So you want to get started in content marketing? Great! With the growing use of online media and the infiltration of digital apps and devices into all areas of life, you couldn’t have picked a better time.
This is a guide for those eager to get started in content marketing but don’t know how. We’re going to cover a few topics today, including how to pick the right content mix, how to generate content ideas, and how to optimize your content to generate more inbound leads.
But before we get started, it’s important that you recognize what effective content marketing looks like. Here are a few examples:
1. Chipotle’s Cultivating Thought - http://cultivatingthought.com/
2. Moleskin’s My Moleskin - http://mymoleskine.moleskine.com/community/
3. Lenovo’s Think Progress - http://www.think-progress.com/
4. Sprint’s Business - https://business.sprint.com
5. Microsoft’s Stories Blog - http://news.microsoft.com/stories/index.html
What these examples do:
- Enable readers to participate in branded conversation
- Provide thought-provoking and engaging content
- Feature inspirational and powerful stories
- Create a community where readers can share their ideas
- Offer insightful advice and guidance
What they don’t do:
- Focus too much on themselves (rather than on their readers)
- Pitch their products in an obvious way
- Use salesy language
Content marketing is about enriching your readers lives by creating interesting content that they’re passionate about. When strategizing content ideas, you shouldn’t be thinking: “How can I sell such and such.” You should be thinking: “How can I inspire or educate my readers?”
Effective content marketing makes a person stop, read, think, behave differently. It makes them pay attention to you. And it does this by building a positive, supportive relationship between brands and consumers. When done properly, content marketing is a fantastic tool for raising brand awareness, generating activity and discussion, ensuring customer retention and satisfaction, and more.
Of course, the over-arching goal of any content marketing strategy is to nurture readers towards lead conversion or purchase. This means creating informative and engaging content that drives profitable customer action.
At the end of the day, this is impossible without good content.
Step 1: Define Your Audience and Angle
In order to develop a successful content marketing campaign, you need to understand who your audience is. You need to know their objectives, orientation, obstacles, their key informational needs, and what kind of content they prefer to consume. By gathering this information, you can develop buyer personas—sketches of particular types of customers or buyers.
Buyer personas are extremely helpful in putting a face to the real people you’ll be creating content for. They can also help you better model your users buying behaviour and identify specific content that supports each stage of the sales funnel (i.e. awareness vs. purchase).
By developing buyer personas, you can identify the purpose of your content, whether it’s to inspire, inform, entertain, persuade, start a conversation, or express an opinion.
Step 2: Choose Your Content Type
The information you’ve gathered so far can help you define the right content mix for your particular audience. In most cases, you aren’t restricted by one content type. Rather, you can (and should!) publish a variety of content on a number of channels, including blogs, e-newsletters, white papers, e-books, case studies, testimonials, videos, etc.
All of these can be powerful tools to communicate valuable, compelling content on a consistent basis. As you run through these content types, you should think about which ones make the most sense based on your marketing objectives. As Outbrain COO David Sasson said, “Different audiences and different people want different types of content at different times of the day on different devices.”
Tailoring your content mix to specific buyer personas is a cornerstone of any effective content marketing strategy, but don’t forget to be proportionate. Although the foundation of your content marketing efforts may be based on informing your audience through educational blog posts, you may also want to entertain them through videos and infographics.
Step 3: Generate Content Ideas
Generating content ideas can be the most difficult and paralysing aspect of the content marketing process. With more content being produced today than ever before, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recommends that you focus on a problem when coming up with content ideas. Ask yourself, “What are the pain points of my target reader?” Or “What keeps my reader up at night?” By focusing on problems, you can position your company as a solution-provider and create content that really resonates with your readers. Remember that all content should fall within your area of expertise and reinforce your brand.
It’s also a good idea to keep your marketing goals in mind when generating content ideas. Are you trying to raise brand awareness, or are you trying to grow customer education? Being wary of this will undoubtedly help you specify want kind of content you should create.
Step 4: Create Content
We recently wrote a piece that breaks down the basic kinds of content you can create. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to focus on created content—unique, original content that brands create from scratch.
This is where all your hard work comes to fruition. It’s also the hardest to pull off. Here are some key pieces of advice:
- Craft an irresistible lead (introduction): The lead is the most important part of a content piece. It should be compelling without being too long, and it must convey the essence and facts of the story without giving away the gold.
- Write clearly and concisely: The importance of writing clearly can’t be overstated. Stick to short paragraphs, short sentences and easy words. This will increase the readability of your content.
- Write in your own unique voice: Don’t try to copy someone else. Your content should have an individual style that is unique to your personality or brand.
- Stick to one point: The first thing you should do when you sit down to write is to figure out what your bottom-line point is.
- Match the depth and length of your content: Two things that make writing difficult to read are when a writer doesn’t give enough detail on a complex topic, or gives too much detail on a simple topic. Find the right balance.
- Bolster with images, infographics and videos: Including images, infographics, videos or GIFs in your content makes it infinitely more readable.
- Write an effective headline: Even the most valuable, interesting content will be ignored if the title doesn’t connect with readers. Your title should create interest and forecast the information readers will find when they click through.
- Increase your searchability: Don’t forget to develop an effective keyword list to increase your ranking on relevant search terms.
This is by no means an exhaustive guide to content marketing. We’ll be elaborating on certain points over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back for in-depth information.
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