A Three-Step Playbook to Getting Started with Content Marketing

By Kathryn Hawkins. Content Marketing
Numbered toy blocks
Numbered toy blocks   Credit:  iofoto via Depositphotos  License: Depositphotos

If you're a newbie to content marketing, it can be overwhelming. Here's a three-step process for getting ready.

At my content marketing agency, we’ve seen all types of clients.

Some come to us with bulleted lists of initiatives to implement, raring to get started. They’re the easy ones, but they’re not all that common.

Who else do we talk to? Business leaders who are still defining their marketing plans. They know content is important, but they’re not quite sure of how it fits into their business model or how they can use it effectively.

If you know content marketing is important, but aren’t sure what you need, when and how do you get started?

Here’s a three-step guide for content marketing newbies.

Finalize your business model first

One mistake we’ve seen? Hiring a content marketing consultant before you can clearly define what your business is.

While it’s important to focus on inbound marketing as part (or all) of your launch plan, make sure you’ve ironed out your business model first, focusing on how your service or product will operate and how you intend to differentiate yourself from existing competitors.

That knowledge is key in defining a content plan—while a content marketing agency or employee can offer some help without it, they can offer more specific tactical recommendations if you’ve laid the groundwork first, and know specifically what it is that you’re trying to market.

A number of great business plan templates are available to help you map out your strategy—for starters, take a look at Steve Blank’s Business Model Canvas. Filling out that template or a similar one can help your content strategist develop a far more comprehensive plan when you’re ready to engage his or her services.

Learn who your buyers are

Next, find out as much as you can about your ideal customers, so that you’ll be able to create content that’s compelling and drives them to action.

Use data and independent research to consider the specific types of people who are likely to use your solution, or employees who are likely to factor into a company’s decision-making process. For instance, an IT associate may be tasked with researching new cloud software solutions, but the ultimate decision may be up to a CTO, so you’ll need to consider both roles when developing your marketing content.

Consider mapping out buyer personas, which can help you clearly visualize your audiences and their needs. We’ll cover this more in a future post, but for now, take a look at this article on Searchengineland to understand how to build a buyer persona and why.

Search engine optimization is also an important part of this learning process: To truly know your buyers, you need to know what phrases they’re likely to search for. Use Google’s keyword tool and other SEO tools to determine some of the most relevant keywords in your niche to incorporate when coming up with topic ideas. Unless you’re a big e-commerce company, you probably don’t need a specialized SEO consultant to do this for you—the basis of SEO is simply using intuitive language in well-written, linkable content.

Create a roadmap

Once you know what you’re trying to sell and who you want to sell it to, it’s time to develop your editorial calendar, based on your marketing priorities and budget.

Building a business blog and updating it with high-quality, insightful content every day is ideal, but if that doesn’t fit your schedule, even updating it a few times a month with linkable, SEO-optimized content will help you boost site traffic and brand visibility. Schedule future blog posts in your calendar, even if you don’t have the topics ironed out yet. It will help you stay accountable.

As well as regular blog posts, it’s also worth offering a free newsletter that provides tips and advice to your readers. You might also offer a special, too-good-to-turn-down, piece of content to encourage sign-ups—for instance, if you’re a fitness instructor, you could offer a free five-minute workout video. Chances are, if people enjoy it, they’ll be interested in paying for a full-length video, and it’s a good way to collect their contact information for future promotions.

Over time, you’ll continually want to add to your content arsenal with more e-books, case studies, expert interviews, videos, and other valuable resources. There’s no need to launch into everything at once, but if you have a solid plan for your initial content strategy, you’re well on your way to inbound marketing success.

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.

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