What is the purpose of content marketing?
Is it to help your audience find the information they looking for? Absolutely my friend, but there is much more to it than meets the eye:
With content marketing, you’ve got to consistently share compelling brand stories and experiences to get your audience hooked and build on to your subscribers.
Does content marketing fail because of poor understanding of the target audience?
Absolutely my friend!
Here are some of the other reasons why content marketing fails:
- The content usually sucks
- It lacks originality
- It is written for search engines and not for humans
- It is not interactive
- It’s not promoted well
- You’re expecting instant results
Most businesses make the mistake of producing lots of content just because everyone’s doing it.
Remember, content marketing will help you build an audience first. Once you have a loyal audience who consumes and shares your content, you can start getting more business.
Warning: don’t kill yourself to start getting leads from your first blog post or video.
Here are some strategies, tools, and resources that you can use for sailing your way to content marketing success (Remember, skyrocketing is rare – be consistent and you will steadily achieve good results.
Know Your Audience: Create a User Persona
You need to get inside the shoes of your target audience. Develop a fictitious character and understand her preferences and behaviour. Study her professional and personal roles.
You’ve got to know what challenges she is facing and you should be worried about helping her out, entertaining, her and building a relationship that lasts really long!
Take a look at this example of a typical user persona:
You’re reading this piece of content because you are interested in marketing your small business.
If it helps you, you would most definitely be happy to hear more from me, right?
That’s exactly what you wish to achieve from your content marketing efforts. You should know your audience and consistently produce content that they love, consume, engage with and share!
Solve Problems: Create Content That’s SEO Friendly
Is there a way to figure out what problems your audience is facing? Thankfully there are free tools that help you track popular search queries online. You can use the Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest to conduct a Keyword research for your niche. Create a list of key search terms that your audience would type into Google.
Look for long tail keywords and go deep into the problem areas of your audience.
Select keywords that have a high search volume and are low in competition.
- Once you have a list of keywords with you, you can easily build up your blogging calendar.
- When you create content that targets user queries and solves them, it has high chances of ranking up higher on search queries.
- Keyword research also helps you to target featured snippet opportunities on Google. If your post provides lists or accurate answers to searcher questions your content may show up in the featured snippet results of Google (also known as position zero). Take a look at this example:
Get Interactive: Types of Content
You want your audience to get hooked to your content, interact with it and share it with their friends.
If you’re able to build readership for your content you’ll eventually start getting leads for your business.
There are a variety of content types that you can explore.
- Animated GIFs
- Book Reviews
This post gives a complete list of content types that you can produce.
Planning Helps: Develop a Content Calendar
Don’t just fish around for random content ideas – create a calendar and stay organized. Trust me, it helps to stay organized and be on track with your content creation and promotional goals.
Create a list of the type of content pieces you wish to create on a weekly or a monthly basis.
Let’s take a very simple example of the monthly content goals of a small business:
- Two long form blog posts of 2000 words each
- One shorter blog post of 700-800 words
- Two Infographic posts
- One medium length blog post on LinkedIn – 1000-1200 words
- One e-Book could be around 10000 words
- One answer on Quora – 500 words
- 1 Guest blog or PR outreach
- One live action or a whiteboard animation video
- One newsletter
- Two posts a day on social media pages – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram
- One contest or promotional offer
The longer form blog posts could be detailed guides or how-to articles. In the shorter ones, you could write about a trending news or a promotional campaign or an upcoming event. Additionally, you could include product or customer success stories in your content.
It’s essential to keep a close watch on content that’s trending in your niche. You need to create a list of topics that you need to cover in the month. Assign a content type to your topics and get going.
You can create a calendar for up to three-six months, but make sure you are flexible with it. Be on the lookout for story ideas that you may think will work better for your audience:
- Check Google News
- Search on Buzzsumo
- Create Google Alerts
- Use Feedly
Stay Focused: Channels for Content Marketing
There is a host of channels that you could use for your content marketing efforts. As a small business owner, my advice to you is that you stay focused on a few important channels. Figure out which channels are most relevant to your business.
If you have a B2B business then you start with the following:
- Business Blog (Organic)
- Guest Blogging and PR
Here are the channels you could focus on if you had a B2C business
As you go a long you may realize that there are only one or two channels that are helping you get most of your leads. Let’s say if you are a fashion house, you may start getting most of your business from Instagram. Therefore, you must start putting more effort on building an audience there:
- Run more contests and sweepstakes
- Create Instagram stories on a regular basis
- Add more posts on a daily basis
- Use Instagram DMs more frequently
Similarly, if you’re selling a B2B tool, it may help your cause to focus on LinkedIn and you may want to use features like – LinkedIn Groups, paid campaigns, publishing, and DMs to focus your activities on the channel.
Keep a track of the results you are getting from each of the channels you are working on. Choose your best channels and go full throttle. Here is an interesting post that gives some valuable advice on how you can differentiate between a B2B and B2C content marketing strategy.
Build a Brand: Create a Style Guide for Your Content
Your content tells your audience if your brand resembles a tiger or a monkey or a pigeon or a squirrel:) It depends on how you position it in the minds of your customers and prospects.
Does your content speak the voice of your brand? Create a list of your brand attributes. Create a word cloud that includes all of the adjectives that you would add to your brand.
Let’s look at some of these examples:
Let’s say, yours is a restaurant brand and you wish to associate with all the above attributes. Create a content style guide that positions your brand that way. This means your content style should ideally be casual, quirky and confident.
Take a look at this example from Oreo:
The brand provides light hearted entertainment to its audience. It’s the cuteness of this post that lures you to tag your friends and have fun.
Entertain Your Audience: Create Compelling Stories
Let’s first look at the definition of a story:
“the telling of a happening or connected series of happenings, whether true or fictitious; account; narration.”
Why does a brand need to tell a story?
The story of your brand humanizes and introduces it to the audience. It tells them about the motivation behind its existence.
Your brand story builds a subtle emotional connect with your audience for which they remember it.
It brings out the proposition of your business and that is different from others. Take a look at this example from KISSmetrics:
Take a look the value proposition of Blue Apron – a service that home delivers meal ingredients:
“We are building a better food system.”
Let’s look at some of the blog titles from the same brand:
“Our Tomato Program: Never Eat a Bad Tomato Again”
“Here’s How: Hate Spicy Food? 16 Ingredients to Avoid”
“Guide To: Misfit Produce”
Each of these blog posts is trying to help their audience to choose the right ingredients for their meal.
Your story typically consists of:
- What are you doing?
- Why are you doing it?
- What were the challenges you faced to get here?
- How are you doing it?
- What have you achieved so far?
- What do you plan to do, going forward?
Everything that you communicate to your audience through your marketing channels like website, blog and social channels must re-instigate your story. It should stay in the audience’s hearts and minds for long so they can relate to your brand easily.
Blow the Trumpet: Content Promotion Strategies
Besides, good old search engine optimization, you’ve got to do the murkier stuff as well. Go out there and tell the relevant people that you’ve created a new piece of content!
You’ll find yourself doing door-to-door selling like everyone used to do in grandpa’s times.
No worries, it’s all for your own good.
Make a list of influencers who may be interested in sharing your content. These are people who are top sharers of similar content.
Use their quote or mention them in your content piece. You could then email them or mention them on Twitter. You can request them to promote your story to their audience.
Look for people on Twitter who have shared similar content in the past.
Paste the URLs of similar blog posts or use the relevant keywords to find such people.
Mail your piece to bloggers who have linked back to similar content in the past. You could use Open Site Explorer to find backlinks of similar content that ranks on top of the search results.
You will find lots of questions on Quora that relate to your post. You can write answers to those questions and include a link to your post in your answers.
There is a good chance of getting more visibility by sharing your content piece on the following places as well:
Do also create multiple captions of your post and schedule them at regular intervals on your social profiles on – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can use Hootsuite or Buffer to simplify and automate the process.
Play it Smart: Choose the Right Set of Tools
As a small business owner, you don’t want to invest in a bunch of tools that will not get you an ROI. You should start lean, and use the free version of some of the essential tools. Here is a list of tools that you must use:
- Grammarly: for basic grammar and proof checking of your content
- Google Calendar: create your content calendar with it and give access to your team
- Canva: an awesome free tool to design your blog post and social media post images
- Zoho Campaigns or Mailchimp: for designing and sending out your monthly newsletters
- Hootsuite or Buffer: for automating your social media posts
- MakeMyPersona: for creating your targeted user persona
- Buzzsumo and Feedly: keep an eye on trending content
- Pocket: keep a reservoir of news and stories
- HARO: for reaching out to journalists and getting press mentions
Here are a bunch of other interesting tools that you may wish to look at.
Track Everything: Getting Return on Your Content Marketing Efforts
Don’t get frustrated yet. Content marketing may not start giving results from the day one. But, if you are doing everything right, you will surely get leads and conversions for your business, consistently.
Some of the basic metrics that you can track include:
- Website traffic
- Blog traffic
- Conversions from Call-To-Actions in your blog posts
- Social media shares of your blog posts
- Social media reach and engagement
- E-book downloads
- Blog subscription count
- Leads from social media contests
- Direct leads from social media
You can use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website and blog. You can also use the tool to set up and track goals like contact form fill ups.
When you are putting in consistent and quality efforts, you will see an upward trend in all the metrics mentioned above.
If not, you should analyze the quality of your content. Are you being able to build readership for your content among your target audience? Are you getting enough shares and mentions of your content?
If the answer is a no, then you must work on revamping your content strategy and style. Work on understanding on how your competitors are doing better than you. Promote your content more aggressively.
Make Hay: Useful Content Marketing Resources
While you start out marketing your small business, you must always have plenty of resources to keep you going without bottlenecks. Here are some stupendous resources that will help you streamline and gear up:
- Get Content Get Customers: Turn Prospects into Buyers with Content Marketing – Joe Pulizzi
- Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business – Ann Handley
- How 3 Companies Took Content Marketing to the Next Level
- Content Marketing Case Studies: 5 Companies that ‘Get It
- 100+ Blog Post Title Templates That Grab Attention
- 22 Ways To Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have A Clue
Sit Back: Hire A Content Marketer
Finding it hard to hire a content marketer who gets you results?
According to this study by CMI, 21% of the respondents found it challenging to hire a suitable candidate.
Content marketers must have an exceptional ability to write and edit valuable content. They should be dynamic and must possess good analytical skills as well. Good content marketing specialists will have an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. They would immerse themselves in your brand and research tirelessly to produce clutter breaking content. They would write the best of the headlines and use the latest data to prove their point.
When you are looking for a content marketer you’re looking for someone who is persistent and learns with experience. Good content marketers are creative and at the same time, they are hands on with tools like Google Analytics and Canva.
They also understand SEO and how your website should be structured and fixed for SEO errors. Last but not the least, they are grammar nazis and know how to structure sentences, use the right words, and punctuations, effectively.
Whatever make you believe that content marketing will work for your small business is all true. It gives you a tremendous opportunity to break the clutter, stand out, entertain, and educate your audience. It helps you get qualified leads and sales without emptying your pockets on offline or online advertising.
While using content marketing for your business, you must be out there to help and be happy to say – ‘the pleasure’s all mine’. Explore as much as you can and give your audience what they are looking for. They will not just come back to you for more content, they will buy from you and recommend you to peers as well.
Abhishek Talreja, a.k.a. Abbey, is an experienced freelance content marketer, copywriter, and ghostwriter. He is a passionate wordsmith who loves helping clients tell authentic stories, fables that flow straight from the heart.