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Content Marketing: Where do I start?

If you’re considering content marketing but have limited resources and are unsure where to start, you probably have a few of these common questions:

  1. How do I start planning a content marketing program?
  2. Where does the content come from?
  3. What results can I expect?
  4. How long does it take?

In this series of posts, we’ll address these questions, beginning with:

Starting a content marketing program with limited resources

It’s possible to get started with limited resources, but it will still take a bit of an investment. If you have a larger marketing department, you might assign a team to the task. If you have limited resources you can start on a limited scale, with a single person dedicating a couple hours a week to the effort. A couple hours a week is manageable for most people as long as they work it into their schedules. Try creating calendar entries for a combination of 30-minute and 1-hour blocks that work for you or your team. And treat these working sessions as important meetings, meaning reschedule them if you’re pulled into other activities.

In the first several weeks, you’ll do your planning. Try sticking to the basics and give yourself some guidelines or goals to keep the process moving. 

Define your audience and their needs.

While defining your program, remember that your goal is to help your prospective customer. To do so, you’ll need to think critically about who your audience is: the consumer? the contractor? the corporate client? Gear your thinking toward the people who buy your products and services. An exercise that’s often useful is to segment your audience into the different categories of buyers (usually at least two or three but not more than five or six) and create a “persona” for each.

A persona is a written description of the person that is most likely to be the buyer of your products or services. Consider their role in their companies, their time constraints, their demographics, the ways they’re likely to get the information they need, their time frames to evaluate and acquire services of the type your firm offers, and their questions as they consider your products or services. Sometimes within a category you might have more than one persona – e.g. the influencers (people who do the research and make recommendations) and the decision makers. Decide what mix of personas is right for your firm. 

Evaluate the competition.

Take a look at your competitors’ blogs. Rank their content in terms of your perception of its value. Consider how you will create an approach that differentiates your firm.

Outline content to meet the needs of your audience.

At this point, review your personas. How many audiences do you have? If there are more than a couple, narrow them to one or two that you’ll start with. It’s great to have the others defined because that will give you a sense of your long-term objectives, but prioritizing will help you get the program going. 

Now, think about what will help the people represented by your personas. Remember again, you’re not selling to them but working to provide useful information that will help them in their journey – whether that represents a consumer need, a business relationship, or a contract and project that needs to be expedited. Think “if I were this person, in this situation, what questions will I have and what information would help me with my project?” and create topics around those things.

Then create an editorial calendar for the next couple months, answering the question “for my audiences, what topics will I present, in what order or sequence, that will be most useful to them at [blank],” where [blank] might be time of year, stage in project lifecycle, or more generally related to the decisions they have to make as they are contemplating a project or an engagement with a firm like yours.

The result: your immediate plan. 

In its simplest – but still effective – form, that’s the planning stage. Give yourself a timeline for completing this work and by the end you should have a clear picture of: 

  • your audiences
  • the audience(s) you’re going to target initially
  • their needs
  • how you’re going to deliver a variety of content to help them with those needs
  • how you’ll do this in a way that differentiates you from your competitors

 

Where will my content come from?

Creating content can feel daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. In the next post we’ll look into where content can come from and a process to help you create compelling content. Hint: you don’t need to be the expert source for all your content.

Charles Ogden, Co-Founder and CEO of Antics Digital Marketing, has a 20-year background planning and guiding content marketing programs for companies such as KPMG, PayPal, Sun Microsystems, SAP, Shutterfly, Actavis Pharmaceuticals, and others. His work in content marketing began in 1996 when he and Antics helped Netscape Communications design and run the world's first largescale email newsletter programs. While content marketing has changed since then, the foundations of its benefits go back much farther and Charles continues to help companies advance their business through content. He views his work as an extension of his degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, which he'll discuss if you're curious.

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