Do not pass go without it
After being in the workforce for a few years, I decided to pursue a master of business administration degree. I had the grades, the experience and the essay covered. Four letters stood in the way of my getting accepted at Southern Methodist University: G … M … A … T. The folks at SMU said my application looked great. Now, I just needed to score around 500 on the GMAT to get in.
Setting a goal and achieving it
Oh boy. Not an easy task, considering my not-so-great experience with the SAT. Not giving up, I remembered reading about Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams. He’d write his goals 15 times a day. Taking a page out of his book, I wrote, “I will get a 600 on the GMAT.” I wrote it 15 times a day, every day until test day. (Interesting note: Adams successfully used the daily affirmation to get admitted into the business course he wanted.)
Why 600 and not 500? A football coach said he makes touchdowns a goal rather than a field goal. At least, with touchdowns, you’re aiming for seven points. If you get only three points from a field goal, it’s better than zero. If his goal were to settle for field goals, then he’d be less likely to get any points on the scoreboard. So I aimed beyond what I needed without being unrealistic.
It worked. I came darn close with 490 and got into the program. Had I used 500 in my daily affirmation, I might’ve scored 400.
Scoring field goals and touchdowns with a content marketing plan
The same approach applies to doing content marketing without a plan. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 84 percent of marketers who don’t have a documented strategy say they’re not effective at content marketing. Only 44 percent have a documented content marketing strategy. No wonder there’s a lot of crappy content marketing happening out there.
I think we can agree that it’s important to have a content marketing strategy. The problem is creating one, without knowing where to start, analysis paralysis and being plain overwhelmed. It’s just like facing a messy garage loaded with boxes and junk. Where do you begin?
Getting started with a simple 6-step content marketing plan
Start small. A little something is better than nothing. And you can add to it, as you get comfortable with each step. It’s like checking the mail and taking care of it on the spot: trash, file or act. Leave it on the counter, and it’ll sit there collecting a few new friends.
Here are the painless six steps to get you started.
- Identify marketing goals. Capture what you want your company to achieve in six to 12 months.
- Build brand awareness.
- Nurture leads.
- Educate prospects and clients.
- Provide customer service.
- Cross-sell and up-sell other services.
- Connect with influencers and customers.
- Describe your target audience. It’s important to build a persona representing your ideal client. Add the following information about the person.
- Job title.
- Company details.
- Pain points.
- Where you find this person online.
- How the person prefers to get information.
- Write down questions your prospects and clients ask. These will be your starting point for creating content and will tell you what prospects want to know, so you can move them to the next stage of the customer-decision journey.
- List the types of content you will create. Spinning off content into other types saves you a lot of time and maximizes your content marketing efforts. You can create the following types of content:
- Blog posts.
- Curated content.
- Frequently asked questions.
- Presentation slides.
Let’s say you have an email newsletter. The feature article in the email newsletter can turn into a webinar. You can also repurpose the article into a series of blog posts, a presentation you post in SlideShare and a guide that requires complete a form to download it (gated content). This gets you an email address and other information to add to your growing email list.
Because you repurpose the content, you get new names, as people find your content in different places. Next time you create new content, post an update in social media and send an email to your list to let people know about it.
- Make a simple editorial calendar. Don’t make yourself crazy with the editorial calendar. Think of it as a publishing schedule that lists when you’ll publish the webinar recording, blog posts, guide and so forth.
- Create a checklist of places to promote the content. You can reuse this checklist every time you create new content.
- Twitter. (Once a day.) Test different headlines.
- LinkedIn company page. (One-time post.)
- LinkedIn personal account. (One-time post.)
- Facebook. (Once a week.) Test different images and introductory copy.
- Google+ company page. (One-time post.)
- Google+ personal page. (One-time post.)
- Email list. (One-time post with a second send to those who didn’t open the first one.)
That’s it. You’re done. You have a content marketing plan.
What about ROI and metrics to let you know if this plan is working? They’re important, yes. But I promised you a simple content marketing plan to get you started. It’ll ensure you publish consistently and aim for high scores.
Don’t let the idea of creating a content marketing plan overwhelm you. Just take one step at a time. Start with your marketing goals. That’ll take fewer than 10 minutes. You can handle that, right? Once done, do the next step, and you’ll knock out your content marketing strategy before you know it.
Still struggling? Maybe it’s time to call the content marketing pros.
About the author
Meryl K. Evans is senior editor at InternetViZ and the content maven behind the Organizational Excellence Journal and Professional Services Journal. Contact her or connect with her on Twitter @merylkevans or elsewhere.