Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Untangling a ball of Christmas lights is simple. Just find the end and feed it backward through each loop. But if you’ve ever tried to do it, you know that’s far easier said than done. Most people give up and go buy new lights.
Content marketing is the same way. If you’ve ever lost a staring contest with a blank page, spent hours creating plans that ended up in the trash, or felt like hurling your laptop out the window, you know crafting solid content requires effort.
Like the Christmas lights, most people give up. They don’t build content at all, or they dash off easy, mediocre pieces that don’t do much more than take up space. Lucky for you, that means the bar is set pretty low for someone who understands that at its core, content marketing is just five simple steps.
1. Get crystal clear on your content audience.
There’s an old rule for comedians: read the room. A set at a bar on a Friday night doesn’t sound like a set warming up for the keynote at a bankers’ convention.
There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet. Your audience is not everybody.
You need to get crystal clear on who this content is for. Who needs the product or service you are marketing? What do they care about? What frustrates them? How much do they already know?
Tip: Don’t get too hung up on demographics. Being a twice-married man in his 40s does not guarantee a person wants or needs what you’re selling. Instead, focus on what marketers call “jobs to be done.” Target people struggling with the problem you solve.
Here’s an example: I consulted a dog trainer on content strategy. When I asked about his audience, he said, “Anybody with a dog.”
But some people who have dogs aren’t interested in training them.
Some people want to train their dog to do tricks so they can prove how smart it is.
Others just want their dog to stop peeing on the couch.
Same demographic; different jobs to be done. The message that resonates with one will make the others say, “Meh.”
We dug deeper. The service he really wanted to market was socialization and obedience training for rescue dogs. Rescued dogs have different needs than breeder puppies, so their trainers need different information.
Then there’s his unique angle. This trainer has a hip-hop, urban style. That aesthetic may put off some audiences – which is awesome.
That’s right. Putting off some people is awesome.
It allows him to focus his energy and attention on the people who will be attracted to his aesthetic. His authenticity will resonate with people who relate to him, helping him to build not just customers, but true fans.
After our exercise, his audience went from “anybody with a dog” to urban dog owners interested in hip-hop culture whose rescued dog needs obedience training.
2. Identify what your audience wants to know.
Once you know who you are talking to, it’s time to figure out what to say to them.
This is where a lot of businesses fall down in their content creation. They make content about what they want to say, not what their audience wants to hear.
A manufacturer of industrial flooring I once worked for had two primary target industries: auto shops and breweries. The auto shops came first, and the product had a good reputation there for its durability. It was strong and hard and could stand up to the heavy weights and sharp impacts it was subjected to as a shop floor.
In its marketing to breweries, the company was still focusing on the product’s strength. When I actually talked to brewers, though, strength didn’t come up once. They were all excited about the floor’s ability to stand up to heat and chemicals.
We were wasting our time telling them our product was the best at something they didn’t care about.
Talk to people who match your ideal customer profile. Read online reviews of products or services similar to yours and see what people loved and hated. Scour message boards, social media hashtags, and keyword tools to see what questions people are asking.
The cardinal rule of content creation: it’s not about you.
3. Create content that answers the question.
Now you know who you are talking to and what they want you to know. Now you are ready to create something.
Answer the questions you uncovered in the last step. Be thorough. You can actually damage your reputation by being too shallow. If I click your content believing it’s going to give me answers and I haven’t learned anything by the end, how likely do you think I am to look to you for answers again?
Search the question yourself and look at the first page of search engine results. If you want one of those top results to be yours, you have to create content that is better than what is already out there. Be more clear. More thorough. More helpful. Look for gaps you can fill.
Clarity trumps cleverness. Don’t even think about getting cute until you can be clear.
Use a voice your audience can trust. You don’t have to sound just like them, but you should sound relatable and human.
4. Choose a forum to promote your marketing content.
You’ve created your content. Great! Now, time to sit back and wait for the traffic to roll in.
Yeah, no. Sorry. It doesn’t work like that.
You still have to promote your content. That is, you have to let the people you identified in Step One know that it exists and it has the information they’re looking for.
To do that, you need to figure out where they hang out.
- Are they the type that uses social media? Which platforms?
- Do they read magazines or blogs?
- Are they established customers on your email list?
Pique interest in your content by telling people it addresses the problem they’re struggling with. “See our latest blog on dog walking” = zero clicks. “Teach your dog to walk on a leash without pulling your arm off” = readers who respond with, “OMG, YES, PLEASE.”
5. Have the next steps ready.
Let’s say everything is working and people are finding and enjoying your content. Then what happens?
Do they come to your website, read your blog post, and leave? Maybe. If your goal is to build brand awareness, that may be all you need.
Seems like an awful waste of a warm lead, though.
Wherever your content is leading them – to your website, your YouTube channel, your social media profile, whatever – make sure there is a call to action that leads them farther down the path if they choose.
- Present a form to sign up for a newsletter or webinar.
- Suggest a related piece of content.
- Capture information for retargeting ads or nurture campaigns.
Your content marketing goals should fit in with your overall goals for the business. Content for content’s sake is a waste of time. Use it to educate your audience and give them a path to continue the conversation.
See? Just five things. Five challenging, difficult things, for sure – but not complicated. And once your processes are in place, the machine keeps working to build your business as long as you can create good content.
Want some ideas of how content marketing can fit into your business? I’m your huckleberry. Get in touch, and we’ll schedule a time to talk it out.