Start Strong in 2018 with a Solid Content Marketing Strategy

At Story Gem, we’re delighted to say that we’ve kicked off the new year on a real buzz. It’s great to have the whole year with all its opportunities laid before your feet ready to be embraced. Although many experts would advise starting the planning for the new year back in December, we know that the reality is many small businesses are up to their eyes in the run up to Christmas and haven’t a hope of getting the mental and physical space to plan for the year ahead.

That’s why we’ve decided to post about how to create your 2018 content marketing strategy now. Hopefully, after a little break at Christmas you had a chance to rest, reassess and set yourself some business goals for the year ahead. If so, while you’re still fresh and enthusiastic, now is a great time to give yourself a good start to the year by planning a solid content marketing strategy which will increase customer engagement and build trust with your audience over the next 12 months.

Ready to get started? Great, let’s jump in!

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a key part of any strategy, not just a content marketing one. After all, without a clear idea of what we want to achieve, how on earth will we get there?

Your content marketing goals shouldn’t be anything like the list of new years resolutions people set for themselves year in, year out. Why? Because most people give up on those resolutions within a few weeks. Your business goals ought to be strategic goals, which will result in clear improvements in your business, and they should be structured in such a way that they’re easy to implement and measure. The SMART approach to goal setting is one way to go about it.

Content Planning

Once you have clear goals in mind that you want to achieve over the next 12 months, it’s time to plan our content around those goals. It is best to begin on the macro level and work down to the details. If you start the other way around, chances are you’ll get swept up in creating your first post and the strategy will be left for another day.

Create a content plan for the next year by deciding how often you will post and the type of content you will produce. You can work in excel if that suits you as it is fully flexible and easily changed as needed. I like to print off my content calendar and colour code it for the different types of posts and cross-reference this with a word document which contains all the details.

Although it’s useful to plan for the year as a whole, particularly as we are doing this in January, it makes it more manageable to concentrate on the first quarter for now, with a light plan in place for later months.

Turning Goals into a Plan

This part can be tricky, but asking yourself a series of questions will help turn big-picture goals into actionable activities that can be scheduled on a regular basis.

For example, if part of your aim is to attract x amount of email sign-ups each month, what will you do to ensure that people consistently give you your email address? This would indicate that you need to create some lead magnet content material which will help you gather those sign-ups.

Lead magnets should be valuable enough that your audience are willing to trade their email address for it, they can include how to guides, short e-books, cheat sheets, video downloads and access to webinar training. This type of material needs to be well-planned, in advance, to ensure that your audience are happy to receive it. If they provide you with their email address and get some content that is mediocre or of little value to them, this weakens trust instead of building it.

Other considerations that should be accounted for during your planning session are:

  • Time – how long will each piece take to create? How often, and at what times, will you post?
  • Staff – who will create the content? This includes writing, creating or sourcing imagery, video editing in some cases and webinar assistance in others.
  • Budget- how much money have you got ensure that your content strategy is executed to highest standard possible? The money here may go on scheduling tools, accessing imagery, getting someone to write or proofread your posts or scripts, and promoting the posts once they are live.

Try to give your planning process for your content marketing strategy as much time and attention as possible, as a solid plan will help ensure that the execution is that much better. Get the team together and allow everyone’s suggestions some air time. You won’t proceed with everything, but creativity needs space to breath and so working with post it notes, coloured pens and a large ideas board is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. You can whittle down the suggestions to the best ideas which will then be fleshed out and scheduled onto your content plan.

Making it Work

Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to deliver on it. The good news is that having a plan actually makes it more likely that you’ll start in the first place, which is great!

Content marketing is an activity which relies upon consistency and momentum. Neither of these come with one post, or even two, if you want to achieve your goals for 2018 with the help of content marketing, then you need to commit to showing up – getting someone else to show up and produce great content on a regular basis.

Schedule the production time into your or someone else’s diary and make sure that it is guarded. When it comes to writing the content, switch off your email for an hour or so, do your best to avoid interruptions and pop on some thinking music, if that helps you.

Make sure that you proofread your work, or get someone else with fresh eyes to do so for you. Typos and errors in your content can annoy some people to no ends and it’s not something you want associated with your professional brand.

Do some work on SEO, if you know how, if not get someone who can help you optimise your posts so that they get found by the right people. Then schedule your post using any of the range of scheduling tools available out there, think Hootsuite, Coschedule, or even just the scheduling tool on the various social media sites or on your own website.

Measuring Results

After a few posts are live, you should start to see people taking notice. Hopefully, they are loving your content and this will spur you on to stay on track with your schedule. However, even if you aren’t getting lots of positive feedback, there is still good reason to dig around in your data a little.

According to Pearson’s Principle, that which is measured improves, so set up a way for yourself to measure your content marketing performance over the coming months. You will be able to identify popular content by the amount of engagement and shares it gets, but, there’s so much more you can find out about your content. First of all, are you starting to see movement on the goals you set for yourself? Are people reading your content, are they engaging with it? If some content is grabbing attention while other posts are languishing unseen, try to replicate what works and identify what didn’t work.

Over time, this measurement and reflection will help you to make a much bigger impact through your content.

2018 Content Marketing Trends

While successful content marketing strategies are built on time tested principles, it is worth casting your eye over the trends which are making headlines in content marketing this year so that you can test them out if you like and have the opportunity to be a trendsetter in one of these areas if it is a good match for your business and audience.

Visual Content

As video continues to grow more and more, there are plenty of opportunities to make your content visually appealing. Depending on your business and audience preferences, you may like to reach out into live video, create more infographics or simply incorporate more tactile images into your posts.

Augmented Reality

If your audience allows, you may wish to work with the many fun ways to use augmented reality on social media, such as frames and filters, to help your audience see a different side to your brand. You may also like to get your audience involved with your brand by creating user-generated content which promotes your product or services in a fun way. The possibilities really are endless.

Instant Messaging

This is another area which is about to explode in the online world. We have already seen how popular instant messaging for individuals has become, but it’s about to go viral in terms of marketing capabilities. Whether you want people to interact with your business over Facebook messenger, or just to access instant messaging which answers their questions as they browse your website, there are plenty of ways to explore this area over the next year.

Golden Rules

Remember the golden rules of content marketing, add value and build trust. The reason that content marketing is so big today is because audiences are fed up of being sold to, as soon as we spot someone coming who looks or sounds like a salesperson we switch off. Content marketing gets around these defences by getting to know our audience, by letting them get to know us, and by showing them that we actually care and want to add value to them. Leave the hard sell for elsewhere, your content marketing strategy is about relationship building.

Don’t worry if you’re feeling left behind if you haven’t gotten around to starting to blog yet this year, it’s still early. Rather than jumping in ad hoc and posting content that doesn’t align with your goals or serve any purpose for your audience, take a moment, relax and decide that you will invest some time in strategizing. Nailing your content marketing strategy for 2018 in January will set you up for success for many months to come – and help you to make 2018 a wonderfully successful year in your business.

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