The key to lasting customer relationships? Producing content they actually want to read.
What is content marketing? Instead of the traditional “sell-sell-sell” marketing model, content marketing is a strategy that focuses on consistently publishing valuable and relevant content that attracts and retains audiences. That content can be shared across any channel, but marketers are relying more and more on digital channels, like blog posts, landing pages, and social media instead of relying just on print or outdoor marketing (e.g. billboards).
There are many roles companies can play in a content marketing strategy. They can be industry experts, offering guidance and education on relevant topics. Or they can be entertainers, publishing inspirational and engaging content.
They can also be conversation starters bringing awareness to important issues that affect their customers. Take Visa, for example, it launched its Money is Changing campaign, aimed at helping women have difficult conversations about money and the dynamics of power. Not a single piece of content within the digital campaign (which included videos, case studies, and graphics) talked about Visa’s services or benefits. Instead, Visa shared statistics and testimonials as a way to engage millennial women, a large portion of its customer base.
Content marketing is a longer-term strategy, but the payoff is huge because it works by building trust, authentic relationships, and rapport with your potential clients. It also showcases your industry expertise. Content marketing generates about 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62% less.
Now you’re probably wondering…how do I do this for my business? Not to worry, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you start your own content marketing strategy and create the right content to support it. Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Know your audience
The best content shows a deep understanding of the reader. Audiences like finding relevant information online, which is content that addresses their goals, challenges, or questions. Start by creating a simple customer persona. Jot down the name of a hypothetical customer—let’s call him Joe. Think about Joe’s demographics like his age, occupation, and whether he’s married or has kids. What is Joe hoping to accomplish? What pain points are stopping him? What questions or concerns does Joe have when it comes to your industry or services? Lastly, what channels (e.g. email, social media) does Joe use most often to find and consume information?
With this simple persona in place, you have a list of content ideas that are meaningful to your audience. And you’ll know where to share those pieces of content.
Step 2: Update your current content
Start with content you’ve already created (no need to reinvent the wheel, right?). For example, maybe you’ve sporadically written blog posts over the past few years that still contain relevant information or maybe you recorded a few videos that could be updated with text and animation. Comb through any past content and update it to make sure it’s relevant, easy-to-read and easily found on your website.
Step 3: Brainstorm new content
Next, gather relevant members of your team to brainstorm fresh content. (Don’t forget to look back at your persona for ideas!) Content can take many forms – we’ve listed examples of a few of them below. While brainstorming, think about topics and resources that would be relevant and useful to both current and potential customers. A good place to start is by asking the question: “What questions do we often get from potential customers or new customers?” Then, create content that answers those questions.
- Case Studies
- Blog Posts
- Social media posts
- Featured Pages
- Surveys (and results)
Step 4: Develop a content calendar
Once you’ve got a long list of content ideas, select and prioritize them for each quarter of the year, and create a calendar to map out when to publish each piece of content and how to promote it. From that calendar, work backward to determine the timeline and ownership for creating and revising the content. The key here is quality over quantity – well-researched and well-executed content that is created with a specific purpose and target audience in mind will always perform better than content that is created just for the sake of creating content. (AKA more is not always better). Be realistic about what your team can accomplish and consider what types of content fit best with your brand.
Step 5: Create the content
Now for the fun part! Assign content creators based on your team’s strengths. For example, assign blog posts to the best writers on your team and social media posts to the best designers and photographers. Don’t forget your brand identity! If you have a team executing content and design, make sure they are all aligned with the tone and visual presentation of your brand.
If you are a team of 1 and haven’t written a paper since college, fear not! You don’t need to be Shakespeare to write a good blog post so long as your information is well-informed, honest, helpful, and clearly organized. There are tons of editing tools out there like Grammarly that can help you catch spelling errors or incorrect grammar.
For longer and more robust pieces of content that extend beyond you or your team’s skill-level, hire an outside partner (like us!) to help write, film, photograph, or design your content. This is pretty common: 62% of companies outsource their content marketing. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day for you or your team to plan, write, and publish content. A creative partner can step in to ensure you’re sharing content on a regular basis.
Three key things to remember:
- Make sure your content speaks to your target audience
- Provide quality information (no junk!)
- Spend time editing, getting feedback, and PROOFREADING
Step 6: Promote the content
Content marketing doesn’t end after you hit “publish.” After putting all of that work into creating something great, you want to make sure you get your content in front of the right audiences through the right channels. For robust content, such as a whitepaper, guide or long video, you want to make sure that your promotion strategy matches the amount of time and resources you put into creating the content.
Here are a few examples of promotional methods that you can use to get the word out about your content and drive people to your website to learn more.
- Vimeo or YouTube
- Link development
- Internal staff promotion
- PPC on search engines
- Paid ads on social media platforms
- Traditional media
- Native advertising
- Influencer marketing
- Press releases
(Psssst…read more about our how to craft a winning social media strategy here.)
Step 7: Monitor your content
It’s always a good idea to look back at your content and see how well it’s performing. Are people reading your blogs? Are your social posts getting a lot of engagement? The metrics you’ll use to measure your content’s success will vary by platform, but it’s important to identify them upfront. This way you can learn which content performs the best, either in terms of topic or medium (i.e. blog vs. infographic).
And there you have it – our step-by-step guide to putting content marketing to work for your company.
Want help putting this into practice? Give us a shout!