strategy

As a content marketing consultant for several tech startups and small businesses, I’ve seen a steep rise in the number of companies who’re now taking content marketing much more seriously and understand its potential impact on their brand image. There are a lot more companies with dedicated content marketing teams and a few have even diverted large portions of their conventional marketing budgets to purely content marketing.

However, despite this increased awareness, a large number of content marketing campaigns still fail to achieve their desired objectives.

Why?

Because most of them lack certain key elements that are essential for success. The list is quite long, but I’ve summarized it into 5 key points that are absolutely critical for a successful content marketing strategy.

1- Have Clearly Defined Objectives

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Having clarity in your objectives from the start is crucial for success. In an ideal world, I shouldn’t even be mentioning this point. But a surprisingly high number of businesses seem to ignore it. When a client hires me to review their content marketing strategy and advise them on their future plan of action, the first question I ask them is about their objective with content marketing.

It’s a simple question: What do you want to achieve with content marketing?

Most of the times I get a vague, immeasurable and impractical answer. This is why it’s absolutely critical that you know from the start what you’re trying to achieve.

I’m not saying that you need to know everything from the start. Of course, over time, you’d come across many other benefits of content marketing and identify new ways it can help you in achieving other objectives that you didn’t have in mind from the start.

But you do need to have a starting point.

To make things easier, ask yourself these questions

– Why should I invest in content marketing?

– How will it benefit my business?

– Can I measure the benefit in some way?

– Is that benefit important for my business as well?

Write down these answers in a separate document and keep reviewing it every 2 months to see if your activities are aligned with your objectives.

2- Know Exactly Who Your Audience Is

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This should have been a part of the first point, since it’s not possible to create a clear objective without knowing your target audience. But because of its significance, I want to mention this part separately.

One of the main reasons behind the failure of most content marketing campaigns is that their content is either too broad or too narrow for their target audience. They often address issues, which are totally irrelevant to their target audience, in unnecessary detail, and ignore the ones that are really important.

To avoid this from happening, you need to create buyer personas, target the personas that are most important for your business and then create content that addresses the most important issues and problems being faced by these personas.

Not sure what a buyer persona is?

Without complicating things, buyer personas are imaginary profiles of your potential buyers. They are based on real life examples of people who have previously bought from you or who you believe would fit well as your customers. Buyer personas are based on factors such as buyer age, gender, language, interests, income bracket, general preferences and social values.

Accurate buyer personas would help you determine the issues of your buyers and the kind of content that help you address those problems in detail.

3- Optimize For Maximum Conversion

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This is another vital point to consider when developing a content marketing strategy. Even if you have a clear objective and understand your audience, you’d need to create a platform where you can address their problems, convert them into loyal followers and eventually into paid customers.

In most cases, this platform is either a blog, a website or a landing page. You need to optimize these platforms for maximum conversions. They should be designed to give you tangible results. Here are few areas that need to be considered.

–  Page Design

The page design includes everything from the positioning of your logo and email opt-in box to the colors and font style you choose. It is one of the main conversion drivers.

–  Email List

Email lists are the key to getting tangible results from content marketing. Your page design should facilitate email subscriptions and ensure that your visitors get a clear view of your opt-in box.

–  Page Content

Apart from your blog or website content, the content that you create for attracting opt-ins is crucial for your success. This includes free giveaways like eBooks or email courses and the landing page copy.

4- Be a Great Storyteller

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Storytelling is an art that is becoming increasingly important for B2B and B2C content marketing. As a marketer you need to be a great storyteller. Your customer should be able to relate with your brand through its unique story.

While I’ve always considered this important, I recently came across a post on LinkedIn by Kelli Law, the CEO of Entwine Creative Group. Kelli’s post was all about brand storytelling and how organizations should use it to create an emotionally attached audience (since that is what her company does as well.)

I couldn’t agree more with all the points she mentioned, because in my experience engaging storytelling is the only thing that can separate your content from the countless other companies barraging your customers continuously with new blog posts, videos and other forms of content. The only way to make your content stick in the minds of your audience is by going beyond the usual rhetoric and connecting with them at a personal level.

Storytelling should be an important part of your content marketing strategy. In fact, your whole strategy should be based on a unique brand story that immediately relates with your target buyer personas.

5- Promote Aggressively

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Content promotion is often a misused terminology, especially when it comes to online marketing. Far too many online marketers and organizations limit content promotion to posting content links on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc., leaving a few spam comments on different blogs and practicing a few SEO tricks.

If you’re serious about content marketing, you need to move beyond this.

It’s important to promote your content the RIGHT way. Online interactions have become much more sophisticated. Direct promotions rarely work now. In fact, they’d do more harm to your brand than good.

The focus, here as well, should be on building relationships and being authentic. Here are a few tips for content promotion.

– Guest Blogging

Target other blogs in your niche that your target audience also visits. Write high quality guest posts for these blogs and include your content links where relevant. Guest blogging brings credibility, traffic and SEO benefits all at the same time (I know what Matt Cutts said about guest blogging, read this to know what he really meant)

– Email List Content

As I said in one of the earlier points, email lists are crucial for your success. A healthy email list gives you access to guaranteed readers. They are people who you can work on and convert them into your biggest word of mouth marketers.

– Social Media

Again, I’m not talking referring to just broadcasting content links on your social media profiles. These are platforms where you can connect, engage and grow your audience. Just like guest blogging, only contextual link sharing will be beneficial.

– Forums, Groups and Tribes

Out of all the forums and groups, Triberr is by far the most effective, in my opinion. You can interact with marketers from other companies and customers looking for advice at the same time. It’s a great place to grow your network and get your content out in the limelight.

Conclusion

The significance of content marketing is only going to increase in the coming years. There will be newer forms of content and new promotional platforms, but the core concept is only going to get stronger. The key to success, however, lies in being clear about your objectives, creating memorable content and promoting it intelligently. If you get these steps right, you’d be on your way to establishing the most cost effective and high-conversion channel for lead generation.