What works when it comes to content marketing?
Like many things in life, leaning into the basics is a great first step.
Just remember that you need to have a content marketing strategy in place first. Take this blog for example.
I started this simply to have an outlet to write. Readers were nice, but this was mostly for me. The “publish” button forced me to think a bit more clearly than I would have were I simply writing in a journal that no one would ever see.
Over time, I half-thought about taking it seriously. The loss of a steady paycheck a year ago (inspiring, that) led me to begin thinking more strategically about what I wanted this vehicle to do for me. I made a half-hearted veer towards focusing on content marketing and editing to attract folks to hire me for those things.
For a variety of reasons, my head and heart weren’t in the game for most of past year.
Now, I’ve created a strategy for this blog to serve as the foundation for looking for more work. While I’ll still publish Stream of Consciousness Saturday posts, otherwise I’ll be focused on a combination of thinking about marketing and advice and tips for getting the marketing things done.*
As I was brainstorming for myself about the core of what I should focus on, I wrote down these seven things, based on past success and what all the smart content marketing folks say are foundational tactics.
Note: like most of the basics, this isn’t rocket science. Much like losing weight advice boils down to “eat less, do more,” these seven fundamental tactics can become a content marketing foundation anyone can win more business with.
Blogging is one of the simplest (though not easy) tactics any business can use to attract new leads and customers. Share useful, relevant information that addresses your customers’ points of pain. Answer your customers questions and keep doing that.
Why blog? Google (which controls about 93% of search traffic) is looking for answers to its customers’ questions. (Hint: If you’ve ever searched for something on Google, you’re a customer.) When your blog has the best answer to a question, Google will direct people to your site.
- Google rewards active websites, frequently updated sites generally perform better than those that aren’t.
- You’ll create a ready audience for your work
What to blog about? Marcus Sheridan rescued his failing pool business with inbound marketing concepts and a blog in which he answered his customers’ questions. Since then, he’s grown into a thought leader in the inbound marketing industry. His recent book, They Ask, You Answer, focuses on how to use your blog to grow your business.
The premise is crystal clear and encapsulated in the title: answer every single one of your customers’ questions, honestly and openly. Repeat.
Who’s your ideal customer? Research and identify your ideal customer(s) and create a persona for each, complete with name, photo, and a bio. You then aim all of your efforts at providing these personas the information they want to receive, delivered how they prefer to receive it (email, videos, social media, etc.).
3. USEFUL CONTENT — EBOOKS, BLOGS, VIDEO, AND MORE
The customers of the company across the street may have customers who hate to read, but will watch hours of videos. Yours might love blogs and skip over video. Persona research will help you determine the method you use to deliver content — video, ebook, infographic, etc.
The content must be useful to be effective.
Create informative ebooks (which can be compilations of your blog posts), infographics, videos, podcasts, case studies, how-to guides, presentations (like webinars), and more that you can use as lead magnets.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA
Used correctly, social media is like pouring gas on a fire. Use social media to push your product, and it’s like dumping cold, wet sand on your efforts.
The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that there’s no single “perfect” social media plan applicable for everyone. Your audience might be on Facebook and hate Instagram. Others might love Pinterest. And there will always be another app and social site.
Use social media to share your information. A good rule of thumb to follow is to share 4 or 5 pieces of content from others for every piece of your content you share.
Use social media to meet your customers. Social media is both one-to-one and one-to-many. When you answer a customer’s question in a social media space, you’re creating a relationship with that customer. Because of the public nature of social media, you’re also showing yourself as a helpful partner rather than a company just interested in selling to everyone else.
Develop a social media presence where your ideal customers congregate. Learn the rules (the particulars of how to create content, such as ideal length and image sizes that work best, as well as the social mores for how people interact) for that particular channel. Then become a member of the community. Share good information. Be human. Don’t make a hard sell.
5. EMAIL NURTURE CAMPAIGNS
Email is still the backbone of many great marketing strategies. There are dozens of ways to use email to nurture leads into becoming customers and to provide excellent customer service. A short list includes:
- Cart abandons. When someone goes to an action landing page (to register for a webinar, make a purchase, etc.) but doesn’t complete the desired action, create a short email sequence to nudge them to completion. If you’ve ever put a product in your cart at Amazon and then not bought it, you’ve gotten one of these.
- New customer welcome. Create a sequence of emails over a few weeks to welcome a new customer, provide advice on how to get the most out of their purchase, invite to join an online community (if you have one), and even upsell.
- Educational nurture. When a lead downloads an information asset (an ebook, for example) or attends an event (like a webinar), create an email sequence to share related blogs, other content assets like infographics, and even third-party information that educates your lead. Gently insert offers later in the sequence to invite for a call, a free trial, a discount offer, etc.
An email newsletter is a foothold in your lead or customer’s digital home (their inbox). Once you earn the permission to be invited in, you have to continue to earn that trust by delivering useful and informative information to your subscribers.
A newsletter serves as a periodic reminder that you’re there for your audience and is a great way to share your top blog content, new ebooks, company news and information about your company (like employee interviews), and offers to your loyal readers.
7. SEO – SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Google isn’t a search company. Google is an answer company. Every Google search is a question looking for an answer. Google wants to provide its customers (all of us) the best answer possible. Many of the tactics above revolve around the idea of helping your audience find the best possible answer with you.
SEO is a vast topic. There are two pieces of practical advice to share here:
- Write for people, but optimize your content for search engines. Years ago you could attract Web visitors by stuffing your website with keywords. Do that today and Google will penalize your site, making it harder people to find you.
- That said, structure content around the keywords and phrases your audience is interested in. Whether that’s the “best high heels for a night on the town” or “what are the best tires for off-roading”, find the keywords and create content that incorporates those words. When you pair the right keyword with customer questions as suggested above you’ll create killer content that people love.
The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll begin to see success. Take the time to think through your objectives and create a strategy. Decide which marketing tactic you’ll begin with given time and/or budget constraints and go.
*After rereading Start With Why by Simon Sinek again as well as other goal-setting advice, I’m ever more convinced that you need to know the reason you’re doing something to effectively do that thing — whatever that thing is.
And, as per usual, a song got stuck in my head as I was writing this. I now pass the earworm to you.
Dolly Parton also has a nice cover.