While some of us have been using content marketing for awhile, we have many readers who are just getting started. So, we asked our Content Marketing World speakers, “What advice would you give for marketers who are looking to add content marketing to their core capabilities?” Read on to see what they suggest.
Start by doing the analysis to show that you are missing significant opportunities to capture customer attention. Analyze how many “early stage” search terms are driving traffic to your site. Craft a plan to deliver the content that meets those needs and then present the business case to the leadership team. Use average conversion rates to show how many leads, or sales you could make. Subtract the cost and you can present a compelling ROI.
Pretend you are paid by the prospect, not your employer. If the buyer signed your check, how would that affect the substance, style and timeliness of the content you produce? I bet it would be a lot more about their needs and a lot less about yours.
- Determine your content marketing goals. What business objectives do you want your content marketing to achieve?
- Understand your target audience. Create marketing persona for your main market segments. Don’t overlook development of their social media persona in terms of how they act on social media networks.
- Select content topics. Assess your existing content within your organization. Then collect stories across your company, employees and customers and gather questions prospects and customers have. Lastly, determine what information is needed and where there are holes in your offering.
- Build your content creation team. Encourage people across your organization to contribute to the content development process. Then determine where you need additional support.
- Create an editorial calendar. Sequence your content across platforms and creators.
If you’re going to embrace the idea that content increases demand for the products and services you sell then you need to do one thing: think like a television producer. Ask yourself one simple question: If you were going to create a television show for your audience that helped increase demand for your wares, what would that show be? Thinking like a television producer frees you from the tactical execution and allows you to focus on the big ideas that will lead to content marketing success. What network would your show be on? Why would your audience be drawn to it? After you’ve created a great show idea, start small. It could be a blog, a tweet stream, a YouTube show or a podcast, but you’re always building good content designed to increase demand for the products you bring to market.
“Patience!” Educate internal stakeholders and the various marketing functions about content marketing from the bottom up. Get CMO or senior managers to sponsor content marketing from the top down. It takes time to get everyone aligned.
Prepare to be overwhelmed and then put a system in place for how you’ll handle that. Content marketers need to be super organized and ready to change up content or strategies at a moment’s notice. It’s a constant learning process as we are supposed to be the “experts” on all the fancy new tools out there that can be used in relation to content marketing. Figure out what you’re good at — your core strengths — and stick to them. If you’re great at writing and coming up with fun copy, do that. If you’re great at analyzing results and picking up patterns, stick there. If you live off spreadsheets, calendars and ways to organize it all, use that as your selling point. Pick a niche and fine-tune there. Then, you can expand into other areas as needed.
My advice to a marketer looking to add content marketing to his or her repertoire would be to start small and be focused. To me, content marketing is simply the process of developing and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content to target a specific segment/audience with the goal of acquiring new customers (or increasing business from existing customers). To add this capability to your arsenal, you need to start small and be focused because it is easy to get caught up in the flashiness of it all. This could mean zeroing in on a target market segment and truly understanding the personas within that target: pain points, issues, preferences, needs, etc. Once that foundation is there, you can begin to create content that addresses these challenges and opportunities. The point is that any marketer shouldn’t jump on the content marketing bandwagon without clearly understanding his or her audience. In addition there are a lot of great resources (like Content Marketing Institute!) to learn from and I’d suggest that any marketer new to content marketing check them out!
Just do it. It takes some time to build up a good content marketing operation. But once you do, it’s like a freight train that can’t be stopped. The key in the beginning is to focus on creating valuable content that appeals to your target market, not just a simple sales pitch, and then identify all of the right avenues for communicating that content to your target market. This can vary greatly depending on your type of business. Once they find value in your content, you can start adding more direct messages about your products and services. It takes a little patience and you need to look at it as a long-term investment rather than a short-term return. But once you get your target markets involved on a regular basis, you can really do a lot of cool things.
Develop the competency that distinguishes all great journalists, the people whose livelihood depends on finding a good story, developing a compelling “lead,” and then paying off that lead in a few words or pictures. Competent journalists are equal parts writer and investigative interviewer, with the latter focused on finding the hidden, impactful insights that differentiate their stories from the generic blather that no one notices. Watch a good journalist at work and you’ll see that listening and probing for non-obvious information is the key to creating great content.
Focus on producing high-quality (not high-quantity) content that engages audiences and motivates them to take action. Content should be strategic, brand-centric, buyer-persona focused, optimized for search engines, technically sound, creative and results-driven.
Don’t rush into it. Define your target audience first, get to know them well and their pain points. Then think about how you can help them live better, what your niche is/could be. Then think about content, editorial calendar and everything else that comes along. Choosing the channels you’re going to share your content via with your target audience, as Joe Pulizzi has already stressed so many times, comes later. I’ve learnt this the hard way. It’s easy to jump on a bandwagon, but your priority should be to survive and grow in the long term. Don’t fall prey to false gurus. You don’t have to be anywhere right now if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do there.
Start with a plan that addresses the whys and hows of your decision to add content marketing to your core capabilities. Make sure it includes a picture of what content marketing success may look like 1,3 or 5 years down the road. Then, if you’re a company or agency, go out and find your content marketing leader before you do anything else. There are thousands of writers and editors out there, but only a select few are equipped to handle the planning and management aspects of content marketing. Find one of those people from a pool of internal or external resources, and let him or her refine that plan and make it come to life. Always put planning and people first.
The one thing that I hear a lot about content marketing is that people don’t have the time. My advice is to produce only what you can market effectively. Honestly, if you have a good content marketing strategy, you don’t need to produce as much content. I’d say, tell great stories about your business or product, and then take the time to promote it on the relevant channels, which might include blogs, mobile apps, print, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and even the newer channels like Pinterest. You also have to take the time to develop a relationship with your audience. Comment on blog posts and be active in communities where your audience is already participating. Spend more time learning who they are than you do trying to tell them who you are. When you do that, they will spread your story for you.
While all of these ideas are unique, there are some key themes running throughout:
- Get executive buy-in so you have the support you need. Our CMI consultants recently provided tips on how to explain content marketing to the C-suite.
- Understand your audience. It can’t be overstated that you need to create buyer personas.
- Start small, and focus on the quality of content, not the quantity. Not only will it make your job easier and help you stand out with your audience, but you will also be rewarded by Google.
- Get organized. Content marketing can feel overwhelming at first, so you need to find ways to cut the complexity. It’s also essential to have an editorial calendar.
What other ideas would you add to the list?