The Content Marketing Roadmap for Busy Inbound Marketers

The endless juggling act of creating original content for multi-tiered marketing campaigns, following up on leads, staying on top of the latest industry trends, all while continuing to grow your own business and brand is the new normal for even the most traditional of marketers.

Nevertheless, your (or inability) to adapt to the ever changing nature of this field ultimately determines your success and longevity in this business.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you already know that content marketing is a necessity for your marketing plan, as well as your clients. What you probably don’t know is how to shift gears and get on the content marketing train. It is hard to find your way, but it’s not impossible. You just need to visualize yourself completing the goal and commit to a strategy. In this blog, we will identify a very simple roadmap to help busy inbound marketers get on the path to content marketing bliss.

The Content Marketing Institute has done a great job of simplifying this process, so we’ll use their methodology to guide our way (see below). You can apply this roadmap to both your marketing company, as well as the clients you serve.

*The CMI Content Marketing Framework – 7 Building Blocks to Success*

1. Content Marketing Plan 

As with all marketing processes, planning is the first step. Where your planning starts depends on where you are in what CMI likes to call ‘the content marketing journey.’ Regardless of where you find yourself, some things are applicable across the board, such as the outcomes for this stage. You need to answer a few basic questions, which are:

  • Who are you or who is your client?
  • What do you/they want to accomplish?
  • What are the distinguishing factors between your/their product and service offerings?
  • What are your/their strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities both internally and externally?
  • How will content marketing plans affect and integrate with existing campaigns?
  • What and who will the content marketing program involve?
  • What are the key deliverables and timetables involved with this project?

These questions are merely the starting point for discussions about your content marketing plan. The answers to these questions will leave you with a better understanding of who you and your clients are, where your marketing currently stands, and where you/they need and want to be in order to achieve and maintain relevant marketing. The overall breadth of your content marketing should continually asses and affirm the company’s brand identity.

This is a solid start on the roadmap to content marketing success. Let’s keep moving. The next step is the audience.

2. Audience

The whole point of creating, curating, and publishing content is to reach your targeted audiences. During this stage of the content marketing roadmap, you must determine WHO you want to reach. There are two constant audiences that must be engaged at all times: internal stakeholders (such as employees) and external stakeholders (such as potential leads and current customers).

  • Create a survey for the CEO, CMO, and sales and marketing teams. If you’re working on your own content marketing, create a survey for yourself and others in your company. Get everyone to all answer these same questions. The survey should ask about the company itself, best practices, competitors, products, services, etc. The goal is to get different perspectives about the company, because everyone of the roles mentioned above may see things in a different way.
  • Develop customer personas. It’s important to understand as much as possible about the customers you are targeting and engaging. The best way to develop targeted content is to base your content on customer personas. The goal is create a picture(s) of your customer base to guide your communications strategies and tactics. So, when you create a piece of content for a new campaign, the customer you’re targeting has some distinguishing characteristics and even a name like “Frugal Freddy” or “Curious Claudia.” This way, you’re personalizing your content for the intended audience.
  • Segment the audiences. After you’ve finished uncovering details about the company, their competitors and developed customer personas, you need to segment those customer audiences so you can create content for every stage of the buying cycle.

Now that you have gotten your ducks in a row with planning and audience development, it’s time to move on to the ‘Story’ stage. This is where you will decide what message you want to communicate about the company and its offerings.

Ok, so by now it should be clear that content marketing is about much more than selling something and storytelling is no different. In fact, it’s the foundation of all your content developments. Masters of storytelling succeed in developing strong customer relationships over time. The key words being ‘over time’ because the story should be continuous and never ending.

3. Story

The hard part for most marketers is deciding what should be part of the company or client’s story, both long and short term. Remember, in this context, the word ‘story’ does not correlate to an actual beginning, middle, and end type of tale. Story refers to the art of clearly and concisely delivering your message with both passion and purpose.

  • Here are the basic points to cover:
  • How did your company get its start?
  • How did you come to this point?
  • What fuels your current and future successes?
  • What is your unique value proposition?
  • What do you offer and why is it unique?

Other than that, there are no ‘rules’ to narrative development in storytelling. There is no linear path to follow, but CMI suggests using the Brand Hero’s Journey Chart to uncover your company or client’s ‘story.’ It helps you develop a structure to use for one content marketing initiative or an entire content marketing plan.

As far as what type of content you choose to create and publish, we have a few ideas for content topics listed below:

  • Brand Perspectives, Resources
  • Customer Thoughts
  • In the News and Behind the Scenes
  • Influencer Point of Views
  • Internal and External Thought Leadership Perspectives

7 Tried and True Content Types:

  • E-Books
  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • User Content
  • Websites
  • Email
  • Video

Find a method and rhythm that works for your company or client, test, measure, and adjust accordingly.

4. Channels

Once you’ve developed your story, it’s time to share your story with the world. Finding the right channels to deliver your message is necessary to ANY successful content marketing program.

One thing CMI stresses is that ‘how’ and ‘where’ your audience receives your message is just as important as the message itself. Why you ask? Because every platform is unique and so are the audiences on those platforms. The LinkedIn crowd is very different from those found on Reddit. Placing the wrong message in the wrong channel hurt your cause, so tailor your message to the medium.

Another thing, your channels should not exist in a vacuum. Channels are determined based on your content strategy. If your strategy calls for targeting 13 – 24 year olds, then Vine is a good choice and don’t invest in building out your LinkedIn presence.

4 Tips to Guide Channel Strategy:

  • Develop a plan to identify all the current and future channels
  • Determine objectives for each channel and how they integrate with one another
  • Construct an editorial plan to organize when and where you will publish content
  • Format a budget for any design work or other expenses related to your communication channels

After you have your channel plan set, do not make the mistake of committing to it. Channels come and go all the time. Remember when MySpace was all the rage? Depending on when you were born, you may or may not have been part of the MySpace era. Sadly, it is no longer a viable channel unless you are in the music industry. Even then, there are several other musician channels on the market and more on the horizon. Long story short, don’t get comfortable. Monitor industry trends, continue assessing the effectiveness of your channels with your marketing team. Test, measure, and adjust accordingly.

5. Process

As with any journey, you need a roadmap to guide you to your destination. After determining where you want to go (audience/strategy) and what you want to do along the way (story/channels), you have to actually decide on the best route to travel. Be strategic about your content marketing from every possible aspect, from planning to implementation, and you can reach your goals faster. Developing a thorough implementation plan to continuously create and publish content is the crux of the Process stage.

Here are things to consider:

  • Assign roles and responsibilities – who handles what.
  • Make a schedule with publishing times best for your content and audience
  • Establish your brand tone and guidelines for engaging customers

CMI suggests you “think of an output as a ‘playbook’ that any new member of your content team would want.”

Here at Medianovas, we write our own content and work with companies like Writer Access to find freelance writers to do our clients content. We develop content marketing strategies for clients in-house and shop out pieces to writers. Saves time and it allows us to streamline our workflow, so we never neglect our own content or that of our clients. It took a while to figure out a system that would work, but it happened.

6. Conversations

Once your process is organized and streamlined, you’re all done, right? Wrong! Content in itself will not yield the results you want, no matter how awesome it is. As marketers, we know that the two-way communication is necessary to really connect and engage with the intended audience. The key word here is authentic and since your content does the talking, make certain it’s on topic and the type of content consumers actually want.

If you jump into LinkedIn groups with a stale sales pitch, no one’s going to talk to you. Most likely, you will get booted from the group for spamming. Instead, let’s use the information we have compiled on audiences and jump into conversations with consumers. For starters, conduct two-way communication with NO links to your website. But try listening before you jump into a discussion. See who the consistent players are and what the ‘rules of the road’ are for different platforms. It sounds a little bit like stalking, but we prefer the terms ‘listening’ or ‘monitoring.’

Listening is a huge part of content marketing success. Without a strong grasp of what is already being said about your industry or products/services, you won’t be able to align your content with the current need in the market. Not listening also makes your comments seem disingenuous. If you don’t see any conversations relevant to your products or services, plant a few listening posts. CMI wrote a helpful post with tips on listening, so look into it.

Listening is only half of the job. You have to come up with responses to the posts. Dialogue with consumers in a way that is transparent, honest, and helpful. Not pushy or forced. Make notes of where you have responded, so you can monitor the posts activity. LinkedIn makes this really easy, because users can be emailed every time someone comments on a post. Facebook is the same. Twitter is a bit more complex, but not hard to track conversations. Google Alerts are also a good tool to search for specific content on the web.

7. Measurement

Measuring the success of a marketing campaign is always the last step in the Content Marketing Institute’s framework, but it is also the most important. In fact, tracking your content’s effectiveness should happen continuously throughout the span of your efforts – beginning, middle, and end.

While measurement is the important, it is sometimes hard for marketers to prove. With so many metrics to consider, it can be confusing to decide which metrics really matter to your bottom-line. After all, your boss probably thinks likes and re-tweets are frivolous. In order to make the boss understand the big picture, you have to present the case for content marketing strategically. In this blog, we will help you develop a sound justification for content marketing.

Align your content marketing goals with your overall business goals

This must happen during the beginning stages of the content marketing framework. CMI lists the core business rationales for content marketing as follows:

  • Expand prospect and customer base
  • Support entire purchase process
  • Aid search marketing
  • Build relationships with fans, advocates and the general public
  • Monitor and/or enhance your reputation

When you meet with the boss and he/she wants to know how content marketing aligns with the businesses bottom-line, the above listing is a great start. They are specific enough for you to draw clear parallels between both efforts, yet general enough for you to allow you enough latitude to tweak your content if necessary.

Measure what matters to the bottom-line

When we say bottom-line, we are referring to expenses, actions, brand impact, and expenses. The stuff that matters to the sales department and executives. Here are the types of questions you need to have answers for (according to CMI):

  • What’s working and isn’t working?
  • What needs to be happening?
  • How many purchases did the content marketing drive?
  • Revenues per reader?
  • How many readers took some type of action during the content process? Ex. How many signed up for an e-book?
  • How much did it cost to drive sales? Consider all aspects of marketing such as content creation, technical support, and media.
  • How many customers mention your brand, products, and company? Measure the overall brand sentiment and tell how the company responds.
  • Content views and downloads?
  • Time spent on site/page?

If there are other metrics you need to account for, then add those to the list. Ask your boss what matters to him. You may or may not be able to wiggle these things into your content goals, but it’s worth a try.

CMI gives a quote in their framework that really resonates and speaks to the heart of measurement.

With that said, take the results of your measurement and go back to the planning stage armed with the right data to make the right moves.

If you have any questions, please list them below in the comment box and we’ll follow-up. Or if you’d prefer to connect offline, simply click the button below for a free consultation with our team.

Alex D.

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