Mastering the Art of Content Marketing: A Step by Step Guide to Drive Quality Traffic (Including Free Templates)

content marketing strategies that work in 2023

Why Content is Still King

When it comes to marketing, one of the most important components of a successful campaign and high quality lead generation is optimized content. Today’s savvy buyer wants to easily find you and get value quickly from your content, based on what they are seeking at the time. Content is not only essential for driving inbound traffic, but it also helps to reinforce the value proposition of your product or service, builds interest in your brand and educates your potential buyers in a valuable way. In turn, this allows you to build trust and credibility with your future customers.

In order to develop a content marketing strategy, you need to consider the most effective types of content that will be most useful to your target audiences. It’s not enough to simply create a blog, though. There are a number of other tools to help your business reach a wider audience and move them through the sales funnel, such as educational videos, on-demand webinars, e-Books, white papers, research reports, tip guides, checklists, and more.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to create every type of content for every type of buyer. You only need to think through what information or knowledge you have that will add value to potential buyers at each stage of the sales funnel. If you’re not sure what a sales funnel is, the basics can be broken down into stages of the buyer journey later in this post.

Content Marketing Steps

But before elaborating on a sales funnel, let’s talk about the best content marketing strategy basic steps. Although some details may vary by industry, there are a few key aspects to a successful strategy that remain the same no matter what business you’re in.

  1. First, you need to define and understand your target audience. This includes their interests and preferences, their pain or challenges, how they would search for a solution to solve their pain, and what kinds of emotions might be behind their search effort.
  2. Next, you should understand the target buyer’s journey and what’s most important to them. That means understanding their problem or pain, how they might search for solutions, and what would drive them to make a buying decision.
  3. Finally, you should understand what kind of information would be useful to them as they search for a solution. Understanding the target buyer and their journey leads to creating your sales funnel and associated content strategy plan.

The sales funnel is essentially the steps a potential customer goes through from first searching for a solution to a problem or pain, to considering their alternatives, and ultimately making a purchase decision.

Your goal with a great content marketing strategy is to help move them through those steps and keep them interested all the way through until they are ready to buy. That timeline will different depending on what you sell. If you sell lower priced products or services (e.g. less than $100 per item) that timeline may be minutes, hours or days. As the price of your solution increases, the decision timeline often increases along with it too.

Deconstructing Your Competition

Similarly, you need to understand your competition. Not only will this improve your overall marketing strategy, but it can also boost your return on investment.

For instance, research shows that 70% of consumers learn about a company through search marketing on search engines like Google, and on social media sites like Facebook, which means they may find your competition before they find you. If you understand how your competitors are positioned and what kind of keywords and content they are creating, you can identify a plan that helps you attract some of the same traffic.

Your competitors will likely have similar products or services to your own, but with the right strategies and tactics, you can gain an advantage over them by understanding where and how you can improve results against their tactics. You can conduct a website and keyword analysis of their online presence to understand who they are targeting and how they are gaining traffic. In some cases you can leverage those keywords to your advantage in your SEO and paid search campaigns.

Understanding the Sales Funnel

  1. The first step in this important sales funnel is “awareness,” meaning potential customers need to find you easily and then quickly grasp the value of your content. At this stage your goal is to educate them on something related to solving their pain, need or want, but not directly sell anything.
  2. The second step is “interest,” which means your content grabs their attention within a couple of seconds, it resonates with them and they click to read more or take action.
  3. Next is “intent,” meaning they stay to read your content and then take the next step (which you provide), or they come back to your website several times while they research and consider different options.
  4. Finally, the last step is when your potential customer is close to a purchase decision and ready to choose a solution, meaning they have ‘buying intent.’ There are different types of content used at each stage of this funnel.

Depending on what you sell, your sales funnel is essentially, from the customer viewpoint, their research journey. If a potential customer has read multiple pieces of content and then takes the next best action, they are moving through the sales funnel and beginning to consider your solution more seriously.

By identifying traits and the buyer journey through their research and decision process, you can begin to create a relevant and meaningful content strategy that moves them through the funnel. 

Tools and Templates to Help JumpStart Your Plan

Although this may all sound overwhelming at first, with the proper tools and just a couple of hours of time, you can plot out a smart content strategy that you can soon launch and test. Keep in mind you may need to test various content types and calls to action to see what works best with your target audience.

One of the easiest ways to create your plan is by using a content marketing plan template. A content plan template will help you outline the kind of content you need for each phase of the sales funnel, including use of any content you already have versus new content that needs to be created.

For example, maybe you sell a health and wellness service to businesses. Your plan might start with two blogs about how healthy employees are more productive, and ways an employee can stay healthy while in the office.

Then you might create two short videos on how to do exercises in a small cubicle area to avoid back and neck pain, and to maintain energy throughout the day.

Next, you could create a short ‘quiz’ for a manager who might buy your solution that asks them questions about the perceived impact of health on employee productivity.

Finally, the results of that quiz may offer them a short eBook in exchange for their email address that gives them 100 expert tips to keep employees healthy, lower stress and increase morale and productivity.

As you create your content marketing strategy, there are a number of tools that can help you determine the top-performing content, as well as the top-performing keywords and phrases for your website and content. Google Trends is a free tool to uncover content trends and search volume based on your target audience and your industry.

If you manage your website on WordPress, you can also use a free SEO plugin tool such as Yoast or All-in-One SEO (AIOSEO)

Another effective way to implement a content marketing strategy is through social media. Social media has seen an explosion in popularity over the past decade, and is a great way to promote your company and brand. Whether you are posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, it’s a powerful way to reach a wide range of users regularly with your content and message.

Other important factors include the use of metrics and analytics to better understand your audiences. For instance, if you have a large audience on Twitter, you may want to consider creating an interactive Twitter bot that provides personalized tweets to your subscribers. Also, consider the use of a service like Sumo to help you manage your account and generate leads.

The key to a successful content marketing strategy is a combination of smarts, time, and resources. The best way to do this is to have a clearly defined goal with a clear deadline.

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