“Content is king!” is a phrase marketers hear over and over again, but what does it really mean? How does content go from being a thought, or an idea on a webpage, to being heralded as king? In short, content marketing is the way that content gets disseminated and consumed by the masses and is the foundation by which all internet marketing strategies stand on and sustain success. Let’s discuss what content marketing is, how it works, and how someone can start marketing content to their intended audience.
It seems as of late that consumers have become somewhat immune to conventional marketing. People have started using DVRs to skip TV commercials, ignore advertisements in magazines, and don’t even give much importance to online buttons or banners anymore. Smart marketers have realized that conventional marketing techniques are becoming less effective with each passing day and there needs to be a way to reach and retain consumers on a more consistent basis. Even search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing have devalued other more traditional attempts at relevancy, forcing webmasters (for the good of the web) to focus on creating better user experiences and telling better stories regarding their brands. It isn’t enough for a business to try and convince search engines that it is relevant in a given niche. To be relevant nowadays one must be informative on an in-depth level and add value to conversations regarding their specialties.
A smart marketer knows that taking the 50,000 foot view of things regarding their product or service isn’t the right approach and rehashing what others are already saying offers nothing more than fleeting traffic, none of which will truly convert into long term customers. For example, if a business sells “organic dog food” it shouldn’t just try to sell their products to dog owners. It should try to educate dog owners of every aspect about “organic dog food”. Where it comes from, how it’s made, its ingredients, potential positive and negative health concerns, etc. If a product or service is broken down piece by piece there can be dozens of potential content opportunities. If a business delivers ongoing, valuable and relevant information to prospective buyers, it will be rewarded with loyalty and engagement for years to come. Therefore, the focus for any business should be on trying to become the authority when it comes to the subject matter being presented.
What is Content Marketing?
The primary purpose of content marketing is to deliver valuable and relevant material to an audience with the intention of educating and enhancing the user experience. Simply put, content marketing elevates communication with prospects and customers without directly selling to them. Instead of persuading customers to buy products or services, a business delivers information that makes a prospective buyer more intelligent and aware. The concept seems like common sense, but is rarely understood or practiced correctly. What stumps most marketers when it comes to the Content marketing concept is not understanding its four pillars.
What are the Pillars of Content Marketing?
There is a reason the phrase isn’t “Marketing Content”. Quality content must first be planned, scheduled and produced before any marketing can actually happen. This leads us to the four main pillars of content marketing:
- A business understanding who it is, what services it provides, and what problems those services solve.
- Knowing the audience, how they behave, and what questions they need answered.
- Understanding that content comes in many forms. Informative information can come by way of articles, videos, images, etc.
- Having the dedication and determination to commit to content frequency and uniqueness.
The mechanics of marketing content may be complex but if there isnt an understanding of these core pillars a content strategy will never get off the ground. There is no use in understanding how to spread a piece of content if it isn’t rooted in these core concepts. Once the four pillars are understood and acted upon, a business can start to focus on the actual marketing part of “Content Marketing”.
How do you market a piece of content?
Like every marketing strategy, content marketing also requires an understanding of business objectives. Businesses objectives and goals need to be clearly defined and understood by everyone involved. Determining realistic goals and setting proper expectations is key to a content plan’s potential success.
Identify where the audience’s needs and the business’s expertise intersect. This will show the consumer sweet spot and allow for better positioning in front of prospective customers.
Understand the Audience
When we talk about passing on relevant information or adding value to a conversation, it is not possible without understanding the audience. There needs to be analysis of behavior in order to build specific buyer personas ultimately figuring out what kind of content an audience will be more receptive to.
Build the Content
This is the most important stage of the process. A business needs to think about its existing content, both on and offline. All current content should be audited in order to get a sense of whats been missing from the conversation. Most businesses are sitting on loads of offline content that can be re-purposed for online consumption. You also need to asses the current state of content marketing in your organization and answer a few questions:
- What is the current budget for building out content?
- What form will the content take i.e. imagery, articles, etc.?
- Is content getting produced in-house or by a 3rd party?
- Who will edit and optimize the content pieces?
- How many pieces a month is required to own the conversation?
Map out the Landscape
Knowing where to share content is just as important as knowing what content to produce. Content can be more or less successful depending on the channel chosen to disseminate it. Sharing content via social networks must be navigated carefully as sharing via Twitter is radically different than sharing via Facebook, Pinterest, or YouTube. There needs to be a clear vision on where certain material gets shared and who will manage those channels. One thing to note is that any content marketing strategy should be supported by smaller grassroots activities. A great way to start supporting a strategy today is to actively engage in discussions on forums and professional sites such as Linkedin, Maven, or answering questions on Quora. These ways of engaging provide rich voice spread out in many conversations and adds to a businesses authority on a given subject. Time should be made each day to take part in these supportive efforts.
Develop a Schedule
It is important to make a plan to get everything done. You should develop a production schedule and editorial calendar. There are many calendars available online that can help you get started. Here is a great article by Hubspot showing how to set up an editorial calendar in Google Calendar or try this great editorial calendar in Excel to get you started – Sample-Content-Marketing-Editorial-Calender
Develop Key Performance Indicators, Benchmarks, etc.
It is important to continually measure content marketing efforts. Decisions without data are just assumptions and should be avoided at all costs. The business needs to decide what key items indicate progress or regression. As well as how the campaigns will be reported on and to whom.
Regardless of the marketing strategies you use, content marketing needs to be a part of your core marketing campaign. It should be integrated with all the marketing strategies you’re using. Quality content plays an important role in every form of marketing, including Social Media Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Pay per Click, Public Relations and more.