Content marketing, thought leadership, brand journalism…no matter what you call it, it’s no longer the shiny new object. We’re past asking, “Should we do this?” and are now asking “How do we do it better?”
Customers and prospects want content—the right content. So what’s right? The short answer is: The content they want. Sound like a circular argument?
Your target audience wants information. But they don’t know what they want until they need it. If you have the content they want available, and they can find it—or better yet, you can serve it up when they want it—you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.
So where do you start? You know your existing customers; and prospects look a lot like them. Build a content marketing strategy based on what you know. After some trial and error, refine that strategy based on analytics and other feedback.
How to Write a Content Marketing Strategy
“Strategy” just means asking some questions and thinking logically through a process before taking action. Use the following template to develop your content marketing strategy that delivers high-quality content while also meeting your company’s goals.
Goals: Do you want to build loyalty among customers, engage new customers and referral sources to generate inquiries, establish your position as a market leader, or all of the above?
Target Audience: Who do you want to read your content? What groups do you need to reach to accomplish your goals? Will you target existing customers? Are you entering a new vertical market? Are you targeting front-line workers or upper-level decision-makers?
Content Areas: What types of content will appeal to your target audiences? What do they care about and what topics will capture their interest? What areas of expertise, departments, or offerings or your business do you need to represent in your content?
Formats: What formats are best suited to the content areas and target audiences? Do they want written documents or video? Will they read longer documents or do they prefer shorter blogs? Different formats lend themselves to certain goals and types of content. See tED magazine’s April 2018 issue to learn more about how to match communications goals with content formats.
Content Management: Where will your content reside? Do you have the storage capacity to house it all on your website or will you utilize sites like YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.?
Distribution: How will you distribute content to your target audiences? What communication tools are they already using? Can you reach them through your existing channels such as email, social media, or your website?
Now that you have a strategy in place, you want to make sure your target audience actually read your content. Too often, this is where the process breaks down because someone in the company—the C-Suite, president, sales manager—doesn’t understand what makes for good content.
How to Get Your Content Read
What is good content? If you take away one message from this article or share one message with your boss, CEO, or director of sales and marketing, this is it:
Good content is not about you, your company, your products, or what you want to tell them. It’s about intimately knowing and empathizing with your audience, and telling them what they want to know.
Think like a prospect or customer. What information do they want and need? What will resonate with them? Here are some tips to get you started.
- Address common questions. Ask your sales or customer service teams for input. This is where your expertise can shine. Customers and prospects will grow to trust you and feel a sense of loyalty for all the great information you’ve provided.
- Make it relevant to the customer. Good content solves a problem, helps with a decision, provides insight into an issue, offers a different perspective, sparks ideas for improvement, or motivates or encourages the customer.
- Include visuals. Use images that reinforce the message or summarize the information and include alternative (alt) text—HTML image descriptions—to improve SEO.
- Include transcripts for audio and video content. This will also improve search engine rankings. Online transcription services range from $0.60 to $1 per minute.
- Repeat what works. Monitor social media activity to see which a type of content, headline style, or formats get the best response.
- Curate and repost good content. Link to relevant and helpful articles, blogs, videos, or other content, citing the original sources.
Good content can come from anywhere or anyone. Maybe the engineer in the back is really good at explaining how to tweak a product or process to make it perform better. Perhaps that inside salesperson has a knack for finding just the right source for a product. The accountant may have tips for saving money on financing. Ask around, interview staff, and find the experts in your own office.
How to Get Your Content Found
You have a strategy, you have some great content, now you’re ready to put it out there. Unfortunately, posting content in one or two places likely won’t be enough to make an impact. Consider using a multi-channel, multi-media approach to get the most out of your content.
- Email your customers and targeted lists. Of course, make sure your campaigns comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
- Create a special place on your website for content. Consider sharing content in a dedicated “knowledge center” section.
- Tweet or post short tips and tricks on social media. Microblogging platforms like Twitter and Instagram are ideal for short nuggets of information with images or videos.
- Post articles on LinkedIn. Some companies repost their blogs as LinkedIn articles to reach new audiences including their network’s second or third-degree contacts.
You don’t have to abandon traditional media like newsletters or other print publications (yet). But you do need to start adding new digital and social media. Another “new” channel, the podcast is evolving as a viable alternative to long-form publications. The popularity of podcasts continues to grow slowly and steadily—about 4% per year in terms of awareness and listenership according to a 2018 study by Edison Research.
How to Keep Up
Recently, another marketer and I were discussing how technology use is growing exponentially. Often, the learning curve keeps companies from getting started with technology like CRM, marketing automation, and digital and social media. But the longer you wait to get started, the further behind you’ll be.
To stay current, you have to be (or get) comfortable with a little uncertainty, and with making a few mistakes. As Mario Andretti used to say, “If everything seems to be in control, you’re not going fast enough.” And as told my daughters when they were learning to skate, “If you don’t fall down, you’re not trying hard enough.”
If you want to keep up, you first have to start. Then keep challenging yourself to try new formats like podcasting, technologies like marketing automation, and platforms like Instagram. Read articles like this one, attend conferences like AdVenture, join organizations like the American Marketing Association, and keep learning!Tagged with content marketing, marketing, marketing momentum