Content marketing is hard.
It involves research. There is a certain degree of getting into people’s heads. It challenges how you think and what you think you know. Successful content demands a degree of technical and creative craftsmanship.
Perhaps the hardest thing about content marketing is that it’s never finished. It requires you to keep showing up, day after day. So you can keep making new content and refreshing the old.
No one ever said content marketing was easy.
It is, however, simple.
It’s deceptively simple, really. At its core, content marketing is just five steps.
Get crystal clear on your content audience.
There’s an old rule for comedians: read the room.
You don’t tell the same jokes to a room full of middle-aged football dads and to a room of teenage VSCO girls. 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 7 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?
And of those people, what characteristics make them a good fit for the unique angle you provide?
There are 7 billion people on the planet. Your audience is not “everybody.”
1. Narrow your focus.
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 are interested in training to enrich their dog’s life or teach it to perform. Others just want their dog to stop peeing on the couch: different needs, levels of knowledge, levels of interest, and levels of frustration.
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. Getting better.
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 the urban hip-hop culture, helping him to build not just customers, but true fans.
And making him stand out in his niche like an orange in an apple cart.
After our exercise, his audience went from “anybody with a dog” to urban dog owners interested in hip-hop culture who recently adopted a rescued dog.
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 lot of businesses fall down in their content creation when they make content about what they want to say, not what their audience wants to hear.
Colgate comes to mind as a company whose content marketing game is strong.
At the top of Colgate’s website is a link to research on whether toothpaste and mouthwash kill COVID-19.
That is something its audience wants to know.
Other topics on the homepage – the homepage, not tucked away in some obscure blog – include gum disease, dry mouth, and nutrition for healthy teeth. All topics likely pulled by scouring search engines, social media, message boards, and forum sites like Quora and Reddit.
They’re not guessing at what their audience wants to know. They know because they are going out and asking or listening in on conversations that are already happening.
3. Create content that answers the question.
Now you know who you are talking to and what they want you to talk about. Now you are ready to create something.
Answer the questions people are asking. 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 go back to that audience and 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?
For example, if you’re trying to reach Gen Z boys who play video games, don’t bother with Facebook. They’re not there. They are, however, spending crazy time on YouTube and TikTok.
Promote your content in a way that piques interest and makes people want to see it. Going back to the Colgate example, which do you think is a better hook: “Check out our new blog post on COVID-19” or “Does mouthwash kill COVID-19?”
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.