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As we’re approaching the end of 2018, the future of content marketing seems more uncertain than ever before. AI is on the horizon, the number of marketing channels is ever-growing and, to top it off, there is competition everywhere.

So, you can’t help but wonder “Does content marketing still work? What type of content should we create?”

The short answer is: Yes, quality content can pique interest in your products or services. It can help you generate more, warmer leads with a smaller budget and less effort.

The game hasn’t changed that much. Content marketing is still about creating and sharing digital assets like blogs, videos, graphics, infographics, funny cat videos, memes, you name it. However, to cut through the noise, you need a structured approach. You need a content marketing strategy.

How to create a successful content marketing strategy in 2019

Here’s the tried-and-true process we use at The Walk.

Step 1: Understand content marketing

Getting quality leads with content might seem a lot like trying to predict what the next Google update will bring about — impossible.

In reality, content marketing is predictable and measurable. You don’t have to rely on your gut feeling to tell you what to write about. You don’t have to pray to some invisible Internet God for a serendipitous encounter between your prospect and your content.

You can actually research and find out what kind of content you need to create. You can get inside the head of your ideal customer, take them by the hand and gently lead them to the purchase. You can engineer this entire process.

Step 2: Have realistic business objectives

Tying your content to business objectives will end the vicious cycle of “Publish And Pray” and start the virtuous cycle of “Publish And Flourish”.

It’s easier than it probably sounds. Just think about what you’re trying to achieve. Why do you want to publish anything in the first place? If everything goes well, what kind of results do you want?

Of course, you have to be realistic. A 90% conversion rate is probably not attainable.

Step 3: Understand who your audience is

Successful content marketing is about making your buyer’s life easier. It’s about giving them valuable information that helps them make the best purchase decision.

The problem is, you don’t know what “valuable information” looks like through your customer’s lens. That’s why you have to get to know them, to understand their needs and try to look at the world through their eyes.

Yes, this means that you have to create buyer personas. We know this might sound like a futile exercise but our experience proves that it’s actually a money making exercise.

Proof that you need to take the time and get to know your audience is everywhere. For example, Thomson Reuters saw a 175% increase in revenue after implementing buyer personas.

Step 4: Find opportunities in the buying cycle

Gary Vaynerchuk famously said, “Content is King but Context is God.

Although this was back in 2013, his words still ring true. Quality content is at the core of a content marketing campaign but it’s nothing unless you serve it in the right place at the right time.

If you don’t want to rely on synchronicity, the only way to do this is to unravel your ideal customer’s buying process (the buying cycle).

You have to discover what stages your customers move through before purchasing your products or services, what questions they are asking at each stage and how you can answer these questions with content.

Step 5: Create a content plan

We know that planning might sounds as exciting as doing your taxes. We’re not sure that anyone has ever found true joy in doing taxes but we promise that you will fall in love with planning over time.

A strategic plan is like a map which helps you stay on track. It tells you and everyone else on your team exactly what is necessary to achieve your business goals.

Your content marketing plan contains the marketing channels to use, the types of content to create and, most importantly, a clear timeline for content creation and distribution.

Now you are ready to actually start creating content. Whew!

Step 6: Capitalise on automation

Marketing automation can be a blessing and a curse. It becomes the latter when you attempt to use automation tools without a clear idea what it is that you are doing and why.

At this point, all the hard work that you’ve done so far will pay off. With your content marketing plan in hand, you can easily see what should be done by humans and what can be outsourced to robots.

The trick is to stay away from over-automation. Don’t use robots because everyone else does. Use them when you have a powerful reason to do so, e.g. to show a Facebook ad for your next webinar to people who attended your previous webinar.

Step 7: Test, measure and optimise

According to the State Of Content Marketing Survey 2017, 62% of marketers don’t know how to measure the ROI of their campaigns. Yes, it is definitely a challenge but it’s not impossible to do.

The technology that we have today enables you to track your prospect all the way from reading an article to downloading a free ebook, to purchasing your product or service. Our advice is to keep it as simple as possible and to track the most important events in your sales funnel.

What results can you expect if you follow the steps above?

By understanding your potential customers and where they are in the buying cycle, you can:

• Show up in search results at the right time, with the right type of content
• Engage readers because you put so much thought and effort into creating your content
• Increase your brand awareness naturally when your website visitors start sharing your awesome content

It also shows in your stats. When you look at Google Analytics, for example, you will begin to see lower bounce rates, longer session duration and higher pages/per session ratio.

Don’t forget to make your content visible

In our experience, SEO is the most effective means to get in front of your audience. Even though search engine algorithms change at a frantic pace, this won’t affect your content marketing.

On the contrary, you will benefit from these changes because high-quality content is the only constant in SEO.

Google, Bing, Yahoo, and all of the other search engines are optimising their algorithms to fetch the most relevant and well-researched content on a topic.

So, if you invest the time and effort to craft outstanding content, you can’t lose the SEO game. Only those who are trying to cheat the system are in for a nasty surprise.

What’s next?

Now that you understand the basics of content marketing, you’re ready to create an awesome content marketing strategy.

To chart your next steps, you can grab our free guide “Content Marketing That Works” today.

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