What are some tips for planning a content marketing strategy?

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Answered by: Alex, An Expert in the Internet Marketing Category
Although content marketing has quickly grown as a modern day practice for brands to attract and convert prospects and customers, there are still many companies that don’t understand how to leverage strategic content in their everyday marketing practices. This is usually because 1. Companies think that content marketing is a one off project; like an advertising or PR campaign, and 2. Companies begin the content marketing process without properly preparing for it. In order for a business to be truly successful with content marketing, they must avoid falling into this run it and gun it, “one-off project” mindset.

Instead, businesses need to adopt content marketing it as a long term plan--a living, breathing strategy that requires funding, analyzation, measurement and reformation in order to succeed. Additionally, these organizations should be analyzing their situation pre-strategy to ensure that their infrastructure is actually ready to facilitate a content marketing program. If you or your business is looking to embrace content marketing, use these three powerful tips to ensure readiness before you begin building a strategy.

1. Set the Course for Cultural Buy-in

Unfortunately, content marketing is incredibly difficult to conduct when key business stakeholders are either uninformed as to how it works or don’t believe that it’s the right course of action. Before taking the time to map out a content marketing plan, you should ensure that stakeholders from all departments including the C-Suite, IT, Sales, R&D and more understand the who, what, where when and why of content marketing. That way, all questions and concerns from the company's leadership can be documented and addressed before the project starts, and everyone will be on the same page.

Other quick wins:

- Establish a “content marketing manager’ in each department. This person will make sure their team holds up its end of the content marketing process.

- Have weekly meetings with all of these CM-Managers to discuss any departmental issues and go over upcoming due dates, deliverables and strategic insights.

2. Inventory Your Organizational Resources

One of the most common problems organizations face is jumping the gun too quickly on a content marketing program. This leads to a lack of resources needed to make the program run efficiently. In fact, in the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Research Report, the Content Marketing Institute stated that producing enough content is the biggest challenge marketers face, followed by the inability to produce a variety of content and not having enough funding. All of these problems are directly correlated to having the proper resources.

Without the right human, technological and financial resources, a content marketing program will lead to overworked employees, inconsistent publishing, poor content quality and organizational bottlenecks. Here are some of the resources that should be accounted for before your start building your content marketing plan:

- Employees - How many employees are going to be part of the content marketing process. Do you have the necessary amount of writers, designers, web developers, etc.? Are there enough dedicated IT personnel to help deal with the CMS (Content Management System) and other technical issues? Will you have to outsource any content production? Which parts?

- Technology - How effective is your current CMS for content marketing? What kind of issues will content creators and publishers run into when using it? Will you need any new software or tools to assist in any of the strategic processes? For example, conducting social media listening or building an editorial calendar. Will your employees need to be trained on these new pieces of software?

- Budget - How invested is your organization in content marketing? Does the C-Suite believe in the program, or is it simply an afterthought for them? Will you have enough funding for the necessary employees and technology? If not, what are some ways you can circumvent this issue? Think of ways that you can scale the program back at first and then use your success to secure more funding.

3. Establish Your Goals, Expectations and Measurement Criterias

Although this tip can be beaten to death, it’s obviously very important if you want to prove the worth of your content marketing program. Starting a program without having established objectives or any way to measure against those objectives is a death sentence when you have to report to the higher ups.

When setting objectives, you need to think about the program from multiple perspectives. First of all, you need to set objectives for both short term and long term success. Short term objectives are ones you can set month by month. They’re more for tracking the health of the program and for identifying strategic changes. Long term objectives actually measure whether or not the program is successful from a business standpoint. Joe Pulizzi, from the Content Marketing Institute, says that when thinking of long term objectives, ask yourself “where do we want to be one year from now?”

In terms of measurement criteria, it’s also a good idea to break down your criteria into two categories: content related and financial.

- Content Related - How is our content actually performing in terms of page views, time-on-site, bounce rate, etc.

- Financial Related - How is our content attracting and converting visitors into buyers? How is it improving our lead generation cycle or how is it growing sales?

Now It’s Your Turn

There you have it; a solid starting point for your company to assess itself before they jump into a content marketing program. If your organization already practices content marketing, how did you make sure you were ready beforehand? Please, leave your idea and tips in the comments section!

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