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5 Steps to Start a Content Marketing Strategy from Scratch

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You’re behind the times, and you probably already know it. Maybe you were reluctant to start a content marketing campaign because you were concerned it was just a fad, or because you were worried about its ability to generate a high enough ROI to be worth it. Or maybe you realized the benefits of the strategy, but just never took the time to sit down and chart a course for execution.

No matter why you haven’t yet started a content marketing campaign, the good news is there’s always time to start one. And if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already made the decision.

Let’s get started.

Step One: Find Your Niche

articleimage640Find Your Niche

Your niche may seem only marginally important, but it’s going to dictate the direction of your strategy and the level of competition you face. You cannot select an entire industry as your niche; if you do so, you’re going to lose out to a competitor who’s been driving at the topic for years. Instead, try and whittle your focus down to a very specific topic or range of topics. Having a platform for a niche expertise will give you a competitive advantage in the field, making you the default go-to authority if nobody else has already capitalized on the niche.

For example, let’s say you run a home improvement store. It wouldn’t make sense to start a blog on general “home improvement.” It would take forever to build your credibility in any subject, and you might never catch up to the most valuable players in the home improvement industry. Instead, you could focus on a very specific category, such as “electrical improvements to old houses,” and eliminate most of your competition immediately.

Remember, you can always expand the range of your topics at a later date, once you’ve established an audience and some degree of authority in your original niche. But having a highly specific niche to start out in is essential in order to start building an initial readership.

Step Two: Build Your Brand Voice

articleimage640Build Your Brand Voice

If you already have an established brand, this should be pretty easy for you. You’re going to take the core elements of your brand personality, infuse a layer of conversation to it, and use that as the basis for your brand voice. Blog posts are typically less formal than most other forms of brand communication, such as annual reports or professional emails. You need to have a personal, welcoming appeal if you want readers to keep coming back for more, and a unique factor that differentiates your brand from those of your competitors.

You also want to make sure that your brand voice appeals directly to your target readership; for example, if most of your readers are experienced entrepreneurs, don’t waste your time explaining basic terms or toying around with the fundamentals of business ownership. Use your blog as a platform to give your audience members what they want.

Experiment with your brand voice by visualizing your brand as a person. What type of person would your brand be? How would that person speak? Why is this person appealing? Imagine that personality while writing in voice.

Step Three: Choose Your Outlets

Writing and posting entries on your blog is only the first step of the process. If you want to generate an audience for your material, you need to have a syndication process that makes your posts publicly available for consumption. For most businesses, the easiest and most worthwhile syndication channel is social media.

Select the social media platforms that are most relevant for your business, and start fleshing out your profiles for them if you haven’t already. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all traditional standbys which will serve almost any business well. Other platforms have more of a niche use; for example, Pinterest is especially useful to businesses that plan on producing a lot of image-based content.

When you’ve chosen your ideal platforms, start sketching out a loose outline of how often you intend to post. At the very least, you should post an update on all platforms whenever you’ve published a new blog. You should also plan on making at least one update a day per platform in order to stay active and maintain your audience’s interest.

Step Four: Create an Editorial Calendar

Now that you have the fundamental components of your content marketing campaign in place, it’s time to chart a direction for the first several weeks of posts. Your editorial calendar will serve as a master template for the direction of your campaign, collecting all your planned topics and dates into one place for your reference.

Brainstorming for topics might be intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Start by reading news posts on industry-related news sites and blogs. Get a feel for what’s going on in the world, and think about how you could position some of the news items in a new way; for example, you could explain how this affects your niche, or express your opinion on a controversial subject. It’s also a good idea to regularly peruse your competitors’ blogs. You don’t want to steal any of their ideas, but you can use their material as a jumping-off point; which of their posts could use a follow-up or a differing opinion? What aren’t they talking about that you could be?

Collect a handful of title to get yourself started, and work on a regular time to brainstorm for new topics (usually once a week or so). Keep your editorial queue full, and you’ll never have to worry about running out of topics.

Step Five: Write Your First Post

articleimage640Write Your First Post

Your first post is going to be the hardest, but once you’ve finished, you’ll officially be on your way to a full-scale content marketing strategy. Your individual goals might require a few adjustments, but for the most part, you should write a post between 400 and 1,000 words, and include links to both external, authoritative sources and internal pages that are relevant to the topics. Once complete, publish your first post on your blog page, double check for any errors, and start distributing your material on your syndication channels of choice. Mark the post off of your editorial calendar and congratulate yourself—you now have the makings of a high-quality, long-term content marketing strategy.

While there are only five steps to starting a content marketing strategy, don’t be fooled by its seeming simplicity. In order to be effective with your strategy, you need to remain committed to producing the most relevant, accurate, engaging material possible, and you need to do it consistently. Publishing a handful of blog posts and calling it quits is only going to be a waste of time.

Think of it this way; you can’t plant a single seed in a field and hope to get a good crop yield. You need to plant dozens, if not hundreds of seeds, and tend to them regularly with water, fertilizer, and adequate shelter from any disastrous elements. Only then, and only over time will you see the benefits of all your hard work. Remember that the hard work has to come first.

Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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