Content marketing is a precise art. It is an art because it relies on creativity for its successful consummation. It is precise because the right type of content, aimed at the right kind of people in the right type of place at the right time, will facilitate the achievement of your online marketing goals.

Content marketing is not rocket science, but it can appear so in the absence of a clear-cut strategy. It is all too easy to produce a piece of content and not really have a clue about where to place it to maximize its potential.

Without thorough planning, your content marketing machine will be firing on three cylinders instead of being the turbocharged V8 behemoth that it could be!

Point your machine in the right direction

Where do you want your machine to take you? What do you want it to do for you? If you think content marketing is about link-building, you need to change your ideas. Don't worry, links will be a welcome consequence of a good content marketing strategy. However, connecting with prospects via content that will interest and inspire them to share is primarily what content marketing is all about.

Consider the car insurance niche, for example. Car insurance is a pretty dull subject, and content about various car insurance products has as much chance of going viral as England of winning the next World Cup.

But how about if you apply a little lateral thinking, and create a series of instructional videos showing how to correctly perform the driving maneuvers one has to carry out in a driving test? You then have content that is likely to get shared by people learning to drive—future prospects for buying car insurance.

Before you set off, check your machine

Taking the time to make a thorough check of all the content you have in stock must be the first thing you do. Is there old content that could be updated and re-used? Does your client have whitepapers offline that could be converted into online content through sites such as SlideShare?

Taking such an inventory will also highlight any potential content gaps and direct your efforts into creating the right type of content in the required areas.

Where do you want your machine to take you?

A good content marketing strategy must be aligned with your overall business goals. Using our car insurance example above, the use of instructional videos ,when published to the right places online, could help increase the sign up rate for young driver car insurance—a clear business goal.

It is vital to establish what you want your content marketing strategy to do for you; otherwise, you have no way of knowing whether your efforts are paying dividends.

Before you set off, look at the map

Thorough research is an integral part of any content marketing strategy. You need to have a 360-degree view of your niche, and you must know the answers to these fundamental questions:

  • WHO? Who your target audience is.
  • WHERE? Where online they are hanging out.
  • WHAT? What they are talking about and what they want to know.

The answer to who your target audience is will often be gleaned from the goal of your content strategy.

If your goal is to convert more young drivers to buy your insurance product, the answer to who is people in the 18-25 age bracket, probably of a low income and single without children.

Where does this demographic visit online? Well, there's a whole host of places, such as student forums, music sites, sites about learning to drive, and of course Facebook and Twitter.

And how about what they're talking about? A little imagination, and visits to the plethora of social media sites that pepper the Web, will supply you with that valuable information.

Plan your journey

Any strategy that doesn't have a plan for implementation is doomed to failure. Having an editorial calendar is essential so you don't omit any important steps and so that you know what content needs to be produced and published by when. Another piece of vital information that can be included here is where you wish to target the content.

Your content marketing plan is the keystone to ultimate success and will ensure the smooth running of your machine.

At this point, having carried out the earlier steps, you should be in a strong position to...

  • Know the type of content that will wow your target audience.
  • Know where this content needs to go.
  • Know whom to contact.
  • Know when it needs to be published.

Fire up your machine and start driving

At last we get to the fun bit, where we actually create content. Of course, your content needs to be relevant to your business goals, and there can be as many types as your creativity allows.

This is where the brainstorming takes place. Have a notebook app on your phone so you can jot any inspirational ideas that come when you're away from the office.

Just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it's not a great idea. Don't restrict yourself to the usual mix of blog posts and infographics.

Remember to fill up with fuel

Once your content has been created and published, it needs to be promoted socially. Promotion will add fuel to your content marketing machine, driving more traffic and links than you would otherwise get.

Publication and promotion are the essence of what great content marketing is all about.

Reach your destination

Or, maybe, the journey never ends. Because once you have published and promoted your content, you must analyze the results and determine whether the goals you defined earlier have been achieved. At this juncture, determine what could be done better and what is working well. Use that information when developing your next content marketing strategy.

* * *

Any content marketing strategy requires a large amount of goal-oriented planning before anything can be created and published. Without thorough planning, you are likely to get lost and to waste time and effort creating content that isn't going to work in harmony with your business goals

Being methodical in your actions will ensure you are in the driving seat of your turbocharged content marketing machine!

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image of Alastair Kane

Alastair Kane is an SEO Executive at Strategic Internet Consulting, a Web development and Internet marketing consultancy based in the UK.

LinkedIn: Alastair Kane