Once you understand exactly who you are planning to target and what they are interested in, your next step with inbound marketing is develop a content marketing plan to use as a roadmap. In developing your road map, there are several factors that you want to consider.
- What topics will you write about?
- What premium content offers will you make?
- How will you organize your content into campaigns?
The decisions you make in each of these areas will have a profound impact on your success, so it’s important to do your homework!
How to Choose the Right Topics
When you are thinking about topics to write about, remember inbound marketing rule #1: be interesting to your target audience.
They way to do this is to set aside your desire to write about how great your company’s products and services are. Don’t talk about awards you’ve won, or how your software is so much better than that of your competitors. Why? Because nobody cares….yet.
There will be a time when your prospects want to know all about your company’s products & services; however that comes later, in the middle of the funnel. Right now, you need to think only about the needs, wants and desires of your target audience.
Build a blog that people know they can get great advice on a particular topic and they will come back for more. -Adam Smith, asmithblog.com
At the top of the funnel, the goal is to produce helpful content that allows your audience to solve some of their problems. To see an example of this, look at the HubSpot blog.
HubSpot’s blog is one of the most popular websites in the world. The reason for this is that, for marketers, the content is very interesting. In looking at the blog’s home page today, I see the following headlines:
- This is Your Brain on Viral Content: What Psychology Says You’ll Click On
- How Much Are Your Customers Worth? [Infographic]
- Proven Strategies for Reducing Sales Rep Turnover
Are any of these articles about HubSpot’s marketing software? Nope. Are any of these articles about awards HubSpot has won, or money they’ve raised? Nope. If HubSpot’s blog was filled with self promotional content, it would be a wasteland because nobody actually wants to read any of that. HubSpot’s blog is a huge success because they follow rule #1: be interesting.
How to Choose the Right Premium Content Offers
As soon as you start producing content that is interesting to your target audience, they will come and read it. In order to turn some of these readers into leads, you are going to need to make premium content offers.
A premium content offer is really just an ethical bribe where you say to your reader, if you give me your name and email address, I will send you this eBook, free training course, webinar, etc… The place to make your premium content offer is at the bottom of a blog post. In the case of the first post on HubSpot’s blog about viral content, there is a call to action at the bottom of the post to attend the Hubspot Academy training class on how to master blogging.
Given the topic of the post (how to get clicks), it’s a very good bet that 3-5% of the people that read that article are going to sign up for the free training – and when that happens, HubSpot just got a little closer to landing a few more customers.
So how do you decide what kinds of premium content to offer? The easiest way to do this is to think about the main topics that your target audience is going to be interested in learning about. In our case, we know that our audience (you) is going to be interested in things like:
- Inbound marketing
- Landing pages
- Traffic Generation
- Lead Generation
- Marketing Automation
Note: the words that you use to describe your topics are critical, so make sure that as a part of your researching your audience, you have developed a strong understanding of the language they use to describe their problems. When choosing a topic, I suggest that you ensure that each topic your write about is narrow enough to allow you to be specific in your writing, yet broad enough to allow you to write at least 8 to 10 articles (or more) about that topic. For example, if blogging was your topic, you could write about things like:
- How to craft a headline
- How to structure a post
- How to determine what to write about
- How to build relationships with other bloggers
- Examples of good/bad blog posts
- Examples of good/bad calls to action
- How to attract traffic
- How to convert traffic to leads
How to Organize Content Into Campaigns
Now that you know what premium content you will offer, it’s time to create inbound campaigns around each piece of premium content. What is an inbound campaign? It is nothing more than all the assets that are going to be needed to promote that piece of premium content. The assets I’m talking about are:
- Blog posts
- Calls to action
- Landing pages
- Email nurture sequences
- Social media posts
The biggest portion of your inbound campaign is going to be the blog posts. I recommend that you plan for at least 6-8 posts per campaign and that you publish at least 2 posts per week.
Each post should be at least 600-800 words; however, depending on your audience and topic, you may need to deviate from that. The easiest way to organize all this is with a spreadsheet of some kind. One one page, list out your topics in each column, and then make a list of blog post titles for each topic in the rows below the name of the topic.
Once you have planned out the titles of all the blog posts, you should use an editorial calendar to plan when each post will be published. Once you have come up with the titles for all your blog post, the rest of pretty easy.
You will need one call to action for each campaign. This is what you are going to put at the bottom of each blog post. I recommend making your CTAs a graphic that really stands out from the post. (Look at the bottom of this post for an example).
When clicked, the CTA will take your reader to the landing page that makes the premium content offer.
You will need a number of social media posts to help promote each piece of content as well as an email nurture sequence to help move your leads from the top of the funnel down towards the bottom so that all this effort will actually results in more customers. I will cover both of these topics in more detail in future posts.
Knowing your audience is critical. If you don’t yet know just how to do that, read this post.
Once you clearly understand the needs, wants, and desires of your target audience, the key to developing a content marketing plan is to break it down into campaigns organized around topics that are of interest to your audience. For each topic, you need to create a premium content offer, and then come up with a list of blog posts that relate to that offer.
If this sounds a lot liking being in the publishing business, that is because successful marketers today don’t buy media, they create media.
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