A content marketing plan will help you grow your audience, build trust, and convert browsers into buyers.
Content marketing strategy is all about sharing what you know, and being consistently helpful, so you attract and nurture your future customers all the while keeping existing customers satisfied.
What I love most about content marketing is the long-term results rather than the short-term “sell at all costs” strategies employed by panicked marketers trying to hit this month’s quota.
By earning and attracting attention instead of forcing it, we win against our competitors who are burning through their goodwill on every promotional email they send.
Major Components of a Content Marketing Plan
Content marketing strategy consists of your goals, the market your product fits, plus the components of the customer journey, AKA AIDA:
- Attention – Capture the audience’s attention.
- Interest – Deepen interest by going into detail about the desired outcome or problem you are solving.
- Desire – Create desire by showcasing unique features and fostering emotional connection.
- Action – Encourage the reader to take action, such as purchasing or signing up.
The secret is finding the correct balance between content that builds awareness and earns trust, and the content that successfully triggers sales conversions.
Let’s take a look at the types of content you need, from the top of the marketing funnel to the bottom.
Start with Your Ideal Customer
Marketing pen portraits and customer profiles are something that I have written about at length, but it is worth reiterating here that a successful content marketing plan involves serving your market and not starting with your monetary goals.
Yes, smart goals are important, but you will find it much easier to implement a content marketing strategy if you first look at what people are looking for, what they want, their desires, and urgent needs.
Now you can craft your content and your offers around an identified gap in the market rather than creating something and trying to drum up interest in it.
Knowing where your ideal customer hangs out online and who they currently listen to for advice will also pay dividends down the line, so do not skip that part of the research phase.
Raising Awareness: Top of Funnel
Top-of-the-funnel content is all about gaining visibility with your ideal customers to help make them aware of your business, what you can do for people, and the problems you solve.
This means having content that is casting a wide net, that is surfaced outside of your website but brings people back to you. To achieve this, you need to create strategic search engine articles, social media posts, or YouTube videos.
The following types of content work best at the top of the funnel:
- Search-optimized “What is“, “Why” and “Tips” style content. Answer common questions in your industry or niche, especially those that help people who are unaware of solutions or are confused about their situation and how to move forward.
- Social media posting, forum conversations, and networking can also work extremely well for people who personally work closely with clients, such as consultants, coaches, and online tutors.
- Videos – YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram reels can provide quick tips, answer questions, or offer inspiration. A great choice here is the “Before to after” transformations where the results are obvious and inspiring.
- Podcast – Episodes where you go over the topic from a high level, either solo or interview format, can work well. Try and tell a story rather than read from lecture notes as you need to keep the listener engaged while educating them on what they need to be thinking about.
Nurturing with Educational Content: Middle Funnel
The middle of the funnel focuses on creating content that warms up prospects, gives deeper answers, and keeps you “top of mind” for your most-wanted prospects.
This content should connect with them on a personal level, generating goodwill, and also generate stronger demand for your offers.
If your middle funnel content is successful you will grow your email list, because the reader will want to continue the journey of discovery that they started with you.
The content types that work well in the middle funnel are:
- How-to and educational content – Richly detailed tutorials and ultimate guides work well to deliver maximum value, and tangible outcomes, and build your authority as someone who really knows what they talk about in depth.
- Comparison articles or videos – compare your business to the competition, directly or indirectly, or highlight different solutions. Do not attack your competition, but do emphasize your differentiation and the advantages you bring, along with what that means as an outcome or experience.
- Product or service demos – demos showcase how your offerings work in different scenarios without a hard sell. It is the perfect “Show don’t tell” technique. You can make it a simple video or turn it into an event with Q&A by doing it live.
- Pricing guides – Pricing guides provide transparency, remove some fear, and help prospects make informed decisions. This is great objection-busting content.
- Lead generators or lead magnets – Lead generators or lead magnets offer valuable content in exchange for email addresses. In the old days these might have been “White papers” but today they can be online courses, PDF ebooks, worksheets, and so on.
- Email nurture sequences – Email nurture sequences keep you top of mind with prospects through regular email communication, but they must also provide value so that the reader anticipates the next email rather than ponders hitting the spam button.
- Conversation Podcasts – Podcasts allow for a deeper connection with your audience by giving them a taste of your personality right into their earholes. For content marketing purposes you must have a strong point and key takeaways so the listener goes away having been inspired or learned something valuable.
Conversion Copywriting: Bottom of Funnel
The bottom of the funnel is where you cash in on the goodwill, relationships, and trust that you have been building.
Your call to actions will convert your audience into paying customers at a greater volume because they are no longer cold prospects but warmed-up people who have grown to know and trust you.
The content types that work best at the bottom of the funnel are:
- Pre-sell articles and videos – provide helpful content then make your offer.
- Objection-busting – What are the friction points that people experience that add resistance to going ahead? Inform people why they should not worry and answer all their questions.
- Testimonials – provide social proof about key aspects of your solutions and the experience of working with you – should be detailed and specific rather than how nice you are.
- Case studies – showcase real-world examples of how your service solved a specific problem for a customer. Focus on the challenges, approach, and especially the amazing outcomes.
Concluding Your Content Marketing Plan: Crafting Your Sales Pages
Content marketers sometimes believe that they do not need sales pages if they create good enough content, but I disagree based on my own testing and the campaigns we have implemented for clients.
Even if your sales page simply reiterates information the customer already has been made aware of, it is good to have it all there on one page in an easily digestible format.
Remember also, your readers will not necessarily have followed your perfectly formed breadcrumbs from unaware to decided in the order and sequence that you intended.
At the very least your reader will need to know the answers to:
- What is the outcome you are promising?
- How is your offer different?
- Why are you the right person to help them?
- Do you have a guarantee?
- What is the investment?
Sales Letter Template / Checklist
- Headline – Grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to read the introduction.
- Introduction – The hook. Provide context and explain what you have for them.
- Problem or Situation – Address the key pain point or need that the reader has. Explain that leaving things as they are will not make things better, but there is a solution.
- Your Unique Solution – Introduce the product or service as a unique solution to the problem that can not be found elsewhere.
- Features and Benefits – List what the product or service does or contains, and how these benefit and advantage the customer.
- Proof – Screenshots, videos, and testimonials to build credibility and grow buyer confidence.
- The Offer – Details the specific package or pricing options that you’re presenting today (and why that price is a bargain).
- Guarantee – Assure the buyer that all the risk is yours, usually at least a money-back guarantee.
- CTA (Call to Action) – Direct the reader on what to do next (plus the “Buy” / “Add to Cart” button).
- PS (Postscript) – Summarize the offer, and reiterate the urgency/scarcity – a very brief elevator pitch to encourage action.
Content Marketing Strategy Creation Summary
Your content plan needs to thread the needle between content that gains you visibility, grows trust in you, and builds goodwill, and also the content that spends the positive credit you have earned by making offers.
Creating all this content may seem overwhelming, but the long-term payoff is huge. Even better, if you do your content marketing correctly you will be seen as helpful and valuable in your niche, rather than pushy, strong-arming, and sales-focused.