Build a strategic content marketing plan in 5 easy steps
Is yours a typical environmental and engineering services firm, focusing on the delivery of strong client work, recruitment of great people, and investment in technology for the company? If so, it may be that marketing, in particular content marketing, is being neglected.
Or it may be that your content strategy is simply lumped into your overall marketing strategy. Although integration with your firm’s marketing strategy is important, the absence of a carefully developed and documented content strategy can make it difficult to convert content investments into business improvement.
Indeed, in today’s highly competitive and resource-constrained world, a strategic content marketing plan can make all the difference.
Benefits of a strategic content marketing plan
In the past, environmental and engineering consultancies relied on personal referrals and repeat customers to sustain their businesses. Marketing, commonly known as ‘business development’ in the consulting world, was largely about engaging with current and past clients.
In today’s marketing world, however, referrals may not be enough. Content marketing, on the other hand, builds trust. Instead of receiving the transferred trust that comes from a typical referral, your company establishes that trust over time by providing your audience with quality content.
Indeed, with the Internet such an important marketing phenomenon, content marketing is essential for professional service firms. Content marketing involves creating, distributing, and sharing relevant, compelling, and timely content to engage customers, build relationships, and establish authority and thought leadership in your niche market.
Content marketing has proven benefits for any industry. The most often-cited benefits are:
- Generate leads
- Building brand awareness
- Engaging with prospects
Strategic content marketing benefits professional service firms in other ways as well. Your services and products, water and wastewater treatment plants for instance, are big-ticket items with long service lives. A sale depends on connecting with multiple decision makers. Content marketing can help progress leads through this sometimes long, sales funnel.
The best way to ensure quality and consistency in your content is to have a plan. A strategic content marketing plan.
A robust content marketing strategy shifts the focus of your content agenda. Rather than a mad dash, it’s a smart, coordinated approach. An approach that delivers consistent business improvement. With a documented strategy, you can deliver quality content consistently.
Features of a strategic content marketing plan
A strategic content marketing plan:
- Identifies goals for content marketing that align with desired business outcomes.
- Describes your audience and how that audience changes through the sales funnel.
- Contains a content calendar that uses topics and tactics to lead your audience where you want them to go.
- Assigns metrics that will allow you to measure the success of your content marketing campaign.
- Schedules regular plan reviews to ensure continued relevance.
If you document your plan it becomes even more powerful. Use it to engage management, the sales team, the entire work force.
This series of posts will take you through how to develop a strategic content marketing plan in 5 steps. The first step is to set goals.
Step 1: Set goals that focus your content marketing
By defining goals for your content everyone on the team understands what each asset is intended to achieve and how it will look when that happens. Setting goals also allows you to measure the success of your content strategy.
The goals for your content marketing must be consistent with your company’s desired business outcomes. You need to be able to document which business outcome you want to impact through your content creation.
Remember, content marketing builds trust. Your company builds trust over time by providing quality information. Make your content marketing count by defining goals that will achieve the desired business outcomes.
High-level goals for strategic content marketing can be to:
- Increase brand awareness.
- Drive more traffic to your website.
- Generate sales leads.
- Convert more leads into customers.
- Improve retention and drive upsell.
However, many content marketing plans fail to realize that goals change through the sales funnel. You should define different goals for each stage of the funnel:
- Top-of-funnel goals should be about building awareness of your brand and your solutions.
- Middle-of-funnel goals are about allowing prospects to evaluate your solution.
- Bottom-of-funnel goals are fundamentally about converting leads into customers.
At the top of the sales funnel you are working to increase awareness of your brand, your solution. Your prospects are cold. They may not even know they have a problem much less that you hold the solution.
Therefore, at the top of the funnel your content should provide information to your prospects about a problem in the industry. A problem with a currently-available solution that may not be quite as good as your solution.
Your actual product (aka your solution) should not be touted at the top of the funnel. Focus on the science behind your innovative technology that sets your solution apart.
Thus, goals at the top of the funnel can be to:
- Increase awareness
- Increase engagement
- Grow website traffic
- Grow retargeting lists
Not all goals will apply to your situation. There may be other goals that better suit your business. Pick the ones that align with your business objectives.
In the middle of the funnel your prospect realizes they have a problem. She is evaluating solutions, seeing which solution will solve that problem. You draw her further into the middle of the funnel by offering useful, educational content she wants to download. You are warming up the prospects and moving them into the funnel with offers.
Offers in the middle of the funnel should be ‘gated’. This means the prospect must supply a name and email address to download the offer. You then use email to further engage with the prospect.
Goals in the middle of the funnel may be to:
- Grow email lists/leads
- Grow retargeting lists
- Initial Customer Acquisition
Goals in the middle are about warming up your prospects. You allow them to evaluate all the options at this point. Getting them to pick your solution happens in the bottom of the funnel.
At the bottom of the funnel, your prospect is making a decision. A decision about how to solve their problem. Your content in the bottom of the funnel is about convincing the prospect that your solution will solve their problem.
Your prospect is now paying more attention to what you offer. She’s looking at different packages and options. Your ultimate goal in the bottom of the funnel is to help that prospect make the final decision to purchase your solution.
Goals in the bottom of the funnel are about:
- Nurturing leads and customers
- Maximizing immediate customer value
- Increasing retention
- Increasing buyer frequency
- Growing retargeting lists
Setting goals for your content marketing strategy is a powerful step. Aligning content goals with business goals increases the efficiency and efficacy of you content investment.
Next week we’ll look at how understanding your audience will help you reach your content marketing goals in: