Building a Digital Content Strategy Using the SMART Method
Ag businesses with strong organic lead flows typically have a couple of things in common. They have a great content calendar and an even more meticulous digital content strategy. Many business owners are becoming savvy to the benefits of content marketing to reach their target audiences, but many approach their editorial calendar without clear or specific business goals in mind.
Even if your current content plan is helping to engage your core audience and boost your search engine rankings, it can accomplish so much more with the aid of strategic goal setting, also known as a SMART goal. In this instance, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Let’s break this acronym down into its component parts and explore how each contributes to effective content creation.
No matter where you operate along the Ag value chain, if you want to be terrific, you have to be specific. Specific goals are easier to achieve because they are more measurable and targeted than general goals and can be broken down into smaller milestones. Specific goals often serve as the steppingstones to your general goals. Realistically, businesses need a combination of specific and big picture goals in order to succeed. The big picture goal serves as the ultimate target, while specific goals create the action steps necessary to reach the finish line.
Big Picture Goal:
“To boost qualified lead generation traffic to our website by 10% in Q4 using content marketing as our driver in Q3.”
“To deliver 10 pieces of Ag content in Quarter 3:”
- 2 articles for the Farm Journal
- 2 articles to Farm World
- 3 articles for Modern Farmer
- 3 interviews on the Modern Acre Podcast
- Post all articles on social media platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook
- Post on company blog & include all articles in monthly email newsletter
To help you outline your goals and content strategy, consider the following questions:
- Who? Who are the key players involved in generating content ideas, writing, and executing published content?
- What? What is the end goal and specific calls-to-action I will use in my content.
- When? Establish a timeline for the writing, editing, and publishing of your content.
- Where? Where will you feature the content? blogs, social media, forums, trade websites?
- How? How does your content align with the specific needs and desires of your target audience?
Using both big picture and specific goals, shown in the section above, you can set definitive milestones and criteria for measuring your progress toward achieving each goal in your digital content strategy. The act of measuring your progress helps you to stay focused on reaching your target. A goal without measurable criterion isn’t a goal at all, it’s a wish. I’ve heard many a manager or business owner say, “We hope to achieve X, Y, and Z.” As a mentor of mine used to say, “Hope isn’t an action plan. Tell me your goals and how you will measure their achievement.”
Each goal should have a corresponding KPI (key performance indicator) target. For example, if your goal is to attract an additional 50 leads per quarter from a digital content campaign about grain options, make this goal the center of focus by measuring weekly benchmarks
If your business has adopted a CRM (Customer Relations Management) platform like Salesforce or HubSpot, your teams can leverage the marketing tools to set up campaigns that can track productivity across channels. These CRMs allow you to set up dashboards and reporting to measure the success of the channels in which you promote your content.
In order to create a content model that is sustainable over time, your content goals must be achievable. While most businesses will naturally challenge their teams to grow beyond their current limitations with stretch goals, there is wisdom in setting goals that are both attainable and realistic. A successful content strategy can be scaled to allow for growth over time.
For example, if you know your current staff only has the bandwidth to create two excellent pieces of content each month, setting goals to achieve 6 articles per month could end up creating unnecessary frustration for your staff.
Conversely, if you start with realistic goals, you can scale your efforts over time as you develop a rhythm around essential content processes and routines. In fact, you might consider building a scalable digital content plan where you create 2 pieces of content each month in Quarter 1, four pieces of content per month in Q2, and so on.
Or, if your current team lacks time resources to develop various types of content, articles, and blog posts, can you hire an inbound content marketing agency or third-party writer?
Your topics should either be “evergreen” or timely in a manner that is relevant to your audience and industry. Many businesses make the mistake of writing about things that matter to them without considering whether their topics and subject matter are aligned with the needs and desires of their target client.
After all, you’re ultimately writing to the needs, interests, and pain points of your target audience. Perform a content audit on your strategy by putting yourself in your audiences’ shoes and decide if you are operating in alignment with the people your content aims to serve.
All goals require realistic deadlines to succeed. Think of each deadline as a successive rung on the ladder toward your goal’s achievement. You know the old adage “how do you swallow an elephant? One bite at a time.” This concept is particularly true when it comes to planning and executing a successful digital content strategy.
Achieving these milestones also serves to help key stakeholders stay motivated and focused. Without the structure of time-based goals and objectives, your digital content strategy can easily devolve into a series of disconnected and disorganized efforts. Using the SMART method will help you to stay focused, streamline your efforts around realistic goals, and pave the way for successful execution.
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