When you build a house, it’s vital to start with a good foundation. But even before you lay the foundation, you need to have a plan and a reasonable budget. Otherwise, the house probably won’t turn out well, or you’ll never finish it.
The same principles apply to content marketing. Before you start, you need to do some thinking, planning and budgeting. Failing to do so sets you up for disappointment.
Here are the three big questions you need to answer:
DEFINE: What does my brand stand for, and how does it differentiate itself from competitors?
PLAN: What are my goals for my marketing, and what’s my plan for achieving them?
BUDGET: What is a realistic budget to achieve my goals?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to begin laying the foundation (creating the website infrastructure) for the content marketing process. For an overview of the process, see the graphic below and our article “Content Marketing: The Best Way to Reach Today’s HR Buyer” (no registration required).
First, let’s briefly go through Define, Plan, Budget one-by-one.
To succeed in content marketing, you need to have something to say, a point of view.
Your brand can’t have a point of view if you don’t know what your brand stands for. That’s why the first requirement in content marketing is to have a defined brand; it’s also important that as you define your brand that you differentiate it from your competitors.
“My product is cool” is not a point of view as far as content marketing is concerned, as content marketing shouldn’t be overly promotional (you want to maximize readership among potential buyers). Your point of view, however, might be related to what your product would help potential customers do. A firm that offers big data solutions, for example, could focus their content marketing on the benefits of big data.
For help in defining your brand, see these resources:
– Hubspot’s “The Marketer’s Guide to Developing a Strong Brand Identity”
– Entrepreneur’s “The Basics of Branding”
– Inc’s “2 Simple Keys to Define Your Brand”
You probably have come across the following quote by businessman and author Harvey Mackay: “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”
It’s important advice for content marketers to follow. The plan does not need to be overly specific, but you need to set goals and determine how you plan to reach them. If you fail to set goals, you don’t know when you’ve succeeded or failed. If you fail to determine a plan, then reaching any goals you have will be by accident.
There are a number of goals you can set. For example, you could attempt to increase your page views by a certain percentage or to get a certain number of sales leads.
Once you set those goals, you then can make a plan to meet them. How many content pieces, blog posts, etc. will I need to reach those goals? What tactics do I need to invest in?
Of course, even if you have a plan, your results may or may not reach your goals. But having goals and a plan allows you to make strategic adjustments.
For you visual learners, check out Smart Insights’ great infographic on creating a B2B marketing plan.
Having a plan is also crucial for budgeting.
We recently wrote about how many companies determine an overall marketing budget in an arbitrary fashion, when they should instead use an evidence-based five-question process to come up with a realistic budget.
The first step in that process was determining an overall revenue goal. After that, the questions worked backward to figure out the marketing costs that would allow you to reach that goal.
We recommend a similar process for determining a content marketing budget. Begin with your goals for your content marketing. Then figure out what content and tactics you need to put resources into to reach those goals. Lastly, figure out what the content/tactics will cost.
Ultimately, don’t expect that you can just set aside a random dollar figure and expect to reach your goals. If you fail to establish a realistic content marketing budget, you will never reach your goals.
Once you have defined your brand, come up with a marketing plan and implemented a reasonable budget, you have completed step 1 of the content marketing process. We will go over the other four steps in upcoming posts, with website infrastructure (vital for lead acquisition and nurturing) next in the series.