Think of content marketing as a journey. Like any journey, you need to know the destination. When you have a content marketing roadmap in hand, though, you can focus on where you want to go and the best way to get there.
As Forbes’ Brian Sutter puts it, “It’s really hard to hit a target when you don’t know what the target is.” But as he points out, there are quite a few of us who don’t know the destination.
All too many companies don’t have a consistent messaging strategy, don’t know where or when to find and publish content, and don’t tailor their content marketing to their target customers, as a 2016 Forbes study discovered.
It’s time for a roadmap to get your business to its destination. Learn how to develop your own content marketing roadmap—one that’s a custom fit for your business.
Starting with your business case, get your C-suite on board and set your priorities
Engage your employees early on
Define what will drive business growth
Decide which kinds of results will determine your business value (subscribers, conversions, etc.)
Assess Where You Are and Where You Want to Go with Your Content Strategy
Like an actual map, your content marketing roadmap needs to start with where you are—and where you want to go. Set your content marketing priorities at the outset and stay on the road to measurable results.
Conduct a content audit: An effective business case for an overhaul of your content marketing strategy must start with where your content marketing currently is. A content audit will provide you with the clout to get your company executives on board for the change. Learning what types of content you have and the results they bring in can help give your business case direction. When you contrast those numbers with the possibilities that lie ahead with a change of direction, you’ll have a better chance to succeed.
Engage your employees: Research from all fronts indicates that engaged employees can become the most effective content marketing tool in your arsenal. Make them a part of your strategy from Day One—and you’ll multiply the reach of the content you publish. An effective way to get them on board is with a content marketing workshop that includes everyone in your company from the janitor to the CEO. When employees see the importance of effective content marketing and how they can participate, they’ll transform into some of your best advocates.
Identify your business’s growth drivers: What activities drive your business’s financial and operational results? Whether it’s web traffic, the number of goods and services you’ve sold, or whatever factors spur your business’s growth, those are the numbers you want your content to drive upward.
Identify What Measures Define Your Business Value
Look at the actions that drive value for your business. What actions bring in the most revenue? These actions will be what you’ll target with every piece of content you create. For some businesses, it will be an increase in subscribers or upgrades to existing subscriptions. For others, it might be an increase in leads or face-to-face meetings. For even others, it will be online conversions or call-to-action responses.
Look into the factors that must happen before a customer takes the desired action. For example, for customers to upgrade their subscriptions, they must first become unpaid subscribers. To entice a person to respond to your call to action, the promised benefit must be one they need to better their business or their life.
Set Your Initial SEO Strategy
All your efforts will come to nothing without people to see your content. Although SEO does stand for “search engine optimization,” that’s a bit of a misnomer. You’re not marketing to search engines–but you must get their attention before your content appears before your target market’s eyes.
First, you need a strategy that prioritizes unbranded searches. To attract people unfamiliar with your brand who need what you offer, you need to have your webpages pop up when they search for the goods or services that you provide. Create quality content that tackles the topics your target audience needs to read, and you’ll start seeing your name come up higher and higher in searches.
Secondly, you need to work toward a content cadence that makes sense rather than posting random blog posts. Your content should march in tune with your target audience’s needs in a logical flow that leads them to take the action you want them to take. With each publication, develop their thought toward that goal.
Too, within each piece of content, establish a flow from beginning to end. That internal cadence will lead your audience’s thought process through the piece—one sentence leading to the next; one scene followed by one that develops the idea further—like a good story.
Reading and watching good content (or listening to good music) can give you a feel for an effective cadence in your own communication. If you and your teams don’t have the time to create the actual content itself, you can outsource it to an outside agency, so long as they follow your stated goals.
Start Creating Content
Once you’ve gotten your strategy in place, it’s time to begin creating content. Think about which platform will best showcase each piece of content. Next, organize your content so that people who come to your site can find it easily. Finally, set your employees into action to create content and share what your teams have created.
Sharing your story is all about the customer, not your company. As HubSpot’s Justin McGill points out, you need to focus on the challenge your product or service will solve for your target audience. Then, let your content tell the story about exactly how it will solve their problem.
Think about what platform will best communicate your stories. When you’re introducing a new gadget that has complicated written directions, a video might be the best platform. Content that needs to cite authoritative sources usually needs a written platform.
On your website, make sure that you’ve organized all your content so it’s easy for visitors to find what they need. Just like you need a measured cadence in what content you produce, you need one when you organize that content.
Several areas warrant extra attention. They are:
The navigation bar: Put it at the top of the page so it’s the first thing visitors see. Secondly, word it so it’s easy for visitors to find content. Usability testing can help you learn whether your typical customer can find what they want quickly.
Search bar and content categories: Consider putting an onsite search function on your website. Having the ability to search provides customers with a more user-friendly experience, making it more likely that they’ll return and buy what you’re selling. Group content into categories so when a visitor types something into the box, they’ll see several suggestions. This strategy makes it more likely that they’ll read more than one of the articles, building your standing as an authority in your field with each article they read.
Top posts: To get even more mileage out of your top posts, you can pin your best-performing content to appear first on your site. Promote those posts on social media, too. Use a content hub to organize your content into categories, making it even easier for visitors to find what they want.
CTAs: Every piece of content you create should have a call to action (CTA). Make these easy to understand and easy to do. Use wording that emphasizes the visitor’s needs—how taking that action will bring him or her closer to a solution to their problem.