How Can a Simple Content Marketing Plan Work For You?

What’s a Simple Content Marketing Plan?

A basic content marketing plan, in my view, is a three-legged stool:

  1. Blog
  2. Social Network
  3. Email

All three are content driven, but they serve different functions. The blog is where you demonstrate your expertise and/or affinity for a particular subject to the widest possible audience. The social network is where you interact with a smaller audience that is self-identified as being interested in the subject. Email is where you directly communicate with those who are not only interested in the subject, but interested in you specifically. In this way, a content-marketing plan can invoke a traditional marketing pipeline. For those of you who may not be familiar, let’s take a look at the traditional pipeline.

The Traditional Marketing Pipeline

The traditional marketing pipeline can be envisioned as an ever-narrowing funnel through which you drive traffic until someone emerges on the other side as a customer.

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The goal is to feed as large an audience as is economically feasible into one end. This initial sample represent your suspects because you suspect them of being interested in your good or service. When a suspect expresses an interest in what you do in general, they become a lead. From the leads, you cull out those who are interested in you providing it to them. These are called your prospects. Court the prospects personally until they become your customers. As an example, I’ll compare this to a direct mail campaign, with which many of you might be familiar:

Pipeline StageCountDirect MailContent Marketing
Suspects100,000Pieces mailedBlog readers
Leads100BRCs returnedEmail subscribers
Prospects10Calls to sales deskSales event attendees
Customers1Unit soldCustomer acquired

So let’s say we send 100,000 direct mail pieces to suspects, or people we suspect will be interested in your company. 1,000 people return a Business Reply Card (BRC) requesting more information, so we mail them a sales kit. They are now leads. Of the people who receive a sales kit, ten of them call the sales department. They become prospects. The sales team carefully works each prospect until one finally becomes a customer. These rates of conversion (1% from suspect to lead and 10% from lead to customer) are realistic but conservative. A good marketing plan for a good product will likely do much better. This is oversimplified for effect. Different companies within different industries decide for themselves what events will trigger a conversion between stages in the pipeline.

Let’s carry the analogy over to content marketing. When you post an article on a blog, a potential pool of, say, 100,000 suspects might be exposed to it on the Internet. (That’s a wild guess on my part. It’s just an example.) Of the people who actually read the article, let’s say 100 of them subscribe to your email list. That’s when they become leads. Subscribers to your email list receive invitations to an event such as a free seminar or demonstration class. Those who actually attend the event have turned into prospects. Of the prospects, one enrolls as a paying student in a class you teach, and is now a new customer. It’s possible that the first class the student pays for covers the costs for the whole marketing effort. Every other paid class might be pure profit. Your numbers will vary, but you get the idea.

The point is that you don’t just want to post content that engages the reader. Pictures of crazed kittens will do that. You want to effect your audience in a way that draws them ever closer to becoming a customer until you land them.

A Real-World Example

John Howard Swain, is an acting teacher in Manhattan who runs his own content marketing campaign based on his blog, Breakthrough Acting. He encourages readers to follow his blog and like his Facebook page. Every few months John hosts an evening for actors which is open only to his blog followers. Invitations are sent via email. Attendees get a chance to meet a casting director and gain feedback on their audition technique from John. As a result, a number of the attendees convert to students after every free session. Et voila !

What Types of Businesses Benefit from Content Marketing?

All types, but particularly those that can create a community from their customer base. As noted above, schools and classes are great candidates, as are restaurants, clubs, non-profits and real estate agents. Even manufacturers can benefit from a good content-driven campaign. BMW has created an entire community of Mini Cooper owners (, which helps build the caché of owning one. An attractive feature of content marketing campaigns is that they are relatively cheap to mount. For the do-it-yourselfer, all the required accounts (blog, social networks, email, etc.) can be set up for free. After that, all that is required is a little sweat-equity.

It’s Just That Simple

Or at least it can be. It can also be much more complicated. The campaign I’ve described is very basic. YouTube might be better than a blog for you, or used in conjunction with it. Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn might be good social networks either instead of, or in addition to, Facebook and Twitter. Whether you use Constant Contact, MailChimp or some other bulk email provider will depend on exactly what you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an established corporation or a home-based start-up. If the audience you want to reach can potentially unite around a common interest, then content marketing could be right for you. If you aren’t sure exactly where to begin or how to do it, contact me and we’ll brainstorm it together – for free.

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