On his very first day at a new middle school, my youngest son boarded the bus with a belly full of butterflies. He was both excited and terrified as he worried about what the other kids would be like, whether or not his teachers would be nice, and if he’d be able to handle the homework. I assured him that all would be well, but what does Mom know, right?
Plenty — especially if mom’s a marketer! As a freelance writer and content marketer, I’ve had similar conversations with small business owners who are thrilled to be living their dream, but don’t know where to start when it comes to marketing and content development. It just so happens, that back-to-school time and content marketing have quite a bit in common.
Think about it. Teachers begin every September with an overall plan for teaching their students everything they need to know to advance to the next grade level by year’s end. Plans include a series of educational milestones (i.e. goals and objectives), as well as an explanation of how and when they will help their students reach them. In addition, teachers must often adapt their plans to meet the needs of individual students, as one size rarely fits all in classrooms today. Progress is measured with various forms of testing – and plans are adjusted as needed.
Content marketing works in much the same way.
Step One: Like teachers, business owners need to focus on the future. Think about where you want to be in five years and everything that has to happen to get you there. Create a business plan. It’s a biggie, I know, but essential to your success, as well as to the effectiveness of any content marketing plan. Once established, your goals and objectives will guide all other efforts.
Step Two: Listen and learn. Content and customers go hand in hand. The more you know, the better you can serve them. As a business owner, you need to know your customers inside and out — who they are, what they need, and what keeps them up at night. Once you know what makes them tick, you’ll have what you need to make your content succeed.
Step Three: Create an annual editorial calendar. Schools issue them every year and students, teachers and parents alike use them to stay organized and on track. Your calendar should do the same by outlining the content that’s needed at key points throughout the year. Be strategic and make sure that the right content is planned for the right audience at the right time. Also, outline specific goals and expectations, and keep tabs on your progress. Next, start writing, but don’t stop there. Content comes in many forms – video, infographics, photography, and more!
Step Four: Choose your delivery tools. Teachers use tablets, computers, field trips, games and experiments to bring their lessons to life. What tools will you use? Go back to what you know about your customers and how they prefer to receive communications. Are they traditional newspaper readers, or social media fans? Do they sleep with their cell phones (really…people do!), or never turn them on? Most likely, you will employ a mix of traditional and social media marketing tools to build relationships and deliver compelling content.
Step Five: Issue your own report card. Return to the goals and expectations you set early on and see how you did. Hopefully, you’ve been monitoring your progress all along and making shifts in your program as needed.
Don’t expect overnight success. Content marketing, like a good education, takes time, hard work and dedication. If you need extra help, ask for it. A little “tutoring” from an industry expert can go a long way. Most importantly, listen to your customers, always do your homework and stay the course.