The Marketing BLUEPRINT, Bitesize Edition

Getting started with content marketing, or a wider marketing plan, can be a daunting task. 

Whether you’re a business owner, or an in-house marketing manager, your content marketing efforts must be united with a single goal: Building trust, to generate leads, and convert sales.

Without that common goal, you’ll be “firefighting” on all marketing fronts, or worse, you’ll be stuck at the first hurdle of getting started.

To help you get started with content marketing strategy, I’ve created The Marketing BLUEPRINT™. It’s a 9-step framework that takes you through each step of a marketing plan, starting with your buyer, moving to content ideas, pipeline building, case study stories and more.

If you want to read the full eBook, you can download it here. Here’s the Bitesize Edition; let’s start with an overview of the 9 steps:

  1. Buyer
  2. Learning
  3. Understanding
  4. Engagement
  5. Pipeline
  6. Retention
  7. Impact
  8. Negatives
  9. Time

Now let’s look at those each in turn.

1. Buyer - Who is your audience?

With any plan, be it a marketing plan or business plan, it’s crucial that you start with your target market. Without this, you’re effectively marketing to anyone and everyone, which can do your business a disservice.

Step 1 of the BLUEPRINT™ is about answering the question “who is your customer base?” You may know this as a buyer persona, and the idea is to craft a profile for your perfect, ideal client. 

Take a look at your favourite clients, the ones you love working with, who pay you right, and respect the relationship. Identify qualities such as:

  • Business size (team, turnover, type)
  • Qualities (personality, lifestyle, background)
  • Pain points (their fears, struggles and challenges)
  • Where they go for information
  • Goals (their business objectives)

This gives you real information about your target market, giving you valuable insight that will ultimately make your marketing more targeted and focus towards them.

2. Learning - What are they looking to learn?

Those who know me well will know that I’m a massive advocate of They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan, and the “Big 5” blog topics.

For those unfamiliar, I recommend reading this blog post. To summarise, They Ask, You Answer is a business philosophy whereby you use content marketing to become the most trusted voice in your industry, and ultimately put your customers in control of their buying decision. 

You do this by obsessing over what customers are thinking, especially what they’re afraid might go wrong with a purchase, and redefining content marketing as:

  • Earning trust through teaching
  • Using great information to help others solve their problems
  • Listening to customers’ questions and providing radically honest answers

My favourite quote from They Ask, You Answer is this:

“Content marketing is simply the act of teaching and problem solving to earn buyer trust.”

That’s how the “Big 5” applies to step two of the BLUEPRINT™. You’ve determined who your buyer is; now this step is about brainstorming the content needed to target them, and what your audience can learn.

Remember: 70% of the buying decision is made before your audience gets in touch with you. That means they’re using search engines to find mass amounts of information, so that they can learn more and become more educated before reaching out to a company.

At this stage, you want to ask yourself “what are the top questions my target audience asks me?” Look in your inbox, your sent box… you’ll be surprised how many questions are sat there that can be turned into content for your marketing plan. As you begin to brainstorm content, always make a mental note of:

  • Does this answer a question they’re asking?
  • What are they trying to learn about with this question?
  • Is this helpful to my target market?

As you brainstorm content topics, you’ll naturally find that they’ll fall into the “Big 5” of cost/price, problems, comparisons, reviews and best-in-class, which will help you prioritise which to write and publish first.

3. Understanding - What can they understand about you?

Now when you get to this step, you’re probably thinking: “‘Understanding’ and ‘Learning’ are basically the same thing, so why are they separate steps?!”

In this step of the BLUEPRINT™, we’re addressing how your audience can learn more about your business specifically.

In their quest for information, consumers are also looking to understand more about the businesses they work with. This is where talking specifically about Cost and Price from the “Big 5” plays a huge role. 

Your target market wants to get an understanding of how your business works, what products and services you offer, and what it might look like to work together.

So, at this step, you want to brainstorm content that addresses your business, topics such as:

  • How much does [product] cost?
  • Who will I be working with for [service]?
  • What landing pages do we need to showcase products and services?

4. Engagement - How can you engage with them?

As you begin to learn more about your target market (with your newly formed buyer persona), you’ll start to know more about their activity.

Specifically, you’ll be able to plan how you can engage with them. Social media plays a huge part in this, and is a great platform to have honest conversations and create engaging content to entice your audience in.

For this stage, you want to brainstorm how you can engage with your audience: What social networks are best for your audience? What posts would be suitable (polls, videos, etc)?

You can also begin to plan other forms of engagement, such as marketing automation, conversational marketing and lead capture forms. You may want to look at a CRM tool to assist you with your efforts at this stage too.

5. Pipeline - How to build the customer journey

Now that you have a bank of content building up, it’s time to plot this against your customer journey. Otherwise known as a pipeline, or funnel, every customer journey is different, but they can be categorised into three stages:

  • Awareness - Your audience realises they have a problem.
  • Consideration - They begin to research a solution
  • Decision - They choose that solution.

At this stage, you want to map your content to each stage of the buyer journey, to make sure that you have content that addresses each stage. If you have gaps, it’s back to brainstorming. You want to make sure you have content that is educational, resourceful, demonstrates your products, engages with them as they purchase, and so on. 

HubSpot have published a fantastic Content Mapping Template to help with this step. You can download it here.

6. Retention - Keeping your audience in the pipeline

Creating the pipeline is one thing. It’s another beast entirely to retain your audience.

Customer retention is extremely important for return-on-investment, and you want to make sure that once you’ve got them funneling through the pipeline, you continue to wow and engage with them. If a terrible experience is provided, they’re more likely to leave. 

At this stage, you want to look at how you can repurpose content in order to retain your audience and nudge them further along the sales funnel.

Repurposing allows you to take an existing piece of content from one stage of your sales funnel, and change it so that it serves a different purpose. This reason could be so that it addresses leads at another stage of the sales funnel, or perhaps to address another buyer persona segment. For example:

  • Turning a series of blog posts into an eBook.
  • Using statistics as social media images.
  • Re-uploading webinars as video tutorials.
  • Turning a slideshow into an infographic.

In any case, repurposing content allows you to reach new audiences, as well as reinforce your message and improve your organic visibility over time.

Check out Content 10x by Amy Woods for ideas on how to repurpose everything from blog posts, to webinars and beyond.

7. Impact - What stories can you tell?

This is one of two steps in a marketing plan that are often neglected - Impact, specifically the impact you have had on clients.

Here you want to think about the stories you have, and the results your clients have seen from working with your company. Often, businesses tell stories about how the client had a problem, came to them and they were the hero - end of story.

Instead, you want to frame your stories so that the client is the hero, and how their problem was solved as a result of working together. Spend some time thinking about your very best clients, and the very best results, and start drafting a case study that showcases this to your audience.

8. Negatives - Why wouldn’t a business work with you?

The second often-neglected step is a bit of a different one. Now, we’re going to focus on negatives. Small businesses often forget to talk about negatives, but in reality, it’s one of the most popular things consumers are searching for.

Ask yourself: “Why wouldn’t someone buy from you?” By answering this question, and other problem-based topics, you’re crafting some of the most disruptive content you could possibly write, and addressing all aspects of your audience working with you, warts and all. Some example articles could be:

  • Problems with [product]
  • Issues that can arise from [service]

By embracing the messy, talking about problems, negatives and more from the beginning of the buyer relationship, your audience will actually trust you more. That’s because they’ll see the content for its honesty and transparency, two core values that build trust in a relationship.

The buyer is ultimately still in control of their eventual buying decision, but with the power of disarmament, they’re able to educate themselves more and enough to arrive at an informed conclusion, because you had the honesty and uniqueness to address all aspects of the buyer relationship, negatives and all.

9. Time - What’s next?

And now for the final step: Time. This is where you take your marketing plan, or marketing goals and ask the following questions:

  • Who is going to do the work?
  • How long is this person/people going to commit to marketing?
  • In what timeframe do we want to see results?

By assigning these questions, you’re making sure your marketing plan becomes something measurable. It’s important to assign responsibility to make sure your marketing is actioned, and agree KPIs for measuring results going forward.

I recommend, at a bare minimum, two to three pieces of content per week, be it blog articles, videos, podcasts, etc. If you’ve read “They ask, you answer”, you’ll know the timeframe needed to see results. If not, allocate a period of 12-18 months minimum to really see the results from your marketing activity.

It’s not uncommon for marketing results to take 30-months to fully realise. Check out this blog by John Espirian on the 30-month mindset.

How would you rate your marketing plan?

And there you have it: The Marketing BLUEPRINT™. 

9-steps to put together a content marketing plan that is focused, deliverable and designed with one thing in mind: Your buyer. 

Whether you're an in-house marketing manager, or you're working with a marketing agency, I hope this framework helps you boost your bottom line and identify some amazing strategy and tactics for generating more of your ideal clients.

If you want to read the full guide (all 50 pages of it!), you can download it here.

Wishing you every success with your content marketing!