How To Develop A Content Strategy Plan In 6 Simple Steps

How To Develop A Content Strategy Plan In 6 Simple Steps

A lack of budget doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of visibility for your brand.

You don’t need a massive budget to be successful with content marketing. The key is to focus on small wins; organic flywheels can leverage content strategies that move the needle without needing huge upfront investment.

This step by step guide explains how to get your content marketing strategy off the ground, with minimal investment and highly tactical approaches that anyone can do.

And, the best part: there’s zero marketing budget required.

Feel free to use the table of contents below to jump to a specific section or settle down for an engaging read of the whole guide. Ready? Let's roll...

1. Figure out your target persona (and talk to them)
2. Create content for various stages of the funnel
3. Automate content promotion
4. Evaluate your existing content and repurpose
5. Create content workflows
6. Set up accurate reporting

1. Figure out your target persona (and talk to them)

In order to drive traffic that will actually convert, you need to know the person who wants to read it.

Content needs to be written for a customer in mind—that’s who will read your content and buy your products or services. An irrelevant reader can enjoy your content but may never become a customer, making it almost impossible to get a return on your investment.

You can send surveys to existing customer base to find out this, asking things like:

  • What type of content do they like? Such as blog posts, YouTube videos, or podcasts.
  • How do they discover new content? This could include social media, search engines, or recommendations from other blogs.
  • Which bloggers or influencers do they follow? You can use this as a starting point to see what topics or themes the influencer posts about, which your target customer is interested in.
  • What pain point are they struggling with? Your content should be based around that; they’ll be searching for a way to solve it.What type of content do they read for before converting? This might be case studies, webinars, or email newsletters.

Gaetano DiNardi, an established B2B marketer explained his detailed process for doing this in his famous case study on Sales Hacker, a company that was acquired by Outreach in 2018.

Case study from sales Hacker

DiNardi surveyed Sales Hacker’s customers and audience to find out why they were visiting the website, what kind of content they were most interested in reading, and what kinds of tasks they spent the most time doing. With the answers to these questions, DiNardi was able to figure out which key content formats and topics to focus on.

Also lean on other departments for support during this research stage. Your sales or customer experience teams likely know your customers (or leads) inside out. Ask for their input during this stage to get a full picture of who your content is being written for.


2. Create content for various stages of the funnel

It’s a common misconception that content marketing is impossible to track.

You can’t directly attribute sales to blogging; it’s a marketing campaign that has long-term incremental success, right?

Not necessarily. Once you know your ideal customer and what they want, you can start to align your content strategy to your sales funnel. This means you can deliver the right content to the right person, at the right time—and know which metrics help judge if it’s working.

Sales funnel

We can break this down into four main stages:

  1. Top of Funnel (TOFU): At this stage, people aren’t aware of your brand, product, or service. They’re searching for generic advice or entertainment about a specific topic. Easy-to-digest content, such as “X tips to…” is great for building brand awareness at this stage. A great way to capture the interest of potential customers is to conduct and publish the results of a data study that directly relates to your product. For example, Aura, a consumer-facing digital security company created a survey that aimed to find out how average American adults feel about cybercrime and data protection. You can see the findings from the study published at the top of their latest article on how to know your identity was stolen. Publishing the results not only gave Aura a great opportunity to reel potential customers into their marketing funnel, but was also a clever way to uncover other TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content opportunities based on the respondents’ answers.
  2. Middle of Funnel (MOFU): Once people identify the problem they want to solve, they’ll start searching for content that helps them with it. Catch potential customers during this stage with more comprehensive, in-depth content, such as this post on  How To Do Blogger Outreach Successfully.
  3. Bottom of Funnel (BOFU): Here, people know they want to buy something to solve that problem. They’re just deciding who to buy it from. Entice new customers or potential clients to choose you with product-intensive quality content, such as case studies or customer testimonials tied with special offers. Think about the common sales objections and work around that.  
  4. Customer Loyalty: Existing customers still need content. Create video tutorials, email sequences, or new product updates that guide them through using your product or service. The more they’re engaged with it, the more likely they are to become loyal customers. (Think of it as a content-focused customer loyalty program.)

3. Automate content promotion

It can take almost four hours to write a blog post. That time is essentially wasted if you’re not promoting your content. People won’t be reading it if you don’t spend time driving traffic there.

The key is to find a promotion channel that works for you, and master it. This can include:

  • Cold outreach: Cold email is defined as: any email sent to a potential client that doesn’t have an existing connection to you. Sending cold email is one of the most popular ways to get others to mention, promote or feature you and your content on their blog, publication or podcast. Cold outreach is the systematic practice of sending cold emails to targets you do not know very well but you identified might be interested in what you have to share with them. For example you might use cold PR outreach to pitch journalists a specific story to be published in press, or link building outreach where you use techniques such as broken link building and others to get other blogs to include a link back to your article.  One of the simplest ways to automate and structure your outreach efforts is to use Hunter Campaigns - free tool for cold outreach that allows you to send personalized cold emails directly from your Gmail account.
  • Social media marketing: You don’t have to manually post (and remember the perfect times) to promote content through social media platforms. Free tools like Buffer and Facebook’s native Scheduling tool can help you automatically post content to your social media channels throughout the day. Doing so will help automate your social media marketing funnel. Hashtags can also boost your exposure and reach people who don’t already follow you.
Hunter's social media post
  • Online forums: Chances are, your target customer is hanging out in online communities. You can find these and use them as a source of promotion. For example: if you’re targeting marketers, Growth Hackers is a superb place to promote new content. If you’re targeting owners of a specific dog breed, search Facebook Groups to find an audience of people likely interested in your content.

In 2019, notebook and journal brand STIL started using Later, a popular and affordable social media scheduling app, to automate their social media posts. Their social media team was then able to plan engaging, on-brand content far in advance and scale their efforts. The result? Not only did they improve post engagement and grow their following, social media channels now bring in 70% of STIL’s web traffic and account for 60% of sales.

There are a number of low-cost small business marketing tools you can use to get an instant boost, such as Facebook Ads. But when you’re just starting, test which organic promotion channels work best for you. It’s the easiest way to grow a sustainable community around your new content.


4. Evaluate your existing content and repurpose

Most of the time, you’ve already got a library of content you can work from (and cut down the hours it takes to write a new piece from scratch.)

Repurposing content is a time-saving way to build tons of “new” content and grow your audience significantly.

Before you start planning a new piece of content, take a look at the content you’ve already created. You’ve probably got press releases, customer testimonials, or podcast interviews in your arsenal—all of which can be repurposed to create something new.

In fact, Eric Siu, CEO of SingleGrain, says you can get as many as 16 pieces of content from just one blog article. Another cool example is the content repurposing playbook from Nextiva, a leader in Cloud Communications. They have a YouTube SEO strategy that mirrors their blog and landing page content. For every blog article and landing page that gets published, they create a YouTube video to enhance the content experience, then embed and cross link the assets. You can see a real world example of how they put this strategy into practice in their blog post about what is a cloud contact center here:

Nextiva's blog post

The best part? Repurposing is an easy way to create content in different formats. A single blog post can form the basis of other types of content, such as:

  • Press releases
  • Guest posts
  • LinkedIn social media posts
  • Email campaigns
  • Infographics
  • YouTube video scripts
  • Podcast scripts
  • Direct mail flyers

This doesn’t just apply to existing content. Once you publish a new piece, repurpose as best you can. It maximizes the mileage of your content and makes sure you’re not wasting time by starting from scratch each time.


5. Create content workflows

Whichever project management tool you use, it’ll be your best friend when it comes to content marketing. It’s where you’ll house the workflow your team uses to create new content.

Your workflows should include key details about each piece, such as:

  • Who’s creating it
  • The subtasks of producing content (e.g. drafting an outline, writing the post, proofreading)
  • The deadline for publishing

Not only can these workflows help with productivity because marketing and other team members know what process to follow, but nothing gets missed.

For example, the marketing team at Culture Amp, an employee engagement platform, switched from spreadsheets to using the project management tool Asana to centralize content production. They used Asana to build and organize an editorial calendar, field all creative asset requests, and track content production more accurately.

This enabled them to create more content with the same amount of time and resources. The Culture Amp team was also then able to explore new avenues for content creation, like podcasting, that they otherwise wouldn’t have time to do.

Sure, each workflow might have slightly different processes. But every piece of content you produce is consistent, regardless of who created it. This brand consistency can result in a 33% uplift in overall growth.

Keep in mind that many of these tasks such as posting new content and distributing it to your audience can be automated. The folks at Coupler.io, recently posted an amazing guide on workflow automation sharing a step by step of how to automate many different types of workflows, they specifically discussed how to automate the following content marketing workflow tasks:

Automatic posting on your website
Content distribution to social media
Sharing the content in a newsletter
Gathering statistics on open rates and viewership
Generating reports

6. Set up accurate reporting

It’s all well and good to invest hours into a new marketing tactic, but if you don’t know how to judge whether it’s working or not, you can’t optimize it for maximum impact.

Whichever marketing tip you’re set to implement needs to have a solid reporting structure. The key is to find out what works, double down on that, and forget about activities that don’t bring enough value.

You want to make 10x changes, not 10% changes, as Garrett Moon explains in his book The 10x Marketing Formula:

In simplest terms, 10X marketing focuses on actions and tactics that can improve results by 10 times, rather than merely by 10%. It’s intended to keep marketers focused on doing work that makes the most possible impact while ignoring busywork that takes up time, without delivering meaningful results.

However it’s hard for marketers to track the ROI of content marketing. People might see several pieces of content before they convert. Plus, reporting tools like Google Analytics need slight tweaks to show whether your content indirectly results in conversions.

That’s because Google Analytics uses a default last-touch attribution model. Whichever touchpoint your customer had last will be credited with the conversion, even if a blog post was the piece of content that drove them to your site in the first place.

The Multi-Channel Funnel report can help solve this. It will show the individual touch points someone has, allowing you to spot which pieces of content results in conversions:

Google Analytics multi-channel report

But remember: conversions don't just mean sales. You might have other content marketing goals, such as email sign-ups, product demonstration bookings, or webinar registrations. Make sure your reporting tool is set-up to track those, too.


Ace your content marketing efforts

Don’t shrug off content as another marketing idea that fails to pay off.

When there’s a thought-out process behind it, and you know how to repurpose content for maximum mileage, it’s a solid activity that can drive your target audience to your business’ website.

Dmitry Dragilev
Dmitry Dragilev

SEO geek who has helped 400+ brands including Realtor, HubSpot, Pipedrive, CultureAmp rank #1 on Google for their target search terms. Founder @ JustReachOut - SEO tool to make outreach a breeze.

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