In the spirit of improving my content marketing skills, I decided to formalize my content strategy for this year so that I can look back on it next year and work out what parts worked and didn't.
Things covered by this plan are:
- How I will attack my objectives
- What content I will use
- How I will generate topics ideas and get feedback
- Where I will promote my content
- The work schedule
I hope people reading this find it useful for getting ideas on how to formulate their own strategies relating to content marketing.
Ask any marketing consultant a question, and they're going to tell you it depends. Mostly they're gonna ask about your audience and objectives.
So let me set the groundwork first on what exactly I'm doing here.
Product and Market
Noah Kagan is one of my favorite marketers, and I find a lot of his work to be very practical. He tends never to reference theory and instead talks a lot about examples that he sees from real-life people.
He has a great video out on marketing 101, and I think it's a great starting point for my project to make sure that I have the foundations in place.
In his video, he distills marketing down to three key questions:
- What problem do I solve?
- Who do I solve it for?
- Where do they hang out?
Here are my answers:
|What problem do I solve?||Sharing actionable SaaS marketing strategies & tools. And maybe some content marketing consulting, too.|
|Who for?||Early stage SaaS founders.|
|Where do they hang out?||Twitter, Product Hunt, Reddit, Medium*|
I found out there my target listeners and readers hang out by asking people in the space.
*Medium, I'm not so sure about. I ran a poll on indie hackers and I didn't get a very strong response. I do notice there are a lot of SaaS pieces on the platform, so I'm making an assumption here but it's probably just not as active as the other places.
Do I have product-market fit?
We'll see whether what I do resonates.
I’m going to consider the show’s first real season as the MVP, and get feedback. As I learned from Jimmy Rose, you can't really force product-market fit, just keep testing and learning.
So far, I’ve been talking to people in my target audience and gotten some encouraging feedback on what I’ve created though. My episode on converting trial users to paid was very well received.
Some friends and other kind folks are giving me hints on topics they want to see more of, and some areas they’re challenged by in their marketing. So I will create more stuff around those points and get feedback as I go.
Any competitive advantage?
I like the idea that some people will like my approach, interviews, and articles because of the way I do it. That’s pretty sustainable to me, just being myself. So I want to lean into that.
With the foundations done, now I can get into the objectives. I'll try to keep them specific and measurable, too.
1. Build an audience of 1,000
This objective is inspired by two different points.
First, I did an interview with Twitter marketing tool founder Yannick Veys, on how to grow a Twitter account, and he suggested that you start to really get organic traction on Twitter around the 500-1000 mark.
The second comes from an age-old blog essay by Kevin Kelly. The 1000 true fans idea. I understand that having 1000 subscribers or followers etc doesn't mean I have 1000 true fans, but I think it would be the first step towards that goal.
If I assume a 1% opt-in rate on the website, that means I would need 100,000 visitors cumulative over the year.
So instead, I'm going to have to spread the number over Twitter, Reddit, Medium, and email subscribers.
🤷♂️ Maybe that's cheating, but I can always set a new goal once that one is reached.
We'll see how many of these people opt-in to any offers as well, to help me set a future goal for a number of paying users or something.
2. Build authority and credibility in content marketing
Right now, this is an area that I'm pretty interested in.
I quite enjoy the interviewing process and working out how to promote them to generate users for SaaS tools, so would be nice to get better at this.
But there’s no use in pretending I know how to do all this stuff already. So my idea is that I will do this by practicing and documenting the process and results.
So some areas I need to try, learn, and demonstrate are:
- Effectively used most mediums, like video, text, audio
- 'Cracked' most platforms, like Quora, Twitter, Slack Spaces, etc
- Getting actual user signups from my work
- Developing strong connections with the SaaS ecosystem and community
3. Grow income to at least $500 per month
I hoped to make about $500 a month from this project by the end of the year.
So if the average product is say, $20 a month, and the average commission is 20%, that's $4 a month per conversion. Then 125 conversions, non-churned, are required.
If the average conversion rate on affiliated products is 0.5%, then that means I need about 25,000 visitors to stuff that 'features' an affiliated product to hit $500 a month.
Approximately 2k visitors per month.
🤔 Hmm, that seems somehow doable. Over a year?
Some missing pieces of information here what is the effect of the ‘build up’ of recurring revenue from affiliates over time, and how much is diminished by the churn rate. So I will see how that goes and report back.
A note on affiliate links. Here are some rules I have for myself:
- No bs-ing, share what I really think about the products.
- Only talk about products I've tried.
- Write within my interest, don't hunt out commission deals.
♟️ Content Strategy
OK so with these goals identified, how am I going to achieve them with content?
Funnel Targeting from Chris Von Wilpert
Chris is one of my favorite marketers active right now. He is next level at content marketing and was previously one of the big brains at AppSumo famous for helping them grow their massive subscriber base.
He has a coined approach called the Ski Slope Strategy, in which he explains that there are three main categories of content and what they're good for.
The key takeaway from this strategy was to use top-of-funnel (TOFU), or popular topics, for getting subscribers and bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) topics for direct conversions.
This fits nicely with a recent interview I did with AbdulGaniy Shehu which explained that you have to target bottom-funnel topics if you want to actually get SaaS conversions.
So this gives me the overarching structure of the content style needed to attack my audience building and income goals.
I will use TOFU topics to draw in an audience and middle-funnel (MOFU) / BOFU content for product-featuring pieces.
Developing Content Buckets from Nicolas Cole
Nicholas Cole is one of the most-read writers on Quora of all time. Apart from being a fellow former World of Warcraft player, he wrote an amazing book about the strategy behind becoming an online writer called The Art and Business of Writing Online.
One of his key points that stood out to me in the book was that I need to write on social platforms that already have audiences so that I can get the engagement data to discover what actually works.
Before reading this advice, I sort of followed the same formula that most people use which is to pick a bunch of topics to write about and then just run at them.
So the more content I can put out on social writing platforms, the more I will get an idea of what topics are of interest to folks.
As for specific topics, Cole suggested using 3 types of audiences as a springboard for idea generation:
- General Audience
- Niche Audience
- Industry Audience
His point was that this would give you room to come up with more ideas. I found this to be true and expanded my horizons slightly for my writing.
So for topics, I will write about content and SaaS marketing through these three lenses.
Making Content Valuable from Category Pirates
To try to make my work itself a bit more fresh and more useful, I'm looking to develop the work such that it takes advantage of fresh thinking. Category Pirates did an amazing infographic on this:
Their theory explains ‘why’ some content just far more valuable than others. Their idea is that fresh thinking is either:
- A unique problem identified, with ordinary solutions and predictable outcomes.
- A ordinary problem, but a unique solution, and predictable outcomes.
While I don’t know that this makes sense for every top-of-funnel piece, I think it’s definitely the goal to shoot for a lot of the time.
Content Medium from Gary Vee
For this, I quite like Gary Vee’s approach to content marketing as relying on 'pillar content'.
Here are the key ideas:
- Pillar content is the media from which other adapted pieces are derived.
- I have to adapt content to each platform, which gives me ‘distribution’.
- By looking back on what works from the ‘sheer volume’ of output, then refining from there.
I noticed an overlap in the 3rd point with Cole's suggestion about writing socially for engagement data.
The good news is that I like interviews on video and audio so that works for pillar content. I’m very keen to learn what works on each channel so
What I like about Gary Vee’s model is that he simplifies the question of what medium. The answer is ‘all of them’.
Distribution Selection from Ross Simmonds
While the Gary Vee microcontent idea covered distribution, I am drawing from Ross Simmonds on where to distribute. He says:
Great distribution is when you can consistently drive results from a channel that your competition has overlooked or cannot access.
To achieve this, he shares a matrix to help decide where to focus your distribution:
The idea here is to distribute on channels where the ICP is engaged and it is popular.
Knowing that people I want to connect with are on Reddit, Twitter and Indiehackers, Slack groups, etc. I can focus my distribution efforts there.
I’m not too worried about competition right now, but should I use paid ads later then I can test investing more in the areas where there is less competition.
Phew, so that was a lot of ground to cover. Here's the summary so far:
- Selected TOFU and BOFU content categories for these objectives.
- Topics ideas generated by my 3 content buckets.
- Relying on podcasts as the content pillar from which other work is derived.
- Focused distribution on the channels where my target readers/listeners hang out.
📝 The Plan
At this point, you might laugh when you read that I want to keep things simple. 😂
But really, I'd love to keep this simple and sustainable.
Knowing myself, I can do about 1-2 major pieces a week, for a total of 64 pieces in a year.* So I will promote them via derived content for learning the platforms, feedback, distribution and attracting an audience.
Thankfully, the easiest way for me to make meaty pieces is by doing analyses on interviews or documentation pieces like these, which I love doing.
*Outside of my day job. I could do more if unemployed.
Can I achieve my objectives?
Here's a quick sense-check:
- For hitting my audience goal, I'm going to have to come back to this once I know more about the content to subscriber/follower behavior.
- For building my skills and credibility, my gut feel is that this would be enough work for me to make significant headway. Enough to learn most of the platforms listed earlier to an intermediate level.
- Knowing that I need about 25,000 visitors to reach my income goal, I think that's achievable. That's about 390 per piece, and I think some 'hit' pieces may make up for a lower performance of other pieces.
Now I just have to put my head down, do the work and share how it goes.
As for things that I'm going to work on very soon, here's the list to look for my upcoming reports on:
- Developing a method for coming up with great topics
- How to get good feedback on content
- Adapting content for distribution and maximum effectiveness across social platforms
- A time-efficient content promotion routine