Content marketing focuses on creating and sharing valuable content to attract and retain customers. This content can take the form of blogging, social media posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, whitepapers, and probably a few things our kids are doing that the rest of us haven’t gotten hip to yet. Content marketing is most effective when it’s used in conjunction with search engine optimization (SEO) and targeted email campaigns.
Of course, content marketing itself isn’t anything new. Companies have been using it to reach new customers for decades, but the internet has made it much easier to reach large audiences around the world at low costs. This has increased the demand for content across all industries, which is why even companies making door stops have a blog these days.
When done well, content marketing doesn’t feel like traditional advertising. The best content marketers take a different approach by providing information their prospects will find useful rather than pushing them towards the “buy” button every time. If it’s done poorly, however, you might end up undermining your brand by sounding like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
But you don’t need to worry about that, because after reading this guide, you’ll be doing it the right way.
Why Is Content Marketing Important?
At the end of the day, content marketing is important because it drives sales. A good content marketing campaign generates leads, nurtures them through the buyer’s journey, and finally converts them into loyal customers.
Content marketing continues to be popular because it’s an effective, low-cost way of getting your brand in front of prospects who are actively looking for answers to their problems. By creating content with a clear buyer persona in mind, you can focus on providing education, tips, and advice that help solve their unique set of challenges. If you’re doing an especially good job, people will even want to share that content with their friends and colleagues.
Customers want to do business with brands they can relate to, so content marketing is an excellent way to build trust, create awareness, and show what makes your brand unique. Your content should also communicate something about your personality and highlight your industry expertise. High-quality content is more likely to persuade customers to engage with your brand and keep them coming back to you.
What Makes Great Content?
It shouldn't come as a surprise, but great content starts with a focus on your customers. Before you sit down to create a single piece of content, you need to define who you’re creating it for. Our hypothetical doorstop company, for instance, could publish an outstanding blog post series on choosing the right mic setup for recording their YouTube videos, but that’s not going to do much to help them market doorstops.
Content marketers use buyer personas to determine what sort of content they should be creating. A buyer persona is a hypothetical customer based on profiles of real customers grouped according to factors like age, job title, and education level. Personas define the needs and pain points of your target audience, allowing you to develop content that they’re more likely to find appealing. Their needs should match your business objectives closely if you want to see decent ROI from your efforts. Remember, you don’t want to be the doorstop company writing about microphones you don’t sell.
After identifying and developing the buyer personas you plan to target with your content marketing efforts, it’s time to move on to specific goals and strategies.
What's the Strategy Behind My Content?
Before you begin your content marketing journey, it's crucial to have a strategy in place to know where you want your efforts to lead. You can start by asking yourself a few questions:
What Are My Business Goals?
Simple one, right? Actually, you’d be surprised by how many people forget to ask this very basic question before they start churning out marketing content. And don’t just say you’re trying to create leads and boost sales. That part should be a given. Your content marketing goals should be much more specific. Maybe you’re trying to enhance brand awareness and establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Or maybe you’re simply trying to drive more visitors to your site. Whatever your goal is, you need to be able to articulate it so that every piece of content that you develop can be tied back into it. Once you know your end goal, you can begin laying out a content marketing strategy to determine how you can meet that particular objective.
Who Will Create My Content?
The next thing you need to figure out is who will be responsible for creating your content. Do you have an in-house team that can develop written, audio, or video content for you? Or do you need to seek outside help from a freelance writer or marketing agency? It's important to make sure the people responsible for creating your content are fully equipped with the tactical tools they need to create high-quality content. More importantly, however, you’ll also want to make sure that they understand your business and your brand. Otherwise, you might end up wasting a lot of valuable time and energy redoing things.
Who Is My Target Audience?
We already discussed this part of the content marketing strategy, but to recap, you need to identify your target audience. If you're not clear on who you’re trying to talk to, it’s like driving off in a car without knowing where you’re going (which might sound fun until you run out of gas in the middle of nowhere). Make sure that your personas are clearly defined at this stage of the process so every piece of content can be tailored for your target audience.
How Frequently Will the Content Be Published?
Don’t rush into content marketing thinking you’ll find time to do it along the way. Trust us, you won’t. If you want to publish content sustainably, you’ll need to create a realistic schedule and stick to it. With the right structure in place, you should be able to post at least once or twice a week without much difficulty. If you decide to pick up the pace, be sure that you have the capacity to do so without sacrificing quality. Remember, it's about creating high-value user experiences. It's better to publish less content that people love than to dump loads of information on them that they'll never get around to reading all the way through.
What Type of Content Do I Create?
Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re talking to, it's time to think about what kind of content you should be creating. This part of the process is all about determining what content will best fit into your overall strategy.
Some types of content that you might want to consider are:
- Written Content – articles, blog posts, infographics, eBooks, whitepapers
- Video Content – how-to videos or product demonstrations
- Audio Content – podcasts or interviews with thought leaders
- Social Media Posts – a mix of text and images on a variety of channels
- Press Releases – a robust communications and PR strategy will help the community know who you are
Obviously, not all tactics work for every business, so it's best to choose a handful that align with your overall goals, available resources, and audience needs. We’ll explore the different types of content in more detail later on.
Developing Your Editorial Plan
Once you've got a content creation strategy, it's time to develop an editorial plan that determines what will be published and when. The best way to do this is to put together an editorial calendar with specific content topics for each month, along with their respective publishing dates. The calendar should also include things like content ideas, the people responsible for publishing the content, and any upcoming events that would be beneficial to tie into.
Keeping the Content Flowing
Now that you've got your editorial plan in place, you’re free to start putting out all that great content! You can choose to do this on a regular basis or hold your content and wait for the right opportunity - like a product launch, new website update, or upcoming holiday. No one likes outdated information, so make sure you're always on top of new ideas and thinking about how they can be implemented into your existing content pieces. Whenever possible, try to work a bit ahead of schedule so if anything comes up, you won’t be stuck without any content to post.
Tracking Your Content Marketing Performance
Knowing how your content is performing is an essential part of the process. Otherwise, you’re just blindly throwing darts at the board never knowing how close you are to the bullseye. Tracking performance shows you exactly how well your content is performing and what changes need to be made to improve it. You can use platforms like Google Analytics to track website traffic and see where the most interested visitors are coming from. Be careful not to get sucked into tracking “vanity metrics” that don’t actually translate to success. Your content might be generating a ton of raw traffic to your website, for example, but if none of that traffic is turning into new business, you’ve probably missed the mark somewhere.
Content Marketing and SEO
The most effective content marketing is works hand-in-hand with search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google and Bing are constantly being updated to serve up high-value content that matches what their users are searching for. While keyword research continues to be an integral component of SEO, modern search engine algorithms are also ranking content based on how much it’s being shared by visitors and the quality of the source (usually represented by a site’s domain authority).
Content marketers should continue to adjust headlines and text to incorporate relevant keywords for SEO purposes, but they should also never lose sight of the fact that they’re writing for humans, not algorithms. Churning out dull, keyword-laden content that’s been obviously optimized for a search engine is a surefire way to turn away readers who are looking for informative content that actually addresses the challenges they’re facing.
Types of Content
The content you create for your audience should take whatever form your persona research says is most likely to reach them. If the target audience gets most of its information from podcasts, for instance, then you don’t want to waste your resources creating eBooks that they’ll never bother to read. Here are some examples of the most common content types found in content marketing campaigns:
Creating high-quality original blog posts is one of the best ways to get people interested in your brand online, but it's not always easy coming up with fresh ideas for new posts on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are plenty of tactics you can use to develop unique post ideas that will appeal to your industry and generate more website traffic.
One of the best ways to come up with article ideas is by looking at the challenges facing your existing customers. You can then create content that helps solve those problems. It's a win-win situation as prospects will be more likely to trust you as an expert in your field and will come back time and again when they face similar problems.
You can also find great post ideas by listening closely to what people are saying about your industry online. Use tools and Google Alerts to stay on top of news happening in your industry, so you don't miss out. And remember, just because somebody else is already writing about something doesn’t mean you can’t do it better. Don’t be afraid to look at your competitors for inspiration.
Social Media Content Marketing
One of the main parts of your content marketing campaign will be creating social media posts and updates to share with your audience.
Social media content marketing aims to create, distribute, and promote content with a strong emotional appeal for targeted groups. This approach is different from other traditional marketing strategies as it encourages the target audiences to engage with and share socially appealing content.
Engage your audience by sharing relevant content, like fun polls or thought-provoking questions. You can also create contests that encourage people to promote your brand or business for a chance to win a prize.
Creating content that features users is another great way to get people excited about your brand. Showcasing customer success stories, highlighting advice from happy clients, and sharing photos of them using your products will give others a positive impression of your business.
Infographics are great for sharing complex topics with readers because they are eye-catching and easy to understand. They often serve as visual representations of otherwise dry technical details, and they can be used to present data in an interesting way.
To create a successful infographic, find a unique angle or way to present the data that has not been done before. Using infographics as part of your content marketing strategy is an excellent way to tell your story and share interesting facts and stats about your industry.
Podcasts are audio broadcasts that people can subscribe to and download onto their mobile devices. Much like a radio show, podcasts allow your audience to listen to your content on-demand while they are doing something else, like driving their car or exercising. Your podcast content could include interviews with experts in your industry, conversations with clients, or just a series of your own thoughts about an issue within your industry.
Video Content Marketing
Video is by far the fastest growing and most impactful form of content marketing. In fact, it’s already become the most popular form of content marketing, surpassing blogs and infographics. With smart, creative videos of just about anything you can think of being shared on YouTube and other social media platforms, the right video strategy can give your business a massive boost.
Whether it's a how-to guide, a testimonial from a satisfied customer, or an explainer video to get your message across, video is a powerful tool for reaching your audience. Thanks to advances in technology, you can produce high-quality video marketing content without having to hire a professional videographer (although finding a good video team can take your content to the next level). With so many social media platforms emphasizing video, creating video content that showcases your brand online should be a top priority.
Content is still king, but there are many different components to a successful content marketing campaign. Creating and executing a content marketing strategy will give you an advantage over competitors and help your current business grow. It can also be used to tell stories about your industry or create an emotional appeal for your products.
And remember, you don't need to stick to one or two types of content. Experiment and try out as many different forms as possible. Instead of just publishing the same old blog post every week, use pictures, infographics, videos, and podcasts to share helpful information in new ways. Your audience will appreciate the variety and frequency of content, all of which will make them more likely to keep coming back to you for more.
And when they’re ready to take the step toward becoming a customer, they’ll remember all that great information you’ve provided and turn to you first. Give us a shout to learn more about how we can help you crush your content marketing goals.