Marketing efforts rarely make sense without a solid strategy. Here’s an obvious observation: Content marketing is no different.
Yet, there are a few common mistakes content marketers make when trying to establish what content they should actually produce. Curious? Let’s take a look and figure out how to create a better content strategy than this.
1. Having no content strategy at all.
Creating content just for the sake of it? We’ve all been there. There’s so much more to gain from content marketing activities, though. In fact, a proper content marketing strategy makes it easier to figure out which types of content to create in the first place (and don’t just take my word for it — 81% of content marketers surveyed by CMI think the same).
Plus, if you work in a team, there’s pretty much no other way to align all content marketers around the agreed-upon mission & goals than with a content strategy of some sort.
Solution? Just give your content strategy some thought. It’s simple as that.
2. Underestimating the power of content.
When you think about it, well-written (and researched) content has the power to increase the speed with which potential customers take their steps towards conversion. That’s precisely why it makes sense to craft your content strategy from the customer lifecycle point of view (I’ll get to that). If there’s no logic, no “mission” behind the content you create, it just doesn’t make much sense to create it at all.
Solution? When planning a content strategy, try to take into account different content types and themes that can ”work” at every stage of the buyer’s journey (or rather, the customer lifecycle).
3. Not following through on your content plan.
Let’s face it: having a content strategy is great, but it won’t take you far if you don’t actually execute it (or stop executing it at some point, which is often the case).
This is a common problem, especially if you work in a marketing agency and serve multiple clients. Basically, you’re preparing a content strategy, your client loves it, you have a green light, everything goes well… And then, after some time, they want to change almost everything. Oftentimes, the reason is that they just don’t see the immediate results. The thing is: with content strategies, it simply takes time. The results will be far less tangible, more difficult to pinpoint. But this doesn’t mean that you should stop doing what you’re doing after publishing just a few blog posts and not seeing any increase in inbound traffic.
Solution: Give it some time. Analyse the traffic (or lack thereof). Optimise your content. Do a better job at researching topics. Just don’t give up on the whole content strategy at once, for crying out loud.
4. Creating too much “awareness” content.
Content marketers often focus on writing comprehensive, SEO-optimised blog posts for inbound site traffic. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, apart from the fact that they’re actively trying to lure in new people, again and again, without having the means to engage them and take them to the next stage of the lifecycle/funnel/journey/you name it.
Yet again: your content has the power to increase the velocity with which potential customers take their steps towards conversion. Make the most of it.
5. Expecting unusual results from a content marketing strategy.
As already mentioned, a few published blog posts are unlikely to boost your sales, at least not considerably, and definitely not in an instant. They come with other perks, though.
To start with, actual sales seems to be less about selling, and more about education these days. Less about products, more about solutions. In such circumstances, there’s no better sales tool than educational content.
When you think about it, the aim of any content marketing efforts is quite similar to customer relationship management: building a strong customer base, gathering a community of advocates, and increasing conversion & retention once you’re at it. The good news is that the more compelling the content, the bigger impact it has. Plus, if your site is user-friendly, the content is convincing, and your reader has “a burning problem” that you are able to solve: the sale can still happen quickly.
Solution? Be reasonable about your expectations and KPIs. At the same time, however, you have to make sure that “all pieces of the puzzle” work properly and serve your readers: be it the intuitiveness of your website, CTAs, popups, lead magnets, email copy, social media posts, retargeting, customer testimonials…The list goes on.
6. Crafting content marketing strategies that only include, well, creating content.
There’s so much more to content marketing than just writing blog posts — and your content development strategy should reflect that. Even if you write these blog posts extremely well and optimise them for SEO, there are a few things you should have figured out on top of that.
- What types of content will you be producing? Blog posts, ebooks, white papers?
- What’s the purpose of these content pieces? Are you able to create content across the whole customer journey/lifecycle?
- Are there any “keyword clusters” you might want to target and stick to in order to stand out from the crowd?
- Who will be involved in content writing?
- Will you be repurposing the created content? (I’ll make this one easier for you: yes, you will. The question is, how exactly)
- Where will you be publishing your content? Are you going to distribute it, or submit it to content curation sites?
- Will you promote your content pieces in any way? Use remarketing at any point?
- Will you be using any tools when creating, optimising, and promoting your content? (Heads-up: dedicated tools can help you focus more on content development strategy rather than its execution).
Solution? If you’re still not sure how to create a content strategy, start by answering the questions above and keep reading this article.
What can be your go-to content strategy template, then?
There are different frameworks and templates out there that can all inspire you to create your own content development strategy. AARRR, this cool workbook from CMI (don’t you worry, it’s free), See-Think-Do, Tofu-Mofu-Bofu…
Personally, when planning a content strategy, I try I tend to consider the following stages:
#1 The awareness stage — where people are actively looking for answers and browsing valuable resources.
Make no mistake: you’re trying to lure in new readers, so you have to create engaging content pieces that can easily be discovered and, hopefully, shared. The easiest way to get people what they might be looking for is to perform thorough keyword research first and check what content your competitors are creating (and how well they’re doing it).
What can you write at this stage?
- High-quality, SEO-optimised website copy and blog posts to attract organic traffic,
- Round-ups and research pieces featuring other experts (who are likely to share the content themselves),
- Lead magnets (i.e. ebooks, white papers, checklists, cheat sheets),
- “Viral” social media content,
- Ad campaigns.
#2 The interest or, in other words, engagement stage — where people become familiar with the brand and start to follow it, but are nowhere near being ready to buy.
Good job, potential customers finally know who you are! They definitely are interested in what you’re up to, but not completely sold on your offer. They might already follow you on social media, have your site bookmarked, and subscribed to receive email updates (fingers crossed for this scenario).
Here’s when you need to be more precise about your content and personalise it whenever you have a chance. Write engaging posts across social networks, chose strong email subject lines, and pick attractive blog post titles to keep your followers hooked.
What should you focus on at this stage?
- Pop-up copy that converts,
- Emails, emails, and more emails (really good ones, though),
- Attractive social media posts,
- Ad campaigns (remarketing),
- Plus, don’t forget to keep blogging!
#3 The consideration/evaluation stage — where people are already familiar with the brand and are trying to decide whether or not it is a good fit for them.
It’s finally the time to back up everything you’ve been kinda saying “between the lines” about your brand. You’ve attracted potential customers and maintained their interest — now you have to come at them with some proof that would explain once and for all why you’re the best.
Keep in mind that these readers are basically ready to buy, and your content is likely to help them make the decision and choose your business among its competitors. What’s not to like about that?
What can you create at this stage?
- Comprehensive case studies,
- Portfolio with some examples of successful projects,
- Testimonials and reviews from happy clients.
#4 The conversion/purchase stage — where people are making the actual purchase decision and leave their personal data (or buy the product/service if available online).
Congrats, you’ve made it (or you’re about to). This doesn't mean that you can slack off, though. Many businesses lose potential customers very close to this stage, just because their CTAs or landing pages are not intuitive and convincing enough to give that “final push”. Make sure you’re not one of them! The experience with the actual sale has to be as seamless as possible, with clear instructions and welcoming language.
What to pay attention at this stage?
- Well-designed landing pages,
- Powerful CTAs.
#5 The post-purchase, loyalty, or advocacy stage — where people become advocates, ready to recommend the brand to others.
Did you know that it’s much easier to convince an existing customer to buy from you again rather than attract an entirely new one? Happy customers can be much more willing to buy from you again. If they actually are happy.
At this point, your customer service becomes a part of your marketing strategy — and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Your customers should be assisted whenever they ask for help, or they should at least be able to help themselves. It’s your role to provide them with the right tools to do so.
That’s precisely why it makes sense to prepare:
- FAQ / “self-help” sections,
- Follow-ups and seasonal check-ins (to build relationships and collect testimonials).
There you have it — a content strategy template in a nutshell. Once you map these stages and different types of content that can be useful at each and every one of it, it becomes a lot easier to figure out what content you should actually produce in the long run.
What you really want is a cycle rather than a funnel, where customers make it through to the last stage, and then start over again anywhere from the interest/engagement phase and beyond. Well-written and carefully planned content, of course, will keep playing a big role here.