Don’t write content just because all the other kids are doing it.
Yes, content marketing is important. Per a recent article in The Harvard Business Review, nine of ten organizations are using content marketing as part of their marketing efforts. However, approaching it without a holistic strategy is a waste of time and resources. Like any marketing tactic, it’s no use running fast if you’re running in the wrong direction (or in circles, for that matter).
As a quick refresher, content marketing is simply creating and distributing valuable and relevant information and articles to attract your target audience. It’s a great addition to most company’s marketing mix as it attracts qualified leads and can be an effective tool to nurture leads through their buyers’ journey (awareness, consideration, and decision).
If you’re going to publish regularly, pull a page (sorry) from the pros and create an editorial calendar and like any marketing initiative, in addition to setting clear objectives and measurable goals you need to…
Start with the WHY.
- Are you looking to drive more traffic to your site by increasing your organic search results? If so, is your website doing a good job of telling your story and converting the right leads?
- Do you want to position yourself as a thought leader, or as part of a company of thought leaders? One builds your personal reputation; the other builds that of your brand.
Content marketing has the unique ability to showcase your brand’s personality (and capabilities) without being overly promotional. Content marketing allows you to create and ‘own’ ideas, then share this proprietary knowledge freely. POOF…you’re an innovator and expert! This is antithetical to the last century when ‘trade secrets’ were just that, and left to gather dust within an organization. In exchange, brands gain an audience, readership, and loyalty.
Plus, as opposed to advertising (which interrupts the target), content marketing is sought out. Therefore, effectiveness is measured by a different formula. The new premise is that you’re trading an investment of the reader’s time for an exchange of the value you provide. The efficacy of content marketing is backed up by (surprise) The Content Marketing Institute. They assert that 70% of people would rather learn about a company from an article than an ad.
Then, the WHO.
Who are you trying to reach? Just like any other tactic, start with your target audience and their influencers in mind and write to meet their needs. Good content, like good products, needs to solve a particular problem for your reader. Research your target’s interests, what influences them, and what types of content deliver the best response.
Next, the WHAT.
What you write must align with your brand’s core values and key messages. For example, I could write a pretty compelling article on the advantages of allowing employees to bring their dogs to work, but Spoke is not in the business of cultivating employee culture (or dog grooming). What is it that you can write that adds value and reinforces why someone should choose to do business with your company?
Plus, the content must be useful and relevant. Content, like products, are for consumption, and if yours isn’t tailored to your audience’s needs and of a high enough quality for publishing elsewhere (think re-posting and sharing) it’s going to flop.
How about WHERE?
- Your content must be optimized for search and mobile. The importance of search combined with the migration to mobile makes this imperative. Make sure to research keywords that are most relevant to the topic and your target audience and use them (don’t force it, though).
- Along with your ‘editorial calendar,’ plan how you’re going to share your content. A blog post on your website can be shared on social media and featured in your newsletters.
- Eventually, you’ll be able to connect with industry publications and journalists eager for your wise words. Generally, when your content is republished there will be a link back to your company’s site as the source, boosting your organic search rankings.
- Pay-to-play is becoming more popular, too. ‘Suggested’ or sponsored posts don’t differ much from advertising with the exception that your content will be read through a slightly-less-jaded lens.
- Ask influencers for help. You might not know ‘everyone,’ but you probably are friends with someone who does. If your content is good enough and your relationship symbiotic, asking influencers to share your content through their channels can be a win-win.
What it’s NOT.
Content marketing is not the place to sell; it’s a tactic to educate and build trust. Long form advertising has been out of the mainstream for a long time for a good reason; it doesn’t work. If you try to sell, you’ll repel far more people than any immediate sales warrant.
Monitor, Measure, and Modify
If you think one or two articles is going to change the course of your business, you’re either planning on writing a PowerBall ticket of an article, or in for a big letdown. How are you going to track the success (or failure) of your campaign? Do you have the analytics in place to give you accurate information? Do you have landing pages and white papers to download? Are you gathering information for use in a marketing automation campaign?
Benefits of Content Marketing
- Content marketing is ‘evergreen.’ Post an excellent article, and people will access it for years to come.
- It increases your ‘domain authority.’ This score, developed by Moz is a prediction of how your website will rank on search engines. It’s a metric that is useful when comparing your site to competitors, and one you’ll watch grow as your content marketing campaign builds.
- You’ll see new inbound links (which help with organic search engine results) as others link to your article.
Some keys to remember
- Your writing ‘voice’ is an extension of your brand voice. While you’ll likely have different content authors, the style and personality should be as consistent as possible.
- Size matters. Depending on the algorithm of the day, an article should be at least 1,000 words; an e-book could be between 3,000-14,000 words.
- The headline will make or break you. If you can’t capture the reader from the headline, you have no chance of them reading your content. Think of it as a billboard; you’ve got about four seconds to get your readers’ attention. Make every word count.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Set realistic goals (and meet them). There’s a ‘snowball effect’ that you should use to your advantage. Four quality articles a month quickly becomes 48 articles your first year. Some of these could be expanded and repurposed into e-books. As you ramp up your efforts, your site will have a library of quality content (and keywords) that position you as an authoritative thought leader.
Please note ‘more is not better.’ The Content Marketing Institute shows that the number of marketers that think their content marketing effort is effective is down from 38% last year to 30% this year. Perhaps it’s because even though there is more content being generated, fewer of these companies have a documented strategy (down from 35% to 32% over the same period).
Your content marketing campaign doesn’t need to be complex; it just needs to be executed.
- Start with a strategic plan including clear objectives and goals.
- Create an editorial calendar to help keep you on track and on target.
- Utilize marketing automation software whenever possible. This allows you to see which prospects are reading your content and treat them accordingly.
- Leverage social media, influencers, and publishers to share your content.
- Provide VALUE every step of the way; white papers, infographics, and instructional content make your readers’ investment of time worthwhile.
We're here to help. Let us know if you want to walk through your content marketing strategy (or lack thereof).