What makes an effective content marketing program?
If you’ve decided it’s time to implement a program to connect with your audience as they research and formulate purchasing decisions online, how do you ensure that it’s effective and not the pedestrian variety?
21 Questions That Will Help You Develop An Effective Content Marketing Program
Before you get started, answer these 21 questions to ensure you get maximum value.
1) Why are you implementing a content marketing program?
Defining your goals in advance is essential to the effective planning and execution of a program.
2) Who is your target audience?
Developing generic content to benefit prospects in all categories benefits none. Your content should target your audience's specific needs and that starts with defining who they are. For example, detailing the market segment, job function, industry size, geography, educational needs, pain points and more will result in content that engages a higher percentage of your audience.
3) What needs does your target audience have that you can address?
Identifying those needs is key to an effective content marketing program.
4) Are you committed to conducting the research necessary to develop an effective program?
It’s easy to say you’ll conduct interviews with your sales and customer-facing teams, customers and prospects. Unfortunately, more often that not, companies choose to use their institutional knowledge instead. Although there’s clear value in that information, it only tells part of the story. Indeed, it’s important to devote the time and resources to develop a profile or persona that will guide your program. Here’s a guide you can use to help.
5) What type of content will you produce?
Customer research will uncover your best options. In a perfect world you produce all the content that makes sense. But the type and amount of content you develop depends on the resources available including staff and budget. Plus, the amount of words, style and frequency for blogs, social media, newsletters, white papers and case studies all differ. And, so does the complexity of the writing. An inexperienced writer might produce a worthy newsletter but struggle with a white paper.
6) Do you have internal content marketing knowledge?
Content marketing is more than writing a random blog post. An effective content marketing program attracts and retains a clearly defined audience and, ultimately, drives profitable customer action. But, executing a program effectively requires a certain knowledge level.
7) If you don’t have internal content marketing knowledge, how will you acquire it and learn best practices?
A great writer is not necessarily a great content marketer. An effective content marketing program requires more than the ability to write a blog post or develop a newsletter. There are numerous sources you can use to learn the basics. Or, you can choose to outsource your program to a content marketing specialist. Bottom line, you need to define your direction.
8) How often will you publish content?
Defining your publication schedule provides numerous benefits. For example, it dictates the time and resources necessary to execute your program. To illustrate, a 600-word blog post might take 3 - 4 hours to produce. Developing just one a month is a far different resource commitment than 10 a month. Plus, a defined content schedule makes it much more likely that you’ll maintain your schedule. It’s hard to hit deadlines 100% of the time. However, just like writing down a goal makes it more likely that you’ll achieve it, a content calendar will increase the consistency of your publication dates.
9) Where will you distribute your content?
Your website, blog, social media and newsletters are common channels.
10) Are there opportunities to publish your content elsewhere?
Distributing content in channels beyond your own online properties increases the opportunity for you to reach your target audience. For example, partners, industry associations, industry thought leaders and non-competitor companies that target your same end prospect are viable ways to expand your reach.
11) Who writes your content?
The quality of the written material you produce will determine the success of your content marketing program. Poorly written, uninteresting and unhelpful information will hurt, not help, your cause. Utilize internal sources if they have the writing skill you require. If not, look externally for content marketing experts.
12) Do you have a content editor?
A good editor takes effective content and elevates it. Although you can self-edit materials, using an additional editor will uncover improvement opportunities you may miss. In addition, the best editors make your writing stronger and add effective keyword placement which increases the reach of your information.
13) Who will develop headlines or subject lines?
Effective headlines and subject lines will increase the number of prospects that read your materials. A writer can develop good headlines. So can other members of your staff. But, it requires prioritization. Define this role in advance.
14) Who will optimize your content?
Writing a blog post or white paper without considering keywords will limit its visibility. As a result, if you don’t have an optimization resource internally, you either need to learn the basic skills or find a specialist to assist.
15) Do you have the company backing needed to sustain a content marketing program?
Spending a few months developing and executing your program only to have your resources pulled for 60 days is the quickest way to disrupt your program. Plus, an effective content marketing program is like compound interest. It doesn't make you rich in a year. Instead, the value grows dramatically over time. Likewise, your content value improves as you add material, increase your distribution channels and increase your authority. Although quick wins may occur, the value of your program expands over time. If your management team expects immediate results, invest your money elsewhere.
16) Which email service provider (ESP) will you use if you distribute content via email?
Although you can use Outlook or Gmail to trigger a communication to 100s of people, there are better options. An ESP is an online service that specializes in sending bulk email to a list of subscribers, ideal for email marketing. They provide numerous advantages which you can read about here.
17) Which content management system (CMS) will you use if blog posts are part of your strategy?
If you have a blog on your current website, then you are all set. If not, you need to install one or use a CMS to publish your posts. There are numerous options that you can compare here.
18) To evaluate your program, how will you measure success?
Although it may take a few months before your program starts to have an impact, the entire purpose is to produce results. So, determine how you will define success. Page views, open rates and social shares are good starting points. But, ultimately you need to measure more tangible metrics such as newsletter or blog subscriptions, case study or white paper downloads, leads and sales.
19) How do you define a lead?
The purpose of a content marketing program is to drive profitable customer action. But, providing unqualified leads is the quickest way to create sales force inaction. For example, opening your email newsletter doesn’t make that prospect a qualified lead, however, downloading a white paper might.
20) How will you include your sales team in the process?
You’ll increase the success rate of your content marketing program when you involve your sales team in the process. First, it’s essential to agree on lead definition and follow-up steps. So, meet with your sales team and define the parameters. Identify both marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads to eliminate surprises and stage appropriate follow-up. Secondly, content marketing programs are more powerful when your sales team leverages the content resources you’ve developed. Therefore, develop a content library and guide them on when and where to use each asset.
21) After you define success metrics, how will you measure them?
Google Analytics, social analytics tools and marketing automation each provide key performance indicator insights. Use them to measure, test and improve your outcomes.
Just like an effective website takes more than downloading a WordPress template, an effective content marketing program is more than writing. But, by following and executing these steps, you’ll maximize your success and increase your return on investment.