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Don’t Just Do Content Marketing—Do it Well

Content marketing involves the creation and distribution of digital marketing assets that drive better business results.

Does your company have a website? A blog? A way of sending email messages? If so, then you’re already doing content marketing—but are you doing it well? While most marketers create content on a daily basis, the true intent (and real promise) of content marketing lies in having a defined content strategy that works hand in hand with your organization’s goals.

First, What Is Content?

Before we can master content marketing, we have to figure out: what is content? Actually, a better question would be: what isn’t content? Digital content can be created in a wide array of formats, literally from A-Z: articles, blog entries, contests, diagrams, ebooks, free offers, games, hashtags, infographics, jokes, knowledge bases, lists, music, news or opinion pieces, podcasts, quizzes, reviews, slide shows, toolkits, user-generated comments, videos, widgets, XML feeds, year-end reviews, and zany cartoons.

Don’t Settle for Pretty Good

How do you build a strategy that ensures you’re making the right decisions about content? To effectively drive lead generation and, thus, business, your content marketing activities must consider these key elements:

ContextYour content should be delivered in context. Research your target customers and understand how and where they consume content. Create personas based on prospect demographics. Then start modeling their online behaviors. Narrow down your targets and ensure that your content gets delivered to the right person at the right time.
TimingPotential customers want different kinds of content at different stages of their research and purchase process. Newly engaged clients need different content than those who are deeply familiar. Build a timeline for each of your personas and brainstorm what kinds of content they’ll need at each stage of engagement to help them to the next level.
Time and MoneyContent marketing takes time and money to develop and manage. Set priorities based on business needs and your budget. Invest in top-of-the-funnel online marketing venues such as social media and a blog. Prioritize content that can be personalized to each prospect’s organization and business need.
CreativeYour original content can’t just be “same old, same old.” It must bring something new to the table. Try to make it engaging and useful. Work hard to make it so enjoyable that your audience will share it with friends and colleagues.
Gain Insights from Digital Body LanguageHaving a content marketing strategy ensures that your clients and prospects will get the information they need to make informed buying decisions. Also, content marketing works hand in hand with cross-channel marketing systems, because as your prospects engage with your digital content, you’ll gain insight from their digital body language. Then you can communicate with your audience in ways that are aligned with their interests and business needs.

Create an Effective Content Strategy

Plan out your content marketing efforts with a content strategy. It should outline several integral questions content creators and marketers need to ask:

  • Why are you creating content?
  • For whom are you creating content?
  • What can your business do for them? What is the problem you’re going to solve?
  • How is your solution unique?

The strategy helps you see how to use content marketing to build an audience, which can then be used to help bolster the company’s bottom line and take feedback in order to improve their products, services, customer journey, and marketing efforts. It can also help the company find out how to help its customers more.

A content strategy involves more than simply planning what content you should be creating. It addresses several more key concerns:

  • What type of content should you be producing?
  • When and how should it be distributed and published and over what channels?
  • How much content should go out in a given time period?
  • What is the proper messaging, tone, and voice for your content?

You should also consider:

  • Who is your audience? What are their preferences and interests?
  • Should create new content or can older content be tweaked, updated, and repurposed?
  • How do you manage, store, and organize all your content assets?
  • What is your content creation process?
  • Who is in charge of each stage of that process? Who writes the copy? Who edits? Who does the design? Who manages the project?

No formal process exists for how to create a content strategy. Some people like writing it out in spreadsheets, others use PowerPoint presentations, and many have opted for mapping out their content strategy and a content calendar with software designed for that very purpose. You should go with whatever method works best for you and helps you stay organized.

There are several general guidelines to developing a content strategy, though.

Define your goalsAsk yourself, what are you trying to achieve with your content?
Create personasBreak your intended audience down into different marketing personas to better target them and address their needs and preferences.
Run a content auditTake inventory of what content you have and what you can produce. Determine if there is a gap between where you are with your current content efforts and where you need to be and how to get there.
Decide how to organize and manage your contentGet everyone on board with your content creation process, publishing schedule, and how to organize your content assets.
BrainstormCome up with ideas for content you can produce.
Track resultsPay attention to the metrics to see what is working and what isn’t, so you can shift gears if need be and plan ahead.

The Power of Storytelling

Content marketing starts a conversation with your customers and prospects. It tells the story of your brand, hopefully in an alluring enough way that customers and prospects want to continue the conversation and have other ones with you as well.

Human beings often take in information much more easily if it is done via storytelling. Telling a story can leave a more lasting and powerful impression than simply offering someone information. It emphasizes points and attaches more meaning and emotion to your message.

How then can you effectively tell your story?

Clarity is vital. No matter how clever your words or beautiful a design, if someone doesn’t understand what you are saying they are not going to get your message. Customers who become confused do not always ask for clarity and more information. Most simply discard the communication they’ve received.

You must communicate with the proper tone and voice for your audience, but speak to them on their level. Empathize with them. Think of what their lives and positions are like and the difficulties they encounter. Tell them a story that they can see themselves in, one that has a happy ending thanks to the solution your business can provide.

Personalizing content as much as possible can help capture someone’s attention and hold it. Content people can connect with interests and intrigues them. It leaves them wanting more and curious about what you can do for them.

In this way, your story must resonate with your audience. For a B2C customer, this means tugging on their heartstrings and triggering emotional cues. They ask how can you remind them of good times and their loved ones. Can they stir you to action because you want to help somebody else or even change the world?

Some might claim that B2B marketing is not as emotional as B2C, that is instead mostly concerned with profits. However, success and achievement are emotional. Everybody wants to get ahead and do well. Your story and marketing are showing them how you can help them do that.

Whatever your story is, though, it must offer some type of value to its audience. They have to come away with something from it. Did your newsletter inform them of what was happening in their industry? Did your email provide a valuable insight into how they could manage a project? Did your webinar teach them how to use a new type of software?

Stand Out from the Rest

All day, every day, people are constantly bombarded with marketing messages on the internet, dating apps, in their emails, text messages, on TV and the radio, and everywhere, it seems.

You, as a marketer, are constantly fighting for people’s attention and to hold it. This requires standing out from your competitors and maybe even the constant stream of marketing everybody endures every day. Standing out takes having solutions for people’s problems and knowing how to properly and effectively communicate that you can do so to your audience. It takes strong copy, an eye-catching design, an intriguing offer, personalization, and something of value your audience can take away, even if it’s only a small nugget of information.

All of your content marketing needs to keep this up, whether it’s the first time you’re contacting someone, if they’re close to the finish line and want to make a purchase, or if they’re already a customer.

Do not take for granted that you have anyone’s attention. There is always something else to distract them. Make the most of the audience you have and are continually building and commit yourself to producing top-notch content for them.

Content Can Be More Than Words

When deciding what content to create, consider all the different mediums you might use. In today’s busy world, people are on the go and depend on their phones and mobile devices more than ever. Thus, all your content needs to be easily viewable and understandable on mobile as well as any other channel or platform.

Taking that into consideration, some people do not have time to skim through even a short email. Certainly, a longer document, such as a white paper or maybe a case study, wouldn’t work very well with mobile marketing. An infographic might, though, as it can deliver everything they need to know and your point in one image. A video might suffice, too, as it’d be simpler to let it play, rather than trying to read through an ebook on a phone.

Visualization can be a powerful tool for marketers, and a prospect or customer might be more of a visual learner, anyway. Words matter greatly, but your content can be more than words. You can incorporate art, music, the spoken word, maps, games, and interactive features.

Would your audience prefer a song or even a music video? What about a podcast? If you writing to them, might a limerick amuse them? Have you thought about using a comic strip?

Content offers a myriad of possible ways to connect and engage with people. Which type of content you use depends upon you and your audience. If it fits your brand and is acceptable to your audience, you can give it a try.