Everyone’s talking about their content marketing strategy and why you need one in 2016 to be successful. Here are five steps to building a plan that will resonate with your target audience (the customers you want to attract), plus build SEO for your website. The Content Marketing Institute says,

“86% of B2C marketers use content marketing, and 55% of B2C marketers plan to increase content marketing spend in 2016.” 

1. How well do you actually know your customer?

Have you taken time out of your day to understand what makes your customers tick (interests), what keeps them up at night, what obstacles they have to overcome at work and what their day-to-day looks like? Conducting in-person interviews for deeper insight is key. However, you should also utilize marketing analytics to gain a broader view of your audience.

Use tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, and additional marketing automation tools if you have them. Dissect your traffic to better understand who’s visiting your website – things like gender, age, location, interests, primary language and what devices they are using.

Build Your Personas (If you haven’t already)

This might seem obvious, but you must have buyer personas to help guide your entire marketing strategy, not just for your content marketing efforts. Your buyer personas will soon become a critical reference tool for every piece of content you build – each piece you develop should speak to their unique needs. Consider their vocabulary, content preferences, and all the data you found in your analytics platforms.

What do they need help with?

Think about the topics, business areas, consumer needs, interests they have. These equal the keywords you can reverse engineer into your content. But first, you need to conduct keyword research in a tool like Google Keyword Planner to better understand search volume, the likelihood of ranking high, and competition. Tools like BuzzSumo will also give you more insight into what’s topical, current, and shareable across the web.

2. Where does your audience hang out online?

What social media channels are locked to their front screen? Yes, the ones they check dozens of times a day. You need to be there as a brand, building community, contributing to worthwhile conversations, and sprinkling your content from time to time – it’s the Jab Jab Right Hook thing Gary Vaynerchuk taught us. But remember it’s not all about you, it never should be. Be thoughtful and provide value.

These will become the distribution channels for your content promotion plan, where you will deploy a paid and organic strategy to get the eyes and ears of your customers.

3. Have you aligned your content to the buyer journey?

Do you know what your buyer’s journey looks like? Typical stages include awareness, consideration and decision. Are we talking about a typical long sales cycle that we see in B2B, for making a larger purchase where people need to really weigh out their options and do extensive research online or are we talking about a more impulsive or more immediate B2C consumer purchase? What do your consumers care about: features, style, usability, service, efficiency, cost, etc.

Next, we must map content to the buyer journey (and what is common for your industry). Various content assets will be more relevant to buyers at different stages of the buyer cycle. Let’s take a look at what this might look like:

Awareness Stage:

  • Blogs and eBooks
  • Illustrations and Photos
  • News or Press Releases
  • Reports
  • White Papers
  • Infographics
  • Games

Consideration Stage:

  • Social
  • Video
  • Website Content
  • Microsites
  • Expert Guides
  • Vendor comparison
  • Trial or Freemium Account
  • Podcasts
  • Webcast or Webinar
  • Demos (online/in-person)

Decision Stage:

  • Presentations
  • Case Studies
  • Reviews and Forums
  • In-Person Meetings and Events

Advocacy Stage (customers):

  • Social
  • Blog
  • Newsletter
  • Promotions

4. Is your content digestible?

Don’t be concerned about whether you are writing long-form or short form content, writing engaging high-quality copy is what matters most. The vocabulary you use should be relatively simple, people have limited attention spans, and often lower than expected comprehension. A recent Contently study found that on average best-selling authors wrote below a grade 9 level. Believe it or not, Ernest Hemingway wrote at a grade 4 level. So, if the language is too complex and feels like you need a dictionary to understand it, you’ll get a high bounce rate.

From a shareable perspective, three things are really at play: novelty, identity, and fluency. So if it’s written like an academic paper, good luck getting engagement and social proof (people spreading your stories).

5. What content performed well in the past?

Take time to review your analytics. What are your top performing stories? Why is that? Which can you replicate, recycle or pivot from? Which articles can be built out into a 3-8 part series?

Also don’t always play it safe, sometimes seemingly unrelated things make for the best stories, or not always leading with a positive tone. Remember you are writing for humans. Consider what catches your attention.

It’s Time to Document Your Content Marketing Strategy

Now that you have taken the time to discuss your content marketing strategy it’s time to package it up into a concise plan to assure everyone is marching to the same drum. Your marketing team needs to be familiar with organizational goals, the buyer journey, buyer personas, basic SEO goals, and the content marketing plan in order to reap the rewards of content.

Remember, the best forward-thinking companies that truly get the potential of content marketing have integrated their efforts across the business. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of a marketing member or team. Instead, it’s woven into various departments and job functions across the business. For example, you will want to tap into your subject matter experts (SME’s), customer service (to better understand customer pain points), sales (common client rejections, revenue targets, and areas of focus), leadership and ideally your CEO (the company’s vision, direction, insight). At the end of the day, a well-rounded content marketing strategy requires effort and attention from various levels of the business. Their knowledge is needed; whether it be for writing, quotes, interviews, topics, insight or trends.


Happy writing. Of course, if you need help evolving or crafting a content marketing strategy don’t be shy, shoot us a line. We can even help build content with your team or manage your end-to-end online marketing.