29 Sep 2015

The Proven 8 Step Formula for Content Marketing Success

September 29, 2015Content Marketing

Are you ready for a crash course in content marketing? Here’s an overview of the 8 Step Process we follow, both for ourselves and for our clients. We’ve seen that when companies commit to this proven methodology, their content marketing programs can yield exciting results, including increased lead generation and brand awareness.

The steps, in order, are:

  1. Strategy Development
  2. Ideation
  3. Content Creation
  4. Optimization
  5. Content Promotion
  6. Distribution
  7. Lead Nurture
  8. Measurement

content marketing strategy notebook

1. Strategy Development

We begin by documenting a strategy for our content marketing program. A strategy helps you identify your objectives, stay focused on them, and identify team members and other resources who will contribute to your goals.

It has been well-established that if a company does not produce a documented content marketing strategy, it is far less likely to:

  • succeed
  • consider itself effective at content marketing
  • build a compelling case for further investment in content marketing

A content marketing strategy does not need to be long to be effective. It should answer these six key questions:

  • What is your goal?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is already happening online in your niche? (Consider your own business and your competitors.)
  • What type of content will be created?
  • Where will you publish your content?
  • Who will help execute the strategy?

Outcomes of your strategy should include:

  • Key themes and messages of your content
  • Topic ideation and research
  • Content purpose
  • Content gaps
  • Publication governance (who must approve content?)
  • Content calendar (60-90 days at a minimum)

Start with the end in mind. Your strategy should help you envision what content marketing success looks like.

2. Ideation

When coming up with ideas for your content, try to provide your audience with content that will help them achieve excellence at what they do. Be a good partner to your prospects.

Some of the best content topic ideas come from simply asking your customers and your staff. Just like your strategy, write these things down!

  • Staff: What are the 5 most common questions we receive from leads?
  • Staff: What are the top barriers or complexities about our products or services?
  • Customers: What information do you wish we had provided at the beginning of our relationship?
  • Customers: What do you wish we would do better?
  • Customers: Take me back to the day when you started looking for a solution. What did you search for? What made us stand apart?

Some of the very best content headlines revolve around search terms that people are actually using in Google, including:

  • Cost
  • Problems
  • Vs.
  • Reviews
  • Best Of

For more information about this and other fun ideation techniques, watch the video below:

3. Content Creation

Now that you’ve developed a strategy and some initial content personas, and you’ve compiled dozens of content ideas, you should deeply understand your customers’ pain points. It’s time to create content around that.

You’ll want to develop a content calendar that aligns with your strategy. Push yourself and your organization to publish a high volume of content, but remember that quality is paramount.

You’ll also want to determine which topics, formats, times, and authors resonate best with your audience. There are dozens of content types, including blog posts, white papers, and infographics. Learn more about the different content marketing formats, and where each can fit into your customers’ journeys.

Some quick tips for better blog writing:

  • Write to communicate a message, not for word count
  • Create content interesting to your audience
  • Write posts people will want to link to
  • Don’t be self-promotional
  • Teach your audience something useful
  • Practice content chunking (lists, multiple headers and images, short paragraphs)

4. Optimization

Since you’ve probably spent several hours creating a piece of valuable content, spend the 10-15 minutes it takes to properly optimize your piece before you publish it. This generally consists of performing search engine optimization (SEO) for a number of elements on your new page of content:

  • An appropriate title tag and only one H1 tag
  • Meta description
  • Target keywords are appropriately and naturally sprinkled throughout
  • Images and videos
  • Ensuring page load speed is relatively fast

For more information on specific SEO tactics, see Ranking Factors for 2015: Do’s and Don’ts.

5. Content Promotion

The goal of promotion is to drive your audience to your content. In other words, you want to drive people to your website. You can use a mix of self-promotion and paid promotion to achieve this goal.

Self-promotion includes:

Paid promotion includes:

Remember that not every network is appropriate, depending on your audience and your budget. Start with small tests to validate where your efforts and dollars are best spent.

6. Distribution

The goal of distribution is to drive your content to your audience. Instead of attracting your audience to your website (promotion), you understand that a significant portion of your prospects are spending time consuming content on various networks. Examples include YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Your goal here is to create experiences that feel native to those environments. You can repurpose your blog and other content, putting a spin on it so that it’s appropriate for these other platforms. Remember that “if you build it, they will come” does not always apply to content marketing. You have to make efforts to distribute your content beyond just your website.

7. Lead Nurture

According to Forrester Research, businesses that have a solid lead nurturing process generate 50% more qualified leads at a 33% lower cost.

“Lead nurture” is a synonym for e-mail marketing, but also takes it a step further to strengthen existing relationships based on trust and loyalty through useful content delivered via e-mail. Your goal in this step of the content marketing process is to maintain contact with audience members who have expressed interest in your business.

Nurturing your leads can help you accomplish all of the following:

  • Increase business by providing consistent value
  • Keep your company top-of-mind
  • Deepen existing relationships
  • Move people through the buying cycle quicker
  • Build brand recognition
  • Create loyalty and trust

When creating your e-mail program, remember to create a content calendar just as you did previously. Promote your new content in your e-mails, segment messaging if possible to make your e-mails more personal, and stay brief! Try to drive e-mail opens and clicks to your website for more information.

measurement

8. Measurement

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the final step. With measurement, we want data to analyze our efforts. What’s working, and what can be improved? An important note here is that you should absolutely set up your measurement systems at the beginning of the process, whether it’s in Google Analytics, Hubspot, Omniture, others, or some combination thereof.

For the most successful content marketers, measurement should always be top of mind, so they can make data-driven decisions.

Here’s some of the items we typically monitor:

  • Blog subscribers
  • Conversions, downloads
  • Content engagement
  • Inbound Links
  • SEO rankings (domain authority, etc.)
  • Leads, sales
  • Traffic, time on site, bounce rate

Only measure items that you would genuinely use to later modify your strategy. Speaking of strategy, it’s now time to rinse and repeat — now we start the process, again, from the beginning. This helps us tweak our messaging and approach, so that we are constantly improving.

Conclusion

It’s a long, complex process, and we know content marketing is hard. But it’s a proven methodology that we believe in, and we hope you do too!

To learn more about these 8 steps — in much greater detail — download the book, “Content Marketing Works”, for free.

Content Marketing Works

Learn More about the 8 Step Process

Dive deeper into the 8 Step Process for content marketing outlined into this post in our book, Content Marketing Works. Explore these 290 pages of real world insights and case studies.