Getting Started with Content Marketing

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Content Marketing has been around for several years now, but there is still some confusion about what it is and what it is not. The goal of this blog is to serve as an introduction for those who are new to Content Marketing and not sure how to get started.

In the simplest terms, Content Marketing is the practice of creating relevant, meaningful content for your website and social media pages to support your inbound marketing efforts. Content can be in the form of blog posts, social media updates, videos, e-books, webinars and more.

The operative words in the definition of Content Marketing are “relevant and meaningful.” There are many companies operating what are known as “content mills” that generate volumes of content solely for the purpose of search engine optimization and higher page rankings. Unfortunately, Google has caught on to these “black hat” practices and has changed its algorithm to recognize and reward content that is genuinely relevant and meaningful.

Does this render Content Marketing meaningless? Certainly not! In fact, relevant, meaningful content will not only help your organic search rankings, it also provides a vehicle to help showcase your expertise and position your company as a valued and trusted resource. Here are four steps to get you on the right path towards a solid content marketing strategy:

Develop Buyer Personas
Before implementing a content marketing plan, it is important to take a few steps back to analyze your target audience. Depending on the number of products/services you sell, you may have multiple buyer personas (for example your company may sell to both consumers and businesses).

Once you’ve established a list of buyer personas the next step is to determine what type of messages will be most meaningful to them. What are their biggest concerns, needs and interests? These topics will serve as the basis for the content you will develop for each audience.

Now you need to determine which channels are most effective to communicate with each buyer persona. LinkedIn can be a popular communication tool for businesses, while it may be more effective to reach consumers through Facebook and Twitter. You should also determine the type of content each audience prefers (video, text, etc.).

Match Content with Buying Cycle
Whether you are marketing to businesses, consumers or both – each persona goes through a buying cycle to determine whether they need your product or service. The buying cycle typically consists of these four stages.

  • Awareness
  • Research/Education
  • Comparison/Validation
  • Purchase

So which type of content matches best with each stage of the buying cycle? Marketing studies suggest the following:

  • Awareness – Blog Posts, Social Media Updates
  • Research/Education – eBooks, Webinars, Industry Reports
  • Comparison/Validation – Case Studies, Demos, Testimonials
  • Purchase – Analyst Reports, Detailed Product Info, Promotions

Create an Editorial Calendar
Now that you have a clear understanding of your buyer personas, what interests them and how/where they like to receive information – it is time to build your editorial calendar. Ideally, you should build your calendar three months in advance, but since that is not always possible try to plan at least a month ahead.

Use Google Calendar or a spreadsheet to set up your calendar. Create a tab for each buyer persona and include the topic/title, content details, SEO keywords, distribution channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and describe the offer or call to action. Having the spreadsheet will ensure you are targeting all personas through each stage of the buying cycle. Below is a sample calendar.

Date Topic/Title Content/Details SEO Keywords Target Personas Offer/CTA
Mon Content Marketing 101 How to launch a content marketing program in 4 easy steps Content Marketing, SEO, Blogs, Social Media Business Owner Bob & Consumer Cathy Free download
Tues SEO Best Practices Tips on how to increase organic SEO SEO, Organic Search, SERP, Keywords Business Owner Bob Discount on SEO Services
Wed Blogging for Beginners Tips on setting up a blog & topics Blogging, Social Media, User Groups Consumer Cathy Free download

 

Keep it Flexible
While editorial calendars are a necessary tool for any Content Marketing plan, make sure you have the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen events. For example, if you sell snow blowers and a huge snowstorm is in the forecast, make sure you are ready to offer tips on how to prepare for inclement weather followed by a promotional offer (discount, rebate, etc.) on your product. Being able to adapt your content to make it relevant to current events and conditions will help garner additional attention for your company.

In Conclusion
The key to any great Content Marketing program is to understand the needs of your buyers and communicate to them in a genuine way that makes them feel you have a true investment in their happiness and success. Today’s consumers no longer fall prey to catchy ads and slogans. They are on an equal playing field and in order to gain their trust and loyalty you need to bring the conversation to their level.

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