Utilizing content marketing as part of a digital marketing strategy can prove to be beneficial for businesses and brands if these strategies are well executed.
However, many marketers unfamiliar with content marketing don’t know where to begin to develop a successful plan. They understand the concept, but still don’t know how to get started. In this post, seven content marketing experts share their advice for those looking to begin their content marketing journey.
1. Bernie Borges
Bernie Borges is CEO of Find and Convert, as well as a social business evangelist, blogger and host of the new digital TV show, Social Business Engine. His thoughts:
Start by segmenting your customers into personas with a clear distinction for each one. For example, women over the age of 40, or in B2B, identify a specific title in a specific industry. Identify the most common problems and questions for each persona.
Then, simply answer each question in a dedicated blog article, white paper, e-book, video, infographic, webinar or all of the above. Stay narrowly focused on one topic in each content piece. But (and this is very important), before you start to produce content, go find these people in online communities and engage with them.
Do NOT (I repeat do not) attempt to sell them anything. Just engage with them about whatever they’re discussing. Then, when you produce your content and share it with them, they will accept you as a credible source of relevant content, and they may share it with their network. Rinse and repeat.
2. Heidi Cohen
Heidi Cohen is an actionable marketing expert in digital, social media and content marketing. Her suggestions:
Before dashing off to create content, you need to answer the question: Why do you need content marketing now? What has changed in your marketing environment or target market that’s causing the need for content marketing?
To help you get organized, here are three important elements you must define to get structure for your content marketing plans:
- Decide why you need content marketing. This means setting goals for your content marketing efforts. Answer the question: What do you want your content to accomplish? Are you looking to build your brand, increase traffic to your website, or drive sales? The more specific your answers, the better able you’ll be to craft an effective marketing plan.
- Determine who your target audience is. Are you talking to customers, influencers or users of your products? Create a marketing persona as well as a social media persona so that you know what your market’s needs and pain points are. This allows you to craft content tailored to them. It also helps you target where to place and share your information.
- Select appropriate content marketing metrics. Don’t wait until after you’ve published your content to figure out how to measure your results. Choose appropriate metrics that help achieve your business goals and ensure you can track them. This means picking measures that relate back to your content marketing objectives.
Once you’ve crafted your response to these three points, you can start to build your content marketing plan.
3. Joe Griffin
Joe Griffin is the CEO and Co-Founder at iAcquire, a digital brand strategy and marketing services company. His thoughts:
You should first check to see if a formal content strategy has been defined. Whether a content strategy is defined or not, you will need to perform a content audit. There are many popular templates and how-to guides to make this job easier.
Usually, the process requires spidering the website to capture the URL’s (something like Screaming Frog will do the trick), and then a manual process of categorizing the content into use states. You may want to look into some of the many resources out there that talk about how to create remarkable content.
Creating great content needs a strategy, too. First, you need to understand the audience that will consume (your buyers and fans), promote (your internal outreach and PR teams), and share the content (buyers and influencers).
Identifying your audience can be an easy or complex process, depending on how important content marketing is to you. Yahoo! and Facebook provide some great demographic data you can use, or you can run surveys internally and externally to capture that audience detail.
The other thing you want to do is get your influencers involved during the content development process. If you want your content to go viral, you need to create stakeholders. Now you have people who will be that much more excited to share your content on their site and social channels once the content is done.
Use Followerwonk and Simply Measured to discover your influencers in social media. Getting them involved is critical to the promotion side of your content marketing.
Once you have your content completed, you need to promote it. Make sure to optimize your content for search. Also, make sure you are using up-to-date rich snippets and schema.org meta data.
Then, you need make sure your influencers share your finished product. Follow that up with marketing to your email list, and lastly, use your PR team to contact bloggers and other industry folks who want to know your content exists.
4. Ann Handley
Ann Handley is the author of Content Rules and the Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs, a business publishing entity based in Los Angeles, CA. Her advice:
I’d look at 3 things, in this order:
1. Focus on the Why. Why are you creating a content marketing program at all? What do you hope to accomplish or achieve? What’s the burning business problem your content can help you address? More leads? More sales? More engagement? Shorter sales cycle? It could be any of those things, or something else entirely. But have a strategy.
2. Focus on the What. What can you or your organization help your customers with? What can you do to serve them? Help them? Shoulder their burdens? Ease their pain? This means you focus relentlessly and tirelessly on serving, not selling. Create your content plan around the needs and pain of your customer(s), and then plan to serve their needs consistently and expertly.
3. Focus on the How. How are you going to deliver that content? What’s the best platform, or platforms? Is it an eBook or webinar or video series or podcast or what? Or, is it all of those? And how will you further amplify those efforts through social channels (externally) and also (internally) through reimagining that content across various platforms and in various formats.
There’s no magic bullet answer to this last piece of advice (or to any of these, for that matter). But that said, I don’t think a company can live without a blog (or a flexible content management system that’s blog-like), because you need to be able to publish and amplify content easily and quickly. If you have to call IT every time you want to publish something new to your website, that’s adding an unnecessary level of complexity that dissuades creation and (ultimately) hinders success.
5. Kristi Hines
Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and professional blogger. Her blog, Kikolani, focuses on blog marketing and blogging tips. Her perspective:
The best way to get started with content marketing is by researching content in your industry. First, try performing some Google searches for blogs, infographics, eBooks, webinars, and other types of content, along with relevant industry keywords. Also search networks like YouTube for video content and SlideShare for presentations.
Next, take a look at competitors in your industry. Observe what kind of content they produce on their website and share on social networks. A quick look at your competitor’s backlink profile should also reveal content they produce for other sites in the form of infographics, guest posts, and article marketing.
Another place to research is Q&A networks like Quora. You will likely find lots of people asking questions about your industry. Take a look at these questions to spark some topic ideas for your own content, and also see what content has been linked to within the answers.
Last, but not least, perform some keyword research. When you type in the main keywords for your business focus in tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, you can get hundreds of ideas for content. Just take the keywords the tool suggests and try to turn each into a content title.
6. Tom Martin
Tom Martin, founder of Converse Digital, is a no-nonsense, straight-talking 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing business who favors stiff drinks, good debates and developing innovative digital marketing strategies to help companies grow their business. His thoughts:
The first thing you should do is define your Propinquity Points — those places online and offline where your customers and prospects are turning to find helpful information that makes them better at doing their job.
Then, before you even think a thought — much less write a word — do research. Dive deep into the content at each of those Propinquity Points, field a survey, and call as many customers and prospects as you can to understand what content or educational needs are currently unmet. Make filling those unmet content needs your goal, and once you’ve developed a good library of such content, go back out to those Propinquity Points and begin seeding all that great, helpful content you just created.
7. Todd Wheatland
Todd Wheatland is the VP of Thought Leadership & Marketing at Kelly Services, and can’t stop talking about content marketing. His suggestions:
Listen to potential customers.
Answer their questions. Add value. Give generously.
But you paid good money, so let me pad that out a bit.
Starting anything is hard. Forcing yourself to break the inertia is the single most difficult part of the process. If you have an existing business and you’re really starting content marketing from scratch, I’d recommend starting by diving into the conversations already taking place in your industry/solution space. What are people talking about? What’s troubling them? Identify the most vocal influencers in the space, follow their discussions, promote their content, and help them out.
Have a look around inside your business and find out who the people are that might have the answers to some of those questions being asked – and maybe they’re already doing so. Create the mechanisms for them to add value to those conversations. Develop content specifically flowing from those topics, the issues people are already talking about. Establish some “big” content pieces, like research reports or whitepapers, and then create dozens of smaller pieces of content from these.
Quietly strangle anyone who tries to sell instead of help. Establish social outposts that you can sustain ongoing – not just as a one-way broadcast channel, but also as a mechanism to connect and engage with the community of your interest. Measure what worked, focusing on trends, not absolute numbers. Keep listening. Start again.
Overall, kicking off any new marketing initiative can be difficult, but often, just starting is the hardest part. That certainly rings true in content marketing, especially since it can be such a cultural change for an organization. Though the concept may be intimidating at first, when executed successfully, content marketing can be extremely beneficial to almost any organization. So what are you waiting for?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.