Content Marketing Simplified: Win Big with Good Work

September 23, 2013

11:00 am

Editor’s Note: This blog post has been excerpted from an article that was originally published on the blog. 

Whether you’re running a startup or leading an established company, getting your brand noticed in today’s increasingly “noisy” digital environment can be a challenge. Old marketing paradigms – like traditional media buys and banner ads – simply don’t get the traction they used to, creating a need for new promotional strategies.

Currently, all signs point towards content marketing taking the lead as 2013’s hottest advertising trend.

Content that kills: These aren’t your grandma’s blog posts!

At the end of the day, content marketing relies on people to take action – to find your content, engage with it, pass it on to others, and eventually head back to your website. So instead of focusing on SEO algorithms, content marketing must proceed with actual users in mind.

And here’s a newsflash – these users aren’t going to go out of their way to interact with sub-par content!

If you want to achieve great results with content marketing, you’ve got to produce content that captures the attention of your followers. You can’t just spit out rehashed, 500-word blog posts or cheaply-produced screencast videos. Of course, people still do this because they’re short on both time and budget, but the reality is that web users are incredibly sophisticated and can sniff out content that’s being pushed out to meet some arbitrary publishing calendar.

The best way to determine whether or not your content is great is to use your gut. Before you hit the “Publish” button, ask yourself, “Would I want to share this with others?” If you can’t honestly say that you’d find your content so engaging that you’d be compelled to share it, head back to the drawing board.

If you need something more concrete, consider setting up an internal grading system for your content. As an example, you could set the following requirements for every blog post on your website:

  • At least 1,000 words long
  • Has at least two real-world examples to illustrate key points
  • Has at least two external links to reputable sources
  • Has at least three actionable steps for readers to take
  • Ends with a persuasive call-to-action that supports your company’s key metrics

Then, if your content doesn’t meet the guidelines you’ve established for yourself, it doesn’t go out – simple as that.

How often to publish?

One great blog post is good, but it won’t get you the same kind of traction as a regular series of strategic posts with coordinated social promotions. At a minimum, your content marketing calendar should include all of the following elements on a monthly basis:

  • At least 1-2 blog posts per week, based on target keywords or other business objectives (for example, supporting a forthcoming infographic release)
  • One major item release (infographics, ebooks, downloadable guides, videos, worksheets, white papers, etc.)
  • Daily social promotions on your company’s preferred social channels that draw attention to your content

The key to that last bullet point is the word “preferred.” That brings us to the second part of the content marketing equation – getting your content in front of your target audience members.

Don’t reach all people – reach the right ones!

Your content can’t just be great – it has to be great for the right people. You could bring in Michael Bay to direct your company’s YouTube clips and still miss the mark if the content of your videos doesn’t resonate with your target customers.

To be truly great, your content needs to speak to a need that your audience has. It needs to demonstrate that it understands their personalities, the unique challenges they’re facing, and how they relate to the world. If your content doesn’t hit this emotional core, the odds that it will go viral go down significantly.

Understanding your audience requires market research – and lots of it! Pay attention to who your social followers are, what types of content they’re sharing, and which pages on your website receive the most traffic. All this information and more can be used to build a target profile that informs your content creation choices.

So now it’s your turn… As you’re getting ready to launch your new content marketing campaign, ask yourself the following questions to gain a better understanding of the types of people your content should be reaching:

  • How old are my target customers?
  • Am I targeting a primarily male or female audience?
  • What socioeconomic class do my target customers belong to?
  • Where on the Internet do my ideal clients hang out?
  • What interests and activities do my target customers participate in?
  • How do my target clients spend their money?
  • What are my ideal customers’ biggest concerns?

You might not have a single answer to any of these questions. In fact, your business may target several different types of consumers, which ultimately means creating multiple sample buyer personas. But by taking the time to compile this information and think through the type of people that your content is targeting, you’ll be able to structure everything about your content – from the topics you cover to the tone you use – to make it as appealing as possible to them.

And when it comes to choosing your social outlets, be careful of confining yourself to strictly social media websites. There are loads of different places online to distribute content marketing pieces – from industry-specific video sharing sites to infographic directories and more. By monitoring your audiences’ behavior online, you’ll be able to identify those properties that will get your content out to as many of the right people as possible.

The bottom line is this…

Don’t overcomplicate content marketing. By focusing on publishing great content for the right people in the right places, you’ll be able to generate significant website results without wasting time or getting hung up on overly technical marketing strategies and “expert” recommendations.

Guest author Sujan Patel is the cofounder of Single Grain, an Digital Marketing Agency that specializes in helping startups and Fortune 500 companies with their digital marketing strategy.

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