It seems that everyone is on the World Wide Web; all major companies have fantastic websites and there have been some great stories of online business success with small businesses growing in to massive companies. This is the great thing about the Internet – it gives everyone a chance, supporting innovation. But to get a foothold and stay ahead, you need a marketing strategy for your online business, just like you would have a marketing strategy for any other strand of your business. All companies need to evolve to survive.
The Content Marketing Umbrella
There are five strands under this umbrella and in this part 1 guide; we will examine these as a way of starting the content marketing strategy ball rolling…
1.Editorial and Content
Sounds incredibly simple but you would be amazed at the number of websites that are written and created for… who for again? Before a customer becomes a buying customer they are relatively inactive; in other words, they are your audience. Just like at the cinema and theatre, they watch as your entertain. You need to be asking, before you write a single word on your website, WHO are our customers and WHO are out audience?
Once you have your answers, you can then create content that satisfies and maintains relationships with current customers and changes the ‘inactive audience’, that is your potential customers into buying customers.
Branding is important too, making sure you have your product or service sorted in terms of style, tone and what it all looks and feels like. Again, this process starts way before you even start your website, never mind marketing it.
With these basics in place at the start, you can start to build your content around it. You can make your content what you want and there are a variety of formats from blogs to games or apps, or maybe magazine style content.
And so, with your content well-written, fresh and in harmony with the tone and style of your business, you will then need to look at marketing your website. This takes time, patience and research… along with a smidgen of technical know-how. There are many companies that offer these online marketing services but with hard work, you can make this happen yourself. Just like in the pre-Internet days you may have spent hours pushing leaflets through doors to get two orders, these two orders started you business trading.
With marketing, it is imperative you stay current and ‘on-trend’, certainly in term of HOW people are searching the web, WHAT they are looking for etc.
Google, as with other search engines, have several analytical tools that you can use to keep up with how Google is ranking pages and websites, what you need to do to stay on top of your game etc. Marketing of your website never stands still – and neither should you.
3.SEO (search engine optimisation)
This is essentially identifying the key terms, words and phrases that you think your audience and customers would sue to find a company or business or product like yours. Identifying is the first step; the second is to make sure that you are using them in your website. But take care! Keywords and phrases do not need to be littered across the page. Use them sensibly and in their right context. Google, along with other search engines, will penalise your site if it thinks that it is full of rubbish content.
Again, there are many online tools that can help you with keywords as well as how and what customers are using currently to look for products or services like yours; have a look at Google Alerts for example.
Keeping content fresh and contemporary will also aid your content strategy.
There are many buzz-words but this one remains the same, whether your business is solely online or not. Maintain good public relations, building a reputation for being a trustworthy and worthwhile company to do business with.
Your content needs to include reference or customer testimonials, whatever you choose to call them. It is a way of highlighting your business has a high satisfaction rate.
Websites are a great way to get customers to interact and this is where you can harness the power of social media. It seems that every website you come across has a ‘like me’ or ‘follow me’ button, all there to invite potential customers to stay in contact.
And these buttons are all there for good reason; when customers click on one or more of these they are a) spreading the online word about you and your products and b) Google and other search engines will pick up that potential customer or users are giving positive feedback. All this add to your website’s authority as being a quality place to visit.
Now that you have the 5 strands of what your perfect content strategy needs to be, we just need to glue that holds them together.
The perfect content strategy need not be complicated but it will take time and consideration, along with an objective viewpoint. Do not be disheartened by the process because once you have completed this, you and your business will be in an incredibly strong position.
Step 1 – Gather some basic business information
Collecting this under subheadings will give you the data and information you need to create a content strategy template that will work for your business. Consider these questions:
- What is your current business environment and where are you in it, right now?
- Why does your brand exist and what does it deliver to customers? How does it compare to your main competitors in terms of price and quality etc?
- What about your competitors? Who are they? What are their advantages and disadvantages over you? How are you going to be different from them?
- What about your customers? Who are they? Why would they buy your brand over your competitors? Look at their online ‘habits’ too – where are they spending time?
- What is your budget and resources for your content strategy?
- What are you goals for this content strategy? Keep them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound). Create 3 or 4 goals at most for the following 12 months. This is what you are aiming to achieve.
Step 2: Your perfect content strategy
Now that you have the answers, the information and the data you can now create your strategy that you will use and work from for the next 12 months – don’t forget to build in regular reviews to make sure you are still or target to meet your goals and that the budget pot is not emptied, too soon!
Start with an introduction or an ‘executive summary’ so that anyone reading the strategy will know instantly what it is aiming to achieve. This is true not just for large companies but smaller businesses too. This content strategy is a way of informing all employees, share holders etc. of what your online business is on target to achieve in the next 12 months.
Objectives are specific aims that your content marketing plan and subsequent online initiatives will achieve. No matter what exercises or activities are developed for you online presence in the following months, they all need to link back to one or more of your objectives.
Objective 1 – Increase traffic to all domains by 25% by end of 20XX
Introduce the use of money off online coupons through advertisements in national press, using identifying code to track traffic sources.
This activity clearly links back to increasing traffic to all the websites, but also has the additional benefit of monitoring where customers are coming from. These in turn, will feedback in the reviewing process later in the year of where and how you advertise in print.
You have identified both your customers and your competitors and, to a certain extent you need to interact and monitor both:
- Customers – identify which websites they are currently accessing, noting conversation and interactions. This will take time and research, but will pay dividends in terms of market research and promotion development.
- Competitors – just like you would walk past a competitors shop to keep an eye of prices and any other innovations they have, you need to keep an eye on their websites. By doing this, you keep a wary eye on any potential threats to your customers base and business.
Influencers are becoming more prominent in creating an interactive on line strategy. Influencers are seen as people or companies who are the top ‘movers and shakers’ within your industry or trade. You need to identify who these people are as they have already gained the trust of your audience and customers. By creating associations with them, you are effectively cashing in on their trustworthy status.
You also need to identify the form your content is going to take such as, are you going to have a company blog? Which social media is your company going to use? Who and how will you maintain these? Many companies and businesses are beginning to reap the rewards of using various media and employing someone specific to deal with all these different content forms.
Identifying customers, where they currently hangout on the internet as well as keeping an eye on competitors all contribute to you being a leader in your field. Your website will time, energy, commitment and research will become a ‘must-go’ destination. Create your perfect marketing strategy to make your online presence grow!