Do you have what it takes to succeed at content marketing?
Is your organization setup to succeed at content marketing? Creating and leveraging a well-thought out content marketing strategy can immensely help any organization or individual looking to reach more prospects, sell more products, increase brand loyalty and build their reputation. Content marketing allows you the opportunity to tell your story and share your ideas. And… it’s pretty powerful. You own the interactive storytelling platform and the ability to move your ideas forward with words, visuals and video. Embarking on a successful content strategy is no small task, but when done right, can have a significant positive impact on your business. So, how do you get started? Start with the Why!
Here are the 5 key building blocks to succeed at content marketing:
1. Have A Purpose – Your Content Marketing “Why”
Identifying your purpose is the first building block to succeed at content marketing. What is it that you want your content to do for both your organization as well as your target audience? Is your objective to increase brand awareness, increase social engagement, generate leads, acquire more customers, retain current customers, increase loyalty, etc.? Is the goal of your content to inform, entertain, educate, or otherwise help your audience?
By clearly identifying what your underlying motivations are, you can more succinctly align your content creation efforts with the needs and desires of your target audience. When you are able to match your purpose with a true benefit for your audience, it’s a win-win. Just be sure to leave the hard-selling out of the equation.
Content marketing is about storytelling. It’s about developing the know-like-trust factor with your prospects, customers and partners. It’s about giving your audience something they need or desire, without asking for something in return. It humanizes your business and makes you more relatable, when done with purpose and intention.
When in doubt about your content, always go back to your purpose. It’s the foundation to creating a cohesive content marketing strategy.
2. Know Your Audiences – Your Content Marketing “Who”
Who are you trying to reach, how can you segment them, what social platforms do they engage on, when and how do they engage with you, and what excites and interests them. Even more powerful is understanding what your audiences’ pain points are, what their needs are and what challenges are they faced with. Having a deeper understanding of who you are targeting with your content is critical in knowing what type of content to create for them.
Creating audience personas is a great way to help categorize and segment your various audiences. Personas are created based on all the information you know about your audiences, including demographics, psychographics, social interactions, likes and behaviors. Personas represent an “ideal customer” for your business. When you have a persona to develop content for, it makes the process of content creation more authentic and relevant. And relevance is critical element if you want to succeed at content marketing!
The key to great content is relevance. Without relevance you don’t have an engaged audience and without an engaged audience your content marketing efforts will be useless. There are many tools from comprehensive solutions like NetBase, Sprout Social and BuzzSumo to basic and free tools like platform specific analytics like Facebook Insights, Instagram Analytics, Twitter Analytics, etc. as well as Google Analytics. These tools allow you to analyze, measure and monitor audience behavior, engagement and interests. You can also simply follow conversation threads on social platforms (yours and your competitors) to get a glimpse of what resonates with your audience.
3. Create Valuable Content – Your Content Marketing “What”
Once you have your objectives and purpose outlined and you have done your homework to truly understand your audience… it is then time to create. This is the biggest building block in your arsenal. Creating customer-focused high-value content is not easy. The thing to remember is that it’s all about quality over quantity.
Many marketers struggle to come up with topics that they think will be interesting and relevant to their audience. A couple of sure fire ways to uncover some great content is simply looking at what types of questions your audience is asking (your customer service team, Google search and FAQs are great resources for this!). Knowing what your audience is looking for is half the battle! Once you have this, create content to help your audience find those answers.
Look at social media platforms, your competitors websites, discussion forums, review sites and more to monitor related conversations, pick up on customer pain points, and identify trending topics. Create content buckets around key topics and determine how you can be helpful and solve problems. The key element of extraordinary content is that it provides value, feels personal and stands out from everything else that is out there. If you find yourself stumped, check out these 5 content creation tips.
Be real, be authentic, and above all reflect your brand personality throughout your content. Don’t be afraid to break a few rules and try new things, but don’t assume a tone that isn’t in line with your overall brand strategy and positioning. Social platforms have given companies of all sizes the opportunity to be more human. Your content marketing efforts should reflect this.
Don’t just put out content and call it a day. Creating and publishing content is one one aspect of the “what”. You also need to engage with your audience, respond to comments, extend the dialogue and inspire your audience to want to find out more. When your brand personality shines, you become more likable… and when you are more likable, people will seek you out and want to be part of what you do. Mari Smith is a great example – check her out on Facebook and you will instantly be drawn in.
4. Diversify the Format of Your Content – Your Content Marketing “How”
The opportunities to share content are endless… from blog articles, lists, e-newsletters, tweets, posts, stories, white papers, infographics, pictures, memes, video and more! How you deliver your content can be just as important as the content itself. By diversifying the type of content you create, you open up the opportunity to reach a greater audience.
Changing up the format of your content also keeps things fresh and offers your audience a different perspective on things. You can take one piece of content and repurpose it in many different formats across multiple different platforms with just a few tweaks. Content repurposing is such an important factor in how to succeed with content marketing. Check out our article about 3 smart ways to repurpose your content.
I love the way Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media created a Periodic Table of Content which shows different types of content mediums, length of content per medium and typical shelf-life of each. The great thing about this is that with a few tweaks, you can repurpose your own content for use on various platforms.
When using different formats, you’ll probably uncover a few tried and true methods that really resonate with your audience. That’s great! Be sure to utilize those formats frequently to engage your core audience. But, don’t forget the ABT rule. Always Be Testing! Platforms change, people change, preferences change… everything changes! So be on your toes and try new content types to stay ahead of the game.
5. Be Consistent – Your Content Marketing “When”
As mentioned before, it’s not about the quantity of your content, but about the quality of it. That said, keeping a regular drumbeat for your content marketing is absolutely essential. The more consistent you are with your content, the more your audience will come to expect it from you. Don’t let them down!
Setting up a content schedule and creating a content marketing editorial publishing calendar is key to building audience loyalty. The great thing is that there are many tools and templates out there to help you out with this. Check out Hootsuites article on How to Create a Social Media Content Calendar as well as this Content Calendar Template from Co-Schedule.
Figuring out the “when” can be challenging though. Here is where your analytics come into play. Test posting your content at different times and days and review your analytics to compare performance results. You can also look to industry studies that can provide cues to the best days and times (many by platform) to share your content. Check out Sprout Social’s Best Times to Post on Social Media article for some insights!
6. It’s All In The Delivery – Your Content Marketing “Where”
There are hundreds of different content platforms out there to share your content and stories. Make sure you are creating content not only for your target audiences, but also for the specific type of platform you intend to utilize. Again, by understanding your audience you can target your communication efforts on the platforms where they engage the most. That said, don’t be afraid to try out new platforms. Content platforms and social media sites seem to pop up overnight and gain traction quickly. Make sure you are staying on top of the latest developments in content sharing and utilize these platforms to share your thoughts, stories and ideas.
Creating great content is one thing – getting people to see it is another. With so much content being created in the digital space, there is a lot of noise… so much noise that we as consumers of content can’t possibly consume everything that is put in front of us each and every day. As a marketer, you need to be cognizant of this. Organic reach is becoming harder and harder to come by. Many platforms have become a pay-to-play environment in which you really are forced to use advertising to have any significant reach.
But, by creating high-value, interesting content that is optimized for keywords, you boost your odds for greater exposure, increased shares and more people discovering your content. Making your content linkable and shareable with the inclusion of charts, graphs, pictures, video, etc. increases the exposure to your content. Consider utilizing smart marketing techniques that will help extend the reach of your content such as partnering with other content producers, participating in guest blogging, and targeting influencers who can help spread your word.
Achieving success at content marketing takes time. A content marketing strategy can’t be created and implemented overnight. Be sure to know your purpose and take the time to understand your audience, figure out how and where to best reach them, provide them with content that they want and find valuable, be consistent in your delivery and tweak your strategy along the way. Over time, your strategic content marketing efforts will lead to positive outcomes for your business. Great content is the key to generating awareness of your brand, building a loyal and engaged following, and ultimately leading to greater prospects, leads and sales for your organization.
We would love to know what you think it takes to succeed at content marketing – please share your comments below!