Your journey from beginner to skilled practitioner

In my online business I teach entrepreneurs how to use content marketing to start and grow a business.

I’ve found that most entrepreneurs, freelancers and startup owners are smart, skilled and motivated people. Most have at least heard of content marketing. And many are intrigued by its potential to build a vital connection to their audience that can drive sales.

Yet most have no clue where to start.

Indeed, the sheer volume of information about content marketing can be overwhelming, causing many to pause before jumping in.

But as Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

That means you have to take a first step. And then another one. And then another.

A 5-step process

Startups can get started with content marketing by following a journey through 5 stages of development. These stages are designed to transform a newbie to an accomplished content marketer in a logical way.

If you’re excited about content marketing and see its potential for promoting your business, then it makes sense to follow a defined path to learn its most important strategies and tactics.

But before we get into the 5-stage journey, let’s take a look at this question:

What’s more important: strategy or tactics?

General Sun Tsu, the 800BC author of The Art of War, had this to say:

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

The lesson here is pretty obvious: both strategy and tactics are necessary for success.

Content marketing is no exception to this rule. To succeed along your journey you’ll need to pay attention to both the “why” and the “how” of using content marketing in your startup. That will give you strategies for focusing and aiming your efforts toward victory. And it will give you tactics for creating and enhancing your content to avoid business defeat.

So tell me, what is Content Marketing again?

My basic definition for a content marketing beginner:

Content marketing is simply the process of providing people with information they care about in order to form a trusting business relationship.

Practically speaking that means crafting your business’s web pages. Writing educational blog posts. Tweeting about your business ideas and commenting on others’ social posts. Posting your own articles on social media. And publishing ebooks, white papers, videos, podcasts and emails.

They’re all good communication tactics. But unless they provide people with information they care about, they’re not good content marketing tactics.

Which brings us back to strategy:

What are you trying to accomplish with content marketing?

Whom are you trying to serve?

What does your audience care about?

These questions are fundamental to the first two stages every content marketing beginner should begin with: Focus and Aim.

5 stages of content marketing: Focus, Aim, Create, Convert, Enhance

Focus is the first stage in becoming an accomplished content marketer. It means you’ve determined what your specific business niche is going to be, your goals for using content marketing to promote your business, and how you’ll differentiate your business from the rest of the world.

Aim is the stage in which you get inside the mind of your target audience. Who are they? What jobs do they have? What are their challenges, their concerns? How will you craft messages that will appeal to them?

Create is the stage in which you execute your Focus and Aim strategies with tactics that include your website, blog, social media, video, ebooks and other content.

Convert is the point at which you use proactive tactics to transform people who’ve expressed an interest in your content into buyers of your company’s solution(s).

Enhance is the stage where you move from your initial content efforts to managed, measured campaigns.

Why this takes awhile: It’s not a one-night stand

Although content marketing is effective, it’s not a quick-fix way to build your business.

It takes time, a cohesive approach, and a commitment to follow the 5 stages of content marketing from beginning to end before it pays off.

Why is it worth it? Because this approach to marketing aligns with what your target audience needs and wants. It delivers trustworthy information that really helps people succeed.

For a light-hearted look at how these stages fit together, download my free ebook “Content Marketing Isn’t a One-Night Stand.” It’s written especially for the content marketing beginner.

Learning out loud

As I write this post, I’m in the early stages of following my own Content Marketing Startup journey for my online teaching business. I’ve been working on the Focus and Aim stages to determine what I’m trying to accomplish, whom I’m trying to reach, and what my audience cares about.

In other words, I’m trying to practice what I preach! As I see what works and what doesn’t for my own business, I’ll be sharing my experiences with my followers – learning out loud, you might say.

Your own journey

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Does this 5-stage process make it a bit less intimidating to learn content marketing?

Where you are on your journey through the 5 stages?

What are you struggling with?

What have you learned along the way?

Bon voyage!