A 7-Step Plan for Getting Started with Content Marketing

A 7-Step Plan for Getting Started with Content Marketing
Michele Linn - Wed Mar 10, 2010 @ 04:54AM
Comments: 14

Get Started with Content MarketingA few years ago, my husband and I were preparing for our daughter's arrival. Like many parents-to-be, we wanted to have everything ready before we brought our daughter home. Not only were we prepping the nursery, but we also started thinking about everything from childproofing the house to saving for her college education. It was positively overwhelming!

It's easy to feel the same way when planning your content marketing strategy. You want to do everything right and have this brilliant, organized strategy, but as you start to lay out a plan, it's not as straightforward as you think it will be. Where do you start?

Here's my suggestion: have a roadmap of what you want to accomplish, but plan to take small steps. It's just like planning for a baby: have the basics ready (diapers, clothes and a place to sleep), and know that you can figure out your way as you go along. You never know how your baby or ideal prospects will react, so it's good to be flexible.

The key: just get started! Here are the seven steps I suggest to help you dive in.

Start with the end in mind
I often think about this question that Joe Pulizzi poses: "A year from today, what will be different in our business as a result of the content marketing program?" Have a general vision in mind, and always ask if what you are doing is getting you closer to that goal.

Listen
Every company can benefit from listening to what their customers and prospects are saying about them - and about their competition. You'll find out what matters to them, which is essential for creating content they want to read and pass along. Of course, social media provides so many ways to listen. Here's a great Slideshare from Stefan Betzold on social media monitoring tools (thanks to Mark Schafer for bringing this to my attention on his blog, {grow}).

Build personas
If you want to reach your audience, you need to know who your audience is and what they care about. I'm a big fan of creating buyer personas that you can regularly update as you learn more about your audience from listening and other methods. Stephanie recently had a great post on building buyer personas if you are looking for ideas on how to get started.

Develop your core messaging
Decide what message you want to get across with all of your content. While you will likely have different spins for each audience, remember that all of your prospects are connected. As Ardath Albee discusses in a recent post, buyers/influencers are linked throughout the buying process, and they often pass information along. Make sure you story is consistent across all buyers.

Build your website
I'm a firm believer that your website is the best place to start when developing content. Even if you have stellar content such eBooks, webcasts, white papers, all roads ultimately lead back to your website. If your website is not resonating with prospects and clients, you are ultimately losing business.

Create an editorial calendar for additional content
To help you deliver consistent content, it's a great idea to develop an editorial calendar. I love the 1-7-30-4-2-1 framework from Russell Sparkman that provides a lot of ideas on how to consistently reach your audience with content. It is ambitious for someone getting started, but you can scale it back and start gradually adding in more content and distribution channels.

Listen to feedback and be prepared to change
Like any parent can attest, you never know how your child will respond to something you are trying. Sometimes you think you are doing the right things, but then your child doesn't respond. Or, on those great days, you accidentally stumble on something that works wonders.

The same is true with content marketing: you never know what is going to work until you try it. You may think that a blog or an eBook will be the best thing ever, but, once you put your heart and soul into it, you find out that your audience seems to gravitate towards videos and newsletters. Be prepared to learn and change to adapt to audience needs.

What other barriers do you have when getting started with content marketing or what suggestions can you share? I'd love to get your thoughts.

Related posts:

About the author: Michele Linn is a B2B content strategist who helps companies create content and think through how their B2B prospects will consume it (from registration to promotion). You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.

Comments: 14

Comments

1. John White  |  my website   |   Thu Mar 11, 2010 @ 02:53AM

Don't forget about giving your readers ways to interact with and move that content, either on your blog, as you've done here, or through other social media channels.

2. Vinod Srinivas  |  my website   |   Thu Mar 11, 2010 @ 08:13AM

Hi Michele, this is a great 7 step plan with Content Marketing. The process of looking ahead, a year or two into the future, is a strategy that definitely works. Your post is informative, but what I really like is your comparison between a new-born and content marketing. That makes it easy for people who are fresh into strategy to understand the real fragility involved with creative content. Plans usually never work with content marketing, because you'll have to constantly innovate, and every new content strategy is a new experience, just like your last paragraph states. Nice post!

3. Michele Linn  |  my website   |   Thu Mar 11, 2010 @ 10:56PM

@John: Good point. You certainly can't go wrong with engaging content!

@Vinod: Thanks. I can't tell you how often my daughter inspires me to think differently about B2B marketing. Interacting with a 2-year old and interacting with prospects/customers require many of the same skills!

4. Jeff Ogden  |  my website   |   Thu Aug 12, 2010 @ 02:44AM

Terrific post on the key elements of a contact marketing program. I not only love your post because it shares key ideas like looking ahead, developing strong buyer personas, and continally adapting, but it's also elegantly simple.

You manage to use an economy of words, Michele, that makes it an easy, fast read.

I see why Jep of LeadSloth picked it as one of the best. (I got one in too.)

Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
Find New Customers "Lead Generation Made Simple"
http://www.findnewcustomers.com

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It's funny how fundamentals rarely change-ergo the saying "block and tackle".

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