I am often asked, what is a marketing plan? Is it the same as a marketing campaign or tactic? It may seem like a basic question, but it’s surprising how many companies don’t have a formalized marketing plan. A strategic marketing plan encompasses not only the goals and objectives for a business’s marketing but all of the tools and programs underneath that support the achievement of those goals. Marketing is much like a symphony where to produce a harmonic result, all of the pieces and parts must be directed together and synced to a common objective. In this article, I want to discuss how to build a strategic marketing plan and the importance of content marketing as part of your overall strategy.
What is Content Marketing?
Businesses should consider content marketing vital for their success in driving organic traffic to their websites. According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on distributing factual and enticing content to a clearly defined audience and, most importantly, encouraging consumer participation. It is crucial for many businesses to understand that their current marketing methods may not be practical and appealing to the market anymore because of the forever-changing trends. Instead, they should ensure that their content is up-to-date and relevant to current customer needs and is easily accessible.
Benefits of a Content Marketing Strategy
According to HubSpot, here are several key benefits of having a content marketing strategy:
- Increases audience retention
- Better social media traction
- Establish trust with your audience
- Generate leads
- Improve conversions
- Enhance search engine optimization (SEO) efforts
- Build authority
Developing a strategic plan for content marketing is a critical component of your overall marketing plan to educate your target market and provide value.
Types of Content Marketing
HubSpot Research tells us that 70% of business owners invest their resources in these different types of content marketing:
- Social Media Content Marketing: There are more than three billion social media users worldwide. Businesses choose to increase their visibility and spread their message on the most famous social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Infographic Content Marketing: The audience better understands visual content. This is why businesses need to create graphics with simple and elegant graphics and direct-to-the-point data.
- Blog Content Marketing: Blogs are considered one of the most powerful types of inbound content. Having a blog will allow you to share your thought, experiences, and researched facts to your market and strengthen your online presence. The majority of web users trust businesspeople who have their blog sites. You can use your blog to promote your products or services online.
- Podcast Content Marketing: Research tells us that around thirty-seven percent of adults regularly listen to podcasts. Having a podcast gives you so much room for creativity and advertising. Inviting guests who can discuss major issues surrounding your business while tackling the products or services you are selling to the market can help you gain more sales and customers.
- Video Content Marketing: This is one of the most known types of content marketing. Research tells us that about fifty percent of consumers want to view videos on their interactions' websites and social media handles. HubSpot Research informs us that video marketing can increase lead conversions, boost the return of investments (ROI), and help establish stronger relationships with your clients.
- Paid-Ads Content Marketing: This form of advertising helps you to reach your target market effectively by positioning yourself on all the websites you wish to be seen in. You can share your website on social media, streaming sites, loading pages, banners, and other sponsored content.
Building a Strategic Marketing Plan
The best way for a business to reach its goal is through a strategic marketing plan. By taking the time to measure progress throughout the year, then analyzing the results, you can build a plan based on what steps are needed in the coming year. In this way, you're using data to stay on track. A strategic marketing plan helps you set goals and objectives and then drives you in the right direction. It should also encapsulate how a company plans to operate and grow over the next three to five years. Marketing takes time, so it’s important to take a long-term view of where you want to go.
Having this plan will help you to think through each step of your content strategy. The plan should help you decide what audience you want to reach, deliver the content, and measure results. Having a strategic marketing plan is essential for businesses because planning directs the company's focus and allows employees to work together for a common goal. Having an organized methodology, such as Agile Marketing, paves the way for you to set budget constraints, draw resource allocation, and drive future development goals. You can learn more about transforming your team through agile marketing in our interview with Andrea Fryrear on The Virtual CMO Podcast. As new opportunities and immediate threats arise, it guides the management's decision-making process and shapes the communication between all stakeholders and organization players.
The Three Areas of a Strategic Plan
A strategic plan summarizes how a company will grow for the next three to five years. BDC lists the three most important areas of a strategic plan:
1. Strategic Goals- Strategic goals are both financial and non-financial objectives. They are the results a company wants to achieve in a given time. There are two types of strategic goals:
- Hard goals- are measurable goals (like a 5% annual revenue growth, 85% customer loyalty score)
- Soft goals- are non-measurable but achievable goals (becoming a leader in product innovation, improving corporate responsibility)
2. Strategic Scope- are the products and services a company plans to offer. This indicates the target market, location, and selling period. Using SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is the best way to set your business scope. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors, while opportunities and threats are considered external factors.
3. Key Success Factors- These are the elements needed by a company to compete in its target markets. It outlines what a company must do to achieve its goals. Here are the Five Key Success Factors to a Strategic Plan:
- Engagement: Engage all levels of the workforce in the company.
- Communication- Communicate a clear and meaningful strategy.
- Innovation: Be creative and open to new ideas. Be informed of the latest business trends.
- Project Management- List task priorities to ensure proper resource allocation.
- Culture- Shape the organization to be adaptive to the required changes.
Six Questions to Jumpstart Your Strategic Plan
Strategic planning can be overwhelming but successful when executed smartly. B2C sets up the Six Simple Questions To Jumpstart Your Strategic Plan:
- What are your goals? – Identify the purpose of your business and let these goals guide your decisions and plans.
- Where do you want to be at a particular time? – Make a list of your short-term and long-term goals and indicate when you want to achieve them.
- What worked well for you this past year? – Identify your top-selling products and services. Recognize the marketing strategies that work and those that don't. Eliminating your inconsistent strategic plan and outdated marketing techniques can save you so much time, budget, and effort.
- What were the disasters? – Be aware of the mistakes made or strategies that didn't work and apply the necessary strategies to your business model.
- What difference are you going to make moving forward? – Analyze the necessary changes you need to make from past mistakes. Think of effective ways to develop your present methods and processes further.
- What is your timeline? – Be realistic and don't set up unrealistic and unattainable goals. Setting a schedule for your goals is one way to determine success and be in the right focus. If you are set to achieve your plans, be honest in answering them. Take small steps that will move your business forward.
Benefits of Building a Strategic Plan
Envisio enumerates the important benefits of a strategic plan for your business:
- It allows organizations to be proactive and consistent in achieving the company's goals.
- It sets up a sense of direction.
- It increases operational efficiency.
- It helps increase market share and profitability.
- It helps make businesses more durable.
Being Consistent With Your Strategic Content Marketing Plan
Whether you choose to keep up with the latest trends or set up a strategy to increase your sales and revenue, you should be consistent with your strategic content marketing plan. What works today might not be as effective tomorrow; this is why you should always watch for the swiftly-changing trends. Customers are continuously searching for something new, effective, and easy to access to find answers or solutions to their problems or needs. Being consistent with content marketing requires two things: consistent quality and consistent publishing. Quality without consistent publishing can lead to a loss in visibility as competitors steal away your audience.
The Daily Egg states that 65% of people are visual learners; this is why you should also ensure that your content possesses the WOW factor without compromising the quality of information it gives to your audience. To ensure that your message gets through to your audience, businesses must invest time, dedication, and resources to ensure that quality content is regularly produced and updated. Remember that not everything has to look fancy or complicated, but it does need to be consistent and valuable to your target audience.
Essential Steps for a Content Marketing Strategy
Geek Chicago lists to us the three essential steps for creating a strategic plan for content marketing:
- Document a Strategy: A large percentage of B2B and B2C customers think that they are doing sufficient in content creation, marketing, and distribution. Later, they realize that their business is lagging in these crucial aspects and that most of their numbers are overestimated assumptions of what actually is. It would be best to integrate your strategic plan into your daily workflow using the appropriate task management system that works efficiently for you.
- Make Distribution Your Priority- No matter how good your content is, it is still no good if not marketed and distributed appropriately to the right audience. Your content distribution plan should be as good as your content development process. It would help if you made sure that your content reaches the right people at the right moments.
- Strengthen Your Content Marketing Team- Admit it, content marketing is not your only priority! You and your team have to focus on your business's multiple aspects for your venture to turn out successful and competitive. However, it would be best if you did not allow content marketing to slip through the cracks and be left behind because this aspect is one of the factors that keeps your business alive and growing. Organizing a team that would deal specifically with these matters is an effective way to keep things on track and according to plan.
Tools You Can Use To Enhance Your Content Marketing Strategy
A goal as a business should be to enhance your content marketing strategy. Many tools are available to help in this regard. Which tool you choose depends on what areas of your strategy need the most enhancement and offer the greatest return on your investment. Neil Patel shares with us six content marketing tools that will help you double your search traffic:
- Pingdom Website Speed Test: Nobody wants a slow-loading website. Statistics say that around fifty-one percent of online shoppers would not purchase a site that takes so much time to load. Since website speed affects your ranking, it is vital for you to regularly check your speeds and keep improving until you climb the top of the search engine results page. Solarwinds Pingdom allows business people to analyze, monitor, and maintain their website load speeds cost-effectively.
- Squirrly- The most common challenge that business people face is finding the appropriate keyword to match their SEO optimized content. Squirrly is a powerful SEO plugin that you can use to choose the right keyword and measure your marketing content's success. With this tool, you can increase your traffic up to two hundred eighty-five percent.
- QuickSprout- With everything going on with your website, it is common to overlook your site's smallest mistakes. Sometimes these little mistakes are the things that make the most significant impact on your SEO ranking and strategic plan. This is why you need tools to advise on how to increase your search traffic and visibility. QuickSprout gives you the chance to grow from the business advice experts give to do everything right the first time.
- Emotional Headline Analyzer- Zig Ziglar tells us- "People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons." Your business must focus on appealing to the customers' emotions by creating trends that would click with their preferences. Customers' preferences change fast. This is why you should recognize these signals and change your marketing pitch's tone, depending on the mo0d of your target market. Emotional Headline Analyzer is a free tool that will analyze your headline to determine the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score based on proprietary analysis technology developed by the Advanced Marketing Institute.
- TrendSpottr- Being a good writer is not enough to keep your website going; you need to empathize and relate your message to your desired audience deeply. Good writers need to understand that if they want to improve their web search traffic, they should strategically plan their content and draw their long-term editorial calendar. Remember that excellent writing skills that can spur people to action and encourage strong engagement with your website. TrendSpottr is a content marketing tool that predicts the emerging trends, viral content, and key influencers of any given topic in real-time.
- PowToon: Did you know that according to Diode Digital, video marketing is six hundred percent more effective than traditional marketing tools such as direct and print media? Most web users are visual learners and prefer to watch short but informative videos rather than take long reading paragraphs of lengthy text. You need to create videos to educate your target audience about your product or service, inspire customer loyalty, and impact a wider audience with YouTube. PowToon is a visual communication platform that gives you the freedom to create professional and fully customized videos to satisfy your audience.
Building your strategic marketing plan is not easy. It’s a trial-and-error process and in an ever-changing market, one that will be ongoing. What works today may not be that effective or appealing tomorrow. This is why it’s important to allocate the appropriate resources, tools, and talent to make your company's content marketing powerful enough to satisfy the needs of your target market. Working with strategic marketing consulting services like The Five Echelon Group can help your business build brand awareness, generate new leads, increase consumer loyalty, conquer new markets, and enhance your current strategic plan for the long-term. It is never too late to put your business back on the right track and develop a strategic marketing plan to fuel future growth.