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“Businesses that that try content marketing without developing a content marketing strategy may be missing an opportunity to survive in the 21st century.”

People have grown more sophisticated about advertising and not just from watching Mad Men. DVRs and ad blockers make traditional banner ads and commercials easy to skip.

Content marketing is, in the words of Joe Pulizzi, ‘the practice of creating relevant and compelling content in a consistent fashion to a targeted buyer, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism.’

Content marketing is a conversation with the customer, drawing them in with stories and information they want to hear.

A content strategy is different from a content marketing strategy

It’s more than just marketing.

Content strategy is what, for example, sites like Upworthy deliver; they do not only create content so much as curate it. Sites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy certainly do create some of their content but a content strategy is more than just content creation. It also looks for interesting content and shares it widely. Sites like Upworthy have broad distribution across many marketing channels. To maintain that distribution and to keep people coming back to their site, they have to continue curating content that people want to read and share.

Content marketing in general terms, means creating your own targeted content, tailored to what you sell or service you provide and not just sharing the latest awesome viral cat video. Unless you sell cat products.

Content Marketing is Extremely Powerful for Your Brand

Every part of the sale and buyer’s journey can be helped along with quality content marketing. If we look at a typical buyers journey today, the customer is looking for a product which leads them to Google to find the product. From Google they find the content on your site either talking specifically about that product or addressing some of the key questions or solutions around the customers “problem.” While they analyze and weigh their options they will also dig to find additional content and information surrounding your product or service such as reviews, product specifications, and other customers’ feedback or testimonials. Now that they have located a product or service of interest they will shop around, maybe consider a second product that does something similar. People love to compare before they buy.

Can you see how properly placed content during all of these steps might create numerous opportunities to help the customer make a better buying decision?

Content on your site can influence the customer to learn more or to buy your product. And if you engage your customer through content created that aims to help solve their problems, they will come back regularly to learn more. They could very well become brand evangelicals if the content speaks to them.

Another great benefit of content marketing: overall it rarely becomes obsolete. So long as there is a customer in need and your product or service and you can offer a relevant solution there is always reason to generate quality content around your business. By doing so, and being consistent in the content you produce, your website will be a place where customers can always rely on to gain insight through reviews, product info and blog content… all of which related back to their needs.

Once you’re convinced you need a content marketing strategy it’s time to get to work and develop a solid plan.

Developing a Content Marketing Strategy from the Ground Up

Step 1: Get everyone on board

Content marketing isn’t a one time sprint. It’s an ultra marathon. Your employees and executives need to buy in to the idea of telling these stories. You will need a plan and that plan should be one your team feels they have ownership over for best results. Your objective is to increase sales and profits, as well as improve relationships with customers and that should all be an easy marketing pitch to your team. Do a little research and find out how content marketing will make your company grow and generate better ROI for your efforts which will convince the stragglers that all the work is worth it. With everyone on board, you can be sure that the message and tone stays consistent.

Step 2: Know Your Audience

Sounds easy right? Not really. The majority of businesses we work with have an unclear picture of who their audience is or who they should be. Content written only to sell will strike the customer as insincere and not credible. It provides no value for them and comes across as a persuasion piece used to boost sales. You need to develop entertaining, engaging, and informative content. Ask yourself who benefits most from the content you hope to create? Identify your audience upfront.  Every audience is unique. For example if you’re writing for middle class first-time parents or upper class retirees your message and topic of discussion would vary greatly. Different audiences require a unique and customized delivery approach.

Some companies create multiple customer personas and deliver unique content or messaging to each. It is certainly plausible that more than one target group has a need for your products and services. Your content marketing strategy should be there for the customer at every step of their purchasing journey. You need a brand story. This includes, what your brand offers, how it is different from the competition, and why your company is best suited to deliver this product or service, all of which is critical to establishing your position within any market.

To develop a brand story that works you have to know your audience.

Step 3: Establish Your Content Plan and How You Will Deliver It

Content should solve a problem or answer a question for current and future customers.

Content should be delivered in a format your customers want to use and where they want to see it.

Now that you understand who you are writing for, and what this content should entail, consider developing an editorial calendar.

  • What time of year or season is your product searched for?
  • What holidays matter to your customers?

Even if you don’t have a specific date to peg content to, having written down when content will be created and where it is posted helps ensure you have consistent output. If customers know they can come back every Friday to your website and there will be something new then there is a much higher likelihood they will come back.

Develop your schedule and hold your people accountable for missed deadlines. Also think long and hard about delivery. There are hundreds of online marketing channels. Find the ones best suited for your business and find ways to deliver content to those particular audiences in the way they want it most. Every network and marketing channel is unique. For example, even social media, the way you tell a story on Facebook versus LinkedIn or Twitter varies greatly.

Step 4: Be Efficient With Your Content

You can maximize your content by breaking it into smaller pieces.

A long white paper can be used to create two or three smaller blog posts. The goal is to drive as much relevant traffic back to your site as possible. And, five or six 800 word blog posts versus a 4000 word white paper will perform much better. Reason being, each of the blog posts would have one specific topic or subject it covers. Therefore it’s much easier to get each post to rank as opposed to a larger all inclusive piece. Also, by internally linking these blog posts to each other and other content you’ve produced you can create a much more authoritative series of blog posts.

Other possible content suggestions that can boost traffic would be:

  • Publish a podcast and then make sure to put up a transcription.
  • Slide shows from presentations or webinars can be posted on their own and also include detailed descriptions to support the images
  • Infographics can also be created to support content or act as content all it’s own.
  • Publish a series of eBooks or WhitePapers to support the content or audience’s needs who frequent your website.

Following some of these content suggestions, makes filling up that editorial calendar a little less intimidating.

Step 5: Track Results

A final step and one you should repeat in all marketing efforts is to measure and track results, collect metrics and analyze your efforts regularly as part of your strategy. You need to know what works and what falls flat. What topics are trending, of more interest, and which ones less relevant than expected. Sometimes it’s surprising what content resonates with your audience. Tracking results is the only way to determine if your content marketing and your content strategy are both working. Take the time to measure, assess, tweak, and redistribute as often as possible for maximum results.

Interested in learning more about how content can benefit your marketing strategy?

Or perhaps you need to find a solution to another marketing problem you are facing. Feel free to reach out to us. We would love to discuss your marketing needs and analyze your current marketing efforts to share insight and suggestions. And we can even show you how developing a content strategy can greatly enhance the quality of traffic and leads coming to your website.

 

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is a Small Business Consultant and Strategic Branding Specialist. He calls Monterey, CA home and is a life-long musician who spends his free time writing, composing, and producing music. He has also co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”

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