It isn’t hard to find information these days about taking your content marketing to the next level. But what if you’re just getting started with content marketing and feeling like you’re late to the party? Where do you actually begin?
First, let’s define content marketing. My favorite definition comes from Joe Pulizzi, who is one of the original content marketing gurus, emphasis added by me.
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Content marketing can be a tremendously powerful driver of traffic, leads, and business. Using the above definition as a set of guidelines, answer these five questions, and you can design a content strategy that will help your bottom line.
1. What’s your profitable customer action?
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Your content should engage visitors in a way that leads them to initiate contact or transaction with you. If you’re running a college or university website, you want to increase inquiries and applications. If you are a B2B software company, you want to get more people to request demos, trials, and licenses for your software.
Once you define your desired outcomes, you can plan content that will lead customers further down your sales funnel. Start by discovering your current baseline, so you have something to measure against later. You should capture:
- Website traffic patterns
- Conversion rates
- Any website activity that indicates poor engagement
Use your content management system, Google Analytics, marketing automation platform, or a combination of all of the above to collect data about what your site visitors are doing, where they click, how long they stay, and how much of that activity is resulting in business outcomes so you can aim for growth.
2. Who is your target audience?
Knowing your target audience is critical to marketing success, whether you’re creating a content strategy or organizing a flash mob. No matter what business you’re in, “everyone” is not your target audience. There is a common thread, no matter how fine, among your future customers. Do they all inhabit one small town in Nebraska? Do they love ice cream? Do they need a website redesign? Find that common thread to find the topics that will capture their interest.
3. What amount and type of content can you deliver consistently?
One of the factors Google uses to rank your content is your publishing frequency and consistency. If one post every two weeks is the best you can do, then start with that. If you find it easiest to do a weekly video blog, start there.
Publishing consistently over the long term will improve SEO and make content creation part of your marketing routine. If you produce a large research report every quarter, think about how small pieces of short-form content can come out of the data prior to or after publishing, so you can keep your audience coming back more than four times a year.
4. How can your content provide value?
Content marketing is not all about you. It’s about what your customer needs. The content you create should help customers succeed with your product or service, enhance their understanding of your industry, or help them solve related problems. Content marketing isn’t another way for you to hard sell your product, but it is a great way for you to connect with prospective customer in a way that grows your credibility and their trust at the same time.
5. What skills and tools do you have for content creation and distribution?
Most businesses test the content marketing waters by starting small. If you don’t have a content marketing budget to start with, honestly assess what’s in your toolkit right now and how you can leverage it to generate and share your content. Some things to consider:
- Can you or someone your team write?
- Do you have existing content that can be repurposed or adapted into a different medium?
- Do you have social media profiles to help distribute the content?
- Do you have partners or third party services that can help with content distribution?
- Do you use email newlsetters or marketing automation tools?
- Can you personalize your web content based on who’s viewing it?
Auditing your content and resources will give you something to build on, and show you where to focus your attention next.
Your Brand New Content Strategy
Once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, what your resources are, and whom you are trying to reach, you can then take the time to outline specific tactics that will get you there.
As you consider your goals and audience, you may find that different audiences require different tactics, or even completely separate strategies. Taking the time to explore all this before getting started will make your content more effective in the long run.