Are you a business marketer new to content marketing?
If so, you probably already know that your best audience is found online, and now you’re trying to find out the best ways to attract them.
Content marketing is where it’s at today. Gone are the days of traditional advertising and outbound marketing. Paying for click ads is no longer a good idea either, the market is too thin and lean in PPC nowadays: you’ll likely overpay for a click and drive a great deal of traffic that ultimately doesn’t matter for your site. So what’s the solution? The answer is simple: content marketing.
In order to stand out in the field of content marketing, however, it’s important to develop an “expert voice.”
What is an expert voice, you ask?
It’s the tone and style of writing that comes from having a deep knowledge of the field and being very aware of what’s going on in your niche. It means staying on top of niche-related current events, technological shifts and important trends in your market.
Because today’s content marketing environment is so filled with great writers, being an expert voice is the only way to stand out. Not to worry, though, it’s easier than you think.
Let’s Define Good Content Marketing
According to Joe Pulizzi at Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is the “strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.” Content marketing is called by many the “marketing tactic of the future” due to the fact that it’s significantly less obtrusive and more efficient than outbound marketing, which relies on tactics like cold calling, email blasting and traditional advertising to gain customers.
Content marketing, on the other hand, relies on creating useful, educational, helpful content that assists would-be customers in learning new things and solving problems. The theory behind content marketing is that customers appreciate great content and, if a company can establish itself as an authority in the field by creating helpful, useful, high-quality content, that company will be rewarded by more business and loyal customers.
What’s more, it seems to be working: 57% of businesses have acquired customers through their company blog and 42% have gained readers through Twitter. This just goes to show that, in addition to being a more evolved way to market, content marketing is also a very effective way to market.
What’s so Great About Content Marketing?
Traditional forms of marketing, like advertising and direct mail, are becoming less and less effective. It’s been obvious for a long time that people don’t like aggressive advertising and, when you take into account that 84% of 25-34 year olds have left a website because of an “irrelevant or intrusive ad”, it becomes clear just how ineffective outbound marketing is. The reason for that is simple: outbound marketing seeks to push things on customers while content marketing seeks only to provide value. That said, outbound marketing casts a broad net while content marketing simply means creating great content and attracting already-interested customers through web searches, search engine optimization (SEO) and word-of-mouth.
How Can I Start?
Although content marketing may seem involved and difficult, it’s relatively easy to break into the field and begin creating your own killer content. I’m saying this because I was able to get into it, leave a med school career, and teach myself content writing—then start a writing agency where 95% of our marketing is through content!
So, here are my top 25 tips to help you get started in content marketing:
1) Define Your Goals
If you’re new to content marketing, the first thing you need to do is clearly define your content marketing goals. Are you seeking to build brand awareness? Gain email subscribers? Increase conversions? Increase purchases across the board?
Regardless of what you’re setting out to do, you need to know where you’re going in order to ultimately get there. As you get started in content marketing, ask yourself if the content you’re creating will help support your defined goals. If it won’t, focus your energies on content that will.
2) Start a Blog—Now (And Stay On It)
If you’ve already got a website, link it to a blog that will feature a great deal of your company’s content. Blogs provide 126% more leads for small businesses than pages without one so it’s well worth your time.
3) Define Your Metrics
In content marketing, it’s important to be able to track the performance of your content. That said, you’ll need to establish some metrics to track things like the traffic your content garners, who is referring followers to your site, how long people are spending on your site and how many pages they’re visiting, what your bounce rate is and how many social shares your content is gaining. Implementing a set of metrics helps you better target your content and cater to customer wishes.
4) Calculate Resources
Resources, in this context, mean more than just money. Do you have several great writers in your company? Would it behoove you to hire a content marketing agency? Who will be responsible for each piece of the content marketing burden? Deciding these things now helps you have a clear plan going forward.
5) Write a Mission Statement
Every good company should have a mission statement. Like a road map, a mission statement defines where you are, where you’re going and why you’re going there. Each mission statement should answer one of these 4 questions:
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- Who does it benefit?
- Why is it valuable?
Although a mission statement may seem unrelated to content marketing, writing one can help you clarify your direction and become an expert voice on the web.
6) Develop a Target Persona
A target persona is incredibly important when it comes to knowing whom you’re marketing to. It’s tough to create great content without having a specific customer in mind and creating a target persona is a helpful way to understand exactly whom you’re talking to.
7) Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Like a mission statement, a great content marketing strategy helps your company define what it cares about. For example, popular lifestyle clothing brand Anthropologie publishes regular, seasonal DIY cocktail recipes on the company’s blog. While it may seem at first like this is in no way related to clothing or home wares, these drink recipe mimic the feel of Anthropologie’s company as a whole: each drink is made with unique, high-class ingredients that appeal to Anthropologie’s customer base.
That said; a content marketing strategy doesn’t always follow a straight line. Rather, it’s the process of determining what your customers value and how you can provide parallel content that they will find valuable, interesting and unique and that is not a direct pitch for sales.
8) Define Your Niche
What makes your content special and how will it help people? Are you going to write how-to articles? Develop infographics? Record podcasts? There are many types of content in content marketing and it doesn’t matter which few you choose to focus on as long as you’re bringing a unique twist to your content.
9) Audit your Content
If you currently run a company, there’s a good chance you’ve already got some content on your site. Marketing materials, product descriptions, pre-existing blog posts all count. If you have content lying around, audit it to identify weak points and decide what, if anything, you can repurpose.
10) Start Social Media Accounts
Social media accounts are important in content marketing and, if nothing else, you’ll want to establish a presence on The Big 4: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
11) Compile a List of Ideas
Developing a list of content creation ideas based on knowledge, customer inquiry and market demands is a wise step that will keep you from scrambling for ideas down the road. Write about what your company is good at, for starters. An outdoor clothing company may write about the top 10 rock climbing adventures, for example. Write about what your customers are curious about based upon comments and inquiries on question sites like Quora and build upon old content. Consider starting a series or reviving old content for new use.
12) Start a Content Calendar
Developing a content calendar helps you stay onto of your content publishing activity and ensures that posts are published regularly and on-time. It also helps you keep track of what you’ve written and where there may be gaps in your topic coverage.
13) Make it Diverse
In terms of working with content, it’s important to mix your content up. Don’t rely entirely on blog posts or social media or podcasts. Instead, cultivate a mixture of everything. Your audiences will appreciate it and your content will be more interesting.
14) Decide on Distribution Channels
In order to decide how best to distribute your content, you need to determine where most of your audience comes from. Social media? Search engines? Create content for those sources first and foremost.
15) Determine Goals for Each Channel
If you’re distributing content on Facebook, for example, you might be seeking shares whereas if you distribute content on Twitter, you may be after favorites or re-tweets. Once you’ve decided how you’re going to distribute your content, it’s important to develop goals for each unique channel. This helps you gauge success and better cater to each channel’s unique distribution method.
16) Learn About SEO
This is an important step. SEO is huge in content marketing and, while you do want to create content for people, you also need to optimize your content so that search engines can find it. Optimize everything for SEO and you’ll be well on your way to drawing customers and creating more engagement.
17) Hire a Content Creation Manager
Content creation is a lot of work and, if you have the budget, it’s worth it to hire someone to oversee the process. A content manager can develop, prioritize and edit content as well as helping your company repurpose old content and schedule new pieces.
18) Do Keyword Research
Conducting keyword research is an important piece of creating great content. By knowing which keywords you’re targeting, you can create more specific content that better caters to your audience and is easier for search engines to discover and rank.
19) Create a Top 10 List of Your Own content
This can help readers discover even more of your content and is a great way to link back to old posts. Additionally, it increases reader understanding and makes your site more easily navigable.
20) Start Guest Blogging
21) Build Your Community
Actions like commenting on other blogs, answering questions on Quora, guest blogging and sharing other guest posts are a great way to build a blogging community, which aids in your content marketing goals and helps you spread the word about your product, good or service via referral and mentions.
22) Listen to Your Audience
Once you’ve begun creating content, you’ll also begin to get audience feedback. This can help you determine what they like, what they don’t and what they want more of. By listening to everything your audience has to say, you can create content that they love and find valuable.
23) Produce Quality Work
Although this may seem excessively simple, it’s an important piece. When it comes to content marketing, it’s always quality over quantity. Never publish sloppy posts because you’re pressed for time. This will only diminish your authority and harm your reputation.
24) Consistently Assess Value
Remember that the #1 thing that sets content marketing apart from other types of marketing is that content marketing provides value to customers. While writing and distributing your content, ask yourself all the time if it provides value. If it doesn’t, go another way.
25) Incorporate Storytelling
By incorporating storytelling into your content marketing, you provide a better experience for readers and help draw people in to your content. The importance of storytelling is applicable to all forms of content – not just writing. Podcasts, infographics, video posts and visual content should all include great storytelling.
If you’re just getting started in content marketing, we want to welcome you. It’s an exciting world and my initial tips can help you get your feet wet and start your content marketing career on the right path.