Updated: September 24, 2019
It's very easy to jump right in. You think, "Oh, I need to blog!" or "Let's put up some videos!" and, to quote Nike, just do it.
But then it gets hard.
The customers don't immediately come running to you. There aren't more people visiting your website, or signing up for your email, or liking your Facebook page. Or, most importantly, paying you money. It doesn't seem like anyone has noticed your content at all.
And it's hard to keep going. You don't know what topics to cover anymore. So after a while you just… stop. How do you stay motivated?
A content marketing strategy helps.
It helps you focus on why you're producing content. What you're producing. Who you're producing it for. Why they should care.
The Content Marketing Institute found in 2015 that only 27% of marketers have a written content marketing strategy. But of that percentage, 43% are able to prove the success of their strategy through tracking return on investment. They also reported that they put out more content and were promoting it better.
You're more likely to stick with it if you have a documented content marketing strategy guiding you. And sticking with it is the best way to succeed.
So follow these tips. Write it all down as you do (that's the documented part). And then keep doing it.
Before you start writing, you need some goals. What are you looking to accomplish using content marketing? Drive more email sign-ups so you can launch products later? Convince more people to choose in-home pet sitting over a boarding kennel? Draw veterinarians to your continuin education seminar?
Now write down your goal. You've probably heard of SMART goals before. You should use that idea here. Otherwise it's too easy to say, "I just want to use my blog (or vlog, video series, or whatever) to convince more people to buy from me."
You might be thinking, "What's wrong with that goal? That's what I want!" There's several problems with that type of goal.
A goal that says, "I want to increase my email list to 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year" doesn't have those problems. You know exactly what you want to accomplish and when you would like to have hit it.
When you publish a video that results in 15 email sign-ups when most of your videos only gain you two or three, you know you should put together more videos like that one. Or concentrate your promotion efforts on that post.
The harder part is knowing what your goal should be. A content marketing strategy can, among other things:
Are you a new business or rebranding your pet business? Exposure may be your top concern. Growing your social media following or improving your search rankings is a good goal.
For those who are most concerned about making sales, building your email list is extremely important. Email marketing, on average, resulted in 23% of total sales in 2016, according to this study.
If you're still unsure about what should be your top priority this year, talk to a marketing consultant or a business coach.
Once you have your goals, think about your mission. `There's a reason you do what you do. You really are an expert at something in pet industry. It's time to make that known to your audience.
I don't want to be just to be another marketing agency. I am here to help pet business owners improve their companies by using the right sales messages at the right time with the right customers. Just like with your goals, be as specific as possible when writing your mission statement.
Joe Pulizzi (one of the guys who made content marketing famous) suggests in his book Content Inc. that you create your editorial mission statement with these three parts:
If you're a horse trainer, what do you specialize in? Let's say you retrain ex-racehorses. Can you make it even more specific than that? I know a woman who retrains ex-steeplechase horses. That's what makes her a little different. Her mission statement might read: "I show owners of ex-steeplechase horses how to transition their new horses safely to their next careers."
What if you sell custom collars online? What could you write about that makes you stand out from other retailers like you? Your content doesn't have to be on exactly what you do.
Think about this: how many blogs out there focus on pet fashion? Maybe you should write or video content about fashions for pets. For example, what colors look best on a brindle? What brands are most popular and why? How do you determine leather or fabric quality, and what types of materials are best for different types of collars?
Your editorial mission statement could look like this: "I help dog owners choose the best collars to fit their dog's personality and lifetyle so they can walk in style and safety."
But what types of content would fit those two businesses? The horse trainer could use how-to blog posts or videos, or maybe even a podcast. Maybe she could do a weekly newsletter or vlog where her audience can follow the progress of a specific horse.
Custom collars are inherently visual, though, as is fashion. Slide decks and infographics are visual, too. But a blog post with lots of images would also work well, or a vlog.
If you don’t like to write, go with videos or a podcast. If you have artistic skills, you might like infographics. If you prefer words, but don’t think you can put together a full blog post, then try slide decks.
To get an idea of the many types of content out there, read this blog post.
And once you’ve picked your content, stick to it. Ignore the urge to try something new just because you’re not seeing the progress you’d like with the original.
This is a Big Part of most other tutorials on how to write a content marketing strategy. However, most of those are aimed at marketers working in medium to large companies where more than one person is contributing content.
For you, just communicate the way you would with your face-to-face customers. If you find yourself reaching for a dictionary or thesaurus regularly, then you're probably stepping outside of your brand voice. If you read what you've written out loud and think, "I would never say that," you definitely are outside of your brand voice. Look at it this way: you are your brand.
Once you know what you're creating, you need to know who you're creating content for. And notice that I wrote "for," not "to." This isn't about you. It's about your audience. If it's about you, no amount of good strategy is going to keep your content boat afloat.
With a buyer persona, you are creating a fictional representation of your customer. This is the person you're going to think about as you're creating your content. Imagining your content is a conversation with that person makes it more authentic and personal.
Here are some great resources for building a buyer persona:
Is the idea of creating a buyer persona overwhelming? It's really not as big of an obstacle as you think. You already have all of the answers.
Think about the conversations you have every day face-to-face with your customers. Or in the forums or social media groups you visit. Paying attention to the issues being discussed and who's involved will give you more than enough information.
A question I get often is, "How often should I write? Or put up a new video?"
The old advice used to be to post at least weekly. The result was a lot of not-so-great content on the web that chokes out the good stuff.
You may now be thinking, "Well, I want to compete with that guy who's able to hire someone to do this or has the time to write three times a week, so I'm going to do it, too." You really don't. One incredible piece of content published once a month (or even less often) is as good as several smaller pieces a week - as long as you get eyeballs on it. Depth doesn't necessarily mean long, though. If you can cover everything there is to know about a topic in 500 words, go for it.
Instead, put together a list of core topics most important to your audience. Add subsections to the core topic as they come up.
For example, this blog post is about content marketing strategy with subsections on creating buyer personas and when to publish content. Both subsections are topics my target audience might be searching for. By keeping all of the subtopics together on the main topic (rather than writing a bunch of smaller posts) where you'll get more visitors because of the compounded effect. And that means the search engines will like your website more.
Being comprehensive is more valuable than posting every week or every day.
If you're not sure what topics might be relevant to your audience, write an email or social media post ranting about something integral to your business. If the post gets a lot of replies, shares, and comments, you know it's something people care about. And this is also why you want it to be a rant: people will be more likely to take notice of an impassioned piece than something along than lines of, "Hey, I'm trying to find out what you're interested in."
For the two examples above, the trainer might publish a blog post titled "How to Let Down Your Steeplechase Horse." This blog post might talk about handling different environments, nutrition, what visits your horse should have with health experts, how to approach your first ride, etc.
The collar maker might publish "The Complete Guide to Choosing Colors for Your Dog or Cat" with sections dedicated to the color wheel and different pet colors.
I can't tell you when is the best time to post. That depends on your customers. It'll take some experimentation on your part to find out you get more readers if you post on Tuesday at 2:00 pm over Monday at 11:00 am.
So feel free to do so. If you're posting two times a week, you could publish your posts Mondays and Thursdays for a few weeks, then try Tuesdays and Saturdays. After that, Wednesdays and Sundays.
You should start to see a pattern. Once you have an idea of what are the best days, move your posting schedule to those days and update your content marketing strategy accordingly.
Guess what? Finishing your content doesn't mean you're done. Now you have to make sure people see it.
This section can be simple. You could just list every place where you can post your new content (don't forget your social media platforms!). But are you sure you're utilizing every possible venue?
Social media is a start. But many people post, "Read my new blog post!" (which is, by the way, a terrible way to share your blog post) and move on. You're losing a lot of opportunities if you do that. People check their social media at different times of the day. If you post in the morning, you may miss out on a large segment of your audience.
So on the day your post is published, try sharing once on social media as it's published, then later that day (if you publish late in the evening, schedule twice the next day instead). Then share it two to three days later, then again about a week after publishing.
And then add this post to your queue, especially if it performs well. You should be posting a couple of times a day to social media, and you won't always have new blog posts to share. So re-share some of your old ones to continue drawing in new readers.
And don't forget this very simple way to draw people to your content: add a link to your website on every social media platform you use.
You have several options for republishing your blog post on a different platform. I republish my blog posts on Medium two weeks after publication and LinkedIn after a month. As a pet business owner, you may have industry- or location-specific options (for example, maybe your local newspaper is looking for a pet columnist).
You may also want to talk to other sites about guest blogging. Generally this requires an original piece of work, but you're usually allowed to write a short post on your own website that directs readers to the guest post.
How much you do here all depends on the rules of the forums and groups you belong to, as well as how much of a community you have built up in those places. If all you do is go in, share your content, and leave, you won't be successful.
But if you regularly contribute to the discussions, your content might be welcome. Only share content that's relevant to the people who frequent those groups, though. Sharing your tips on dog training won't go over well in a small animal owners' group.
Every piece of content you write should include social share buttons so your reader can share on their personal social media accounts or send an email to a friend. GetResponse found that emails with social share buttons see an average of 115% click-through rate (meaning the reader clicked on an element in the email) than those without.
The only way you're going to determine if you're meeting your goal is to use an analytics tool. An analytics tool is software that tells you information such as:
How and what you measure are going to depend on everything we've discussed up until now.
Let's say our horse trainer decided her goal was to increase the number of likes on her Facebook page by 50%. This means she should create content that shares well on Facebook (which is close to everything, but visuals definitely have an edge - get your text-only content seen by adding relevant images and graphics).
There are a number of tools out there to use to analyze your Facebook page's data, but Insights (Facebook's internal tool) is free and gives you lots of good information. (Most of the other social media platforms have a free internal tool to use for analytics on your account, too.)
Though she wants to improve likes, she's not going to look at the number of likes on her page day after day. She wants to look at her posts' performance. Is there a pattern of page likes going up after a certain topic in her content? Do people unlike her page after she posts a certain topic?
However, if your goal is to increase the number of new visitors your website receives, you need to look elsewhere. This is where a Google Analytics account is most helpful, or check to see if your website host has a built-in solution (or use both). If your blog is hosted by WordPress, there are several plug-ins you can install.
Are you going to grow your email list instead? Many email marketing software programs offer an analytics tool, too, or allow you to integrate one.
Keep an eye on all of your statistics, though. You never know when they will lead you to a better opportunity. For example, what if you notice most of your new blog subscribers are being referred by Twitter instead of Facebook? Then you'll want to edit your strategy to focus on content promotion through Twitter.
Or consider this: your goal is to grow your email list. You notice that while most of your blog's traffic is being referred to you by Facebook, most of email subscribers found you through Instagram. You should probably put more of a focus on Instagram.
It's amazing how much a little focus can motivate you. And sitting down to write out your content marketing strategy doesn't give you a little focus: it gives you a lot.
But once you have this strategy written down, don't put it away and forget about it. Take it out regularly, at least once a quarter, and review it. It doesn't need to be rewritten every year, but it certainly needs to be updated as you meet your goals and develop new ones.