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How to Make Content the Voice of Strategy

I talk about marketing strategy a lot. It is for me the most important element when it comes to building a long-term, sustainable marketing system.

content strategy

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Your strategy informs every marketing decision. It must be considered when you decide what products you will offer, how you will serve your customers, what your packaging looks like, what your followup entails and how you generate leads.

Today, the common thread in almost every element of delivering on strategy is content. Content is how you move people from know to like to trust. Content is how you give your marketing strategy a voice and, because of that, you must take a strategic and systematic approach to how your content is developed.

I know I’ve said this before and I know I’ll say it again: Waking up every morning and deciding what you are going to write on your blog does not scale.

Below is a refresher of my approach to developing and implementing a content plan with your overall business objectives and strategy in mind. I’ve updated the calendar element with my plan for 2014.

A Total Content SystemTM approach allows you to plan, delegate, curate, create, collaborate, repurpose and generally get far more out of every piece of content you produce. Once your system is in place it will build momentum with each passing month and begin to multiply in value to your organization.

The Total Content System goes like this:

  • Create a list of monthly Foundational Content Themes
  • Develop your Content Delivery Platform
  • Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Foundational Content Themes

Either through your own knowledge or by using a keyword tool like MOZ or Wordtracker, develop a list of core content topics and assign one to each month for the next 12 months.

Each theme should be a substantial topic related to your business or industry and represent an important keyword search term. It might be helpful to think about it like a book. Each month might represent a chapter in what will ultimately make up an important body of work by the end of this year.

You can also designate terms that you know you would like to rank higher for, but currently have little or no content that leads people online or off to you.

I’ll use my organization as an example to help illustrate this point. My business and model may be significantly different than yours, but examples always seem to help fill in the blanks for people.

My editorial themes for 2014:

  • January – Planning and organizational development
  • February – Offline marketing
  • March – Content marketing
  • April – Inbound selling
  • May – Outbound marketing
  • June – Marketing automation
  • July – Marketing strategy
  • August – Mobile marketing
  • September – Networking/Referrals
  • October – Community practices
  • November – Social media
  • December – Personal growth

These are all topics that I believe my community is interested in learning more about and that I personally have an interest in developing more content around. (I’m working on a sales book and will be heavy into daily writing on that project in March – all content has a purpose!)

Develop your Content Delivery Platform

Now that I have my list of foundational themes I can organize my Content Delivery Platform components accordingly. Again, this is my model, but many of these elements work for any kind of business and should be considered in your business.

  • Newsletter – I put out a weekly email newsletter. I will add themed content to each issue either through some of my own writing or by finding other people’s content related to the theme and highlighting it.
  • Blog posts – I write a daily blog post and may schedule a post related to the theme on a weekly basis. This still gives me lots of room on topics but helps me focus both from a content and SEO standpoint.
  • Guest posts – We currently run one guest post a week and use our monthly theme to suggest topics to potential guests. (If you would like to submit a guest post see the themes above for guidance and submit your idea here.)
  • Podcast guests – I produce a weekly audio podcast and the monthly theme really gives me guidance in lining up topic experts well in advance.
  • PR Pitches – We use our themes to promote stories and pitches to the media.
  • Sponsored pitches – We receive invitations to write sponsored content and conduct sponsored webinars and use our theme to guide these pitches. We also reach out to organizations that might have a special interest in a particular month’s theme with sponsor opportunities.
  • Webinars – Since we are creating all this rich, topic specific content we host monthly online seminars to deliver the content in a new form.
  • eBook – People really seem to love eBooks and they are an essential element in our list building efforts. Most themes lend themselves nicely to an eBook compilation.
  • Curate a Scoop.it topic – As we are doing the research and preparing all of the ideas for our own content, we bookmark tons of other people’s content, books, experts, tools and the like related to our theme and save the entire collection as a curated topic on Scoop.it. This allows us to attract even more readers and creates a nice library to draw from.
  • Create a content package – The final step is to take all of this content from each month and create a membership or community offering that would allow people interested in the monthly topic to access the entire package in one tidy resource. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that while so much content is free and available, people will pay for content that is packaged and delivered in the way they want it. Figure that piece out and you’ll really make your content efforts pay directly.

Integrate your content with Core Business Objectives

Okay, so now you’ve got your themes plotted out and you’ve got a plan for creating, filtering and aggregating all manner and form of content into your delivery system. It’s time map your content plan to your core business objectives.

This step allows you to better understand how to get return on your content investment and how much you should actually invest in creating a certain form or package of content.

For example, if one of your stated annual objectives is to dramatically increase the sale of information products, you would produce content with product creation in mind. Or, if one of your stated objectives for the year is to significantly increase your subscriber list, you would focus on producing, delivering and sharing content that attracts email capture, links and strategic partnering.

One of the most important aspects of a Total Content System plan is that it changes the lens you use to view all the information that comes at you all day long. When you know what your theme is this month and next month all of a sudden books, tools, articles and conversations take on new meaning and seem to somehow organize themselves for the benefit of your ongoing, long-term approach.

Writing for Marketing and Business – a collection of posts on a theme

Each month I choose an editorial focus and publish a great deal of content around that month’s theme. May 2013 was all about writing. Here’s a collection for each viewing and sharing.

How to Make Strategy More Than a Nice Idea

Few things are more confusing to business owners and marketers than the idea of marketing strategy.

marketing strategy

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I think that’s due in part to simple misunderstanding by many who try to apply the concept, but it’s also due to the fact that strategy is very malleable – that is to say, it can be many things.

A very solid way to define business strategy is the effective use of resources to reach stated objectives. Perhaps a more tangible way to define marketing strategy would be the effective use of resources to create and communicate a valuable and profitable difference in the marketplace.

Either way you can see there’s lots of room for interpretation.

But, rather than debate the proper way to define what marketing strategy is, I would like to share how to develop it, bring it to life and give it a voice. No matter how perfectly you state your marketing strategy, if it doesn’t live firmly in the tactics you employ to develop customers it’s all for naught.

The act of driving strategy deeply into your marketing consists of three elements:

Determine a core point of difference – This is how you state why someone should hire you as opposed to someone else who says they do what you do. It’s your unique value proposition and it must be developed with a narrowly defined ideal client in mind.

I’ve written about this idea frequently and suggest you visit this post on ideal client and this post on core difference to get very specific how to instructions on this element.

Create an engagement framework – Strategy based engagement thinking forces you to push your core marketing strategy into every marketing activity. I’ve developed a very powerful tool for building this kind of framework called The Marketing Hourglass.

The Marketing Hourglass is a concept that asks you to create processes, products, campaigns and engagement aimed at logically moving prospects and customers through seven stages – Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat and Refer. By viewing each of these stages as a place to reinforce your core difference as well as deliver key information, you create the kind of engagement that leads to you most profitable clients.

Map content to strategy – Once you develop your core difference and outline your Marketing Hourglass it’s time to give your strategy voice. This is based done by mapping how you will communicate your core difference through content that creates awareness, educates, builds trust and converts.

You won’t necessarily create every tactical element involved in implementing these three steps, but the planning process involved in fully developing your organization’s marketing strategy must consider these elements as three parts of the strategy puzzle.

Building a Consistent Blog Readership

Many bloggers dream of writing that epic blog post. One that drives so much traffic, links and shares that the front page of Reddit is a foregone conclusion.

blog readers

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Common wisdom suggests that to write anything even kind of like that you must plan and toil and slave over the writing until you’ve packed so much in there people must flock to it.

Well, the reality is most people don’t need to blog to create uber-popular blog posts or become popular bloggers.

The utility in blogging for the majority of businesses is the eventual creation of a body of work that covers the chapters or keyword themes that attract readers, prospects and customers.

In that regard, consistency, usefulness, value, education and sturdiness all trump epic.

I recently revealed what I call a Total Content System that addresses a “themed” approach to mapping out monthly content, but today I want to talk about another element that can help establish a daily and weekly rhythm for your blogging.

One of the ways to develop a loyal following is a consistent pattern of content features that can help your readers know what to expect when they subscribe, share and look for your new posts.

An easy way to do this is to break your week down into standard features. You can go as far as describing or even naming your features or you can just use this idea as a loose framework for yourself.

Here’s an example of how I do this:

  • Monday – Usually reserved for something bigger picture, theme related post – usually something that people need to digest and adapt to use.
  • Tuesday – This is when I do my “5 Ways to Do X kind of post” or “How to use X kind of tool” – lots of links and teaching and usually pretty prescriptive. I publish an email newsletters on Wednesdays and I often use one of these first two posts as my featured article.
  • Wednesday – This is podcast day. I publish a new episode and write some commentary related to the subject.
  • Thursday – This is guest post day. I run a post written by someone I’ve invited to add a new perspective to the monthly theme
  • Friday – I usually do something on the lighter side or at least not straight up marketing
  • Saturday – I run a feature I call Weekend Favs. It’s just a quick highlight of three new tools I’ve discovered during the week. Funny, but I sometimes get more feedback on this than anything else I do
  • Sunday – No post on this day, but truth be known I often work on Monday and Tuesday’s posts

One of my readers shared a routine he is planning for new site recently and I think it helps shed some light on how flexible this approach is.

Here’s how Bruno Coelho plans to break his daily posts down.

  • A question worth answering
  • An action worth doing
  • A lesson worth learning
  • An Online Dreampreneur worth following
  • A week worth remembering

This aspect of a Total Content System further allows you to plan and build your content knowing that you need four lessons, questions, interviews, etc., each month.

But, perhaps the most important aspect is that it also allows your readers to get a feel for what to expect day in and day out.

Ask your readers or customers what they want, use tools like Survey Monkey, Wufoo or Qualaroo to gain insights into what people are looking for and then experiment until you get the mixture that feels right.