What Is Content Marketing?
If you have an online business or are considering starting one then you’ll need to employ content marketing.
Content is anything that you use to communicate with your prospects and customers.
Content is what your company puts out into the world to market, advertise, and share.
Blog posts are content. Email messages are content.The Pinterest pins and Twitter tweets you share and post are also content.
Put simply, content is ultimately the foundation of your business.
It’s how your prospects will find you.
Good Content will help convert those prospects into subscribers and customers.
It’s how you will build a strong and loyal customer base and how you provide value to the world.
So What Is Content Marketing?
Wikipedia defines content marketing as:
a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online.
You know that content is the message and medium you use to communicate with prospects and customers.
Content marketing, therefore, is using content to market to your audience.
It’s the practice of creating and distributing or publishing content to attract, engage, and convert your target audience.
The ultimate goal is to build your sales and profits through content.
Every business, whether it’s a one-person operation or a global conglomerate, uses content marketing.
It can be argued that it’s more important for a small business to embrace content marketing. The small business owner has to carve out a unique niche to be profitable and competitive.
Getting Started with Content Marketing
This post covers everything a new marketer and business owner needs to know about getting started with content marketing.
Here are a few Tips:
Start compiling a list of ideas. Make a list of the problems that your audience faces and the various questions they may have.
The key to good content is to provide value.
Start brainstorming how you might provide value through content.
If you don’t have a solid understanding of who your audience is, it’s time to do some research and find out.
Let’s dive in…
We are going to explore how content marketing can build your business and we’ll start making use of that list of ideas you’re going to pull together.
Keep in mind that you’re just thinking about topics right now.
Consider exploring your competition’s websites and reading industry magazines to get the creative juices flowing.
How Content Marketing Builds Your Business
As you were making your list of topic ideas you may have started thinking about how you might use the ideas.
Before you begin actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and creating the content, it’s important to understand how content marketing builds your business.
You can then use the information to create several important documents, including your content marketing strategy and an editorial calendar.
Let’s step back for a minute and talk about how content marketing builds your business.
Content Helps Your Prospects Find You
You’ve probably heard the term SEO “search engine optimization.” If not check out this detailed post which answers the question: What Does SEO Stand For?
When someone enters keywords into a search engine, they get results that match their chosen words or phrase.
If someone is looking for information on planting beans, for example, then they might search for “how to plant beans.”
The results that they get should ideally be packed with information on the topic.
If you’re a gardening business owner or a bean seed seller then your content will likely show up on the results.
Search engines look at the quality of the information, the relevance, and the credibility of the source.
The more content you publish on your topic, the more you’ll boost your credibility. More prospects will find your website.
Great Content Is Shared and Builds a Community
Another way that content builds a business is by being shared. People love to email, print, and share great content on social media.
The more valuable and helpful your content is to your audience, the more likely it will be shared.
This builds awareness for your business and drives traffic to your website.
Once prospects are on your site, your content will motivate them to subscribe to your site or newsletter, to comment, and to become part of your community.
Opportunity to Profit
While not all content should be promotional content, you can use your content marketing strategy to promote products and services.
You can monetize the content and earn money when people click.
Good content also helps your prospects make buying decisions. It converts prospects into customers.
In fact, according to surveys, 60% of people are inspired to seek out a product after they’ve read about it. And if that information comes from a peer or is viewed on social media, the percentage is higher.
Let’s dig a little deeper…
Take a look at your list of topic ideas. Start thinking about how the ideas might benefit your business. For example, can a “how to” article promote a product or service?
Also, continue to build on your list. Next, we'll explore the many content marketing formats available to you.
You’ll begin deciding what type of content you want to create and how you can provide the most value to your audience.
Types of Content Marketing – Forms and Formats
By now you may have a long list of content topic ideas and perhaps some ideas about how the pieces will help build your business. Now it starts to get fun, and perhaps a bit overwhelming. Stay focused. Take a deep breath. The next step is to explore the different types of content you can create.
The most common type of content that you may be familiar with are blog posts. As a business owner, you will probably want to publish at least one blog post a week and possibly more.
It will consume the bulk of your content marketing efforts. Blog posts are typically written content; however, you can embed videos and infographics or even audio files into your blog to add variety.
Another type of content to consider publishing is the type that can be downloaded. These include but aren’t limited to e-courses, reports, case studies, white papers, workbooks, and eBooks.
These take a little more effort to create because they’re larger than a standard blog post. However, they generally have a longer life and can be used to achieve a number of business-building goals including selling products or services, building an email list, and earning affiliate income.
Infographics and Slide Shows
Visual content has taken over the internet. It’s shared more readily and can really help brand a business. Slideshare.net is owned by Google and is pegged to be one of the fastest growing social sites. It’s like YouTube for slideshows.
YouTube and Vine are two popular video sharing sites. There are others. Video can be a great way to demonstrate a product. You can educate with video, entertain, and help brand your business by personalizing it. Audio content and podcasts are another viable format to consider. Overwhelmed yet? Take time to reflect on all this before moving on.
The next step is to look at your list and contemplate how each piece of content might best be communicated. Keep your audience in mind. If your audience is older, for example, they may not spend much time viewing videos on YouTube. Also, keep in mind the types of content you feel most comfortable creating.
How to Plan Your Content
With topic ideas, goals and an idea of the different types of formats, you’re ready to begin creating a winning content plan.
Your content plan will help you stay organized, focused on your goals, and productive.
As your business grows it can be difficult to manage and track all of your content – it adds up quickly.
A content plan will help you stay on top of everything so you not only don’t miss anything, you’re also able to maximize your content for the best results.
What Is a Content Plan?
A content plan is quite simply a detailed outline of what you’re going to publish, the goal for the content, and when you’re going to publish it.
Your plan may also include:
- Links to include in the content
- Creation Notes – Who is creating the content and what do they need? For example, if you hire a ghostwriter to create your blog posts.
- Deadlines – When do you need to have topic research completed? When do you want the content uploaded and scheduled on your blog? When do you need to get the graphics from your designer for your report?
- Analytics and Tracking – How will you measure success?
In short, your content plan includes any and all relevant information about your content. There are a few key questions you’ll want to answer before you create your plan.
Organization – What’s the best format for your content plan? For example, do you work better with pencil and paper? If so, then you can create a written version of your content plan. Prefer digital planning tools? Try an online calendar or content management system.
Length – How far in advance do you want to plan your content? Consider planning at least a month in advance. It’s often better to plan for three months so that you can create a more streamlined approach. However, for some people that can feel like too much.
Schedule– When will you review your content plan? This often depends on how you approach creating content. If you create a month’s worth of content in one or two days then you may only review your plan on a monthly basis. If you create content weekly then you’ll probably want to review your plan more often.
Now you're ready to…
Begin pulling your topic ideas and notes into a content plan. Decide how to best organize your information. Decide how often you want to publish content, what types of content you want to begin with, and how you’re going to create your content. Will you do it yourself or outsource some content creation?
What’s the Goal?
The content you create and publish has a big job. It needs to build your business. The question is, how will it build your business? What’s the goal for your content? When you’re creating your content strategy, which we’ll talk about in the next lesson, you want to keep several things in mind.
- You want to make sure that your content supports your long-term vision and mission.
- You want to make sure that your content puts your audience first. What value are you providing and how are you helping?
- You want to make sure each piece of content supports a larger goal.
Let’s explore some of the different types of goals you can establish for your content.
To Establish Credibility, Authority, and Trust
Your content can position you as the trusted expert in your industry. By providing value and creating content that benefits your reader and helps them solve a key problem, you earn their trust. They’ll be more likely to return to your site, buy products and services, and recommend you to a friend.
Build Your List
Email marketing is another type of marketing that you may embrace. You can use your content to help build your email list. Create stellar content that motivates
readers to want more. Create an opt-in offer that motivates prospects to sign up for your email list.
Build Awareness and Branding
You can create viral content that spreads to a large audience and helps build awareness for you and your business offerings. Content can also enhance your brand personality and voice to help strengthen recognition.
To Generate Sales
Customer conversion is often a focal point of any content marketing strategy. You can use your content to convert prospects to customers, to promote affiliate clickthroughs, or to drive traffic to a sales page on your website.
This is just a short list of potential goals. You can use content to promote conversations and engagement with your audience. You can use it to drive organic search engine traffic, and to educate your customer.
How to Know If Your Content Is Achieving Results
So you’ve put in a ton of work to plan, research, and create your content. How do you know if the content is achieving the desired effect?
How do you know if your content is successful?
There are a few steps you can take in the beginning that make the tracking and measuring process much easier.
Google Analytics is a free analytics program that tracks and measures just about everything you might need.
It’s also quite easy to use. If you have a Google account then it’s merely a matter of visiting the website, http://www.google.com/analytics/, signing in and following the steps to add a website and get your code.
You’ll then follow the steps to paste the code into your website and voilà- instant access to essential information.
You can learn what keywords and posts or articles drive the most traffic, what links are clicked on, how people find your site and much more. Google isn’t the only option. There are other analytic service providers.
Review the Information
Once you have analytics installed it’s important to schedule time to review your results.
You might review the data before each content marketing planning session.
You can determine which pieces of content are generating the best results and strive to provide similar content.
Set Measurable Goals We’ve discussed the importance of creating goals, both for your content marketing as a whole and for individual pieces of content. Quantifiable goals are much easier to measure.
For example, a goal for content marketing might be to increase your email list by 10% in three months.
That’s a goal that’s easy to measure.
You simply document how many subscribers you have now and at the end of three months you look to see if you’ve increased it by 10%.
Hopefully, you’re looking at the data along the way and making adjustments to your content marketing as you go.
That’s the power of having information at your fingertips.
You can make adjustments to maximize the content that’s working for you.
The next step is to install some type of analytics program on your website – if you don’t already have one.
Spend time reviewing the information that you have access to and learn how to use analytics.
Also, if you don’t have goals for your content marketing just yet, start considering what your priorities are and how you can use content to achieve success.
For example, if you really want to build a large email list then that may be the primary focus of your content marketing efforts.
Pulling Your Content Marketing Together
At this point you may be looking at your content marketing strategy and wondering how on earth it’s all going to be accomplished.
You may have already created a few pieces of content and discovered that you either love it, or it’s just not for you.
Some marketers just don’t like the content creation process. That’s okay.
The steps below will give you a helping hand.
1. Scale back – Sometimes enthusiasm takes over and it’s easy to set goals that are a bit too overwhelming. For example, maybe you decided that you’re going to blog every day and release a free downloadable report once a month. That’s a lot of content. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, cut back your schedule a bit until you get used to it and then gradually add more to your schedule.
2. Find your format – Some people prefer to create videos, others prefer to write and still others are skilled in graphic design. Find the format that you enjoy the most and focus on that. It doesn’t mean you have to eliminate the other formats from your content strategy. You can outsource those other formats to specialists. If you love to create videos, for example, then you might hire a ghost writer to create your blog posts.
3. Get help – There are a number of specialists who can help you with your content marketing. You can hire researchers to generate content ideas, hire ghost writers, bloggers, graphic designers, and video specialists to create your content for you. You can even hire a project manager to keep all of your contractors organized.
4. PLR – Private Label Rights content or PLR is pre-written content that is sold on a limited basis. You can purchase PLR content and publish it as is or make changes to it so that it’s more unique.
5. Prioritize – Take a look at your content strategy and identify the most important step or piece of content you need to create. For example, maybe you need an opt-in report before you market your email list. Focus on your priorities. Tackle your content goals and marketing one step at a time. You don’t have to build your business overnight.
Content is the foundation or any business, online or off. Build a solid content marketing plan, have a clear understanding of who you’re marketing to, and take systematic steps to follow through on your plan.
Taking Your Content Marketing To the Next Level
Once your content marketing is up and running and your website is growing at a steady pace, it’s time to take your content marketing to the next level. That means having more integrated content and using a wider variety of formats.
Advanced content marketing also means working to strengthen your brand, voice, and personality because through that you’ll become more widely known. You’ll become the website and business that your prospects turn to.
Advanced content marketing also gives you the unique ability to begin to finetune your audience and your customers. Through personas and market segmentation you can begin to craft content that speaks to your ideal customer. You’ll forge a stronger bond and create brand loyalty. This is the power of content marketing and if you’re ready, it’s yours for the taking.
Tell Your Story
As your business has grown you may have strengthened your brand identity or you may have veered away from it. Revisit your business plan. Review your vision and mission. Are you on track? Has anything changed? One of the best ways to cultivate a following is to create a strong brand. Identify your brand promise. What do you stand for and why? Then make sure that promise is instilled in every piece of content you create.
Increase Your Formats and Mediums
Begin reaching out to a wider audience by using different content formats and mediums. For example, if your content has been primarily print content, consider trying infographics or create a six-second Vine video. Branch out and embrace more content marketing opportunities.
Dig Deeper and Really Get to Know Your Customers
Until now you may have been marketing to a broad audience. For example, if you were a small business coach then your content may have been directed at all small business owners. By now you have an idea of who you prefer to work with and what types of customers are the best for your business.
You have the opportunity to create an ideal customer profile using marketing segmentation tools, and you also have the ability to take your marketing to the next level and create unique messages for various market segments.
Review your brand vision and mission. Is your current content marketing strategy in line? Are you sending the message and telling the story you want to? Also draft a few paragraphs that describe what you believe to be your ideal customer. Who are they? What benefit do they gain from doing business with you? Why are they your ideal customer?
Next we’ll take a look at how to use market segmentation to further identify your ideal customer and to take your content marketing to the next level.
Are you marketing to your ideal customer?
Are you making the most of your analytics to craft messages to your target audience?
Market segmentation is an essential aspect of a content marketing strategy.
What Is Market Segmentation?
Market segmentation is an approach that essentially quantifies your customers based on various criteria including buying habits, money spent, location, age and other demographics.
The information will help you fine-tune your content marketing so that you can attract more of your ideal customer and build a stronger and more profitable business.
For example, using your analytics you can organize the information based on:
- Path – How did the customer arrive at your website? Did they arrive via organic search, referral, or social media?
- Geography – Do your ideal customers come from any particular geographic area? If so, you can craft content that speaks directly to them.
- Behavior – How do new visitors compare to returning visitors in terms of their level of engagement on your site? Do they spend more time there? Do they click on more links?
- Action – How do your conversion rates vary with respect to users who visit your site from guest blog posts versus social media posts, or from email messages versus calls to action from your downloads?
- Buying behavior – When does your ideal customer buy your products or services, and how long do they stay clients? How often do they buy? Do they buy from your competition too?
As you’re pulling together a concrete description of your ideal customer and their behavior on your site and within your business, also strive to identify their psychographics. Psychographics include things like their activities and interests as well as their values and beliefs.
Once you have a detailed description of who your ideal clients are based on your review of your analytics and perhaps some additional research, you’re able to take the next steps.
Begin a content marketing campaign to better serve the needs of your excellentcustomers. Keep them happy and engaged in your business.
Also begin implementing content marketing tactics to attract more of the same type of customer. You can use the information you’ve gathered to begin reaching your audience in a more deliberate manner.