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Content Marketing Strategy: a documented plan for planning, creating, distributing, and optimizing branded content with the intended goal of expanding an audience, winning new customers, and increasing profits and credibility.

Benefits of Implementing a Content Marketing Strategy

What if you could attract a steady stream of inbound leads, giving you more time to serve your clients and develop new products and services?

If you like the sound of this, building and implementing a content marketing strategy is one of the smartest and cost-effective ways to consistently achieve it. According to a 2017 CMI Report, content marketing generates three times as many leads as outbound marketing and is 62% less expensive. Inbound prospects also tend to be more value-driven and willing to pay premium prices for superior products or services.

However, as content marketing becomes more prevalent, companies that want to stand out must be better than good. Today’s consumers demand excellence and will quickly forget any brand that stops delivering it.

In this article, I’ll explain how content marketing strategies are helping companies achieve their marketing goals in an increasingly competitive marketplace. We’ll discuss how to plan, document, and implement your content marketing strategy. We’ll also explore how to use content marketing KPIs to measure and improve your results so you can promote your content marketing ideas to your clients or to your C-Suite.

Content Marketing Strategy - VQ Success

This article is brought to you by VQ Success, a U.S. Based Digital Content Marketing Agency that specializes in creating high-quality website articles for securing and sustaining top search engine rankings.

Content Marketing Strategy Benefit #1: Inbound Leads

The most profitable benefit of building and implementing a content marketing strategy is inbound lead generation. Since 2010, marketing research and surveys have consistently revealed lead generation as the biggest challenge facing modern businesses (see the infographic below). 

In my business coaching experience (since 2003), I’ve found that small B2B startups (ten employees or less) invest nearly half their time into cold-calling or networking for leads. This leaves them with less time for providing excellent service to their clients. If the business owners are involved in this process, it chews up their cognitive bandwidth, shrinking their capacity to plan and implement new product lines or marketing strategies. 

Content Marketing Strategy and Lead Generation

Source: Cience Article citing multiple marketing studies, all mentioned in the infographic.

This perpetual cycle of “chase leads – get overloaded – catch up on service fulfillment – chase more leads…” traps most startup companies in the roach-hotel-like nightmare of entrepreneurial purgatory. Inbound lead generation breaks this cycle by creating a steady flow of qualified prospects. It frees up precious resources for the startup owners so that they can focus on creating scalable business growth.

The lead generation challenge isn’t unique to startup businesses. In my time (since 2008) working with sales and marketing managers, I’ve found that “lead scarcity” is the most telling sign of how economically vulnerable a business is. Companies that depend on cold-calling or paid advertising, or who have intermittent waves of inbound leads, followed by periods with little to no leads, are highly vulnerable to economic slumps like the 2008 housing crisis and the 2020 COVID-19 shutdowns.

The more qualified inbound leads you attract, the more time you’ll have to service your clients, increase your referral rates, and grow your revenue per client. Having a steady march of inbound leads also empowers you to build an audience and create a brand that can withstand economic hardship and the impact of disruptive changes in marketing platforms or technologies (i.e., email and SMS marketing regulations, AI-based search engine updates, social media shadowbans).  

This why building a steady, sustainable inflow of qualified inbound leads insulates your brand from economic slumps and reduces your dependency on media giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Not only are inbound leads less expensive to generate, but they’re typically more focused on value and willing to pay more for a superior product or service. Just ask any experienced salesperson whether they get more price resistance from an inbound lead or a prospect they found through cold calling.

For these reasons, inbound lead generation is the first (and more immediately measurable) benefit of building and implementing a content marketing strategy.

Content Marketing Strategy Benefit #2: “Content Equity”

Content Equity: the cumulative value of a brand’s published content (online or offline ) in terms of its capacity to increase marketing ROI by improving measurable marketing KPIs (e.g., lead generation rates, cost per lead, conversion rates, etc.).

A simple example of content equity is when a local business has hundreds of positive customer reviews published on trustworthy review sites. These reviews will attract a steady flow of inbound leads, even when the business isn’t actively searching for new customers or paying for marketing ads. Prospects will also find these reviews while researching the company in response to a paid ad from that company, or even while researching a competitor. 

Most importantly, by the time these prospects talk to a salesperson, they’ll be much more likely to make a buying decision and to pay premium prices for what they perceive to be a higher quality product or service. All because they were influenced by an “evergreen” body of highly-trustworthy content which that the local business had built up over a period of time. This is a simple example of content equity that most marketers, and consumers, can easily understand.

What more modern marketers are learning is that they can also build content equity using relevant, credible, and well-crafted articles, videos, infographics, white-papers, and podcasts. If this content is consistently showing up at the top of search results or being shared on social media, it has a similar effect to the abovementioned body of published customer reviews. It increases a company’s ability to attract a sustainable flow of inbound leads and to convert those leads into loyal customers. 

Content Equity and Content Distribution Channels

This is what I mean by content equity.  It’s the cumulative value of a brand’s published content (online or offline ) in terms of its capacity to increase marketing ROI by universally improving their core marketing KPIs. 

Just imagine building a content marketing strategy that uses high-quality website articles to secure and sustain top search engine rankings. What would be the cumulative value of that content be in terms of its capacity to expose your brand to more prospects, increase your perceived authority, and attract more inbound leads? The good news is, you don’t have to guess at the answer. 

A 2013 Report revealed that 95% of website traffic never scrolls past the first page of the Google Search Results. Another report, in 2017, revealed that the first page of Google captures 71% of search traffic clicks. Again, in 2019, the click-through rates for the top ten positions in the Google Search Results broke down like this…

Content Marketing Strategy Google Page One Stats

Source: 2019 Google CTR Stats from BackLinko.com

Google Page One Click-Through Rates

  • Position #1: 31.73%
  • Position #2: 24.71%
  • Position #3: 18.66%
  • Position #4: 13.60%
  • Position #5: 9.51%
  • Position #6: 6.23%
  • Position #7: 4.15%
  • Position #8: 3.12%
  • Position #9: 2.97
  • Position #10: 3.09%

Notice the exponential difference between the click rate for Position #10 and Position #1. These numbers prove that having several pieces of relevant, well-crafted, high-ranking content will increase your brand exposure, attract more inbound leads, and dramatically increase your perceived authority in the marketplace.

This is just one measurable example of what content equity will do for your brand. It’s hard to overstate how powerful this, and other examples we’ll talk about later, can be to your bottom line and to the long-term resilience of your brand. Brands with low content equity (or none) are highly dependent on paid advertising platforms and vulnerable to economic slumps and to being shadowbanned or censored on social media. 

Content Equity solves these challenges by giving you a steady flow of qualified inbound leads, improving the overall performance of ALL your marketing campaigns, and giving you the leverage to intercept traffic generated by your competitors through their paid ads. If your leads start to drop off as soon as you slow your marketing efforts, this a clear sign that you need to start thinking about your content equity right away. 

There are many other benefits of building and implementing a content marketing strategy. We’ll cover some of them later in this article. However, Inbound Lead Generation and Content Equity are the two most valuable, easiest to measure, and most effective for creating sustainable results and long-term value. For now, let’s dig into a comprehensive 10-step content marketing strategy you can use to put these benefits to work for you.

Content Marketing: a type of marketing focused on creating and distributing relevant, valuable information with the goal of attracting a clearly defined audience and engaging them to take a profitable action or support a meaningful cause.

Content Marketing Strategy - Definition

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How to Plan Your Content Marketing Strategy

Having a well-documented content marketing strategy is like having a well-documented strategy for achieving your personal goals. It dramatically increases your odds of long-term success. More importantly, it gives you an objective way to measure your progress and plan for improvements.

If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Anyone who tells you this is quick or easy is trying to sell you on a shortcut. And when it comes to marketing, shortcuts are dead ends in disguise. The good news is, if you plan and document your content marketing strategy the right way, everything you do will become simpler, and more manageable and successful.

That said, I’m going to share the content marketing strategy blueprint I’ve been developing and refining since 2009 when I started my freelance writing career. This strategy is based on my signature sales copywriting system, The VQ Success Selling System. I started designing this system back in the early 2000s while working as a call center manager.

Since then, I’ve used it to build complex multi-step content marketing systems (offline and online). In 2012, Copywriting Legend Dan S Kennedy reviewed and endorsed The VQ Success Marketing System. I’ve included his endorsement below for those interested in reading it. I will now introduce the ten steps for using this system to plan, document, and implement a complete content marketing strategy. 

Article Continues Below Endorsement

Dan S Kennedy VQ Success Testimonial

Expert Endorsement

Dan S Kennedy on The VQ Success Selling System

“Seth Czerepak has accomplished a Herculean purpose with The VQ Success Selling System. He has taken some of the most sophisticated aspects of writing to influence, motivate, persuade and sell and made them accessible and pragmatically useful, nearly to the point of fill in the blank systemization. It is relatively easy to systemize the making of a sub sandwich in 1,000 Subway® shops or the installation of a car muffler in 1,000 Midas Muffler® shops. It is far, far, far from easy to systemize the crafting of persuasive copy. I know. I have been a professional direct-response copywriter for 40+ years, and raised myself to top income in the field, routinely commanding upwards from $100,000.00 per project, earning a 7-figure annual income from fees and royalties, with over 85% of all clients repeating with me. Further, I have taught copywriting to writers, direct marketers and business owners via seminars and workshops, home study and online courses, and one to one coaching. There are easier things to teach. Seth has covered essential bases and delved into advanced and groundbreaking territory as well.”

The VQ Success Content Marketing Strategy

The VQ Success Content Marketing Strategy starts with clearly defining and documenting the following ten items…

  • 1. Your Content Marketing Goal(s).
  • 2. Your Content Marketing Audience(s).
  • 3. Your Content Distribution Channels.
  • 4. Your Content Types.
  • 5. Your Content Distribution Schedule.
  • 6. Your Content Creation Process.
  • 7. Your Content Creation Team(s).
  • 8. Your Content Marketing KPIs.
  • 9. Your Content Marketing ROIM.
  • 10. Your Internal Promotion Strategy.

I’ll explain each of these in detail as we unpack them one at a time. Keep in mind, however, that this is just a summary of how a content marketing strategy helps you plan, document, implement, measure, and improve your content marketing strategy. Like anything else worth doing, a successful content marketing strategy demands hard work, patience, sacrifice, and critical thinking. It also looks easy until you try to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.

This is why companies invest five and six figures a year into hiring content marketing agencies or building their own content marketing teams and departments. The first job of a good content marketing agency is to establish a measurable goal for your content marketing strategy. Your content marketing goal gives you a standard against which to measure your progress. This is especially important when it comes time to plan, document, and measure your Content Marketing KPIs.  

How to Set Content Marketing Goals

To keep things simple, your content marketing goals should…

  • Specific Enough to Be Measurable.
  • Given a Definite Deadline for Review.

A good way to see if your content marketing goals match this formula is to try to break your goal down into smaller milestones. For example, let’s assume you set a goal like this…

“Our goal is to increase our total number of qualified inbound leads.”

Content Marketing Goals

Can you break this goal down into smaller milestones? No, you can’t. It doesn’t define a specific number of leads and it doesn’t give you a definite deadline for reviewing your progress. However, let’s assume you set a goal like this…

“Our goal is to increase our number of qualified inbound leads from 20 a month to 200 a month by January 1rst next year.”

Can you break this goal down into smaller milestones? Yes, you can. Simply take your end goal of increasing your inbound leads from ten a month to forth a month within one year and cut it in half. Assuming you set the goal on January 1rst of the current year, this would give you two six-month milestones which you could document like this…

  • Increase our inbound leads from 20 a month to 100 a month by July 1rst.
  • Increase our inbound leads from 100 a month to 200 a month by (next) January 1rst.

From there, you could break your goal down further into quarterly milestones and document it like this…

  • Increase our inbound leads from 20 a month to 50 a month by April 1rst.
  • Increase our inbound leads from 50 a month to 100 a month by July 1rst.
  • Increase our inbound leads from 100 a month to 150 a month by October 1rst.
  • Increase our inbound leads from 150 a month to 200 a month by (next) January 1rst.

This schedule breaks our long-term goal down into short-term milestones. You’ll see why this is important as we move through the rest of the steps in this content marketing strategy. Before we continue to step two, let me make two more points about this simple goal formula…

  • Specific Enough to Be Measurable.
  • Have a Definite Deadline for Review.

Notice that the purpose of the deadline is to review your goal. In my coaching experience, I’ve learned that hard “do or die” deadlines work well for some types of goals, and not so well for others. For example, if your goal depends only (or primarily) on your personal efforts, a hard deadline is perfect. The same is true if you’re setting a goal for a small team of people whose capabilities and limits you understand well. 

However, most marketing goals depend on a variety of unknown variables, including the buying behaviors of your prospects and customers, economic trends, or changes within your company. This is why, when it comes to your content marketing goals, I suggest using deadlines to review your progress, adjust your strategy, and to move forward with a better plan.

Sometimes, you’ll overshoot your goal. Other times, you’ll miss it. What matters, however, is what you review your progress and analyze the role your plan played in creating the outcome. This approach has a psychological advantage and a tactical advantage. 

Content Marketing Goal Setting

The psychological advantage is based on what psychologists call “Incentive Salience.” Incentive Salience determines a person’s motivation to move towards or away from a particular outcome. Contrary to the myths of most motivational “experts,” neuroscientists tell us that setting and achieving smaller, achievable goals increases how intensely the reward center in a person’s brain responds to achieved goals. 

In other words, people who set smaller, achievable goals and overshoot them will receive a bigger boost of chemical stimulation (via the reward neurotransmitter dopamine) in their brain than people who set big goals and achieve them. Moreover, the failure to achieve a big goal (even by a small margin) dramatically increases the likelihood of discouragement or even depression. This is why, in my business coaching and personal development writing, I encourage people to set modest goals and to focus most of their efforts on mastering processes and developing habits. 

The tactical advantage to this approach is that lasting success is more often the result of developing habits than it is the result of setting and achieving goals. Teams, organizations, and individuals who focus on turning processes into habits will achieve results more naturally and consistently because their positive habits will inevitably produce positive results. Treating goals as pure “hit or miss” target does not promote this kind of growth-focused and process-based mindset.

This is why I suggest to setting and documenting a modest, measurable content marketing goal with a definite deadline for review. This is the first step to developing a winning content marketing strategy. 

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How to Build Your Buyer’s Persona: The Difference Between Average and Awesome

Buyer’s Persona: a semi-fictitious profile of your ideal customer based on data and research of one or all of the following… 1) your existing customers, 2) your competitors’ audience(s), 3) the demographics of your niche or industry.

In my experience, most content marketing strategies fail because of a poorly or partially defined buyer’s persona. The problem is, this failure is easy to misdiagnose because it doesn’t show up until later in your content marketing strategy.

One of the most iron-clad rules of content marketing is that a failure in one stage of your strategy is almost always the result of a cause in an earlier stage.

High refund rates are often the result of a poor selling process. Low conversion rates are often the result of a poor (or non-existent) lead nurturing strategy. Poor lead capture KPIs are often the result of publishing your content in the wrong content marketing channels. All of these problems, however, can be either fully or partially caused by a failure to fully define your buyer’s persona.

This is why the second step of your content marketing strategy is to thoroughly define your buyer’s persona. The more thoroughly defined your buyer’s persona is, the more focus, clarity, and momentum you’ll build as you move through the other steps of your content marketing strategy.

Four Benefits of Building a Solid Buyer’s Persona

According to CMI, most B2C marketers create content for an average of four different audiences; 95% of them have more than one audience, and 54% of them have four or more. B2B content marketers create content for an average of three different audiences; 95% of them have more than one, and 45% of them have four or more audiences.

These companies have learned something that few digital marketers, besides myself and a handful of direct response copywriters, were even aware of back in 2010. They’ve learned the value of personalized, buyer persona-based content marketing. Here are a few statistics that prove why this approach is so valuable…

  • 24% of companies generate more leads using buyer personas.
  • 56% generate higher quality leads using buyer personas.
  • 36% created shorter sales cycles using buyer personas.
  • 93% exceeded lead and revenue goals using buyer personas.

Source: boardview.io blog on buyer’s persona statistics.

Content Marketing Strategy Buyer's Persona

These are just four of the benefits of having a clearly defined buyer’s persona. I share these as proof of why you should go to all the trouble to complete this step right. In my experience, many small business and startup entrepreneurs have a persistent habit of using on generic descriptions like…

  1. “Anyone who needs our service.”
  2. “Anyone who wants to ___.”
  3. “Anyone with a ___ problem.”

A good content marketing agency will tell you that if your buyer’s persona starts with an abstract word like “anyone,” or “everyone” or “people who…” it’s not specific enough. They may press you to take your time with this step, and this will require a lot of patience and delayed gratification.

However, the above statistics prove that if you take your time with this step you’ll be rewarded with more leads, higher quality leads, shorter sales cycles, and higher sales revenue. So, let’s unpack the VQ Success Buyer’s Persona Blueprint one step at a time. For the sake of this example, I’ll use traits relevant to B2C marketing. However, many of these principles also apply to B2B content marketing… 

Buyer’s Persona Trait #1: Their Generation

  • EXAMPLE: Millennials born between 1985 and 1995.

Your first job is to define your buyer’s persona according to their age range and corresponding generation. If your buyer’s persona spans multiple generations, split it into separate personas, one for each generation, like this…

  • PERSONA #1: Millennials born between 1985 and 1995.
  • PERSONA #2: Generation X’ers born between 1970 and 1985.

This is important because Baby Boomers are drastically different than Millennials in their buying habits and their ideology. The same is true (although less drastically) when comparing Generation X to Generation Z.

So, splitting up your buyer’s personas by their generation will make it much easier for you to match your content marketing messages to their values and vernacular. It will also help in defining some of the other buyer’s persona traits, which we’ll cover soon. 

Consumer Spending by Generation

Buyer’s Persona Trait #2: Their Social Status

  • EXAMPLE: Single with no children and living with a fiancé or long-term romantic partner.

Your second job is to define your buyer’s persona according to their relationship status and living arrangements. This is not as simple as it was in the late 20th Century. Today, we have more mixed families and more adults living in multi-family households or with their parents or relatives. This is why it’s important to define your buyer’s persona beyond their marital status. 

Defining your audience’s relationship status and living arrangements will help you determine their interests, shopping habits, and purchasing power. If you’re unclear on this trait yet, just start with your best guess. The good thing about working from a buyer’s persona is that you can refine it as you learn more about your audience.

Buyer’s Persona Trait #3: Their Economic Status

  • EXAMPLE: $30k to $45k yearly income – $2,000 to $2,500 monthly expenses – $10k in debt – $10k net worth.

There’s more to this step than just defining your audience’s average yearly income. Yearly income doesn’t tell you enough about their purchasing power or their buying habits. Other factors to consider are their monthly expenses, debt (not including their mortgage), net worth, and whether they’re renting, paying a mortgage, or living with relatives, or living in a paid-off home.

Buyer’s Persona Trait #4: Their Gender Group

  • EXAMPLE: Traditionally masculine men.

This is a controversial topic, but essential for marketing to modern consumers. If you prefer to think of this in terms of right and left brain traits, that’s fine. The idea is to go beyond defining your buyer’s persona strictly according to the assumed traits of their biological sex.

Thanks to the research of Psychologists like Steven Pinker, we know that humans aren’t simply blank slates. We have intrinsic biological traits, and no amount of cultural influence can blot that out. On the other hand, some men are more traditionally masculine than others, and some women are more traditionally feminine than others.

Sure, you can try to market to a man in skinny jeans and a man bun the same way you market to a man who literally splits his own firewood. Likewise, you can try to market to a conservative housewife the same way you market to the single feminist entrepreneur owner who works 14-hour days building her own personal empire.

Buyer's Persona and Gender

But, you’ll get a clearer picture of your audience by defining their biological sex and their gender in terms of masculine or feminine. In my experience, the more clarity you have on this point, the easier it will be to customize your content to match your buyer’s persona(s).

Buyer’s Persona Trait #5: Their Education Level

  • EXAMPLE: Four-year college degree in science or business.

This is probably the most important factor for content marketers to define. It determines where your readability scores should be and how simple, or sophisticated, your content should be in terms of vocabulary and concept development. 

As someone who has decades of experience writing sales scripts and advertising copy, I can tell you that the marketing industry is full of overgeneralized assumptions about this. The common dogma is that your readability scores should be between the 4th and 7th-grade level.

This makes sense for certain education levels. For others, it’s a quick way to make look low-budget and unsophisticated. Your readability scores, lexicon, and content should depend on how well-educated your customer persona is.

Buyer’s Persona Trait #6: Their Lifestyle

  • EXAMPLE: American Born, Libertarian, Christian, Outdoorsman, History Buff.

This is absolutely the most important trait of your buyer’s persona. It’s also a trait many marketers shy away from for fear of “alienating” people who don’t fit the profile. However, the clearer you are about your audience’s cultural background, ideology, hobbies, and interests, the more authentic and compelling your content will be.

It’s easy to spot an “outsider” who is trying to relate with a group of people they don’t understand. Their lack of understanding shows up in their speech and makes them sound awkward and inauthentic. Modern consumers have too many choices on where to get their content. Why would they choose to read articles, or watch videos published by a company that couldn’t relate with them in an authentic way? This is especially important today since more people are choosing to do business with companies that share their beliefs and values.

This is why it’s so important to define your audience’s cultural background, ideology, hobbies, and interests. Remember, also, that you can create multiple buyer’s personas and create customized content marketing strategies for each of them.

Walk a Day in The Shoes of Your Buyer’s Persona

It’s impossible to overstate how important this step is when it comes to thoroughly defining your buyer’s persona. There’s a quote that’s been popular in direct response advertising circles for decades…

Join the conversation that’s happening in your customer’s head.

This is the most powerful and practical principle in marketing, and I’m 100% certain this will never change. I don’t care what new trends, technologies, marketing platforms, and content distribution channels come or go. This principle will always be the bedrock of effective marketing and persuasion. Before I explain how this related to defining this buyer’s persona trait, let me give you my shorter version of the quote…

Become the voice inside their head.

Content marketing psychology is all about getting inside your buyer’s head. The more consistent your content marketing messages are with your audience’s internal conversations, the more relevant, interesting, and authentic your marketing messages will be.

This is why it’s so important for you to define the typical day of your ideal customer—as defined by the first six traits above. Imagine, for example, someone who walks up every morning with a slight stabbing pain in their lower heel. The pain is typically worse on cold mornings, but it gets better as the day wears on. After a few weeks, the pain starts to get worse. Then, one day they find one of your articles, and the article opens like this…

Content Marketing Buyer's Persona

“You know that stabbing pain in your heel? It’s worse on cold mornings but seems to get better as the day wears on. Still, lately, you’ve noticed that pain getting worse. What you might not know is that millions of men between 40 and 55 experience the same thing. Some of them end up on crutches within a few short years.”

Notice how this message is a near-perfect match with the internal conversation my reader is having every day. Moreover, it ends with a suggestion that the problem could get so bad, they wouldn’t be able to walk.

Do you think that person would want to keep reading? You bet they would. The article is dead on relevant with something they experience on a typical day. It also warns them of a coming danger, thus creating the desire and urgency for them to keep reading.

From there, I could educate them about the cause of this condition, its risks, and, more importantly, what they can do about it. If I’m selling a product or service that solves this problem, I’ve now made a compelling case for why they need to learn more about it. That’s all there is to writing engaging content. It all comes back to this quote… 

Join the conversation that’s happening in your customer’s head.

Again, content marketing psychology is all about getting inside your buyer’s head. The more consistent your content marketing messages are with your audience’s internal dialog, the more relevant, interesting, and authentic your content will be. And the secret to defining these internal conversations is to define your buyer’s persona using the six traits we just covered, and using that knowledge to define their typical day—from the moment their eyes open in the morning, to the moment they fall asleep at night.

Picture your buyer persona’s typical day as a literal documentary. If you could plant hidden cameras and microphones to capture every single experience of their day, what would it look like? More importantly, what internal conversations would they have in response to the events of their day? What emotions might they experience as a result?

The more clearly and vividly you define these things, the more relevant, interesting, and authentic your content marketing messages will be.  Don’t worry about getting this perfect. Just write it out step by step as if you were writing a story about a typical day in the life of your buyer’s persona.

Remember, you can always add to this story and refine it as you learn more about your buyer’s persona. Just remember that this is where most content marketing strategies fail. Writing bad content, choosing the wrong content marketing channels, failing to define, track, and measure KPIs or pushing products too soon, these are all factors.

Content Marketing Strategy - Buyer's Persona Psychology

All of these problems, however, can be either fully or partially caused by a failure to fully define your buyer’s persona. The more thoroughly defined your buyer’s persona is, the more focus, clarity, and momentum you’ll build as you move through the other eight steps of your content marketing strategy.

One final word on buyer’s personas before we move to step three of your content marketing strategy. The examples above are based on a B2C Content Marketing Strategy. For a B2B content marketing strategy, you would a few more details, including the person’s role with the company you’re marketing to, company size, company culture. However, no matter who you’re marketing to, this universal rule of content marketing psychology will never changes…

Join the conversation that’s happening in your customer’s head.

To do this, you have to know who you’re talking to. If you take your time in clearly defining them, and their typical day you’ll be rewarded with more leads, higher quality leads, shorter sales cycles, and higher sales revenue. The next question is, how do you get your message in front of them?

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How to Choose Your Content Distribution Channels: The Primary Goal of a Content Marketing Strategy

Content Distribution Channel: a path or route used to deliver content marketing messages to a clearly defined buyer’s persona. The channel can be as short as a direct exchange between the organization and the customer or can involve the use of content distribution platforms like social media sites or search engines.

Once you’ve thoroughly defined your buyer’s persona(s), it’s time to decide and document which content distribution channels you’ll use to deliver your marketing messages. These should be channels where you can reach the audience defined by your buyer’s persona. The common assumption is that you should be doing “a little bit of everything.” This is a quick way to bust your marketing budget without producing many results.

You want to pick the content distribution channels which will make the biggest impact in helping you achieve your content marketing goal. In my experience, this is where a good content marketing agency has the most room to drastically increase your content marketing ROI while reducing your marketing costs. You’ll see what I mean as we unpack these three simple rules for choosing your content distribution channels.

First, let’s define the three basic types of content distribution channels…

Types of Content Distribution Channels

  1. Paid: content distribution channels where you pay to have your content published.
  2. Earned: content distribution channels where you earn (through networking and publicity) the right to publish your content.
  3. Owned: content distribution channels where you own and control the means of distribution (your website, email list, direct mail newsletter, etc).

These content distribution channels can be digital or offline. The important point is that you pick channels where you can reach the audience defined by your buyer’s persona(s) and where you have the greatest opportunity to achieve your content marketing goal(s). The following three rules will help you do that.

Content Distribution Channel Strategy

Content Distribution Channel Rule #1: Content Equity

The PRIMARY goal of a content marketing strategy should be to help you use Paid channels and Earned channels to increase the strength and sustainability of your Owned channels. This is when building and implementing a content marketing strategy becomes a smart long term investment. 

Any content you publish on paid or earned platforms should be used to drive visibility to your website, your email newsletters, your direct mail catalogs, and other owned channels. Remember, owned channels are content distribution channels where you control the means AND distribution of your marketing content. Owned channels also allow you to track your content marketing KPIs, which we’ll talk about later.

This is how you build the “Content Equity” discussed in the introduction of this article. Remember, Content Equity is how you create a brand that can withstand economic hardship and the impact of disruptive changes in marketing platforms or technologies (i.e., email and SMS marketing regulations, AI-based search engine updates, social media shadowbans).

The one exception to this rule is if the channel has national or global credibility with your target audience. If you’re selling beauty products, it might be smart to pay (once) for a full-page advertorial in Allure magazine. If you’re a business consultant, it might be worth the money or effort to get one of your articles published in Success magazine or on their website. The question is whether adding an “as seen in Success Magazine” or “as seen in GQ Magazine” will increase the perceived credibility of your brand enough to make a difference in your long term results. 

So the first rule and the PRIMARY goal of a good content marketing strategy is to use Paid channels and Earned channels to increase the strength and sustainability of your Owned channels. Any paid or earned content distribution channel that makes it hard for you to do this is probably not worth your money or effort.

Content Distribution Channel Rule #2: Audience Relevance

Content marketing isn’t about being popular. It’s about reaching the audience defined by your buyer’s persona(s) in a way that helps you achieve your content marketing goal(s). Well-meaning, yet naive marketing enthusiasts often say things like…

  • “You need to be on Facebook.”
  • “Pinterest is big now. You need to be on Pinterest.”
  • “If you’re not marketing on YouTube, you’re missing out.”

Some will even quote statistics, saying….

“Four million people use ____, so if you’re not marketing there, you’re missing out on a LOT of prospective customers.”

Statements like this are based on the outdated idea that marketing is about getting your ads in front of as many eyeballs as possible. This is a quick way to burn through your marketing budget with little or no results.

Content Marketing Distribution Channel Strategy

A recent Survey from Rakuten Marketing found that marketers estimate to have wasted 26 percent of their budget on the wrong strategies and channels. According to a 2016 Study from Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings, about 48% of all online ad budgets were wasted because they were not reaching the right audience. A capable content marketing firm will never advise you to market somewhere just because it’s cheap, popular, or new.

The most important question is whether a content distribution channel gives you targeted access to the audience defined in your buyer’s persona. The second question is whether you can use that content distribution channel to strengthen one (or more) of your owned channels. If it does, put it on your shortlist. If not, leave it off. Never mind how popular it is or how many of your competitors are marketing there.

So, the second rule of choosing your content distribution channels is to go only where your target audience is and where you have the best opportunity to strengthen your owned channels. Let your competitors burn up their budget playing the numbers game.

Content Distribution Channel Rule #3: Perceived Credibility

Where you show up has a tremendous impact on how credible you appear to your audience. Most marketers would agree that advertising on a spam site makes your brand look less credible. This third and final rule simply asks you to consider the credibility differences between all your content distribution channels, and shortlist your most credible content distribution channels, like this…

  • Paid Channels: LinkedIn, Success Magazine.
  • Earned Channels: YouTube, Forbes.com.
  • Owned Channels: Website, Newsletter(s).

All other things being equal, I’m sure you’d feel better about hiring a lawyer you met at a fundraiser dinner than one you met at a roadside bar.  I’m also sure you’d prefer that your daughter meet her future husband in an Art Museum or at Church as opposed to a night club.

The same principle applies when choosing your content distribution channels. Where you show up has a tremendous impact on how credible you appear to your audience. That’s why the second rule is to choose content distribution channels where you’ll appear credible simply for publishing there.

In my experience, this means including offline content distribution channels, like direct mail. If you think I’m crazy for suggesting this, just keep reading.

Over the years, I’ve had to work hard to convince higher-end service providers (business consultants, counselors) to use direct mail for reaching out to new clients. Some have even laughed at me, claiming that email is “cheaper” or that they can “reach more people that way.”

In my experience, this is a shortsighted way to evaluate or compare content distribution channels. The real question isn’t how cheap or popular a channel is, the question is response rates and Return on Investment (ROI). Here are five recent statistics that prove Direct Mail is a valuable content distribution channel, especially for reaching out to your existing customers…

  • The Data & Marketing Association found that, in 2018, Direct Mail response rates (averaging 5% and 9% depending on the recipient) were several times better than email (averaging 1% response rates).
  • Stats from the United States Postal Service show that 60% of catalog recipients visit the website of the company that mailed them the catalog.
  • Epsilon’s Direct Mail Marketing stats show that 73% of US consumers prefer direct mail as a method of communication with their favorite brands because they can review it when they see fit.
  • According to 2018 data from The Data & Marketing Association, Generation Xers (45 – 55) were the group most likely to respond to Direct Mail messages.
  • In 2018, when “Which is more effective at getting you to take action?” 30% of millennials said direct mail (only 24% said email).
Content Marketing and Direct Mail

Source: SmallBizGenius.com article on Direct Mail Statistics.

My personal experience has also been that Direct Mail gives you a higher perception of value and sophistication that email simply can’t give you. Sure, it might not make sense to send Direct Mail content to people who have never bought from you. But I’m talking about using it to market to the higher tier customers who have already bought from you at least once.

Think about the loads of cold emails you get every day from people trying to sell you things. Compare this to the amount of well designed, well crafted, high quality articles or newsletters you get in the mail. By showing up in your customer’s mailbox two or three times a year, you put your brand in a league of its own.

This is not an attempt to sell you on using Direct Mail. My point is that you should a content distribution channel based, not on how cheap or popular it is, but based on how relevant it is to your audience, and how credible you will appear for distributing your content there.

So, once you’ve listed the content distribution channels which are best for building Content Equity and the most relevant to your target audience, your final job is to narrow your list to the most credible channels. Let’s look at an example before we move on to the next step of your content marketing strategy…

Sample Content Distribution Channel Shortlist

Applying the above three rules should give you a shortlist of highly relevant, credible content distribution channels, like this…

  • Paid Channels: LinkedIn, Success Magazine.
  • Earned Channels: YouTube, Forbes.com.
  • Owned Channels: Website, Newsletter(s).

This may seem like a small list, but remember, our goal is relevance and credibility. Not volume. Start with a list of channels where you have the highest probability of reaching your ideal customers and measuring and improving your KPIs. You can always expand to other channels once you’ve built up momentum. 

While we’re talking about content distribution channels, let me explain why I consider Social Media pages and Social Media accounts to be earned channels and not owned channels.

Content Marketing Strategy Distribution Channel Rules

Your Social Media pages are owned by the Social Media company that hosts those pages. This could change at some point in the future, in which case we’ll update this article. However, as long as Social Media websites have the legal right to shadowban, suspend, or even delete your accounts, it’s a risk to treat your Social Media accounts and pages as owned content distribution channels. 

In 2014, a client hired in the self-help nice hired me and my team to create a training course to promote to his Facebook fans. At the time, he had hundreds of thousands of fans and several years of posts and responses built up. Once created, the training course started pulling in thousands of dollars a month in sales. Knowing this was not a sustainable model, I urged my client to start focusing on Content Equity right away by building a list and publishing content on the website we’d built them. He ignored me, and I eventually quit him to pursue other projects.

At the end of 2016, I emailed him to see how his business was going. He hadn’t taken my advice, and his page had been suspended over one of Facebook’s now-infamous “community standard violations.” With no email or direct mail list and no content equity, his sales had flatlined and he was no longer able to pay his monthly bills. The last time I talked to him (in 2018), he was working customer service for a measly $30k a year and trying to rebuild his business in his spare time.

This is, of course, an extreme example. But it proves an important point about the difference between earned content distribution channels and owned content distribution channels. As I said before, the PRIMARY goal of a content marketing agency should be to help you use Paid channels and Earned channels to increase the strength and sustainability of your Owned channels. This is when hiring a content marketing agency becomes a smart long-term investment.

So, while planning and documenting your content marketing strategy, remember that an owned channel is a channel where you control the content, audience access, and means of distribution. Once you’ve defined and documented your most relevant and credible content distribution channels, it’s time to decide the type of content you’ll be publishing. 

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The Buyer’s Journey And Awareness-Based Marketing

How do you take someone from being a reader, viewer, or listener of your content, to being a loyal customer? In popular content marketing circles, this process is called the “buyer’s journey.” While the term buyer’s journey was coined by HubSpot, the concept of awareness-based marketing did not originate with them.

I first read about awareness-based marketing in an obscure direct copywriting book most modern marketers have never read or even heard about. I’ve been developing my own version of the buyer’s journey since the early 2000s when I first started writing and testing sales copy. While I think HubSpot’s three-stage model is much better than nothing, I believe you’ll find the five-stage VQ Success model more thorough, scientific, and practical. 

What is Awareness-Based Marketing?

It would be nice if our prospective customers woke up in the morning saying…

“It’s a great day to spend money! I’m going to pay top dollar for Seth Czerepak’s Marketing Course today! I know Seth’s competitor has a course that’s only a fraction of the price. But Seth’s course is worth the extra money, and more! Now, where’s my credit card?!”

But in the real world, prospects will be in one of four stages of awareness when they see your marketing messages. These stages are based on your prospect’s knowledge, assumptions, and/or expectations about one or more of the following four things…

  • The PROBLEM your product or service solves.
  • The ALTERNATIVE solution(s) to the problem.
  • The TYPE of product or service you offer.
  • Your specific BRAND of the product or service.

VQ Success Buyer's Journey

Let’s take two examples, one B2C example and one B2B example. Starting with the B2C example, let’s assume you sell a natural supplement that helps active men between 40 and 55 to overcome reactionary arthritis. The stages of your buyer’s journey will be based on your prospect’s knowledge, assumptions, and/or expectations about one or more of the following four things…

  • THE PROBLEM: reactionary arthritis.
  • THE ALTERNATIVES: prescription or OTC drugs.
  • PRODUCT CATEGORY: natural supplements.
  • YOUR BRAND: your signature natural supplement.

Some of your prospects might have minor pain in their joints but shrug it off as something that will eventually go away. These prospects will ignore any content attempting to educate them about why prescription or OTC drugs won’t fix their reactionary arthritis. They aren’t looking for solutions or even researching the problem because they’re unaware of how personal, critical, and urgent the problem is. The VQ Success model considers this Stage #1 of the buyer’s journey. We call it the “Indifferent” stage. HubSpot doesn’t include this stage in their model. You’ll realize why this is a big deal soon.

You’ll also have prospects who know that they have the first signs of reactionary arthritis and who know how personal, critical, and urgent it is. These prospects are highly likely to be searching for solutions to the problem. So, they’ll be receptive to educational content about how prescription or OTC drugs will fail to fix their reactionary arthritis. The VQ Success model considers this Stage #2 of the buyer’s journey, which we call the “Curious” stage. HubSpot’s three-stage model considers this the first stage. Again, you’ll soon why this is an important distinction.

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stages

You’ll also have prospects who are aware of the risks of using prescription or OTC drugs to treat reactionary arthritis and are shopping for the best natural supplement. These prospects won’t be interested in educational content about how serious reactionary arthritis is or why prescription or OTC drugs are an inadequate solution. They’ve already passed those stages of awareness. 

They will, however, be highly receptive to messages about why your brand is the most relevant, superior, and unique natural supplement for men their age who want to prevent or rid themselves of reactionary arthritis. The VQ Success model considers this Stage #3 of the buyer’s journey, which we call the “Comparing” stage.

HubSpot’s three-stage model considers this the second stage. Most marketing messages (online and offline) only target this type of prospect.

This is because most marketers either don’t know about awareness-based marketing or are too busy to build a multi-stage strategy around it. As a result, most of them spin their wheels competing with everyone else over the low hanging fruit of Stage #3 prospects.

It’s impossible for me to overstate how powerful this will be once you stop following this crowd and start applying and implementing a real content marketing strategy. By defining your buyer’s persona and applying the five stages of the VQ Success buyer’s journey, you’ll connect with your prospects two stages before your competitors even have a chance.

You’ll realize how powerful this is once you start using it applying it. By the time your prospects reach Stage #4 they’ll be much more likely to choose you over a competitor and to be happy about paying a higher price for a superior product or service. Stage #4 of the VQ Success buyer’s journey the “Negotiation” stage. Stage #4 Prospects have decided to buy from you. They just need a little more assurance to overcome their procrastination. In HubSpot’s model, this is the third and final stage of the buyer’s journey.

After this, the VQ Success model has one more stage, which we call the “Committed” stage. Committed prospects are no longer prospects. They’re customers, and your content marketing strategy should include content for increasing the satisfaction, loyalty, and lifetime value of these customers. 

Moving on to the B2B example, let’s assume you sell staff recruiting services to software development startups. The stages of your buyer’s journey will be based on your prospect’s knowledge, assumptions, and/or expectations about one or more of the following four things…

  • THE PROBLEM: high employee turnover.
  • THE ALTERNATIVE(S): in-house recruiting team.
  • PRODUCT CATEGORY: recruiting services.
  • YOUR BRAND: you as a recruiter.

Stage #1 (Indifferent) prospects either won’t be aware of how costly their high employee turnover rate is, or they’ll shrug it off as just something startups go through. Your job is to get content in front of them that educates them about how devastating this problem will be if they don’t address it soon.  

Stage #2 (Curious) prospects will be aware of how costly their employee turnover rate is. However, they might be trying to build an in-house recruiting team to solve the problem or researching some other alternative. You job will be to get content in front of them that educates them about the hidden risks of trying to handle this in-house.

Stage #3 (Comparing) prospects will be actively searching for a professional recruiter to hire. Your job will be to get content in front of them that positions you as the most relevant, superior, and unique you recruiter they can hire.  

Finally, you’ll have Stage #4 (Negotiating) prospects, who have decided to hire you as a recruiter, but they haven’t actually written you a check, signed the contract, or paid the first invoice. In my experience, the earlier you connect with them in the buyer’s journey, the more likely they’ll be to take this final step.

They’ll also be more likely to pay premium prices, to respect you as an authority, and to write you a positive endorsement and recommend you to others. Finally, you’ll have prospects who have become your clients, and who you’ll continue to reach out to using your newsletter or some other Stage #5 content type.

Once you know how to communicate with your prospects during EACH of these stages, AND to lead them from one to the other, you’ll have x-ray vision into how to create high-converting content marketing messages. I’m talking about blogs, explainer videos, classified ads, podcasts, and any other content-based marketing you can imagine. Best of all, you’ll actually have fun with it. So, let’s summarize the Five Stages of the VQ Success buyer’s journey before we talk about applying them in your content marketing strategy…

Awareness Stage #1: Indifferent

Stage #1 Prospects need your product. However, they’re unaware of one of the following two things…

  • Whether they have the problem your product solves.
  • How personal, critical, and/or urgent their problem is.

Because of this lack of awareness, Stage #1 Prospects will be indifferent about any messages about how to solve their problem. They won’t be interested in hearing about the type of product or service you sell, and they definitely won’t be interested in hearing anything about your unique brand of the product. Here are some examples of Stage #1 Prospects…

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 1
  • A 52-year-old man who is 100lbs overweight. He has several noticeable symptoms of early heart disease; one being swollen ankles. However, he thinks these symptoms are just minor annoyances and typical of a man his age.
  • A newly married couple who is having a big fight once every three or four weeks. However, they assume that this is just something new couples go through and that it will work itself out in time.
  • A business owner whose tax records and payroll are a mess she’s too busy to worry about it and doesn’t consider it to be an urgent problem right now.

Awareness Stage #2: Curious

Stage #2 Prospects know that they have a problem. They also understand how personal, critical, and urgent it is. However, this doesn’t mean they’re looking for a product or service like yours. They’re researching options for either…

  • Solving their problem themselves.
  • Solving their problem using an alternative solution.

Since Stage #2 prospects are in the information gathering stage, here are some examples of who they are and what keywords they might be typing into search engines…

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 2
  • The 52-year-old man who is 100lbs overweight and having heart problems might type in “heart-healthy foods” or “exercises for heart health,” “weight loss for men over 50” or “meditations for a healthy heart.” 
  • A couple having marital problems might type in “better communication in marriage,” or “save my marriage” or “wife won’t have sex with me.” 
  • A business owner whose tax records and payroll are a mess might type in “best way to manage payroll,” “small business accounting tips” or “how to manage payroll for my small business.”
  • A salesperson who’s only making $40,000.00 a year and living paycheck to paycheck might type in “closing techniques,” or “how to close more sales,” or “how to overcome objections.” 

Notice how our prospect’s focus isn’t on a specific type of product or service (yet). This is because Stage #2 buyers are curious about solutions to their problem and want to keep their options open. This means that if you put a “buy now for a limited time offer” or a “here’s why we’re better than our competitors” message in front of them, they either won’t “get it” because they’re not yet sold on the concept of your product or service, or they’ll dismiss it as just another advertisement.

Sadly, this is how most marketers try to reach ALL their prospects, so they miss out on connecting with Stage #2 Prospects, and most of the time their competitor beats them to it. But, Stage #2 Prospects ARE looking for ways to solve their problem.  This leaves a wide-open hole for smart content marketers to swoop in and start building a relationship with these prospects before anyone else even gets a chance.

Awareness Stage #3: Comparing

Stage #3 prospects are 99% finished researching their problem. They’ve settled on a general TYPE of solution and they’re making comparisons between specific brands or service providers. 

These prospects are good and bad for the exact same reason. They’re educated about the TYPE of product or service you sell. That’s a good thing. But, this also makes them prone to price shopping and other annoyances that I talk about in my other writings on this topic. Your job is to reach these prospects with messages that sell them on…

  • The Relevance of Your Brand.
  • The Superiority of Your Brand.
  • The Uniqueness of Your Brand.
VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 3

These prospects are good and bad for the exact same reason. They’re educated about the TYPE of product or service you sell. That’s a good thing. But, this also makes them prone to price shopping and other annoyances that I talk about in my other writings on this topic. Here are a few examples of Stage #3 Prospects…

  • A couple who has marital problems and has decided that working with a marriage counselor could save their marriage. In other words, they’re sold on the concept of marriage counseling and they’re now searching for the best counselor in their area.
  • The 52-year-old man who is 100lbs overweight and having heart problems has decided to work with an endocrinologist. In other words, he’s sold on the concept of working with an endocrinologist and he’s now looking for the best endocrinologist in his area.
  • A business owner whose tax records and payroll are a mess has decided that she needs a CPA. In other words, she’s sold on the concept of hiring a CPA and is now looking for the best CPA for her type of business.
  • A salesperson who’s only making $40,000.00 a year and living paycheck to paycheck has decided that he needs a good home study course on how to communicate with the four personality types. In other words, he’s sold on the concept of a home study course and is now looking for the best one.  

Awareness Stage #4: Negotiating

Stage #4 Prospects have done their research and decided to buy from you. They simply haven’t taken the final step by putting money into your hand and getting the product or service delivered. In other words, they’re negotiating with you or with themselves over how and when to make their purchase. Your job at this stage is to market to them using messages that…

  • Address Common Objections.
  • Dissolve Last Minute Resistance.
  • Explain What Will Happen Next.

Here are some examples of Stage #4 Prospects…

VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 4
  • The couple who has severe marital problems has decided that working with a marriage counselor could save their marriage. They’ve decided to contact a specific counselor and talk about getting started.
  • The 52-year-old man who is 100lbs overweight and having heart problems has decided to work with an endocrinologist. He’s found an endocrinologist he likes and is ready to talk about getting started. 
  • The business owner whose tax records and payroll are a mess has found a virtual CPA firm that he likes and he’s ready to get started. 
  • The salesperson who’s only making $40,000.00 a year and living paycheck to paycheck has found a home study course on overcoming objections and he’s hoping he can get a good deal on it.  

As you can see, there’s a chance you’ll no longer be on someone’s shortlist once they’ve become a Stage #4 prospect. But even if you are, it’s important to realize that the deal STILL isn’t closed. You could still lose them to a competitor. Likewise, if your competitor fails to make the right offer to a Stage #4 buyer, you could still have a shot at earning their business.

Awareness Stage #5: Committed

A lot of marketers completely ignore Stage #5 of the content marketing process. They assume that marketing ends once the prospect becomes a customer. This is a shame, because Stage #5 is by far the most profitable stage of all. Stage #5 is where your prospects have become customers, and you’re now marketing to them for one, or more, of the following reasons…

  • To Earn and Ask for a Positive Review
  • To Earn and Ask for Referral Business.
  • To Earn Repeat Business Through Personalized Offers.
VQ Success Buyer's Journey Stage 5

This is exactly where we want to be with our prospect. Once the customer is sold on the offer though, the sale still isn’t over. Next, comes the most widely neglected marketing strategy in the world. I call this “Customer Service Marketing.” I talk more about this in other articles and in my books. But before we move on, let me expose the dirty little secret for selling to Stage #4 and #5 prospects:

“The best time to sell a Stage #4 Prospect is BEFORE they become one.”

This ^ might be the most profitable benefit of content marketing. You need to distribute messages that engage your prospects at the earliest stage possible AND which guide them to Stage #4 with YOU as the ONLY name on their shortlist.

Best case scenario, you want to grab them at Stage #1 or #2 and use angle selling to pull them through to Stage #4. Once you start doing this, you’ll discover just how much money you can make by building a marketing machine that consistently gets ALL FOUR PROSPECT types lined up, credit cards in hand, begging you to close them.

Of course, this can be harder than it sounds. It demands that you choose your media channels and your audience wisely. Most importantly, it demands that you know exactly how to write advertising messages that are irresistible to your prospect at EVERY stage. Now that we’ve had a solid tour of the five stages of awareness in The VQ Success Selling System, let’s talk about which contents you’ll be using to reach them…

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How to Choose Your Content Types (Online and Offline)

One big benefit of working with a content marketing agency is consistency. A good content marketing strategy will give you a consistent message across all your content distribution channels and a seamless strategy for using all your channels to support your goal to build content equity. 

In the introduction to this article, I explained how a content marketing agency might specialize in a specific type of content creation and/or publishing. This is also true with marketing agencies in general. Some specialize in creating SEO content for your website. Others specialize in video, social media, email marketing, or direct mail marketing.

The purpose of your content marketing strategy is to get all these different media types and all your content distribution channels working as one seamless marketing funnel.

You achieve this by first defining your buyer’s personas and using the Five Stages of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey as the foundation of all your marketing content. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. It’s actually quite simple if you use the formula we’re about to unpack. 

First, let me answer a question I sometimes get about the relationship between your marketing funnel and the stages of the buyer’s journey. They’re not the same thing. True, your prospects will move closer to Stage #4 of the buyer’s journey as they move from the top of your marketing funnel to the bottom. 

Content Marketing Funnel

However, some of your first-time impressions and website visits will come from Stage #1 Prospects, while others will come from Stage #2 Prospects, and others from Stage #3 prospects. Likewise, leads who subscribe to your email list might be in any one of the five stages.

This is why it’s important to segment your subscribers and your customers AND to organize your published content to target each of the Five Stages of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey stages. This will become clearer as we unpack the strategy for choosing your content types and for building our content marketing schedule. 

Start With Your “Content Marketing Pantry”

Content Marketing Pantry: a collection of content that you draw upon to create all your other marketing content. Some examples include a printed book, a collection of 12 to 30 high-quality website articles, or a master file with messages targeting your buyer’s persona(s) at each of the Five Stages of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey.

Think of a “Content Marketing Pantry” like the pantry in your kitchen. When you prepare to go to the kitchen to prepare a meal, most of the ingredients are already in your pantry. This saves the time of having to run to the store or create an ingredient from scratch. Likewise, a content pantry is the body of content you draw on to produce all your marketing content. 

For example, let’s assume you’re a financial consultant who specializes in helping married couples build and execute a retirement plan. You’ve already written a solid start-to-finish book on financial management for married couples. You could spin your wheels creating a brand-new website article, explainer video, and a half-dozen new social media posts every month.

Or, using your book as your Content Pantry, you could create dozens of pieces of derivative content using the most salient ideas in your book. This solves two problems. First, it gives you a consistent and sequential message across all your content distribution channels. 

Content Marketing Pantry

Of course, this assumes that the message in your book starts at the first stage of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey and finishes around Stage #4. Having ghostwritten and edited self-help and business books since 2009, I can tell you that this is the most logical and persuasive formula for writing a non-fiction book.

Second, using a Content Pantry makes your life a WHOLE lot easier by eliminating the need to come up with ideas to create new content around. In my experience, one of the hardest parts of implementing a content marketing strategy is the pressure to consistently create and publish new content. You can escape this hamster wheel, get into a groove, and gradually build momentum by starting with a Content Marketing Pantry and using it to create most (or all) of your remaining content. 

This means that in the beginning, most of your efforts will be focused on planning and creating your Content Pantry. This can be a book, a collection of 12 to 30 well-written website articles, or a master file that includes messages for prospects in each stage of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey. Since creating a Content Marketing Pantry is a complicated topic, we’ll focus first on how to define the content types for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Then I’ll show you how to use your Content Marketing Pantry to build a dynamite content creation and publishing strategy. 

How to Use Your Content Marketing Pantry

Let’s wrap up this section with five examples of how a prospect from each buying stage might interact with the above-defined marketing content. For the sake of this example, let’s assume you’re a financial planner who helps married couples get out of debt and plan for retirement. You’ve written a book on the topic. The book starts out by educating them about how personal, critical, and urgent their financial situation will be if they don’t start planning for retirement. 

Now, imagine your prospect is on LinkedIn and he finds one of your teaser articles. The article (based on chapter one of your book) starts to educate him on the risks of neglecting good retirement planning. He clicks through to your website to read the rest of the article. After finishing the article, he’s convinced that he needs to talk to his wife about their finances. He follows your updates on LinkedIn.

A few days later, he sees another one of your articles. This article (based on chapter two of your book) educates him on the available options for financial planning. The article also explains the shortcomings of each of these solutions and invites them to download a white paper in exchange for his email. The white paper (based on chapter three of your book) explains what financial planners do and why working with one is a good idea. Your prospect gets distracted by a phone call before he can read your white paper. But you now have his email address.

Over the next ten days, you send him emails (also based on chapter three of your book) that educate him on what financial planners do and why working with one is a good idea. After reading a few of them, he talks to his wife and they decide that it’s time to start looking for a financial planner. He also accepts your offer to give you his physical mailing address in exchange for a free diagnostic worksheet. He is now a Stage #3 Prospect. 

You mail him the diagnostic worksheets along with a letter explaining why your relevance, superiority, and uniqueness as a financial planner. After reading it with his wife call you for a meeting. They are now almost a Stage #4 Prospect. Next, you send them an email detailing what will happen once they become your client. By the time they arrive at your office, they’re practically a client already. 

This entire process might take a few weeks, or even up to a year. However, by the time they became a Stage #3 Prospect, you’d already build a significant amount of credibility and trust. This is the stage where most of your competitors would FIRST start marketing to them. As you can imagine, this gives you a much, much better chance of being the one who earns their business. 

So, now we’ve explained how to define your buyer’s persona(s), your content distribution channels, and the content types you’ll be using to reach them at each stage. Now it’s time to start putting your content marketing strategy into motion… 

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How to Build Your Content Distribution Schedule

Your content marketing schedule is a practical to-do list for your content marketing agency or your content creation team. Some content marketing agencies organize a content distribution schedule according to their content distribution channel. Others organize it according to their content type. In this example, we’ll organize your content distribution schedule according to buyer’s persona and the Five Stages of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey.  As we unpack this example, you’ll notice that we suggest using one piece of seed content to generate the content for distribution channels.

I’m also including an example of what your goal might be for each of the marketing stages. You’ll also notice that the content marketing schedule below is derived from a simple, four-piece Content Marketing Pantry…

  • Monthly SEO Article.
  • Stage #3 Sales Page.
  • Stage #4 Order Page
  • Quarterly Newsletter.

Once you’ve created your primary sales and order pages, you only need to freshen them up based on what you learn from tracking your Content Marketing KPIs (which we’ll discuss later). This leaves you with two new pieces of content to work on every month, your SEO Article, and your Quarterly (customer) Newsletter. In these examples below, I’ll refer to items from the Content Marketing Pantry as “Seed Content” and highlight them for clarity.

Content Marketing Strategy Distribution Schedule

Your Content Marketing Strategy So Far

Congratulations! You’re now halfway into your content marketing strategy. This is where the planning stage of your content marketing strategy ends and the execution stage starts. Here’s a quick recap of the VQ Success Content Marketing Strategy and the steps we’ve completed so far…

  • 1. Your Content Marketing Goal(s).
  • 2. Your Content Marketing Audience(s).
  • 3. Your Content Distribution Channels.
  • 4. Your Content Types.
  • 5. Your Content Distribution Schedule.
  • 6. Your Content Creation Process.
  • 7. Your Content Marketing Team.
  • 8. Your Content Marketing KPIs.
  • 9. Your Content Marketing ROI.
  • 10. Your Internal Promotion Strategy.

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Your Simple Three-Step Content Creation Plan

By now, you have a clearly defined buyer’s persona. You have a list of content distribution channels. You have a well-documented content distribution schedule. This is the stage where companies usually move to hire a content marketing agency. We’ll discuss later whether this is the best approach

First, let’s talk about how to execute your content creation according to the content distribution schedule you’ve created. I’ll start by sharing the content creation strategy I’ve used since 2009 to manage freelance writers and writing teams…

  • Plan your content.
  • Write your content.
  • Polish your content.
Content Marketing Strategy Implementation

The secret to making this plan work is to create time blocks for each of the three stages of your content creation strategy. Here’s a formula that’s worked very well for me and for the teams of content writers I’ve managed over the years.

  • Plan your content – 30% of your time.
  • Write your content – 50% of your time.
  • Polish your content – 20% of your time.

For example, let’s assume your content distribution schedule requires you to create a 10,000-word SEO Article by the 15th of every month. This article will be your seed content for the following month. So, if you gave your content creation team 100 days to complete the article, your content creation timeline would break down like this…

  • Plan your content (30% of your time): Days 1-30.
  • Write your content (50% of your time): Days 31-80.
  • Polish your content (20% of your time: Days 81-100.

The second secret is to give your content creation team sufficient time and compensation to deliver a high-quality piece of content. In my experience, this is where every serious marketer needs to break from the crowd and embrace a new paradigm when it comes to their digital marketing efforts. 

The Costliest Myth in Digital Content Marketing

Before you hire a content marketing agency (or build your own in-house team), I urge you to completely reject the all-too-common assumption that content is a commodity you can mass-manufacture at dirt cheap rates. 

If you’re serious about results, I suggest allowing your writing team ten days per 1,000 words to complete their projects and budgeting .50 to $1 per word for their time and effort. This means a 10,000-word article would require 100 days and a $5,000.00 to $10,000.00 budget to complete. Likewise, a 3,000-word article should take thirty days and allow for a budget of $1,500.00 to $3,000.00.

If you think this sounds high, let me assure you that this is quite reasonable if you expect a profitable outcome. The “Wild-Wild West” days of online marketing seduced many people into believing that content can be produced as easily as manufacturing giants produce toilet paper or iPhone covers. 

Content Marketing Rates

Content writers are service providers who earn a living by trading their time and expertise for money. You may not worry whether they have to rush through a 1,000-word article in less than two hours just to earn a livable (post-tax) wage. But you will care when your content produces no results and your writers burn out after three to six months.

Only ammeters waste time and money chasing the fool’s gold of cheap marketing content. Your content is the voice of your brand. Many of your prospects will form their attitude about your brand’s value and expertise based on how good your content is. That alone is enough to justify paying professional rates–especially when it comes to your seed content. Now that I’ve (hopefully) persuaded you to invest adequate time and money into having your seed content created, let’s break down the three stages of content creation…

Step #1: Plan Your Content

The secret to creating great marketing content is to start with an idea, not just a topic. In his book, A Writer’s Coach(Chapter II: Process) author Jack Hart brilliantly explains the difference between a topic and an idea. Simply put, topic-driven content merely informs your reader about a subject. The internet is loaded with such content, and it’s getting harder to stand out with it. Idea-driven content changes the way your reader thinks about the subject. It inspires new trains of thought and changes your prospect’s brain chemistry in a way topic-driven content can’t.

This change in brain chemistry also makes it much more likely that your prospect will remember your content. This happens because of a reward neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine has been called a “driver of exploration” because of its role in rewarding novel experiences and discoveries. Your brain releases this neurotransmitter in response to novel experiences, such as a new idea. When your prospect’s brain releases dopamine, the odds are much greater that they will remember the information that triggered this release.

That said, your content should introduce an idea that changes how your prospect thinks about one of the following subjects…

  • The PROBLEM your product or service solves.
  • The ALTERNATIVE solution(s) to the problem.
  • The TYPE of product or service you offer.
  • Your specific BRAND of the product or service.

We covered these four items earlier in our discussion on the Five Stages of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey. Your job is to start with a topic that’s relevant to the stage of the buyer’s journey you expect your prospect to be in when they find your content. I’ll give you a blueprint for each of the first four stages soon. Once you have your topic, your next job is to find an angle that changes the way your prospect thinks about the topic.

Content Marketing Strategy Research

We covered these four items earlier in our discussion on the Five Stages of the VQ Success Buyer’s Journey. Your job is to start with a topic that’s relevant to the stage of the buyer’s journey you expect your prospect to be in when they find your content. I’ll give you a blueprint for each of the first four stages soon. Once you have your topic, your next job is to find an angle that changes the way your prospect thinks about that topic.

Since the topic of idea generation is beyond the scope of this article, I suggest you grab a copy of Jack Hart’s book and immerse yourself in the chapter on “Process.” I also cover this in more detail in other articles on this site and in my marketing books. For the sake of this article, here are two quick prompts that can help you come up with an angle for your content…

  1. Blind spots: inform your prospects of what they don’t know about the topic.
  2. Assumptions: challenge your prospects’ assumptions about the topic.

The more you know about your buyer’s persona, the better you’ll become at using one (or all) of these three angles to generate interesting and unique content ideas. And the more relevant, unique, and compelling your idea, the easier the next two steps will be. Once you’ve found your angle, your next step is to find two types of information for clarifying and validating your angle…

  1. Left-Brain Data: statistics, studies or other scientific data that validates your point.
  2. Right-Brain Data: a story or metaphor that clarifies and/or demonstrates your idea.

Once you’ve gathered this data, use one of the blueprints below to organize your research and into a cohesive outline for your content…

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use these blueprints, don’t worry. I cover this topic in detail in my other work. This ought to be enough to help you plan your content and move on to the second step of our content creation strategy. I also suggest buying a copy of A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and studying the chapters on Method, Process, and Structure and implementing what you learn into your content planning step.

Step #2: Write Your Content

This step is simple. Take the research data and the outline you created during the planning stage, and hand it to someone who has the focus and drive to hammer out your first draft. The secret to this stage is to have ONE PERSON write the content, and don’t bring in anyone else until the first draft is done. This person should not worry about typos, proper grammar, or any of those last stage details.

If you involve more than one person at this stage or if your writer tries to write and polish at the same time, your project will quickly become pear-shaped and before you know it, you’ll be staring down your deadline with nothing but a file of disorganized ideas to work with. We’ll discuss how to build and manage a content marketing team later in this article, including when to have multiple people working on the project.

Content Creation Process

That said, let me make one last very important point about this three-step content creation strategy and your content marketing strategy in general. The better job you do applying one step of this process, the more effective you’ll be in applying the next step. However, the opposite is also true. Meaning, if you shortcut this step, writing will be slower, more stressful, and the outcome will be disappointing. But, if you’re diligent in your planning, your writing will go much smoother, and so will the next and final stage of your content creation strategy.

Step #3: Polish Your Content

Once your first draft is done, the final step is to put your content through three rounds of edits. Each of these edits will have a different focus, and it’s important not to mix them up. I’ll explain later how to leverage the strengths of your content marketing team members at this stage.

Round #1: Edit for Clarity

Have someone other than your content writer go through your first draft and remove or recommend a revision for anything that is…

  1. Confusing.
  2. Unbelievable.
  3. Boring.
  4. Awkward.

Ideally, this should be someone who can see your content from the perspective of your buyer’s persona. In my experience, people like this are hard to find and I’ll explain why later. I also suggest checking out A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and studying the chapters on Force, Brevity, and Clarity and applying his techniques to this stage of your editing.

Round #2: Edit for Style

By now, you should be working with a clear, credible, interesting, and authentic piece of content. If you’re not, remember the rule we discussed a few moments ago. A problem at one stage of this process is almost always the result of something you did (or didn’t do) in one of the following stages.

Poorly planned content might make it through the writing stage, but it will be hell to edit. Especially when you reach this stage. However, if you’ve done a good job so far, this is where the content will really come to life. In my experience, this round of edits should be done by the person who wrote your content. As long as you’ve used someone else for the Clarity round, you should end up with something remarkable by the time they’re done.

How do you edit for style? That’s a topic for another article. However, I urge you to check out A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart and studying the chapters on Rhythm, Color, and Voice and applying those techniques at this stage.

Round #3: Cleanup

The final round of editing is simple. Have someone who is very, very detail-oriented check it for mechanical errors. There should be no additional editing for clarity or style at this stage. Allowing or encouraging this kind of editing will slow down your project, and the end result will not be as polished. In my experience, this is very hard for some people to resist, but the ability to resist it and finish your content by deadline is the mark of a truly professional writing team. 

How to Implement Your Content Marketing Strategy

You can use the content creation strategy above to create all the content in your Content Marketing Pantry.  For instance, let’s assume your Content Marketing Pantry includes the four pieces from the example we used earlier in this article…

  • Monthly SEO Article.
  • Stage #3 Sales Page.
  • Stage #4 Order Page
  • Quarterly Newsletter.

Once you’ve created your Stage #3 Sales Page and your Stage #4 Order Page, you need only to refresh them once a month. Same with most content derived from these pages, including Stage #3 and Stage #4 four sales emails.

This leaves you with only one Monthly SEO Article and one Quarterly (every three months) Newsletter to create. You’ll create the rest of your content by simply repurposing the pieces in your Content Marketing Pantry. Here’s an example, using the sample content distribution schedule from earlier in this article, of what this effort might look like.

Content Repurposing Strategy

Notice how much easier this is than trying to create several brand-new pieces of content every month, every week, and every day. This is how a Content Marketing Pantry makes it easy to consistently implement a robust content marketing strategy. Now all you need is a dynamite content marketing team to make it happen.

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How to Build Your Content Marketing Team

You have two options for implementing your content marketing strategy. First, you can hire a content marketing agency. We’ll discuss this option in the conclusion of this article. The other option is to build your own in-house content marketing team, which we’ll talk about right now.

According to 2020 research from CMI, the average content marketing team size (for B2B and B2C organizations) is between two and five people. In my experience, the ideal content marketing team includes four members, each with their own set of specialized skills, strengths, and personality traits. I’ll start by summarizing each of these team members and their respective traits. Then we’ll summarize how your content marketing team might implement your content marketing strategy.

Average B2B Content Marketing Team Size

Summary of Your Content Marketing Team

  • Writer: Red (Dominant)
  • Salesperson: Blue (Influencer)
  • Manager: Gold (Supportive)
  • Editor: Green (Compliant)

NOTE: if you need to start with a two-person marketing team, try looking for one person who can fulfill the role of Writer and Salesperson and another who can fulfill the role of Diplomat and Editor. 

Content Marketing Team Members

Picking Your Writer

Ideally, your writer should be someone who can quickly grasp complex ideas and put them into words. They should also be interested in the subjects they’ll be writing about and have some real-world experience with it. Find someone who is either a member of the demographic you’ve identified in your buyer’s persona or who has real-life experience communicating with them. Finally, they should be someone who communicates well with your salesperson. This will ensure that their writing is as relevant and authentic to your buyer’s persona as possible. I’ll explain this below. 

Picking Your Salesperson

This person should literally be a salesperson at your company. I say this because their primary job is to ensure that your content is relevant to the types of conversations your sales or customer service staff has with real customers. I’m often consulted about creating sales copy for small businesses. Many times, the owner insists that I’m the person they should talk to about how to describe the product or service. In EVERY instance, I insist on also talking to the person who takes incoming calls from prospective clients. This person will have the most practical knowledge of which words, phrases, and other linguistic nuances will make your content sounds authentic to your buyer’s persona. 

Picking Your Manager

This person should literally be a salesperson at your company. I say this because their primary job is to ensure that your content is relevant to the types of conversations your sales or customer service staff has with real customers.

I’m often consulted about creating sales copy for small businesses. Many times, the owner insists that I’m the person they should talk to about how to describe the product or service. In EVERY instance, I insist on also talking to the person who takes incoming calls from prospective clients. This person will have the most practical knowledge of which words, phrases, and other linguistic nuances will make your content sounds authentic to your buyer’s persona. 

Average B2C Content Marketing Team Size

Picking Your Editer

This should be someone obsessed with details, accuracy, and the appearance of credibility. If your writer, your salesperson, and your manager are doing their jobs, you’ll be producing and publishing a massive amount of content. Your editor will be the quality-assurance expert who makes sure your content is clear, credible, and error-free. Ideally, you’ll want to pick someone who is good at uncovering the fine details that will make your content uniquely credible. 

Working With Your Content Marketing Team

Working with your content marketing team is a complicated topic which we’ll cover in another article. For now, we’ll revisit each step of the content creation process and look at how your team might work together on each step. 

Step #1: Plan Your Content

This step starts with your team brainstorming a list of topics. Next, your salesperson advises which topics will be most relevant to your buyer’s persona. After you have a list of topics, your writer and salesperson work together to generate an idea/angle for your content. Once you’ve generated an idea, your writer and editor work together to research the topic and to create an outline. 

Step #2: Write Your Content

Once you’ve got an idea, an outline, .and some solid research, your writer goes to work and hammer out the first draft. Remember that the secret to this stage is to have ONE PERSON write the content. Don’t bring in anyone else until the first draft is done. The only exceptions are if your writer needs to ask your salesperson the best way to say something, or if wants your editor to check a source or research a specific point. 

Step #3: Polish Your Content

Each round of editing should be handled by the team member with the skills for the job…

  • Round #1 – Edit for Clarity: your salesperson.
  • Round #2 – Edit for Style: your writer.
  • Round #3 – Cleanup: your editor.

Once your content is finished, the final step is to publish it. In my experience, it’s best to assign this to either your editor, your manager, or a fifth team member. If you’re only working with a two-person team, I suggest training a part-time or freelance assistant to handle this. If everyone on your content marketing team has a highly specialized role and skills that fit the responsibilities of that role, your content marketing strategy will go smoothly and successfully.

So, how will you know whether your efforts are paying off? More importantly, how do you convince your client (or the people in C-Suite) that your content marketing strategy is achieving its goal, winning new customers, and making money? That’s where the final two steps of your content marketing strategy come into play.

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How to Track and Improve Your Content Marketing KPIs

Content Marketing KPI (Key Performance Indicator): a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving a key content marketing goal or how well a piece of content is performing. Companies use content marketing KPIs to make small-scale and large-scale evaluations of content engagement and ROI.

I have a simple saying that applies to content marketing as much as it does to business and to human performance…

“What gets measured, gets better.”

If you want to know whether your content marketing strategy is working, you need to measure the performance of EVERY piece of content you publish. By tracking your content marketing KPIs, you’ll quickly discover what’s working, and what isn’t. You’ll have the data to do more of what’s working, and less of what’s not. You’ll have the clarity to strengthen your weak points and become faster and more efficient at hitting your content marketing goals. This is how you maximize every marketing dollar and by increasing your profits and decreasing your cost per customer acquisition.

Since this takes considerable diligence, let me show you why this is essential. According to the Content Marketing Institute, measurement of key content marketing KPIs is the single most crucial factor to the success of your content marketing strategy…

Top 3 Success Factors in B2B Content Marketing

  • Uses metrics to measure content performance: 95%.
  • Rates their ability to demonstrate ROI as excellent/very good: 84%.
  • Has KPIs to measure content initiatives: 83%.

Top 3 Success Factors in B2C Content Marketing

  • Uses metrics to measure content performance: 93%.
  • Prioritizes delivering relevant content when and where a person is most likely to see it: 84%.
  • Prioritizes their audience’s informational needs over the organization’s sales/promotional message: 73%.
Content Marketing Strategy KPIs

The Six Content Marketing KPI Groups

We’ll now look at the most important content marketing KPIs you should be tracking. I’ll define each one and explain how to track them and why they’re important for optimizing your content marketing strategy. I arrange content marketing KPIs into six groups, each group containing their own set of specific KPIs.

  • Visibility KPIs.
  • Engagement KPIs.
  • Lead Capture KPIs.
  • Conversion KPIs.
  • Promotional KPIs.
  • Production Cost KPIs.

Your Content Marketing KPI Review Schedule

The best way to track and improve your content marketing KPIs is to make them a part of your documented content marketing strategy. Here’s an example of what your KPI Review Schedule might look like…

  • MONTHLY: Review KPIs for all content and compare them to the previous month AND the same month in the previous year. Use findings to plan what content to update or replace.
  • WEEKLY: Review KPIs for content published this month. Use findings to make tweaks where needed and to plan next month’s content.
  • DAILY: Review KPIs for content features being split tested. Use findings to direct split testing efforts (see explanation below).
Content Marketing KPI Schedule

How to Supercharge Your Content Marketing KPIs

The most powerful way to use content marketing KPIs is to inform your split testing experiments. Since this is a complex topic and beyond the scope of this article, we’ll cover the basics and leave the details for another article. Split testing is when you take one key feature (your headline, call to action button, etc.) of your content, create two versions of it, and track the KPIs to see which version is more effective. For example, let’s assume you’re split testing these two headlines for one of your SEO articles…

  • Headline Version A: Content Marketing Strategy – All You Need to Know.
  • Headline Version B: Content Marketing Strategy – Your Start to Finish Guide.

There are multiple ways you can test these two headline versions. Some advertising platforms allow you to set up split tests that rotate headlines and other ad features out and show you which version has the higher click rate. You can also have your webmaster create a code that rotates the two headline versions. This way, 50% of your visitors will see one headline, and the other 50% will see the other. We’ll leave it to you to work out the technical details.

Getting back to our example, let’s assume that while reviewing your Visibility and Engagement KPIs, you realize that Version A is getting more clicks and that people who see that headline are scrolling farther down into the article OR spending more time on the page. After running this test with a sufficient number of visitors, you’ve determined that version A is your most effective headline. This is a simple example of using split testing to improve your content marketing KPIs.

You can also use split testing to learn more about your buyer’s persona AND which of the five content marketing stages your visitors are likely to be in. For example, let’s assume that you create an ad with two headlines—one headline targeting Stage #2 Prospects and another targeting Stage #3 Prospects. After split testing these headlines, you learn that the Stage #2 headline is getting better engagement. This tells you that the people seeing that ad are more likely to be in Stage #2. This gives you the insight to tweak your landing page, lead capture offers, your message, and other features of your content to target Stage #2 Prospects.

This is when split testing becomes a powerful tool for directing your content marketing efforts and accelerating your results. By combining content marketing KPIs and split testing with the other insights we’ve covered in this article, you can create a content marketing strategy that rewards you with a steady flow of inbound leads. More importantly, it arms you with invaluable data for executing the final piece in your content marketing strategy puzzle…

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How to Track and Improve Your Content Marketing ROI

By now, you’re probably giddy about implementing everything we’ve talked about. So, let me drop a two-ton caveat into your lap now.

Your content marketing strategy won’t work right away. By “work,” I mean it won’t produce a measurable return on your investment (ROI) right away. It could take weeks, months, or even more than a year for that to happen. Moreover, once your content marketing strategy becomes profitable, you’ll need track your results and use them to promote your content marketing strategy to those who are paying you to execute it.

I call this your “Internal Promotion Strategy.”

The bottom line is, you’ll need to promote your content marketing strategy while it’s still in the beginning stages (and not yet producing profitable results). Once it is profitable, you’ll need to continue selling it to your client or to the people in C-Suite. The good news is, if you’ve been diligent with everything we’ve covered so far, you’ll have all the tools for building a dynamite Internal Promotion Strategy.

Content Marketing Strategy ROI

How to Promote Your Content Marketing Strategy

A good Internal Promotion Strategy has three ingredients…

  • Clarity: clearly defined goals, milestones, and action steps.
  • Profit: well-documented evidence of concrete results (profits).
  • Vision: exciting and achievable projections of long-term results.

The first ingredient, Clarity, is how you establish a concrete expectation for your client (or the C-Suite) and make yourself accountable to fulfill it. This is another reason it’s important to set a measurable goal with a definite deadline. If your client (or the C-Suite) sees and agrees to a concrete, objective, deadline-driven goal, they’re more likely to be patient as you work toward it.

The second ingredient, Profit, is how you show your client the bottom line results your content marketing strategy is producing. No matter how effective your strategy is, the goal of marketing is to generate new business and to earn profits. The more documented evidence your client sees of measurable ROI, the more likely they are to continue supporting your efforts. More importantly, this evidence will help them to see your content marketing strategy as a vital investment in their business, instead of a cost or liability.

For example, let’s assume your Product Cost KPIs for an SEO article is $3,000.00 but your Lead Capture KPIs show it generating an average of 10 leads a month. Your Conversion KPIs show it generating one new customer from those leads, and an average of $500.00 in new business. That’s a total of $6,000.00 in revenue a year, and that’s before you count any repeat or referral business you might earn from those new customers. That’s a handsome ROI. However, if you can’t show your client documented evidence of this, don’t be surprised if your client doesn’t see the benefit of investing that $3,000.00.

I’ve seen clients cut profitable marketing projects because they see them as expenses instead of investments. In every case of this, there was no documented evidence of the real profits the marketing project was producing. Yes, this is a short-sighted way to look at a marketing project. But the saying “out of sight, out of mind,” definitely applies when it comes to evaluating the “cost” of a marketing project. 

This is why you need a clear, timely, and profitable goal for your content marketing strategy. This is how you use well-documented evidence to prove that you’re advancing towards a profitable goal and persuade them to treat your efforts as an investment instead of a cost.

The third and final ingredient, Vision, is how you keep your client excited about the long-term results your content marketing strategy is producing. This is where the concept of Content Equity comes into play. Your primary goal as a content marketing manager, or a content marketing agency, is to establish a clear expectation of the long-term value of your content marketing strategy. 

Content Marketing Internal Promotion Strategy

The good news is, if you’ve got the first two ingredients (Clarity, and Profit) working, you’ll be able to show your client a clear path towards a hugely profitable long-term result. Most importantly, you can use these three ingredients to build and implement a blueprint for tracking AND improving your content marketing ROI.  

How to Implement Your Internal Promotion Strategy

Your Internal Promotion Strategy should be based on the content marketing goal(s) we talked about at the start of this article. For example, let’s assume you’ve set the following three content marketing goals…

  • Increase inbound leads from 20 a month to 200 a month by January 1rst next year.
  • Increase conversion rate for inbound leads to 20% by January 1rst next year.
  • Increase average income per customer to $5,000.00 (per year) by January 1rst next year.

Each of these quarterly milestones represents a meeting with your client (or the C-Suite). If meetings aren’t possible, have a report prepared. I also suggest having a presentation ready, in case your client wants to discuss the details of the report. The idea is to use each quarterly milestone as an opportunity to sell your client on the value of what you are doing for them. Here’s how you’d use the KPI Review Schedule we covered earlier to do that with Goal #1…

Here’s one final tip about how to plan and execute your Internal Promotion Strategy. Have your editor and manager (who are detail-focused) oversee your KPI Measurement and analysis. However, when the reports are ready for your client meeting, have your salesperson review them and “sell” the client on your progress and your vision for improving your results next quarter.

Summary of The VQ Success Content Marketing Strategy

  • 1. Your Content Marketing Goal(s).
  • 2. Your Content Marketing Audience(s).
  • 3. Your Content Distribution Channels.
  • 4. Your Content Types.
  • 5. Your Content Distribution Schedule.
  • 6. Your Content Creation Process.
  • 7. Your Content Creation Team(s).
  • 8. Your Content Marketing KPIs.
  • 9. Your Content Marketing ROI.
  • 10. Your Internal Promotion Strategy.

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Conclusion: Hiring a Content Marketing Agency

Content Marketing Agency: type of marketing company that specializes in helping its clients plan, document, implement, measure, and improve their content marketing strategy.

Congratulations! You now have a start-to-finish blueprint for building a reputation that attracts a steady stream of inbound leads. Here’s a summary of the top two benefits of using this content marketing strategy…

Benefit #1: Inbound Leads

This is the most immediately profitable benefit of building and implementing a content marketing strategy. Since 2010, marketing research and surveys have consistently revealed that lead generation is the biggest challenge facing modern businesses.

Small B2B startups (ten employees or less) typically invest a lot of time into cold-calling or networking for leads. This leaves the business owners with less time for providing excellent service and managing their business. It also blocks the business from achieving scalable and sustainable growth. 

Hire a Content Marketing Agency

Inbound lead generation breaks this cycle by creating a steady flow of qualified prospects. It frees up precious resources so that startup owners can focus on managing and growing their business. Most importantly, a steady, sustainable inflow of qualified inbound leads will protect your brand from economic slumps and reduce your dependency on tech platforms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

Benefit #2: Content Equity

This is the most valuable long-term benefit of planning, documenting, and implementing a content marketing strategy. Imagine a local business with hundreds of positive customer reviews published on trustworthy review sites. These reviews will attract a steady flow of inbound leads, even when the business isn’t actively marketing. Prospects will also find reviews while researching the company in response to a paid ad from that company, or even from a competitor. 

By the time these prospects talk to a salesperson, they’ll be much more likely to become customers and to pay premium prices for a higher quality product or service. This is what an evergreen body of trustworthy content reviews can do for a business. This principle also applies to a company that has a lot of relevant, credible, and well-crafted articles, videos, infographics, white-papers, and podcasts published online.

If this content is consistently showing up at the top of search results or being shared on social media, it has a similar effect to the abovementioned body of published customer reviews. It creates a sustainable flow of inbound leads and to convert those leads into loyal customers. This is the power of content equity.  It’s the cumulative value of your published content (online or offline) in terms of its ability to increase your inbound leads and their corresponding conversion rates. 

Benefits of Hiring a Content Marketing Agency

It’s hard to overstate how powerful a solid content marketing strategy can be to the long-term resilience of your brand. Brands with low content equity (or none) are highly vulnerable to economic slumps and to being shadowbanned or censored on social media. They’re also more dependent on paid advertising platforms. 

Content Equity solves these challenges by giving you a steady flow of qualified inbound leads. It improves the overall performance of ALL your marketing campaigns. It gives you the leverage to intercept traffic generated by your competitors through their paid ads. 

There are many other benefits of building and implementing a content marketing strategy. Inbound Lead Generation and Content Equity are simply the most valuable and easiest to measure. If you’re like most business owners or marketing managers, implementation is your biggest challenge. You can solve this problem by hiring a content marketing agency to help plan, document, and implement your content marketing strategy.

Content Marketing Strategy - VQ Success

Four Types of Content Marketing Agencies

Content marketing agencies can be organized into four basic types…

  1. Full-Service Agencies act as your fully outsourced marketing department, handling everything from planning to documentation, to implementation, to measurement and improvement.
  2. Specialized Agencies specialize in a specific type of content creation and/or publishing, such as SEO, Social Media, article syndication, or getting your articles published in reputable trade publications.
  3. Consultative Agencies work alongside your in-house marketing department, in a consultative role. They might offer expert guidance in planning, documenting, implementing, and/or improving your content marketing strategy.
  4. Hybrid Agencies offer consultative services but can also provide hands-on help with planning, research, documentation, content creation, editing, or content syndication.

A content marketing agency may also specialize in working with certain types of content distribution channels. I’ll clarify this later when we discuss how to choose the best content distribution channels for achieving your goals and building content equity.

The cost of hiring a content marketing agency depends on the quality of the work they’re doing. Lower budget agencies are more likely to offer content packages where you pay for a few pieces of content at a time. These agencies don’t usually focus on content equity and might not even be aware of the concept or how to apply it.

Higher-quality content marketing agencies are more likely to work on long-term contracts so they can spend more time getting to know your company and developing a solid long-term strategy. If your goal is to build content equity and enjoy sustainable results and long-term value, this article will demonstrate why hiring a high-quality firm is a must.

This concludes our start-to-finish guide on planning, documenting, and implementing a content marketing strategy. If you’re ready to put this strategy to work in your business, contact VQ Success using the form below, and let’s take your brand to the next level.

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