It seems so easy that first time you sit down in front of your computer. I mean, how hard can it be? A quick blog post here, a newsroom item there, an infographic, a video, an ebook… oh, and another blog post, then another. Before you know it, that “side project” you started to increase the amount of indexable keywords found on your website or to improve your page ranking in Google’s search results has turned into a full-time job on top of your other responsibilities. Who has time for content, right? Well, you do — you’ve just been doing it wrong. (Willow Tip: Content doesn’t have to be words on a page. Mind blown, right?) And the first step to doing it right is starting with a plan: a content marketing strategy.

What is content marketing?

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” If you remember nothing else but the words “valuable” and “relevant” from this definition, then you’ll be a step ahead of many organizations today.

The trouble with content is that it was declared “king” years ago and everyone started doing it, which meant only a few were doing it well. Everyone started focusing on keywords, which meant content may have been keyword-rich but lacked any value or relevance with its intended audience. As a result, we experienced brilliant headlines such as “How to Choose Watches for Plus Size Women.” Yeah… that really happened.

What folks forgot is that while content is the king, context is its queen and not every message is meant for every audience. That’s where strategy comes into play.

Getting started with a content marketing strategy

Creating any kind of strategy can be a daunting task but we’ve developed an eight-step process that helps guide rookies and veterans alike as they begin to map out a plan. It all starts with one all-important, major, we’re talking big kahuna question: What’s your goal? (Willow Tip: print this blog post off and use the steps below like a checklist. Go on, you know you want to!)

What is your goal?

What do you want to achieve through content marketing: More conversions? More website traffic? More RSS subscriptions? Be honest and attach a number to it. Be specific. (i.e., To grow website traffic by 30% by the end of the fourth quarter.)

Who is your audience?

Who do you want to take action? Everyone? Women? Women under the age of 55? Stay at home moms? Again, be specific here. Identifying your audience, or audiences, will determine the types of content you produce and how you promote them.

Why does your audience care?

Ah… here it is, context. What valuable and relevant content does your audience want and how can you provide it? If you’re selling Volvos, your content is likely focused on safety. If you’re selling BMWs, your content is more focused on performance. And remember, every audience member is likely in a different phase of their journey or lifecycle with your brand. Make sure you can appeal to those who are just getting to know you as well as engage with long-time brand advocates.

How does your audience consume information?

OK, this part is a little tricky and may require some research. Consider where your audiences spend time online. Are they on social media? Which platforms? Do they engage more with videos or still photography? What about infographics? Remember, content doesn’t have to be words on a screen!

How often can you reasonably create new content?

There are only so many hours in a day and not every minute can be spent working on a new blog post or video production. Trust me, I know. But, creating content is easier than you think! We’ve recently started recording our brainstorming sessions because we inadvertently get sidetracked down rabbit holes that lead to some great ideas! Bring your phone to meetings and start recording — you might be surprised at what you’re able to capture without writing a thing! Select the portions of the audio you want to share and send it off for transcription. The point is, creating content can be very simple or we can make it really hard by overthinking and under planning.

Make a content production plan.

Now that you know who you’re producing content for and why, create a quarterly or annual calendar that is in line with the frequency for content production that is doable for you and your team from the above step. This could mean two blog posts a month or two blog posts a week. Whatever you decide, put it in writing, assign someone to the task, and give them a deadline. Now there’s no room for an excuse!

Increase content visibility.

Keywords matter but so do headlines, H2’s, H3’s, meta descriptions, and hashtags. Each piece of content should be optimized for maximum visibility. Videos should be shared along with full transcripts (not PDFs), gated content should be reduced to only one or two major pieces, and sometimes it makes sense to pay for promotion to reach more audience members. Remember, you know your audience and you know where they are spending time. Now go get in front of them, whether it’s through organic or paid efforts.

Be you.

At the end of the day, people do business with brands that adapt to their needs and align with their values. Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all competing with Netflix, Apple, Starbucks, and Tesla (to name a few) for attention. So how can you stand out? Talk to your audience as if you were talking with a friend. Form a connection and “build engagement” as we say in marketing speak. Use a tone and brand voice that fits with your brand and connects with your audiences. Keywords can only get you so far.

OK, full-disclosure this list is something to get you started but hopefully it already has your content juices flowing. Just remember that producing content doesn’t have to mean forcing yourself to sit in front of your computer for hours on end. Content should happen naturally, whether you prefer to type it all out or talk it through (as an audio recording or on video). When we open our minds to all the ways in which we can produce content, it should (hopefully) be a little bit easier to produce and promote.

Need help getting started with a content marketing strategy or ready to take your content to the next level? We can help with that!

Lauren Littlefield headshot

Written by Lauren Littlefield

“I love the people I work with at Willow, but I come to work to help our clients. I genuinely want to do great work for them.”