Content marketing is not a volume game, although those running such programmes admit they often feel like they are. It is no doubt why the phrase ‘feeding the content beast’ has, sadly, become more and more common. However, the reality of running a proactive content marketing programme is that you do need to have some form of continuous production schedule but at the same time you must seek a balance between the need to create content and the need to remain focussed on the strategic goals.
By focussing on this balance, the question about ‘what content to produce next’ ensures that the required levels of content engagement are retained within a context of commercial purpose. The challenge, therefore, is putting in place a content marketing strategy that enables this to happen in a way that supports the content creation process.
This means having a content strategy that is aligned around your commercial objectives and not simply around creating engagement. In other words, recognising that creating engagement is an important aspect of content marketing but not the goal of content marketing. The goal, ultimately, is to generate commercial value for the organisation – i.e. sales, retention, positive brand perception, and so on. Without a focus on the goal, the risk is that you are simply creating a ‘Spinning Wheel of Engagement’ where you gather an audience but do not have the structure in place to do anything further with them.
So how to avoid this spinning wheel of engagement and ensure your content marketing strategy is guiding your target audience towards your commercial goals? The answer lies in understanding how content works throughout the audience journey towards the commercial goal. In other words, how content needs to go beyond the initial engagement that content marketing is commonly limited to by identifying the content that is going to be required on the subsequent stages of the journey.
This is the essence of audience journey planning – understanding what the journeys towards the goals look like and what content will be needed to support your various audiences’ progress along the journey. Of course, you will need to map multiple variations on a journey as you will need to take into consideration the different starting points and reasons to buy that audiences will have. After all, if people behaved in a straightforward, one-dimensional, linear manner then marketing would be easy! Sadly for all of us, that is not the case.
However, once you have an audience journey plan in place then your content marketing creation process will always stay on track. No matter what frequency of production you are aiming for, you will be able to determine what content needs to be produced based on what content is required to support the audience journeys.
From a practical, day-to-day perspective this means that your editorial planning process, which is the most common term used among businesses today for planning what content to produce next, will be based around three factors:
- What content from which journeys are our audiences engaging with? Based on this insight, should we be producing more content to support those journeys?
- What journeys either lack content or could do with more/new content to support them?
- Beyond our normal weekly content creation requirements, are there any campaigns or events that we need to support that will require new content? If so, which journeys will this content align to?
By taking this audience journey planning approach, the brief for the content production process becomes tighter and more purposeful. This in turn helps the creative process as the brief is tighter. Furthermore, the resulting content will be tightly aligned to guiding your audiences towards your commercial goals.