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How New Businesses Can Create a Content Marketing Strategy Follow these steps to develop and execute an effective content marketing plan for your business.

By Daria Gonzalez Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Building a content marketing plan is essential for any new business.
  • Marketing teams can refine their approach with the help of data.
  • Using these tips and tools, your content creation process will flourish

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Wherever you are in your business journey, you'll need a content strategy to communicate with external and internal audiences — whether they're potential customers, new employees or other industry experts. As your business grows, your content strategy will naturally evolve. Using the tips below — which range from launching a content strategy plan to optimizing for audience growth — you can prepare for that evolution.

Getting Started

1. Build your strategy from the ground up

Investing in content creation might not feel like a priority when you're just starting out, but the impact of a well-executed strategy can be immense. If you have a limited marketing budget, content is a cost-effective way to reach your target audience compared to paid advertising.

Moreover, it can showcase traction with potential customers. If you're courting investors, the success of your content can be used as proof of the popularity of your product. You will also benefit from early audience discovery by monitoring how your customers respond to your messaging, thus gaining a better understanding of what resonates with them.

2. Avoid shortcuts

If you fail to create a strategy from scratch, you'll risk producing inconsistent messaging. Instead of a haphazard approach, start with a concept the whole company can buy into. Don't assume you know your audience intimately; gather data to build a comprehensive understanding of who you're aiming to reach so you can create content that resonates. As you grow, monitor which methods are working or failing. Then, you can make informed decisions about your strategy based on performance.

3. Understand your audience

There are two approaches to use when defining your target audience. The problem-solving approach considers your customers' pain points and how your brand's solution is different from your competitors. The customer-persona approach is about creating a hypothetical representation of your brand's ideal customer based on research and data. By understanding your customers' motivations and needs, you can tailor your messaging and offerings to better meet those needs and stand out from the competition.

Related: How Buyer Personas Can Transform Your Marketing and Get Results

4. Look inward, not outward

A robust content strategy begins with looking at your own brand, not at your competitors'. Make sure you're answering these questions when building out your strategy:

  • What's your business vision and mission? This relates to your company's values, culture and purpose.
  • How would you describe your brand's personality? This pertains to the human characteristics attributed to your brand.
  • How would you define your brand's voice? This is about how your brand sounds to customers.

Being able to definitively answer these questions will help you express your brand value to external audiences.

5. Know your value proposition and unique sales propositions

Only after you've studied your company's internal characteristics is it time to look outward and see how you compare to competitors. Your value proposition and unique sales propositions (USPs) will help form the basis of your content strategy. Your value proposition is based on information about what your competitors are offering. It's important to understand their strengths and weaknesses so you can articulate why your brand offers a better solution. Your unique sales propositions augment the value proposition by defining the specific features and benefits that make your products stand out.

6. Establish realistic and measurable goals

Your business goals will inform the goals of your content strategy. To help set strategic goals, start with a realistic planning time frame. For example, six months gives you enough time to gain momentum, test out different hypotheses and track performance. A long-term approach helps you focus on building a solid foundation instead of looking for quick results. Content can take a while to ramp up, but if you approach it with a long-term perspective, you'll eventually reap the benefits.

7. Transition from content strategy to content plan

When executing your plan, one of the first steps is identifying your priority marketing channels — which will be determined by what your research has told you about your audience. These channels may include your website, email, various social media platforms or even mailers. Then, it's time to map your content-posting schedule to an editorial calendar, keeping in mind the themes that most resonate with your audience. By creating a content calendar, you can ensure that your content is consistent, relevant and serves your overall goals.

8. Measure, track and optimize content

A data-driven approach is essential. By tracking your strategy's performance, you can see trends and tweak accordingly to improve the traction of your content. Depending on your goals, you'll need to measure key performance indicators (KPIs), including website traffic, social engagement, conversion rates and lead generation. Here's the case for data-driven content marketing success:

  • With data, you can make more informed decisions about your content and improve how you're targeting your audience.
  • Data helps you better understand your customer's journey and develop more personalized content that speaks to their specific needs.
  • By understanding what's working and what's not, you can avoid spending time and money on content that doesn't perform well.
  • Data helps you optimize your content distribution strategy to reach your target audience with the right message at the right time.
  • Data can help you track progress over time and see how your content marketing efforts impact the bottom line.

Related: 7 Crucial Metrics to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Marketing Campaigns

Types of Content

The difference between content and content marketing

On the internet, content is anything that expresses thoughts, information or experiences through written, visual or audio media. The photos uploaded to Instagram are content. The videos uploaded to YouTube are content. This article is content.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is a strategic approach to marketing that emphasizes the creation and delivery of valuable information or ideas to attract, retain and convert a clearly defined audience.

Content marketing can take many forms — email, social media, case studies and blogs — but it's differentiated from mere content by strategically providing solutions to your audience's problems — with the goal of raising the profile of your company and its products or solutions. If you're putting your audience first, addressing pain points and producing exceptional content, then you'll grow your brand while also cultivating authority and trust. That's content marketing.

The difference between thought leadership and content marketing

Thought leadership garners a lot of attention among entrepreneurs and those aiming to pick up more traction and increase brand recognition. Content marketing serves a similar purpose, but many people are unsure what the differences between the two are. The four primary factors that differentiate them are as follows:

  1. Content marketing is top-down. Typically, content marketers are businesses talking to potential customers or clients. Thought leadership, on the other hand, is peer-to-peer. The objective of content marketing strategies is ultimately to sell a product or service. With thought leadership, the primary goal is not to sell but rather to create a business relationship.
  2. Big ideas matter. Although content marketing aims to provide value to readers, thought leaders must offer something groundbreaking. If you call yourself a thought leader, you must present deeper insights than your competitors.
  3. Thought leadership is higher in the sales funnel. Thought leadership is often deployed by large organizations selling high-ticket items in a complex and long-lasting sales process. When thought leadership is deployed, the central objective is to make an impression that presents the author and their company as experts.
  4. Content marketing is published on your platforms. Thought leadership is often published in industry publications, which means the writing style tends to be less promotional.

What is premium content?

Premium content is any content format meant to be higher quality, more in-depth or more valuable than what you typically produce. Some of the most common examples of premium content include ebooks, white papers, original research and online courses. This is the type of content your audience might pay for while they could read a blog post for free. Producing these valuable content types might help you generate leads, as people are more willing to volunteer their information if they gain access to high-quality content like a white paper.

What is snackable content?

Snackable content is uncomplicated and short-form content that can be digested quickly — like a snack. Its origins stem from social media, where infographics, memes, GIFs and reels now dominate user feeds. It doesn't require effort from users to read or engage with, but it also can provide awareness of your business.

Because of its ability to capture users' attention, snackable content on your website — maybe via an infographic, listicle or fun quiz — can drive users to your website and keep them there. Snackable content is also mobile-friendly, which can draw larger audiences. It can even improve your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, helping more people find you in the first place.

Driving Engagement

What is quality content?

Quality should always be your top content priority. Search engines like Google reward helpful, reliable, people-first content, but even more importantly, quality content significantly affects your readers and customers. Content should be original and easy to read with no spelling or grammatical issues. It should also be relevant and timeless. When it comes to SEO, consider these critical factors:

Traits of quality content

  • Length: In general, blog posts and articles should be 1,000 to 3,000 words. Landing pages or description pages perform better at 300 to 500 words.
  • Structure: Format your content using title (H1) and subheader (H2 and greater) tags. This semantic structure boosts your SEO score.
  • Links: Linking to internal and authoritative external webpages increases traffic and performance.
  • Keywords (and keyword density): Using keywords relevant to your topic is critical. But be careful. A keyword density that is too high can lower your SEO ranking (experts generally recommend a density between 1% and 2%).
  • Usefulness: Create content that features original research with comprehensive insights that go beyond what else will appear in search results.
  • Meta title and description: A catchy meta title and description that includes your primary keyword or phrase will attract readers.

How to optimize quality control

Be sure to review each piece of content before it's published. This takes time, but it's essential to consistently produce quality work. Follow these guidelines for each piece of published content:

  • Organize your workflow: Use tools that allow you to manage content formats and run it through a pipeline of drafting, editing, revising and publishing. Involve other team members in the workflow to ensure enough people see each piece of content.
  • Avoid plagiarism: Plagiarism isn't just an ethical or quality concern; search engine algorithms downgrade pilfered content. Use plagiarism checkers to ensure your content is unique.
  • Eliminate spelling and grammar mistakes: Ideally, you should hire an editor to proofread your content and catch typos, syntax, diction and grammatical errors. If you don't have an editor, take advantage of online tools. Many products can help you clean up your writing.

How to create viral content

Many brands want their content to go viral, but whether this happens or not is out of their control. There's no switch you can flip that will create a viral moment, but these seven factors will give your content better odds of taking off:

  • High emotions: According to a study from the Journal of Marketing Research, content that leaves readers awe-inspired, excited, angry or amused is more likely to be shared than low-arousal content that evokes contentment or sadness.
  • Practicality: Useful and educational content is also more likely to go viral, as people enjoy sharing this type of content for altruistic reasons. This is part of the reason that "how-to" lists perform so well.
  • Readability: Your content might contain groundbreaking information, but it's useless if it's too dense. Run your work through a readability test and aim for a reading comprehension level of an eighth grader.
  • Power words: Inserting power words with emotional triggers into your title and introduction will help hook your audience and get them to share the content. Here's a list with more than 800 examples.
  • Trustworthiness: People share credible content. You can build trust in your content by quoting experts in your field and citing statistics and sources.
  • Visual appeal: As with readability, layout matters. Readers typically want easy-to-navigate websites with clean designs and consistent visual elements.
  • Timeliness: When you post is as important as what you post. Research your audience's behavior and site traffic so you can deliver and promote valuable content during peak hours.

Content promotion tips

Reaching a large audience requires you to devote resources to promoting your work — on social media channels, through email and elsewhere. Although the content itself is the bedrock of your marketing strategy, promotion is also paramount.

The case for content promotion:

  • Good content is useless in a vacuum. If you've just launched a blog, people won't find it unless you spend at least some time and money on promotion. Because of this, early-stage content promotion is essential.
  • Promotion is (arguably) less expensive than creation. When you pay for content creation, you're taking a bit of a gamble because there's no guarantee that your content will function as intended. But when you pay on a per-click basis for advertising, you practically guarantee a stream of visitors to your website.
  • Promotion can maximize your creation investment. Even if you have only a few pieces of content, continued adaptation and promotional investment can help you reap more value from your content creation over time.

Keys to being successful in content marketing:

  • Start with a strong foundation. If your blog is empty or if its content is hard to understand, no promotional strategy in the world will be able to salvage it. At a minimum, you should have at least a few strong resources on your website that people perceive as authoritative and trustworthy.
  • Promote strategically. You don't need to spend large amounts of money to see results as long as you're strategic. Focus on platforms where you've traditionally seen strong engagement, or exclusively promote content that is already well-received by your followers.
  • Learn and adapt. Perhaps most importantly, you must study your content marketing metrics to learn which of your investments is paying off. Is your content creation investment seeing a better return than your promotional investment? If you can answer this question, you can make better content marketing decisions.

Refining Your Approach

As your marketing strategy evolves, it's important to implement tools and strategies that will make content production more efficient and, ultimately, more lucrative. You don't need to have every tool and strategy in place on day one, but it's important to refine your operation as you grow.

Content marketing tools

There are countless tools and software products for marketers — some of which are more essential than others. To help you determine what you actually need, here are nine of the most important types of content marketing tools:

  • Content management system (CMS): WordPress is perhaps the most well-known CMS, but many platforms allow you to manage online content and give access to contributors. A good CMS lets content teams create content without needing to be a coding expert.
  • Customer relationship management system (CRM): A CRM is used to manage a company's relationships and ultimately close more business. Several companies offer CRMs, including Salesforce, HubSpot and Marketo, but you'll need to do significant research before selecting the right option.
  • Email marketing platform: It's essential to be able to reach your customers with email — via a regular newsletter or one-off updates. A good email marketing platform will offer CRM integration, allow you to manage customer and prospect information and track key metrics, such as click-through and open rates.
  • Marketing automation system: Several aspects of marketing, including social media posts, email and lead generation, can be automated with the right software. Ideally, it should also be easy to use and integrate with your CRM and other tools.
  • Key performance indicator tracker: KPIs are the most important metrics that your business strategy is being measured against, like revenue, contact form submissions, inbound leads and more. You can create your own with a spreadsheet or use a pre-made tracker.
  • Project management software: Project management software is used for project planning, content workflow scheduling and allocating resources. Asana, Monday and Trello are some options, but you can also create your own system.
  • Design software: Creative work often requires some sort of graphic design, and using software such as Canva or Adobe will be key. With the right design tools, you can ensure your visual content captures your audience's attention.
  • Analytics software: You'll need an analytics tool to report how your content channels perform and how your campaigns influence revenue. Without one, you won't have data to track your KPIs. Google Analytics is perhaps the most well-known tool, but there are plenty of others to choose from.
  • Social media management software: A social media management platform provides an efficient way to create and schedule posts across a variety of social channels. HubSpot, Hootsuite and Buffer are a few of the more well-known tools, but there are many others.

How to write compelling content that converts

Online readers are bombarded with information and selective about the content they consume. The way you write has a major impact on if you'll attract an audience. Your content should provide valuable information and answers to consumers and needs to strike a tone that connects with them.

To accomplish this, follow these two pillars of great website content:

  1. Use a conversational tone: Focusing on conversational content throughout your website copy can help you open an ongoing dialogue with your followers, improve brand awareness and encourage engagement. This is why you see businesses incorporating user-generated content like customer feedback, testimonials and snippets from reviews on their websites — it backs up the claims they make about their product or service.
  2. Incorporate storytelling: Every aspect of online marketing goes back to storytelling. People love good stories. You can have an excellent product, service and team, but if you're not able to tell a good story about your company, you'll lose out on your audience. This might include your origin story, a testimonial from an employee or an example of how your product changed someone's life.

Content monetization strategies

Although content marketing efforts can build awareness and ultimately lead to sales, they can also be a revenue driver on their own. If you're writing blog posts, recording a podcast or live streaming on a regular basis, you can use most of these strategies to make money:

  • Direct advertising: If you're producing enough content, you'll likely be able to sell ads. It's a simple strategy, but be careful: Your audience might not appreciate being inundated with ads.
  • Sponsorships/affiliate links: With sponsorships, you'll make money by talking about specific products or featuring someone else's content for free. With affiliate links in your content, you'll generate revenue as a percentage of the sales you influence.
  • Donations: Platforms like Patreon make it easy for content creators to accept donations for their continued work, and platforms like Twitch have a built-in donation option.
  • Premium content: You can also make money with optional premium content that's more in-depth or exclusive than your typical work. Bloggers often provide premium content in the form of an ebook or collection.
  • Subscriptions: Depending on the nature of your content, readers might be interested in an ad-free experience via a paid subscription. A subscription could also grant your audience access to an entirely different content feed.
  • Merchandise: If you have a large following, selling products like shirts, hats or mugs with your branding can generate revenue and give you a platform for free advertising.
  • Exclusive rights: If your content gains a big enough audience, a platform might pay you to use its platform exclusively, preventing its competition from capitalizing. These deals are rare but lucrative.

Now that you understand the basics of creating — and implementing — a content marketing program, it's time to produce and promote your work. Conduct research to understand your audience, use analytics to measure your goals and use the tools and strategies in this guide to help you along the way. Soon, your content strategy will be firing on all cylinders.

Daria Gonzalez

CEO and co-founder, Wunderdogs

Daria Gonzalez is the Founding Partner and CEO at Wunderdogs - a brand consultancy and digital studio focused on technology and innovation. Former early-stage VC.

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