solve?
- What is your audience’s motivation to achieve that goal or solve that problem?
- Where are your audience’s biggest pain points?
- Will your content promotion campaign effectively address them?
Get your hands on website analytics for recent posts and competitive intelligence. These will help you better understand what is engaging your audience on your website, the websites of your competitors, and on social media. Your marketing strategy roadmap should answer questions such as:
- Where is your audience going for information?
- What behaviors or actions are you looking for your audiences to perform?
- Where and why are they taking an action?
- What topics and terms are your competitors using to address your audience’s needs?
- Where do you currently have topic gaps in comparison to your industry?
Step 2: Identify key metrics.
After you’ve defined your business goals and have an understanding of your audience, you must determine how your marketing roadmap will measure the progress of your strategy.
It is vital that you establish these metrics before launching the strategy. All too often, measurement is an afterthought, and marketers simply measure whatever is easily available — which usually takes the form of soft metrics like social media shares and page views — things that don’t report well to the C-Suite.
Without establishing metrics that align with the overall goals of the strategy, marketers will have no idea if their marketing roadmap is succeeding or failing. The point of measurement is to determine the true trajectory of your marketing roadmap. You manifest what you measure.
Effective reporting begins with the basics.
Identify to whom you will be reporting these metrics. Just the product manager? Or do they report up to the C-Suite? The Board of Directors?
If you’re not sure, you might check with human resources to make sure you’re following established company protocol. Understanding to whom you’re accountable will help target the metrics that will most effectively measure and communicate your content marketing success.
For example, a COO may value sales and revenue metrics over online marketing consumption metrics. Email marketing figures matter more to content creators than business administration types. Social media numbers matter to your brand awareness types. Adjust your metrics accordingly.
In order to have a true understanding of whether your content program is working, Jay Baer suggests that you “create an array of metrics that are selected from four primary buckets: consumption metrics, social media sharing metrics, lead generation metrics, sales metrics.”
Which goals will show the success or failure of your strategy and give you insights into whether to adjust it? What metrics will give you the best pulse on your strategy?
Also, understand how you will get to these metrics. Google Analytics, social media statistics, and your company’s CRM are great places to start.
New content intelligence tools are utilizing big data and predictive marketing to give you more insight into individual metrics by diving deep into your existing content and understanding what’s resonating with your current audience. These insights not only help you create great content moving forward. They also help you optimize existing content you’ve already created.
With a solid foundation of business goals, audience understanding, and metrics, we can now begin the task of diving into the creative guts of your content marketing strategy.
Step 3: Develop content marketing editorial mission statement.
At the beginning of any marketing initiative, Joe Pulizzi suggests content marketers get clear on this key part of editorial planning, which can then serve as a guidepost for all content creation and social media campaigns. The mission statement answers the question, “Why do you exist?”
Pulizzi recommends answering three basic questions to create your initial mission statement:
- Who is your core target audience?
- What will be delivered to the audience?
- What is the desired outcome for the audience?
Because you have your business goals and understanding of your audience already in place, this section should come together rather quickly.
When creating your editorial mission statement, keep in mind your own differentiators you discovered from your competitive intelligence gathering. What unique attributes does your company bring to the market when solving your audience’s problems?
Step 4: Create an editorial calendar.
Go back to your audience preferences and identify the content types/forms that will work best to address their needs. As you develop your marketing road map, ask yourself:
- What (if anything) would be more effective than a blog post?
- Does it need to be more visual?
- Would video be more effective than the written word?
- Do we need to reach our audience through online, print, broadcast, social media, and other mediums?
- Where is our audience currently getting content for this issue?
- What resources are needed to create content in the forms that will be most effective?
Do a gut check. Check that the types/forms of content you selected lend themselves to the metrics you identified in Step Two.
If not, you may need to establish better metrics to show success. This may be an evolution of an existing metric. For example, if you have video content, and one of your goals is sales instead of just “views,” you can use links within the video descriptions to get people back to your site where they can buy your product.
Within your editorial calendar, you will also identify the appropriate promotion channels. Once content types/forms are selected, you’ll have a better idea of what channels will work best to promote them.
Step 5: Adopt a data collection and reporting schedule.
It’s important to discuss and agree on when and how you will report the progress of your marketing plan and content marketing efforts — not only to your team but to the relevant organizational leadership.
With the right metrics and marketing analytics, you should be able to quickly shift your roadmap strategies depending on their initial effectiveness. Keep an eye on the end goal, and if the strategy is veering off, correct it.
This is why constant monitoring and reporting is your best friend. It may help to have more frequent meetings with your content marketing team to have these discussions — the most effective teams meet daily or weekly, as reported by CMI .
Step 6: Write, edit, publish, and listen.
At this point, you should have amazing clarity around how to answer the question, “What should I write?” Not only that, but you should also be able to answer the question, “Why did you write that?”
So, do what you do best — write, edit, and publish effective content that will engage your audiences and deliver the business results your organization needs to be successful. To help make the creative process even smoother, the Content Marketing Institute offers 10 ways you can write like a pro.
Then, be sure to listen. (This is one place social media can become one of your best friends.)
Listen to how your audiences are responding to your marketing effort. Nurture the product roadmap connection you’ve established with them. Feedback what you hear into the understanding of your audience in Step One, and see how that new information trickles down the rest of the marketing roadmap. This will all help later on as you seek to build a marketing roadmap template with a proven track record.
Step 7: Establish a continuous feedback loop and make adjustments to your approach.
Anything in your digital content marketing strategy can change. Your marketing roadmap template is just that, a template that will require adjustment and course correction.
Executive leadership might launch a new strategy or invest in a different market, which would completely alter your content strategy. Your audience’s needs and preferences might evolve over time or drastically shift overnight after a major event. Competitors could enter the marketplace or change their own content marketing strategy.
Commit to constantly monitoring Google Analytics, collecting your digital marketing metrics, and keeping a pulse on your audience via social media. That way, you’ll be able to pivot as changes occur. You can then feed the new information back into the top of the content strategy. Revising your marketing roadmap template is a sign of progress, not failure.
This is a strong win-win tactic. By doing this quickly and effectively, you’ll be able to create the content your new audiences need before your competition and gain a competitive edge. That competitive edge will make you a content strategy hero in your organization. Don’t you want to be a hero?
Without the solid foundations of a digital content marketing strategy, any small business will struggle to come up with a great content idea and deliver engaging, quality content to its target audience.
Your content marketing strategy must open your sales funnel to increased traffic in a way that both helps audiences solve a problem and helps you achieve your business goals.
No matter where you are in your company’s content marketing strategy, revisit your goals and understanding of your audience to see if they are still in alignment with where you are currently spending your time and resources. If they’re not, it may be a sign that your digital marketing program needs to change — for the better. Much of what we call marketing management is merely tweaking an underperforming marketing tactic to deliver more consistent results.
What will you do to be a better content marketer today? How will you incorporate social media monitoring into your marketing plan? Do you need help building or modifying a content marketing roadmap to meet your company’s marketing goal? If so, consider contacting a Relevance strategist today to help you build out your digital marketing roadmap.