Content marketing is hard; don’t let anyone tell you different. In 2012 it was all the rage and it’s only going to get more popular and competitive as 2013 progresses. Content marketing forces us to be writers, subject-matter experts and designers on top of already having to be marketers. This makes things difficult for most of us because not many have expertise in that many fields, which is a big reason it’s not easy.
Many people are under the impression that Content marketing is just blogging, but content marketing is not just blogging nor is content marketing just link building. Content marketing is essentially an umbrella term covering many formats of marketing, which involve creating and sharing content (through text, video, audio, images, etc.) to as many prospects as possible with an end goal of it converting to a lead, and then a customer by only creating content that’s short of being a direct sales pitch or CTA (Call To Action).
To be able to understand the purpose of Content Marketing, you must first understand the aspects:
- Prospects. These are the people who have shown interest in your products or services. A prospect can be anything from a twitter follower, Facebook fan or even a blog follower or an email marketing lead.
- Leads. Salesmen are very familiar with this term. Leads are people who have completed a task or registered to a mailing list specified in your conversion funnel potentially interested in purchasing a product or service.
- Customers. These are people who have traveled through your sales & marketing funnel to the point of purchase.
Now there’s no arguing the fact that content marketing is the go to promotional strategy for digital marketers. Content marketing has been used successfully in guest blogging, infographics, video marketing etc.
Content marketing is most popular through guest blogging and article writing, but many of us are not writers and/or hate writing, which is a requirement for being a successful content marketer. There are shortcuts to take in this aspect for those that don’t take up writing as a creative endeavor. You may hate writing, but love to talk? Paired with someone who loves to write you can produce sharable/likable content that is gold on paper for potential prospects. The web is full of skilled content creators/writers; you just need to know where to look, and with the right tools and knowledge you can become a content marketing machine.
The Machine [Infographic]
Thanks to kapost.com we have “The Machine”. The content marketing machine will give you an overview of what you are going to build and operate as an organization.
This infographic shows you the big picture stages of a content marketing strategy, but let’s go over each stage one at a time.
You will want to plan your end goal strategy for content marketing. Content Marketing is used for various purposes; Including brand awareness, upsell, acquiring leads and customer procurement, which usually takes the form of either signing up for a trial, filing out a lead generating form, or adding a product to a shopping cart.
Once your marketing strategy is decided your plan then becomes a road to take your prospects from where they are today to your final goal. At this point your plan is to release content in stages based on the point your prospect is currently on, and continue to move them from stage to stage until they reach the final destination.
Your planning stage is now done. Your next step is to put together a team that can accomplish it. Take a look at your plan and determine who is capable of producing this type of content. You will want to look within your organization to see if anyone is able to produce the content, If not you can look into paid freelancers or guest posters capable of building the content.
Many organizations’ executing this type of marketing model have a list of contributors both internal and external. But it is really based on your budget to determine what options you have available. Rich media content should be the corner stone of any content marketing strategy and your internal expertise may not be up for the challenge, so it is important you have the right people in place to get the job done, especially with content like video and infographics.
Within your team the most crucial role should be the Managing Editor. The Managing Editor is probably the most sought after by businesses today. The Managing Editor keeps things running smoothly and assists with Content Scheduling, tagging and images, style corrections, keyword selection and the general SEO of posts, and more. The Managing Editor basically helps in keeping things running as smoothly as possible.
It’s not easy coming up with unique quality content regularly. Coming up with ideas is where most marketers struggle the most. Studies show that consistently creating content is the greatest challenge in any content marketing strategy. To truly become a publisher it requires consistently producing content on almost a daily basis. What on earth am I going to write about every day!?!
One of the best ways to produce content ideas is to know where your customer’s interests lie. The majority of your content is going to be about what your customers like, not about your products or services. Keep that in mind when generating ideas to write about.
When it comes to idea generation there are two best practices. First use social signals and see what your customers like or don’t like. Look at what you are covering on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest and see where your prospects interest lie and within those communities identify what questions they want answered.
The second best practice would be to reach out to the ears in your organization. This group of people would be those that work with your customers on a daily basis, such as your support team, colleagues, sales and service groups. Incite them to listen for any customer concerns, praises and recommendations and then submit that information to your Content Marketing team. A great way to motivate them to participate fully is to offer them an incentive. Then keep them informed of the information provided whether it was rejected or used as content, and keep in touch so they know how the content performs. The organizations that excel at this are those that keep a leaderboard to boast which employees are making the top contributions to the efforts of the Content marketing team.
Content Production is going to be the heart of your marketing strategy, and the focal point of your production is going to be an Editorial Calendar. Without an Editorial Calendar the content doesn’t get done. The calendar basically tracks of what content you are going to cover, who is going to create it, what tactic is it used for (newsletters, blogs, YouTube, Slideshare, your site, etc.), when they will have it submitted, and when it will be published. The Editorial Calendar in no way needs to be complicated or complex, you can leverage something like Basecamp for setting tasks and assignments, or use Google Docs for online sharing.
Or it can be as simple as this basic Editorial Calendar:
You will want to setup a master calendar that covers all your content initiatives, and then create a separate calendar for each individual initiative to execute. Traditionally you will want to plan out your calendar 6-12 months out and simply change them as you tweak your marketing strategy/plan.
In your Editorial Calendar you will want to note the customers buying stage/persona that the content is intended for. On the calendar you should be able to visually see whether or not you’re producing the right mix of content to cover the various roads your prospect is currently facing.
You are now publishing content! Congratulations! Now that you have your content created you need to tackle the other half of the puzzle. Your next challenge is to get visitors to view that content, which is the Audience and Development component of your Content Marketing Strategy. The Audience Development segment has four major parts:
Influencers. This is the most important aspect of Audience Development. You will start by determining who the influencers are in your niche. These are the organizations and individuals in your niche that have a lot of visitors to their sites. These are basically the stomping grounds your prospects visit on the web that you want to reach with your content.
Your goal is to earn links from these Influencers to your content. You can start by building a relationship with them. Relationship building is the best way today to get high quality authoritative links from your influencers. You do this by staying in contact with them, spark up conversation, retweet there tweets, comment on their blogs, share with them and help to benefit their cause.
Once your influencers have you on their radar, craft content with your main objective in mind. You will want to craft content that would have the most sharable interest to your influencers to share with their audience. Another route is you could include your influencer into your Content Marketing Strategy from the start and share with them the content you are working on and see if they will provide any feedback for the highest probability of accomplishing your end goals.
Search. These Influencer links are crucial to getting referral traffic to your content. This is also the biggest way you can improve your Audience & Development. Obtain links from authoritative influencers, and the Search Engines will improve your ranking by driving more traffic to your content. You need to be deliberate with this process and identify keywords your personas will be searching for, optimize and target your keywords for your content and track how your content is affecting your search ranking keyword by keyword.
Paid. Despite all the organic traffic that Content Marketing focuses on, Paid search traffic has its place within the mix, Paid traffic can come in many forms, whether it be through SEM, Facebook Ads, email newsletter distribution or sponsored Tweets. Interestingly enough Content Marketers have been using paid search to drive traffic to their content pages instead of their product pages, (which is most common with paid search). The process of developing a relationship with your prospects via content is a very powerful marketing strategy that should be utilized by all marketers. Also note that paid search should always be utilized for any marketing strategy. You may ask why we would bother with paid search traffic when you may be getting 1000′s of daily clicks through organic traffic? Mainly because Google can be a tricky beast and I’ve seen small successful online businesses crumble overnight due to an algorithm update which has caused people to lose their homes and cars. So it’s wise to have a healthy balance between paid traffic and organic traffic.
Distribution. Finally, your content should not be limited to your own websites. Whether it be your website, Slideshare account, YouTube account etc. The most probably way for you to obtain a link from a site where most of your prospects like to visit is to provide that site with quality content. Distributing your content will earn you at least one link to your site by going through your author bio, but this also will start to develop a relationship between you and your prospects before they even visit your site. Mainly in the beginning, other sites will have a lot more traffic then you will be getting. So syndicating or distributing your content is an excellent way to get your traffic to take off.
This is your main objective that you have been working towards as it gets you to your end goal of a conversion. At this point the hard part is done and now you can take a look at your data and metrics to see how everything is performing. As conversions start rolling in it allows you to truly see what aspects of your content marketing strategy is working and what isn’t. Every initial marketing strategy is basically a best guess. Only by putting your strategy into practice and analyzing your metrics can you fully understand how it’s working and what needs to be done to improve performance over time.
Through conversions you can track what is bringing back returning visitors. You will want to score all your content based on these aspirations, and see what trends to look for that give you the most success. Look at which writers are bringing in the most new visitors, which types of content (e.g. blog post, video, eBooks) are keeping each of your personas coming back for more, and which groups of content are leading to the most conversions.
Measure & Optimize
our strategy at this point is running full speed. Your content is being propagated, and visitors are coming for that content. You will want to keep an eye out for the mixture of content you are pushing out and ask yourself, do you have the correct distribution across the personas? Are you targeting the most relevant categories? These are things to keep in mind to make tweaks and adjustments to make your strategy as affective as possible.
You will have all the metrics and data at your disposal at this point showing the efforts of your hard work. This is the time to look at the data and determine any possible changes to be made, look at what influencers are providing you the most traffic, and also be sure to thank those influencers by giving them a link back. Also look at what types of content are most successful in generating the most quality links. Do you need to produce more effective content around these keywords to increase your rank? And which paid portals are giving you the most cost effective traffic.
All the beginnings of a marketing strategy are a guess of how it will succeed. Learn from your mistakes and strive to improve strategy to make it as successful as possible.