File 2: Step-by-Step Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing doesn’t have to be confusing.
There are a zillion tools, a zillion tips, a zillion ways to create content to spread your marketing message, and it all falls under the umbrella of content marketing.
All the options alone can seem daunting.
But it doesn’t have to be.
What you need is a plan. A system. A checklist that you follow for every single piece of content you make. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or terribly time consuming.
So I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m going to share with you my plan. And it may not be ground-breaking, lightening-in-a-bottle genius, but it may demystify a few things about content marketing for you, and put your own plan within reach.
Crafting the plan.
This plan started coming together in my mind more than 8 months ago, and I have been poking at it, tweaking it, forgetting about it, remembering it, burying it in peat for three months, digging it up, and recycling it as firestarter ever since. It’s been living and growing and evolving in an Evernote note since June of 2014, and every time I learned something new or figured something out, I added it to the plan.
I’ve only just begun really using the plan myself, because it’s much easier to get caught up in the mouse wheel of creating content than it is to actually do anything with it. But I’ve started. And it’s working.
So keep in mind that this is the bare bones of my plan. I’m fleshing it out and I plan on creating a full course that will delve much deeper into the nooks and crannies of this plan, but this is the beginning. This is the beginning of sanity and success when it comes to content marketing.
If you’d prefer this information in a more digestible format, I’ve created a handy-dandy worksheet / checklist for you that you can download here. See that? Supporting content.
Set out your buckets.
Creating “buckets” for your content is a concept I explain in detail in my Blogstorm course (which, incidentally, goes brilliantly with this plan), but the gist is that you are creating big idea containers that describe what you want to accomplish with your content. You might think of these as categories or themes; I call them buckets. It’s all semantics.
The important part is that you understand your big “why” — what you hope to accomplish overall with your content marketing — and you call that your buckets. I suggest starting with three, but you might have more or less. There’s no hard and fast rule.
Once you’ve got your buckets, you want to fill them up by brainstorming ideas. If you have trouble in this department, it’s the reason I created Blogstorm, and I’m absolutely certain it can help you (because I’ve seen it help so many others in the same boat!).
Don’t censor yourself. Generate as many ideas as possible. Nothing is too stupid, too basic, too far out to be included. Have one central location where you store these ideas.
Once you have a big mega list of ideas, start categorizing them and putting them into your buckets. Is one fuller than the others? Maybe you need to brainstorm some extra ideas for the others. Does one seem to have a lot of topics that could go together and maybe feed on one another? Good. Mark those somehow.
Construct your pillar.
Those ideas that all went together to create something bigger than themselves? We’re going to take those and use them to construct your pillar.
I love the visual of having pillar content. It makes me think of Greek temples with big white columns holding everything up. Pillar content creates the base that holds up much of the rest of your content marketing. It should be one of your big ideas, and something that really sets you apart from other people in your niche — either because it’s new and different, or because it’s going deeper or wider than other people have taken it, or because you’re making things easier… It doesn’t have to be totally new; it does need to be different.
This kind of content is also frequently referred to as EPIC content — which I also like. Goes well with my Greek temple visual.
Once you’ve identified your pillar content, choose the format you think will be the most powerful for this particular piece of content. Remember your why. How does the format you’re choosing for the content support its function?
Support and repurpose.
You’ve got your big idea, and you’ve figured out what format you want it to take.
The next step is to brainstorm all the very many ways you’re going to support and reuse it.
Let’s say for example that your pillar content is going to be a webinar in which you divulge your amazing ideas. The first thing you’re going to want to do is support that webinar by creating a series of blog posts that lead up to it. Brainstorm the topics for those ideas. Then you might want to run a Facebook ad campaign to drive sign-ups. You’ll need a “sales” page (whether the webinar is free or paid) to get people to sign up. You might want to do guest posts or be interviewed on podcasts to promote the webinar. These are all the ways you’re going to support this pillar content.
But you also want to be able to reuse the content. The most common way of reusing a webinar is by offering a replay. But you might also edit it down into clips you can send in an autoresponder series, or share in a series of follow-up blog posts. You might have the whole thing transcribed and turn it into an ebook. If you used a slide presentation for the webinar, you might convert it and share it on SlideShare. You might upload the whole thing to YouTube. These are the ways you’re going to repurpose and reuse your content.
As you can see, once you get into this mindset, the options for supporting and repurposing pillar content are practically endless. Again, ask yourself how the form these supporting pieces of content take will support your overall function. (For example, some people don’t like to watch videos, so having a transcript gives you access to another segment of your audience. Or, if your goal is growing your email list, you’ll want your supporting or repurposed content to be things they have to opt-in for.)
The next step in the plan is to create your pillar content. Notice how far down on the list this is! There’s a lot of planning that goes into these pieces of pillar content, and there’s a good reason for that.
Most people think that the creating — writing the post or ebook, recording the podcast, presenting the webinar — is the most important part. But I’d like you to think for a second about all the massive amounts of content you’ve created that you’ve done nothing with. How many posts got the kind of traction you hoped for?
How many felt like you were talking to an empty room?
This kind of planning we’re talking about takes some of the Russian roulette feel out of creating content. You know your epic post is going to make a big splash — because you’re the one doing the splashing.
It’s equally important to create a strong schedule for this content that you can follow. In Blogstorm, I share the template I created and use for myself and all my VIP clients that allows me to see my content schedule at a glance.
You may decide that you want to focus on a single content pillar exclusively for many weeks in a row. On the other hand, you may choose to intersperse the content related to your pillar with other “smaller” content. The choice is entirely yours — but you’ve got to have that plan, either way.
We’re taking the guess work and the “luck” out of creating epic content. Imagine your content is a traditionally published book. Some authors get published by a big publisher and think they’re going to be a huge hit! But unless the publisher supports them with a strong PR and marketing strategy — setting up a book tour, sending out press releases, providing review copies to important critics, taking the book to library conferences, and so on — it might be the best book ever, but a lot fewer people are ever going to read it.
You’re creating a framework to be your own marketing and PR department by building your content marketing around a solid goal, a piece of pillar content, and your big why.
It not only takes away the terrible “what should I write about this week” problem, but also ensures that the precious time you do spend creating content isn’t wasted.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
This final step is key: we’re not looking for lightning that strikes once, but creating lightning in a bottle, a plan we can replicate over and over again.
Once you’ve gone through the cycle, analyze what went well and what didn’t. How many people came to the webinar? Downloaded the ebook? How many people actually signed up to get the transcript? Was the traffic from SlideShare or YouTube worth the work to put the content up there? What was the most popular format for the information? The least popular?
Tweak your plan and repeat. Pick another pillar, another bucket. Cross link back to the information from your first pillar (it’s evergreen; the cycle never truly ends).
And, frankly, after some time has passed, you might start promoting old pillars again. If you’ve done this correctly, new visitors and followers will be just as interested in that content as the original viewers were.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
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