So, you’ve heard of content marketing, but you’re not really sure what to do with it or how it can work for you.
In a nutshell, content marketing, a specific type of inbound marketing, is the process of attracting leads to your business through quality, informative content. In other words, you need to think like a publisher. These two questions are critical at the start of your content strategy:
1. Who is your target market?
2. What do they need to know in order to sleep easier at night?
Next, ask yourself where you’re going to produce this content. Inbound marketers tend to agree that having a blog on your website is an absolute must for content marketing.
A blog has numerous benefits. It allows you to consistently produce fresh, relevant content. That much keeps the search engines happy so that you’re more likely to be found. Even more importantly, a blog allows you to showcase your knowledge and share it with your visitors for the purpose of educating them. It also serves as an excellent platform for engagement. You can post something relevant to your industry and a visitor can comment on it, thus beginning a conversation.
How many conversations are you able to have with one-way “outbound” marketing? My guess is not many. You sent out mailers and ran advertisements, maybe, but you aren’t interacting much with potential customers otherwise. The interaction between client and company is what makes inbound and content marketing so wonderful.
So how about a practical example?
A Content Marketing Example
Let’s say you’re in the business of selling auto parts. Before anything should be written, you will need to determine who will read it. The answer might not be cut-and-dry. In this case, you could have a certified mechanic with quite a bit of technical knowledge and know-how, and you can also have a new driver who is looking for information on how to check his tire pressure.
The point is that just because you sell auto parts doesn’t mean you need to go for the hard sell in all of your blog posts and articles. In fact, it’s often recommended that you don’t. Instead, post what you know and try to do so regularly. Maybe you start out posting twice a week. One post might be about cutting rotors and the best brands of brake pads to use. The other post might be something like “Knowing When to Change Your Oil.”
Clearly, each of those is written for a different person and skill level, but they’re both in your target market, so it works.
I know what you’re thinking. If I don’t mention my products in these blog posts, how will I ever make sales?
This is the beauty of content marketing, and there’s a little bit of psychology involved. By producing high-quality content that appeals to your audience, you’re showing them what you know. You’re satisfying a need that they have for a certain kind of knowledge and establishing yourself as an authority in your field. They read one of your posts about removing oxidization from headlights, find it useful, and come back to see if you have anything to say about saving money by doing your own oil changes.
Now they’ve marked you as a resource and you’ve got them moving through the sales funnel.
Pretty soon, as they’re figuring out what they need to buy for their next projects, they’re going to look to see what you’ve got because they’ve because they’ve already established you as a trusted source. By reading your content, they already feel like they’ve formed some kind of relationship with you.
Of course, there are other, more advanced, strategies as well for nurturing these leads and helping them to convert, but what I’ve given you here is the very basics of content marketing.
It’s important to recognize that content marketing isn’t necessarily difficult, but it is time-consuming. And, like in anything, success won’t happen over night. You have to put in the work and be patient.
Here’s a prime example of that: Today, the Content Marketing Institute is one of the most-visited and well-respected sites for content marketing. They provide excellent information on the field and thus are a go-to for inbound marketers with questions. But that wasn’t always the case.
Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, has said of the site’s success that, when they started in 2007, they saw fewer than 1000 visits in the first six months. Five years later, they see 100,000 visits each month. Persistence, as he notes, is key.
Think maybe CMI just lucked out? Plenty of bloggers notice similar patterns. In this post on SEOmoz (see #22), CEO Rand Fishkin shows a screen shot of his wife’s blog analytics. It took almost two years for her blog to take off, but when it did, it really did. He also says that it took about two years before his site, SEOmoz, could really be considered a success.
The process requires dedication and patience, but you will see results.
It’s perfectly fine to start out with the basics that I’ve explained here, but know that to succeed, you will eventually have to plan your content strategy in greater detail. You’ll have to learn a bit about search marketing and search engine optimization to help you get found online.
This can be a pretty big commitment, but it pays off in spades. Whether you’re able to do the work in-house or you plan to hire someone to help you with your content writing (I know of a great content generation firm!), if you want to keep up with your competition, you need a solid content strategy.
But what if this doesn’t apply to my business?
I’m sorry to be so blunt, but you’re wrong, my friend. Content marketing can work for any kind of business with some creativity. Surely you have industry news and topics to delve into, right?
If you’re looking for more places to learn about content marketing (or inbound marketing in general) and more resources for building your content strategy, I’ve got some of my favorites here. For what it’s worth, I come from a background in English literature, writing, and secondary education – not marketing. So while a lot of the principles of content marketing are familiar to me and easily transferable, I’m entirely self-taught (and very much enjoying working in the content marketing field). Many of these resources were instrumental in helping me to make that transition into a new field.
- The Content Marketing Institute – already mentioned several times throughout this post, and with good reason. It’s an amazing source of information for any stage of content marketing, whether you’re a seasoned professional or it’s your first day on the job. You can lose yourself for hours here with all they have to offer by way of excellent content.
- HubSpot – often credited with the concept of inbound marketing, and with good reason. They’ve got products to sell, but they’re more interested in educating you on every aspect of inbound marketing (including content). Here you’ll find a plethora of free resources – downloads, guides, webinars, eBooks, and more. Their blog is also a stellar source of information, so be sure to check it out!
- MarketingProfs – This is another site that will give you a wealth of information on any aspect of inbound marketing that you can imagine – including content.
- Business 2 Community – B2C is an aggregated site that curates content from some of the greatest minds around the web, and you can find a variety of topics here. If you’re looking for some good personal blogs to follow, this is a great place to start looking!
- The Weidert Group – Weidert is one of my favorite examples of content marketing done right. They have an awesome blog and a great overall content strategy. If you’re looking for an example of what to do, check them out.
- CopyBlogger – A great place for online marketing advice. Well written and informative, it will be a great resource for you as you begin your content marketing journey. Be sure to check out their piece on Content Marketing 101.
- ProBlogger – also provides a number of on-site resources for you, as well as a fantastic blog.
- Contently – The blog on this site has some great information, tips, and ideas for you to put to use with your own strategy.
- Content Equals Money – Hey, we’re in the business of creating content. If nothing else, check out our blog and see what we can teach you!
Social Media Tools
- Quora – Not sure what questions your community might have? Not sure what to write about? Use sites like Quora (a simple question and answer site) for some writing inspiration.
- Twitter – You can create all the great content in the world, but if you’re not sharing it with anyone, it’s going to be more difficult for people to find it. Build relationship and share your content!
- Facebook – Same goes for Facebook. You can promote your content through your business page, and it’s a good way to make sure your regular followers know you’re publishing.
Whew! I know that seems like I just threw a lot of information at you, but that’s only because… I did. The great thing about it is that you can bookmark this post and keep coming back to it as often as you like while you process all of the information.
So how can we help you? What questions do you have about content marketing? What are you dying to ask someone? Let us know and we’ll be happy to answer!