How to succeed with Content Marketing
“Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.”
– Demand Metric
Need we say more? That’s a trick question because we simply can’t help ourselves…
Most likely if you’re reading this you know the importance of creating and sharing content that’s compelling, creative, conveys a message central to your company AND is (almost immediately) useful to your consumer. Did you get exhausted reading that? Yea - it’s no simple feat but it most definitely pays off when used correctly and included as one of the action steps in your media plan.
But before we get ahead of ourselves here let’s define content marketing so we’re all on the same page. According to the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Content marketing is a business- and customer-centric approach that’s part of a broader marketing view. Prolific marketing efforts - from TV advertisements and magazine print ads to online banners and billboards - have been steadily disinteresting and, worst of all, disengaging consumers. The one-sided, self-serving intention of many marketing campaigns has not been lost on the masses. So, in an effort to stay relevant and interesting, marketers have turned to content marketing to fill an otherwise egocentric gap.
“No more brand exploitation without value-add for the customer!”
That’s what we say.
But this implies that content marketing is new, which it isn’t. Though, the term is new(er), the concept has been around for ages. It’s storytelling at its best, without blatant calls-to-action and without outright agendas. It’s a gentler, more mutually beneficial exchange with consumers and it’s gaining some serious traction.
So, where do we start? Well, that question first begs a precursory question, “Why do we start?” We’re so glad you asked. That’s why we’re breaking down content marketing in 6 bite-sized and digestible (we love puns) steps:
1. State your goal(s).
Always start here. Are you aiming to drive traffic to your site, increase newsletter sign-ups, sell product, improve your social media following, or be validated as a thought-leader in your space? Content marketing will help you achieve any of the above but having your goal defined in advance will ensure that you stay focused along the way. For those who’ve been in the throes of managing a business, you know how quickly macro turns micro, how suddenly the big picture gets lost among the pixels. Knowing why you’re doing any of it – and being able to come back to that - will keep you sane and on track, long term. It will also keep your content consistent.
2. Define your target audience & where you will reach them.
Are they mothers ages 30-45? Millennials? Maybe they’re middle-aged businessmen? Content marketing works best when you understand where and how to reach your target market. Just like you’d be hard pressed to connect with the aforementioned businessmen on Snapchat, you’d similarly have a tough time convincing millennials that your new app is “as cool as the Model T” if they had no concept of the ingenuity that was the Model T to begin with. Context is everything and knowing your audience allows you to define what context you will frame your message within.
3. Determine the content that will engage your audience and decide if you’re credible to speak to it?
This is one of those “chicken or the egg” type scenarios. It’s all well and good to know what your audience wants to hear but if you have zero experience speaking on the topic, why should they listen to you? This would be the perfect opportunity to collaborate with an expert. Most times it takes one part humility and two parts transparency to gain all-parts credibility from your audience. But we’re being a bit presumptuous. The greater likelihood is that you are already an expert, in which case, the next step is to start brainstorming your content…
4. Brainstorm & organize your content verticals.
Before time passes and that larger agenda begins to descend into its all-too-familiar pixelated state, capture the brilliant ideas upfront. Pen and paper? We’re not above it. Excel sheet? Great. Mediatool software? Even better. Make sure to carve out time with those who understand your business best (a creative director or director of strategy would be particularly useful here). Start compiling the types of topics you will want to focus on throughout the month/quarter/year and organize those ideas into specifically themed “verticals” to keep things categorized. You might decide that you’d like to keep your content casual for Facebook and therefore your verticals may be “Inspiration”, “Lifestyle”, and “Innovation” while your e-newsletter might lean more conservatively toward verticals such as “Sustainability”, “Company History”, and “Research & Development”. Laying out these verticals early on will be a blessing for keeping content consistent and “on brand”.
5. Make it evergreen…when you can.
This one is pretty simple. You’ll save yourself a ton of time and energy if you create content that will be fresh and relevant for years to come. Time-sensitive content has its place; it shows you’re listening, no doubt. But, content that needn’t a shelf life will fare far better in the long run. A blog article or social media post about the latest current event is a great indication that you don’t have a robot creating your content but a “How To” guide for baking the perfect pie or a similarly timeless topic can be referenced and linked back to regularly. Not to mention that SEO favors evergreen. Even Search Engine Watch agrees.
6. Measure your success so you know where to bulk up and where to trim the fat.
Whether you utilize analytics software or collect your data manually (we know some of you are still out there and we salute you), measuring your results strategically will define what you can and should do for your next batch of content. Though this isn’t novel, it is imperative because as real, honest, and relevant as effective content marketing may be, it still costs money to produce and is time-consuming to manage. Making sure that what you’re doing is working (and correcting where it’s not) will set you on your best trajectory.
These days, no business can afford to leave content marketing out of its media plan. Here’s hoping these few steps will set you on the right path.
Check out some more keen insights from some of our favorite Content Marketing experts, Neil Patel and Content Marketing Institute: