Content marketing can be the most effective, low-cost way to drive traffic and build awareness for your business. That’s as true today as it was 10 years ago. What’s changing in content marketing though is the number of businesses that are leveraging it – 76% of B2B marketers say they will produce more content in 2016.

That means you’ll need to work a lot harder to stand out and you’ll need an air tight strategy to do it.

“There’s a huge difference between somebody who sits down at his computer and “works” all day surfing the web and calling it market research, and an entrepreneur who approaches each day with a focused task list of the activities designed to have the greatest impact on his business.” Said Sujan Patel, co-founder of ContentMarketer.io “The fact that you’ve parked your ass at a computer doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re working at all!”

Don’t let the idea of hard work scare you off. This guide is going to teach you how to compete with brands on every level and get the most return from your investment in content marketing. There’s a big payoff for working hard and taking the right approach to your content marketing.

Start by knowing your audience

Before you take a single step you need to define your audiences. You may have one but more than likely you can break your customers up into multiple audiences. This is an absolute must because without a clearly defined audience you don’t know what to say, how to engage them or what solutions they’re trying to find.

“A huge mistake new writers make is that they are not writing for customer personas.” said Heather Lloyd-Martin, Founder of Success Works “They just start writing without identifying their audience.”

Ford and GM know exactly who they’re marketing to when they buy media placement; content marketing and ads for pick-up trucks are pushed out to drivers in North Dakota and Texas – a move that is far more effective than marketing to drivers in Silicon Valley or Manhattan.

When you know your audience you can expect a higher rate of return because you’re getting your message in front of the people who will find it most relevant, are likely to engage with it and are most likely to share it.

“Targeting a specific market does not mean that you are excluding people who do not fit your criteria. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets.” Said Mandy Porta, owner of Success Designs “This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.”

content marketing strategy

Build a better content marketing strategy

Before you start blogging, sharing content, putting up videos and generating social posts you need to develop at least a basic strategy for your approach. That strategy is essential – it’s the creation, publication and governance of useful and usable content. It helps you better manage content as a business asset.

That’s how you need to see it – as an asset. It’s an investment in your business and should be treated as such.

88% of marketers currently use content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy, but only 32% have a document content marketing strategy. Think of the sheer volume of people flying by the seat of their pants, pushing out content, and merely hoping it will work. You can do better, and the benefits are there if you make the effort.

  • You know exactly what to post and when
  • You know which channels to target with which types of content
  • You know where your individual audiences are spending their time
  • Your audience will come to rely on your consistent publishing
  • You can more readily track results and trace them back to individual campaigns

Think of your content marketing strategy as an outline for your business needs, the needs of the customer, as well as a detailed plan on how you will use content to address those needs.

There’s no definitive template for building a content marketing strategy but here are some common components you should include:

  1. Your case for content marketing – By communicating your purpose for creating content, including risks involved and your vision of what success looks like, you’re more likely to gain support for those around you and above you. It also makes it easier to process mistakes as you figure out what works best.
  2. Your goals – What are the goals of your content and the unique value you want to provide by creating content? This should outline your end goal, the milestones to achieve it, and the obstacles you’ll face as you begin executing your strategy.
  3. Your audience – See above. This is where you want to get into the specifics of who you’re targeting with the different types of content, what their needs are, what engagement looks like for each group, where they spend their time and how they digest content. All of this is important as part of getting your messaging on point and determining the type of content you need to create.
  4. The channel plan – This is where you need to define which platforms you are going to use to tell your story. There are a lot of channels out there and content takes on different forms for each while also integrating with one another for the purpose of sharing and engagement. Blog networks, bookmarking sites, social media, video sites, photo sharing – all these and more can all be leveraged as part of your strategy.
  5. Define what success looks like – This is part of your overall goal and every campaign and piece of content you create should have one or more key performance indicators tied to your goals. This is how you know what success looks like. Are you trying to achieve a certain number of likes or shares? Purchases on your site? Phone calls? Clicks to a landing page? Reservations and bookings?

Measuring success is a huge part of your strategy so you can define what works, what doesn’t, and continue to refine your best-performing pieces to generate more revenue. Your strategy will continue to be refined and modified as you grow.

content marketing brainstorming

Discover what kind of content to create

Planning can be easy but that creative part is where a lot of business owners and marketers come to a grinding halt. Instead of coming up with relevant, innovative content they regurgitate simplified short pieces that provide little value. You can do better with some focused brainstorming now that you’ve defined your audience and what they are looking for.

It’s not always easy mind you, I get that.  Even as a professional content creator, nothing makes me puff my cheeks and pause more than opening a new draft and staring at stark white nothing. That’s where brainstorming comes into play.

It can sometimes feel loose, and a little scary; where do you begin? What kind of ideas should I go for? What do people want to read and hear?

Instead of focusing on generating good ideas, just focus on generating ideas for your content marketing.

  1. Decide what type of content you want to produce; a blog, ebook, video, podcast, infographic, etc.
  2. Decide how it will be structured; listicle, how-to, news, opinion piece, data analysis, etc.
  3. Start brainstorming topics/headlines

When you’re brainstorming, record every single idea. Even if it’s similar to one you just wrote. Every variation of headline should be noted. For example, I want to write a listicle post in the fitness niche. My headline brainstorming might look like this:

content marketing brainstorming

It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it can be done on paper. As long as you get it done.

When you’re ready to start brainstorming be sure to check out the trending topics in your industry. Your audience definitions help you understand what your customers want, but putting an ear to the ground and checking out what is trending can let you know what they’re looking for right now.

That can also provide insights into what they might be looking for tomorrow.

Also consider what content gets the most shares across social media and user groups or forums. A few popular topics could spark your creativity for brainstorming.

easy to digest content

Make your content easy to digest

Ready to publish that content to your blog? Don’t click the button just yet. You want to optimize the post not only for better search visibility, but also for better engagement.

Nielsen reports that users typically spend less than one minute on any given webpage, so many experts recommend creating content that can be easily consumed in under a minute.

That doesn’t mean your posts should be short, but it should be easy to digest. That’s easy to do even if you’ve already written the bulk of the content.

  1. Break your content up into sections with clearly defined and catchy subheadings
  2. Add bullets and list items that can be easily skimmed
  3. Add images to make it more visually appealing and engaging
  4. Keep paragraphs short and punchy; 2-3 sentences max

The extra negative space or white space created by breaking things into sections and using lists and smaller images takes the strain off the eyes. It’s far easier to digest a longer post when it’s not an endless stream of paragraph blocks.

Your audience is also more likely to share it if it’s not an exhausting read.

better content visibility

Optimize your content for maximum visibility and conversion

You’re almost ready to post it, now you just need to optimize it. The research you’ve done should give you great insight into how your audience is searching for content in your industry or niche. That includes some of the common search phrases they use to find answers, services and products.

It doesn’t hurt to spend a little more time on keyword research to find some variations you can use.  Once you have a few keywords and key phrases you want to make sure they’re used naturally in the title, subheadings and within the content. That ensures the best chance of higher organic search visibility.

Likewise, when your audience is looking for info online the search results will flag keywords they used in bold. This helps your content stand out in the search results as the most relevant to their query.

You should also use relevant keywords in any alt tags for images as well as content tags when you post it.

Lastly, always have a call to action in everything you post.

  • Click to buy/shop buttons
  • Coupon offers
  • Subscribe now messaging
  • Prompts to read other relevant posts

Even if all you do is tell them to leave a comment, you should always have a call to action. If you skip that step then you leave it up to the individual to decide what to do next – and that will rarely be what you’re hoping for.

What type of content gets you the highest return with your audience? Let us know in the comments below: