Everywhere you turn people want to talk about content marketing. What platform are you using, what content are you pushing, what channels are you leveraging and what is the right cadence of distribution are all questions content marketers are thinking about every day to position their product one step closer to their prospective consumers. As consumer marketing gets more and more targeted and sophisticated, the right content strategy is a critical element across any marketing plan.


If 2015 was about getting your feet wet, 2016 is about creating a strategy and operationalizing it in order to drive real results. But if you read the numbers you will see that while everyone is now doing it, they don’t know if they are being successful or even what success looks like. So here are some recommendations to think about as you are sitting down to determine if you are approaching your content marketing properly:


  1. Know your audience. We all think we know our customers, but how much data or research do you really have into their preferences? Do you understand why they have engaged or bought your products in the past and why they may again? Are you analyzing all of the data at your fingertips (Google Analytics, email marketing metrics, social metrics, brand sentiment, premium content downloads. Etc.) Knowing your audience is the most critical first step in launching an effective content marketing strategy to turn prospects into buyers.


  1. Know the Journey of Your Buyers. As you move your customers through a traditional funnel (awareness, consideration, conversion, advocacy), what content is most critical at each step to keep them progressing? Is your message resonating with them? Are you materials up to snuff? Are your prospects seeing your product or brand in the most consistent, effective manner across every potential channel?


  1. Create and document your plan. Doing content marketing by feel is not smart. Create a plan which outlines your target, your messages, your channels, and your calendar or cadence of activities. Each week when you huddle as a team it is much easier to make sure everyone is doing their assigned roles and progressing the program. Clearly you will want to course correct as your review the metrics, but starting with a solid plan can keep you one step ahead of your prospective customers.


  1. Measure, Evaluate and Evolve. The more you look at the numbers, discuss what they mean, and make sure everyone on your team understands the impact of their actions, the better your program will become. A weekly review, even if for 15 minutes, can you a long way to ensure that you don’t get too far off course over the course of a month or quarter.


  1. Take some Risks. Sure, everyone will want to use traditional channels (social, web, sponsored, etc.), but moving out of your comfort zone to try a channel where you have not spent time or money in the past can be effective.


  1. Combine Paid and Earned Efforts for Content Distribution. The best content in the world will fall flat without distribution to an engaged audience. Unless you are a well-known consumer brand with a large following, leveraging paid channels including social networks and search are critical for an effective program.


  1. What She Said. Engage influencers to amplify content marketing efforts. In today’s consumer marketing world the opinion and recommendations of influencers can go a long way and deliver the same impact as a great media article.


These recommendations can help you hone your content marketing strategy for 2016. The less prepared you are to succeed, the less your chances for driving real success with content marketing.

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