It's official: 2020 is here. We're closer to 2050 than we are to the year Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out. And while we're going to do our best to avoid making "2020 vision" jokes, we do think it's a good time to look ahead at the year to come and take stock of your marketing situation. To that end, we've put together a checklist of the things you should be thinking about over the next 12 months.
Start With The Logistics
We know you’re bursting with good ideas, but pump the brakes just a tad — the best idea in the world will fall flat if you don’t have the means to pull it off. Start with the planning phase of your marketing strategy to figure out what kind of campaigns and ideas you can pursue, then get started on pursuing them.
- Set your objectives — make a list of the top priorities for your agency or your brand this year. Determine which business objectives are going to be the most important for a particular project or the company as a whole.
- Set deadlines — whether it's on a weekly timescale for day to day operations or a quarterly timetable for big-picture progress, it's never too early to start looking at due dates.
- Break down budgets — budgets change throughout the year based on things you can't foresee, but you'll need to have some idea of what you're spending (and where you're spending it) before you move forward.
- Assign roles — make sure you know who's responsible for what aspect of every project and who's in charge of overseeing them. If roles have changed, be careful to clearly explain new responsibilities so that nothing slips through the cracks.
- Establish KPIs — figure out what success looks like. Is it sales? Company growth? New clients? A social following? Set up a way of quantifying your progress toward your goals, but remember: just because you can measure it doesn't make it useful.
Plan the Content Itself
Once you have a direction for your agency, your company, or a specific brand or product, it's time to start laying out the content you're going to create.You want to plan far enough ahead that you're prepared for deadlines, but not so far that you're inflexible when something new pops up. We like to recommend planning between a month and three months in advance.
Your modern company is never going to get any traction if you don't show up in search results, and that means picking and choosing your keywords carefully.
- Start a keyword spreadsheet — make separate lists of the keywords you always want to use, the ones more specific to quarterly goals, and the keywords that might only show up in one or two blog posts. For example, we always want to show up under "Denver marketing agency," but not every post we publish is about "keyword research."
- Research keyword volume — there are a few aspects of a keyword that you'll want to keep in mind, and the first is pure volume: how often do people search for this keyword?
- Keyword difficulty — hand in hand with keyword volume comes keyword difficulty. The more a keyword is searched and the bigger the players in that space, the harder it will be for you to rank anywhere near the top of search results.
- Search intent — when people search for your keyword, what are they hoping to find? Are they looking to buy right away, or are they looking for more information? Tailoring your content toward people's intent is a crucial component of your content plan.
- Relevance — just because a keyword ranks well doesn't mean it ranks well for your audience. Make sure you're optimizing content that your buyer personas actually want.
- Competitor analysis — look into how well your competitors are performing in the same keywords. There may be an opportunity for you to rank in a few niche keywords that your competitors haven't addressed.
A company blog is the core of almost any content marketing strategy, but it only works if you plan it properly.
- Think of topics — this can come before or after keyword research. You might find that people are searching for "data backups onsite vs cloud" and decide to write a post about it, or you might already know that you want to inform your customers about cloud data backups and pick keywords accordingly.
- Read the competition — in the course of researching blogs, you're going to find your competitors' posts on the same subject. Think about things they missed, ideas they included that they didn't need to, and any unique perspectives your company can offer on the subject.
- Plan your thoughts — great blog posts are not born of stream-of-consciousness writing. Lay out what you want to talk about, and in what order, before you get started. Pro tip: wait to write the intro and conclusion until after you've finished the body of the post, then use them to unite the messaging.
Proof and Polish
For a lot of customers, their only interaction with your brand or your company will be with the content you put out online. This means your blog posts, social media posts, and website copy have to be professional, consistent, and coherent.
- Search for grammatical and spelling errors with a fine-toothed comb. Use the built-in spell checkers in your word processor, your browser, Google Docs, and everywhere else you write. Use a third-party tool like Grammarly. Have at least one other person read every post in detail, then reread it.
- Think about why this post is better than the rest of the posts on the internet about the same subject. Is it a broader view? Does it incorporate new information on the subject? Is it a focused look at a particular topic?
- Be consistent with formatting — whether you use AP Style or your own style guide, make sure that you're using the same formatting across your blogs. Don't capitalize "East Coast" or "Millennials" in one blog and leave them lowercase in another.
Virtually every brand can benefit from a social media presence. After all, that's where your customers spend a lot of their time, so it makes sense to find them where they are. This applies to B2B businesses, too — your client might be a business, but you're selling to a human being like any other.
- What's the purpose of the campaign? "Getting out there" isn't a good enough reason to be spending time on social media posts. Like we mentioned in a previous section, you should have a clear objective — awareness, engagement, conversion, lead generation, or something similar — before you kick off a particular campaign.
- Plan ahead — social media has a faster turnaround time than traditional content marketing. If there's a sudden trend on Twitter, you don't want to miss out because you've already planned out your posts a month in advance. But you also don't want to be caught unprepared. Sprinkle your social calendar with evergreen posts that aren't time-sensitive along with timely posts that can be swapped out for breaking news or the latest trend.
- Be consistent — remember, social media is giving a voice to your brand, not the person behind the keyboard. Talk about the topics, words, and attitudes that your brand can use online, as well as the ones you can't use. Brands get in trouble from inappropriate posts all the time. Don't let it happen to you.
- Use the right channels — not every person is on every social network, and just because you like Facebook doesn't mean your audience does. Take the time to find out where your users spend their time, what their habits look like, and what kind of content they want to see.
Every year you'll find articles about the death of email marketing, but it continues to be one of the most productive means of building and maintaining relationships with your customers.
- Segment your email list — if you're sending every email you create to everyone on your mailing list, you're doing it wrong. The truth is, every email will appeal to some of your customers more than others. Dividing your customers into lists based on company size, subscription level, purchase history, or any number of other metrics will keep your message focused and relevant.
- Stay focused — don't send out an email with a holiday sale, a few special offers, an announcement about a new product, and a company newsletter all rolled into one. Customers skim emails to find what they need and then discard them, so a long, confusing email is just a waste of time
- Include a clear CTA — the purpose of a marketing email isn't just to be opened and read; it's to drive the reader to do something else. Whether you want them to read your blog, download a whitepaper, make a purchase, or follow you on social media, it should be apparent from the content of the email why you sent it.
- Optimize for mobile — lots of people check their email whenever they have a moment of free time, like on public transport or in waiting rooms. If they're checking email on their phones, they're likely skimming quickly and might not even load the images in your carefully designed template. Make sure your emails are still coherent and helpful, even on the go.
The Bottom Line: Remember, Content is King
It's easy to get lost in the weeds of specific rules and lose sight of the big picture. All of these suggestions and steps are in service of the biggest goal — creating something that your customers genuinely want and use.
All of the social media tricks and email segmenting ideas in the world won't help without a solid core of useful, timely, informative content that can help your customers achieve their personal and business goals and make their lives easier. Focus on the content, and the rest should come naturally.