Over the past decade or so, content marketing has risen to become one of the most important and influential forms of business promotion. And why is content marketing so huge? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most significant is that quality content delivers value to the customer. That’s in contrast to advertising, which is pretty much a one-way street.
While content marketing may be just one part of a larger marketing strategy, it is clear that those businesses with the strongest content strategy have a huge advantage over competitors. If you want to be among the content elite, you cannot just write a blog post here and there, hoping something will get noticed. You need a well-developed strategy for content that effectively catches attention and meets the needs of your audience.
Maybe you have a new business and haven’t yet started producing content. Or, maybe you’re already turning out content, but it just isn’t getting the response you want. Either way, what you need is a targeted strategy for creating and disseminating great content.
To help you on the road to getting noticed for your content, here’s a list of strategy points that you can use and adapt to your specific needs.
1. Identify Why You Want Content to be Part of Your Marketing Strategy
You’re never going to be able to create marketable content if you don’t understand why you’re doing it.
Ask yourself some probing questions:
Is my industry conducive to content marketing?
That is, will your audience be in search of specific, relevant information that you are in a position to provide?
Do I (or someone in my organization) have expertise that is marketable?
To produce valuable content, you have to be able to probe deeply into specific topics that are relevant to your industry. If you don’t have the expertise (or the writing/design/etc. skills) to do it yourself, you can always hire someone to do it. You’ll get your money’s worth if you get the right person and carry out the other important content strategy steps, as applicable.
2. Learn About Your Audience
Any decent content strategy keeps the intended audience in full focus at all times. First of all, your audience will never find your content if the content isn’t targeted toward them. And second, you’re not likely to make a sale or establish a long-term relationship if you don’t demonstrate a) that you are, in fact, an expert, and b) that you can be of service to consumers.
Marketing guru Neil Patel suggests developing buyer personas to represent your ideal customers. That is you’ll research your target market, then create a fictional representation of a customer that would be likely to seek you out. You should include the customer’s
- Background – including information about education, career, job title, interests, etc.
- Demographic Info – including age, gender, income, location.
- Identifying Characteristics – here you might include something about the person’s personality and personal preferences.
When you create these personas, you’re not just filling in the fields with arbitrary information.
There are a couple of ways to come up with the details:
- Think about your ideal customer, and develop a persona for that customer. Your ideal customer should be able to afford your product. He or she should fall into the age range that most suits your industry and product. And this customer’s background, education, personality, and interests should be a perfect fit for what you have to offer.
- You can also create negative buyer personas. That is, who are you not looking to attract? This might be someone who can’t afford your product or who don’t have a need for or interest in it.
- Most importantly, you want to gather demographic information and background on your customers. One way to do this is by contacting previous customers and collecting information. Or you can send out a questionnaire to previous customers and to people who are already on your email list. This is also a good way to gather feedback on your customers’ experiences.
Find out more information about buyer personas here. There are also several free buyer persona templates available online.
3. Establish Your Goals
Why do you want to create content in the first place? Link building alone is not a good enough reason. And while sales are an ultimate goal, there are many steps in between creating content and making a sale. So take a moment to stop and think about your industry, your goals, and how content marketing can help you achieve those goals.
Solid, measurable goals include:
- Brand awareness (could be measured in likes or shares)
- Lead generation ( number of leads generated by each content piece)
- Customer retention, or customer loyalty (retention rate; alternatively, use customer feedback)
- Increased traffic (number of website visits per month, average amount of time engaged)
- Higher conversion rates (lead-to-conversion rate for each piece of content)
Once you have your goals in mind, you can begin to determine how well your content is designed to fulfill those goals.
4. Evaluate Your Current Content
If you are just starting out in content marketing, you can instead evaluate the content of your competitors. Look at others in the same industry. Check out leaders in content marketing in your industry as well as average content marketers. Look at the best content marketers overall. And figure out what those guys are doing well.
If you have already been creating content for a while, this is the time to take a step back and give your current strategy a good, hard look. Ask yourself if your content is actually meeting the needs of your audience. Is it well-written? Well organized? Engaging? Long enough to cover the topic? Written with your target audience’s background in mind? Do you integrate data into your content where relevant? Relevant images and infographics?
Once you see what you have and what you might be missing, you’ll be in a far better position to develop your content strategy. Content isn’t supposed to be about putting out what you have to offer, take it or leave it. On the contrary, it is about recognizing a need and filling it. If you don’t take the time to see how you’re meeting the need (and how you’re not), your content will fall flat.
5. Figure Out What You’re Missing
Once you’ve evaluated your current content (and/or that of your competitors), you’ll be in a much better position to see where the gaps are. Perhaps you’ve missed a topic your audience really wants to learn about. Maybe you have the right content, but you’re posts are too short. Maybe you’re lacking images, graphs, and infographics.
Wherever you find yourself lacking, you can correct the issue. But it has to be more than “I’ve made a note of this and will address it in the future.” Instead, you need a multi-point list of issues that you will address consistently.
6. Recognize That Different Audiences Seek Different Content
A B2B audience is looking for something much different than what a B2C audience is looking for. And within each of these broad categories, consumers have specific, unique needs that you have to be able to fill with your content.
Furthermore, for each of your established content marketing goals, you have to address whether your content is doing the job. If not, an action plan is needed.
For the goals discussed earlier:
- Brand awareness is created when you show the world your ideal version of your business. So, not only does your content need to draw attention, but it needs to reflect your mission, goals, and values.
- Lead generation is accomplished when your content is so useful that potential customers are willing to provide their information in exchange. So, whether it’s a free eBook or a relevant study, you seek consumers who want what you have to offer.
- Customer retention is accomplished when you show your customers their worth. To retain your customers, you have to demonstrate that they are valued – even more valued than new customers. New customers are valuable, but old customers are even more prized because it costs less to retain a customer than it does to gain a new one. For previous customers, you can show their worth by informing them of changes and by asking for opinions. So send out an email when there’s an impending product launch. Or, better yet, send out an email beforehand asking customers what they think about the product before it launches.
- Increased traffic is generated when your page is search engine optimized. Keep in mind that SEO is about much more than just keywords these days. As search engine algorithms become ever more complex, page ranking is increasingly determined by how well a page’s content meets the needs of the searcher.
- The conversion rate can be increased when you have content that is genuinely informative and contains a clear and compelling call to action.
If you’re successful in this step, you should be able to come up with a multi-point action plan for how to improve your content. You’ll also be able to see what type of content you could use more of. You might even want to cut back on certain types in favor of others.
It sounds obvious, but many marketers forget that content goes beyond blogging. Blogging is a great, relatively inexpensive way to generate traffic and engage your audience. But it isn’t the only tool at your disposal.
Other types of content you might want to consider include:
- Pictures and infographics – if your product or service is strongly visual, you may want to make images a big part of your content strategy. Social media, especially Instagram and Pinterest, are good forums for getting your images seen.
- Social media – the content you post on social media may be the same as or different than what you have on your website. In most cases, a mix of unique and cross-posted content is ideal.
- Video – if it makes sense for your particular business, you might consider making a series of YouTube videos. Many people prefer watching an informative video to reading an informative article or blog post. You might also make use of Facebook Live, which connects you to your audience in real time.
- Email – it’s a very good idea to include email marketing in your overall content strategy. You can send subscribers periodic updates and discounts. You might also want to create a weekly, monthly, or quarterly newsletter for your email subscribers.
- Audio – If you have a lot of knowledge to share and good verbal skills, you could start a Podcast. The marketability of a Podcast will depend on your target audience. But many busy people do enjoy incorporating a bit of education and entertainment into the daily commute.
7. Sort Out Your Schedule
Just like you need a plan for the type of content you want to create, you also need a plan for when and how often to publish content. Your content schedule should be determined by the needs of your audience and the kind of content you’re producing.
The more complex and involved your content is, the less frequently you’ll be able to release it. For instance, eBooks and Whitepapers take quite a bit of time and research. So you probably won’t be delivering a new eBook every week. Videos can also take a lot of time and effort, depending on the nature of the video you’re making.
On the other hand, it would be very reasonable to publish one or more blog posts weekly. Email marketing materials, such as newsletters, can go out weekly or monthly depending on you, your customers, and your industry.
You can share curated content as often as you want. Curating content generally, takes the least amount of time and effort, but don’t go overboard just because. Only select high-quality content that will be valuable and entertaining for your audience.
Once you’ve decided how much of each kind of content you want and how often you want to generate a piece of each type, you should create a schedule and stick to it. For instance, commit to publishing a blog post every Tuesday and Friday. Or to releasing one YouTube video every Sunday.
Timing is important, so you’ll need to do a bit of research beforehand and monitor the results as you go. Find out when your target audience is most active online, and start with that as a baseline. You can make changes periodically (but not too often or you won’t get a good idea of the results) and measure the impact on readership, comments, shares, leads, sales, etc.
8. Measure, Measure, Measure
The only way to know what effect your content is having is to measure outcomes.
A few things you might want to track:
- How does your search engine ranking move up or down in relation to the content you publish?
- Which content types and specific content pieces get the most likes and shares?
- Which content pieces generate the most leads? The most conversions?
- Does the day of week/time of day impact your traffic?
And of course, you have a great untapped resource for measuring your success: your audience. Don’t forget to ask for feedback on the content you create and share. What have they found most and least helpful? Would your audience like to see more of a particular type of content? What made them decide to view or share a particular piece of content? Definitely do weight actual feedback heavily alongside your other metrics.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be on the right track to getting your content noticed. It might seem like a lot, but trust me, it will be worth it. Great content built around your industry and audience will generate results every time.