September 26, 2015
You’ve launched; you’ve got some investment money (or not). Now what? Every new business has the same challenges and the same goals whether it was begun 50 years ago or today. The difference of course, is how you go about achieving those goals and meeting those challenges. Years ago, you had a physical presence on a street or in a mall. You had storefront windows to display your product; you had newspapers in which to advertise your services; you had a physical address to which people could come and do business with you; you could establish a relationship face-to-face. But the goals have always been the same:
- Brand Awareness
- Trust in You
- Bringing People to Your Place of Business (driving people to your site)
- Get Leads (potential customers) to Become Real Customers
So, if anyone tells you to get your goals for your content strategy first, tell him/her you already have them. They’re pretty simple and pretty basic and they haven’t changed since the first shopkeeper opened his store. The critical question, you see, is not what but how? And that is what developing a strategy is all about.
Why Content Marketing?
Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget, which of course you do not, content marketing is the cheapest way to go, if you do it right. And it levels the playing field on the web. A great strategy and campaign can grow your business just like any other that is comparable to yours.
Another option that businesses use is to pay for advertising on search engines. This will get you click-throughs to be sure, but when the money runs out, and you have not developed any other strategy, you’re sunk. Better to use a good strategy to boost your SEO rankings the natural way. You can develop more expensive methods once you are profitable.
Creating that Buzz with Your Content – Start With Blogging and Social Media
There are three kinds of content you produce as a part of any strategy:
- What you publish yourself: This can take many forms – blog posts, emails, articles, social media posts, videos, podcasts, webinars, e-books, white papers, case studies, etc.
- What you say in response to those who comment in some way on what you publish
- What you do to promote your business on other people’s networks – sharing and re-tweeting what others publish; publishing on someone else’s page; inviting people to an event
Now, it is unlikely that you will do all of these at once and in the beginning. So, you have to pick and choose and add elements as you go – not because you can’t afford it, but because you need to get expert in one or two formats and in evaluating their effectiveness before you move into the others.
Here is a great Content Marketing Matrix by Smartinsights that will help you to choose your format.
The best advice? Start with blog posts and social media. Here are the ways in which you can use posts:
- Set up the best business blog possible on your website. Get a great platform (e.g. WordPress), get all of the plugins so that you can do amazing things with it, and start producing exciting, educational, and engaging stuff. If you are not that type of writer and if you don’t have the funds to get a full-time employee on board, then hire an expert in content writing on a contract basis. You can supply the topics and the thought leadership, and let your writer create the exceptional content.
- Write niche-related posts that are just as engaging and compelling and submit them to some of the “big boy” blogs – Huff Post, Forbes, VentureBeat, and so forth. The more posts you can get on these blogs, the more your brand is promoted, the more you become an expert, and the more your bio and backlinks bring people to your site. This cannot be stressed enough.
- Set up reciprocal posting on related niches that are not direct competitors. Again, you spread your brand, your expertise and get those backlinks.
- Keep developing your great content and share it all over social media. Get conversations going so that you begin to be noticed by Google.
- Tell your story wherever you can. Get photos of your team out there; support a charitable cause; hold a contest; conduct surveys – anything to get your brand shared.
- Use social media to publicize your events, your discounts, your freebies – they link to your site to participate and register with an email address, and you get a lead.
- When you continue to hammer away on social media, you create the “buzz” you need that spreads your story and your brand and, of course, traffic to your site – this is how you capture leads and ultimately customers.
- Respond to every comment, question or piece of feedback you get on your blog posts or social media sites – Every. Single. One. And many of the questions and comments will give you topics for additional posts. Openly solicit comments on every post.
Adding Content Formats as You Go
Increasing the content formats you use is a gradual, evolutionary process, but you should do this, as soon as you have your blogging and social media campaigns well in place. Now you can focus on those e-books, white papers, slideshares, podcasts, and webinars. Again, contract with some pros to do this – don’t do anything in a mediocre fashion.
Define Your Market
You have to develop a persona, maybe more than one of your typical customers. If you are selling women’s cosmetics, for example, what is your price range and to whom will that appeal? If you are selling toys, you personas will be multiple, especially at Christmas time. As yourself, “What are the needs, wants and concerns of the person who will be interested in my product or service?”
You can find your personas by looking at your competitors’ sites, by speaking with current customers, by conducting surveys, but much of it you can also determine yourself, based upon the product or service you offer.
Once you define that persona, find out where they hang out online and make sure that you are promoting your brand where they are.
Content Research – Getting Ideas and Writing the Content
Here are the key methods to develop topic ideas:
- Use your persona to get topics. Are they college grads? What gender? What age group? Income range? What are the things that are most important to this market?
- What are your competitors writing about?
- What are the questions and comments on your posts and social media pages?
- What new information do you have to share?
- What story do you want to tell today about your company or your team members?
- What cause have you adopted and are you participating in any events or offering to make donations when purchases are made?
- Are you offering discounts, sales, free e-books or white papers?
You will certainly find more that relate to your specific niche.
Here are tips as you write your content:
People have short attention spans, and you have to mindful of this. They don’t stay if they aren’t really being entertained, educated or otherwise enthralled with what is before them.
- Get a really catchy title – here’s where you hook
- Get a great first sentence – shock, amuse, tell an anecdote
- Make the post scannable – sub-heading and bullets
- Use media to break up your text – for longer posts, more media
- Use simple language that a 13-yr. old can comprehend. If you want to test that, copy and paste the post into Read-able.com – it will give you an age range.
- Be informal and conversational in style and tone
- Use psychological appeals – evoke emotions, but positive ones
Evaluating Your Content
You have to determine what is working and what is not. For this you need analytics. Analytics will tell you how many people access your content, how long they stay, what content they are sharing, and so forth. This is critical information because you can determine:
- What content is most popular so that you can write more of the same
- What content is sparking conversations and comments = more of the same, plus ideas for new content topics
- Which specific content is bringing conversions such as registrations and providing email addresses = leads and methods for moving conversions through the tunnel
- How many are opening your emails (you have to embed a link for this) and how many are sharing your email content
- Personalizing content for re-targeting efforts
There are a huge number of analytics firms for this, but begin with Google Analytics, because it’s free and gives great information. You can also use other firms such as Kiss Metrics and Crazy Egg.
Developing your content strategy takes time and is a constantly evolving process. Do not get discouraged – if you work steadily and consistently and outsource what you should, your business will grow!
Image credits: pexels.com
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