Content marketing and fashion were made for each other. The marriage between content and fashion is as old as the fashion magazine, and possibly older.
That is both a blessing and a curse for marketers in the fashion e-commerce industry. The existence of a long tradition of fashion magazines and lifestyle blogs means that using content to build a fashion brand is not just viable but completely natural.
Unfortunately, that also means it’s a difficult industry to develop a competitive content marketing strategy in. With so many other players in the industry, it’s clear that you will need to have a rigorously defined strategy built specifically for your brand if you want to succeed.
Let’s walk through the seven key steps to consider as you develop your strategy.
1. Clarify Your Brand Culture, Values, and Lifestyle
Fashion is more intimately tied to personal identity than virtually any other consumer product. If you are running a fashion e-commerce site, you should already have some idea of who your target audience is, by sheer nature of the fact that you have some idea of the kind of clothing they want to wear and the kind of apparel they are willing to buy.
But if you want to get serious about content marketing, you are going to need to get very specific about who these people are, and what you stand for.
By this, I mean you will need quite a bit more than a mission statement and a values statement. What you decide here is going to be the driving force behind a content marketing strategy. Content marketing strategies are nothing without words, and what you decide now is going to need to be both open-ended and motivated enough to create a lot of them.
You will be launching magazines, video tutorials, and guides based on what you decide here. You will be targeting and advocating for a specific lifestyle, with its own culture and values.
And let’s be perfectly clear: you will inevitably make decisions here about who you are willing to alienate. I’m not saying you need to declare a political allegiance, but fashion and culture are so incredibly intertwined as to be inseparable. If you want people to feel passionately about your fashion brand, there will inevitably be some people who will passionately hate it, more so than in any other industry.
2. Identify Where Your Online Target Market Is
In tandem with identifying your brand’s values and lifestyle, you need to clarify where your online audiences are actually located. I’m not talking about Facebook and Instagram; that much should already be obvious.
I’m talking specifically about cultural hubs. Are there specific fashion blogs they tend to cluster around? Do they rally around specific YouTubers? Which specific Instagram accounts are they following?
There’s an important thing to avoid here. Do not fall into the trap of chasing an audience that has already sworn allegiance to another fashion brand. These are brands that have already won content marketing with those particular consumers. I’m not saying that you can never convince somebody to have a change of heart and fall in love with your brand. I’m simply saying that this is not the place to find your core audience.
Your core audience exists somewhere online where trends are being set. They may have a specific fashion sense, but they are not swearing allegiance to any particular brand. Instead, you’ll find that they share a common set of values and interests, they are trend setters, and they have their own influential personalities, who may be running fashion blogs, but they are not running fashion brands.
It’s your job to identify these communities, lurk as much as possible, learn their culture, learn what they stand for, become a part of the conversation, and become a part of their movement.
A solid content marketing strategy for fashion brands incorporates a great deal of user generated content. You need to understand what kind of content these people are already creating in order to make that work. You will also need to learn to speak their language.
A word of warning: I won’t say that doing this cynically is impossible, but it’s not easy. You’re much more likely to be successful if you actually feel that these are “your people.”
3. Outline Your Fashion Magazine
A fashion magazine or blog is central to an effective content marketing strategy. It is the central hub for your content, and it will define what your brand is more than anything else you do besides sell clothing.
For your fashion magazine to be a success, it will need to be more than a carbon copy of Cosmopolitan. Here are a few things to consider:
- What other lifestyle topics should you cover outside of fashion that will be relevant to the target audience that you identified above?
- What are some practical problems that people in your target communities are struggling with, and what kind of content can you produce that will help them with it?
- How interested is your audience in the topic of DIY fashion? Would they be interested in reading guides on the topic? Would it be rational for you to be concerned about DIY fashion cannibalizing your products? Could you build brand loyalty by offering DIY fashion advice?
- What other hobbies and interests are relevant to your target audience? Are there specific genres of music they tend to listen to? Do they skateboard, play guitar, play videogames, cook recipes, use sewing machines, exercise, play sports, eat organic, paleo, or gluten free? Would they be interested in reading guides related to their hobbies?
- Will you bring in topics that are often associated with fashion like celebrity gossip and relationship advice?
- Does your target audience tend to skew in any particular political direction? Are you willing to talk politics? To what extent? Will you consider if your content brand’s political statements could be seen as hypocritical in light of your brand’s business activities? How inclusive or exclusive are your politics? Will you alienate your target audience more by talking about politics or by avoiding political topics? How controversial are you willing to go, and what is your game plan if something gets taken out of context or otherwise goes sour?
- To what extent will you involve the trendsetters you are targeting in your content marketing efforts? Will you collaborate with existing fashion bloggers on content? Send them merchandise (in compliance with regulations)? Hire them as bloggers and designers?
- How will you encourage user generated content? Will you include a community social platform for discussion? Will you poll your readers? Use a contest to encourage user generated content? Curate content from relevant communities?
A couple best practices to take into consideration:
- Your blog should be highly visual. This isn’t the industry to use stock photos in. You shouldn’t be selecting images that are about text. You should be writing text about images. Images should be the centerpiece of the discussion for a large portion of your content.
- Decide on a few columns that will be published on a recurring basis, each of them with a specific format that readers can become familiar with. For example, one column for interviews, another for DIY guides, another for video guides, another for geeking out about hobbies, another for opinion, and so on. Doing this as opposed to “categories” is a big part of what causes your audience to see you as a magazine rather than a generic blog, with some personality.
4. Identify Your Lead Magnets
Central to any modern content marketing plan is a strategy for building up an email list. If your magazine is good enough, some people in your audience will be willing to subscribe to it on its merits alone, but this isn’t the most effective way to build an email list. The truth is that most readers, even if they like your content and think they will come back for it, will forget about your site if they don’t subscribe.
The strategy most content marketers use to entice subscriptions is to use a lead magnet: a resource that subscribers will get access to after providing their email address.
What you decide to use for your lead magnet will depend on your brand, but here are a few ideas:
- A free guide to help them improve ability with their hobbies
- A fashion guide (obviously)
- A makeup tutorial video
- A lifestyle “challenge,” calendar, planner, schedule, checklist, etc.
- Access to exclusive videos, articles, etc. that aren’t published in the public magazine
- A personality quiz
I highly recommend developing more than one lead magnet, and doing so on a recurring basis. The most common mistake I see content marketers making is failing to create more than one lead magnet, when you should be creating a larger number of targeted lead magnets to capture specific sub-audiences.
5. Identify Your Linkable Assets
A linkable asset is a content resource with value similar in nature to a lead magnet, except that it is made publicly available in order to attract links and attention. Linkable assets are designed to earn the attention of influential people in your target audience, and the publishers and media outlets that they take an interest in. They get shared in social communities and get linked to regularly because they are useful and speak strongly to your target audience.
In addition to the kinds of assets mentioned in the section on lead magnets, a linkable asset can be:
- A very in depth, comprehensive blog post
- An infographic (or more appropriate for the fashion industry, an “instructographic”)
- A video guide
- An exposé
- An interview
To make the most of your linkable assets, make sure to contact people who your audience considers influential and let them know about the asset. Always give context in your outreach to give people a reason why you are reaching out specifically to them, so that they don’t consider your email to be spam.
6. Develop Your Visual Social Strategy
We’ve mentioned a few times in this guide that images and visual content are central to the success of a fashion content marketing strategy. That is doubly true for social media. It should go without saying that your strategy should involve Instagram and Facebook, with both video and images for both.
Here are some things to consider including in your strategy:
- Video tutorials: particularly the overhead, “first person” style tutorials that are often used to convey recipes and DIY projects
- Inspirational quotes: these still get shared like crazy, although it’s more important ever to make sure the design work, typography, and photography are top notch
- Creative product images: creative product images need to have some artistic flair, symmetry, contrast, and cleverness if you want them to do well on Facebook and Instagram
- Curated audience images: curate images from your target audience by sharing them, encouraging them to use hashtags, incorporating them into your blog posts, and so on
- Video interviews: interviews with celebrities, influencers in your niche, professional hobbyists, and others can grab quite a bit of attention. I would recommend using a few short clips from the interview and a call to action to see the full video, since shorter videos still tend to get shared better, while long videos tend to keep your audience more engaged
- Embeds: Instead of posting videos and images into your blog posts, post the Instagram and Facebook embeds. This allows people to easily share your social media posts without needing to leave your blog
7. Clarify Your Key Metrics
Throughout the process of developing your strategy, you will need to be clear about how you are going to measure the success of each element of your strategy, and how you will use that information to tweak your strategy as you go.
There are two primary types of metrics to consider: goal metrics and process metrics.
A goal metric should be something you have direct control over, such as a minimum number of images published per blog post, a minimum number of words per blog post, a ratio of words to images, a specific number of blog posts each month, and so on.
Process metrics, in contrast, should focus on results, such as social media traffic, search engine traffic, email leads, sales, revenue, and customer lifetime value.
It’s important that you don’t confuse process metrics for goal metrics. Since you don’t have direct control over process metrics, there is no value in setting goals for them, other than generic goals such as wanting them to go up or down.
Instead, you should evaluate you process metrics to determine if there are any correlations between your goal metrics and your process metrics. If improving your goal metrics is not improving your process metrics, that’s a sign you need to change how your goal metrics are defined.
Build Your Strategy
This guide is meant to serve as just that, a guide. Put what you’ve learned here to use and develop a content marketing strategy tailor made for your target audience and your brand.