A Step by Step Guide to Build a Content Marketing Plan for Your Consulting Business
- June 3, 2014
- by:Serhat Pala
You finally landed an interview with your dream company. You are nervous, excited and nervous all over again! Your interview is in two days. Would you:
- Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the company, the role you are interviewing for, brush up on your own professional skills, network with existing and past employees to get a feel of what to expect and then arrive at your interview appropriately prepared. OR
- Decide to stop worrying so much and take things as they come. You show up at the interview with no preparation except a shower and some decent clothes.
Which approach do you think has a higher chance of success? Unless you are a real prodigy, my bet would be on option A.
Playing by the ear is great if you are doing an improv act on stage. But in the real world, investing time and effort in planning, preparation and a clear game plan, is a time honored way to ensure success. Having a worst case scenario plan ready on hand, helps you sail through when the best case scenario comes along.
The same logic applies to Content Marketing.
Content Marketing is the latest ‘it’ thing that has swept the marketing world. Everybody is doing it or at least trying to do it. You want to do it too. The temptation to rush headlong into content marketing is great, as the entry barriers are so low. But by doing so, you will be doing a huge disservice to your brand and your business. Even more so, when you have a consulting business. In consulting, it’s your JOB to create plans and strategies that work for your clients.
1. Figure Out Where You Stand
Before setting out on any mission to transform your marketing, you need to understand where you currently stand. If you don’t know where you started from, how would you measure how far you’ve come?
Carry out a reality audit –
- Understand what’s your current brand equity in customers’ minds
- Measure your site metrics – traffic, conversion rate, drop offs, bounces
- What is your current market share
- Who are your competitors and what are they up to in terms of marketing
- Take stock of all your marketing efforts till date
- Check what content you currently have that can you re-purpose for content marketing.
Only after you’ve satisfactorily established a baseline, should you proceed to the next step.
2. Decide where you want to go. Define your goals
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
This exchange from Lewis Carrol’s classic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ explains to the ‘T’ the pitfalls of having no plan. Be a thought leader, create top-of-mind brand recall, widen your acquisition funnel, convert better, etc.
3. Understand, no REALLY understand your target audience
You think you know who your customer is. You probably do, but it does not hurt to put that down in black and white. Besides, as a consulting business, you could be targeting multiple audiences. Each audience has their own unique fingerprints. To reach out to them and convert them to paying customers, you need to speak their language.
Dig into your customer data and build dedicated customer personas for each segment that your business caters to. A typical customer persona for clients of a consulting business should include
- Demographic information – age, sex, marital status (trust me, it’s useful),
- Psychographic information – areas of interest, pain points in their current business, solutions they currently use, media they consume, social networking patterns, media consumption patterns and frequency, political leanings,
- Financial information – average income / turnover, marketing budgets, whether they’re in the red or doing well
- Geographic information – contact details, city, country, places they travel to
4. Decide On The Best Tactics to Achieve Your Stated Goals
A. What Kind of Content to Create
Create useful, engaging and unique content based on your customer personas and your eventual goals. If you have multiple audience segments, tailor make your content for the tastes of each segment differently.
Hold off on the temptation to churn out average, run of the mill content just for the sake of putting up something new each day. Below par content is a turn off for readers and paints your business in a bad light. When it is a choice between quality and quantity, ALWAYS pick quality content.
Your content could be anything that is relevant to and valued by your audience – a free industry report, a ‘How to’ Guide, free email marketing templates, infographics, an e-book or even a regular blog post.
B. Where To Distribute This Content
Begin by posting your content on your own site or blog – after all; that is where you want to drive the traffic to. Check out third party blogs or news websites related to your industry and make guest posts there with link backs to your own site.
Distribute your unique and targeted content through channels that are apt for each customer persona. Use LinkedIn for your corporate user, try Twitter for the tech-savvy types, post on Pinterest if your audience is largely female and so on.
But don’t restrict yourself to online channels. If your users are found offline, go there. Write for trade magazines and journals, send out direct mailers to their homes or places of business, set up networking events where you can interact with them one on one.
C. Timing it right
There is no secret recipe for how often you can create and post content. In most cases, the more the merrier, but with a caveat. Avoid spamming your users with worthless content just to remain top of mind. Spend some time and design an editorial calendar that clearly specifies what content gets published where and on what date.
An editorial calendar can help you track the performance of your content, it can be used to repurpose and repost older content that was successful and to keep your content creation team on schedule always.
Some simple tactics you could consider beginning with are:
- Promote your consulting business on LinkedIn – create a LinkedIn company page, join relevant industry groups and contribute to them
- Participate in trade events and conferences to widen your network.
- Get speaker slots at industry events to build your reputation as a thought leader. Create videos of these presentations and share them on your blog, on Youtube or even LinkedIn.
- Reach out to your audience on email with share-worthy content. Create an email marketing plan where you reach out to your audience on a biweekly, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis to educate, inform and convert them into paying customers.
- Create training videos in your business domain and post them on LinkedIn and YouTube. If you think creating quality videos is beyond your current bandwidth, outsource the process to professionals like Rhinoforce who do this day in, day out.
5. Measure results and apply learning to improve your plan
The content that you create is designed to fulfill the goals that you spell out for your business at the very beginning. Check to see how far your content actually comes to meeting those goals and identify the areas where you can improve.
Measurement can be in the online or offline space, depending on your business structure and your content choices.
If you sent out direct mailers with coupon codes on them, you can track the effectiveness of this tactic by tracking the usage of your coupon codes.
To know the website traffic your content generates, use Google Analytics or any other analytics platform to track the spike in your visitor numbers on the days you post new content. Track these visitors and check how many convert and how many drop off. Identify where the drop offs occur and fix the problem. You can also track the sources from where your content attracted new visitors to help you tailor your new content to such sites in the future.
For example, your article on ‘Information Security Best Practices’ could attract a bunch of techie visitors to your site. However, if your content and business have nothing much to do with each other, they will drop away from your site never to return. This is a content marketing failure that comes to light when you analyze your site data. Once you find a problem, rectify it and carry on
6. Rinse and repeat steps 1 through 5.
Rome was not built in a day, neither was any good content marketing program. With content marketing you are attempting to create brand authority, salience and loyalty for the long term. Unlike short term paid ads, the aim of content marketing is not to get a handful of customers right now, its job is to create a large and constantly growing funnel of leads that will convert to customers based on the trust that you build in their minds.
This takes time and patience. As time passes, your goals may change, your brand equity will grow and your audiences will demand newer and better things from you. The build it and forget it approach does not work here.
Keep your ear to the ground and recalibrate your content marketing machine regularly. Stay relevant, stay successful.