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If you’re a time-strapped budget-conscious marketer (aren’t we all?) looking to maximize the ROI on your content marketing efforts and become a content-creation rockstar… well, you’ve come to the right place.
Data often tells a pretty compelling story about content marketing.
Content marketing works. In fact, 92% of marketers in a recent survey said they view content as a genuine business asset.
So how do businesses harness the power of content marketing? And more importantly, how can you attract ideal leads using content marketing?
That’s a very loaded question, so we broke it down. In this article we’ll talk about:
- Setting SMART content marketing goals
- Identifying your niche
- Choosing your target audience
- How to choose your content marketing channels
- How to create a winning content strategy
- Repurposing Content
- Email content marketing
- Syndication best practices
- Analytics and more…
It’s about to get comprehensive up in here! Let’s go:
Setting SMART content marketing goals
We’re pretty sure nobody loves a good acronym as much as marketers. The SMART acronym for content marketing is no exception.
In order for your content marketing to be a success, you first have to know what success looks like. That’s why it’s so important to set goals before you embark on your content marketing journey, so you can measure your results and continue to improve on strategy.
The S-M-A-R-T in SMART content marketing goals stands for:
- Specific - What’s your specific goal for the content? Or in other words, what’s the one metric you want to measure for a particular piece of content? Is it views? Engagement? Comments? Set a specific goal for each piece of content you produce.
- Measurable - This kind of piggybacks off ‘specific’ but is your goal numerically measurable? For example, a goal of “I want to make people laugh who read this” isn’t a measurable goal, whereas “I want 10% engagement on this piece of content” is.
- Achievable - This A can actually stand for aspirational, but even aspirational goals should be realistically achievable. (AKA a 100% engagement rate is probably not feasible, but if you’ve ever created content that met that goal, send it to us because we’d love to read it.)
- Relevant - Is the content you are producing relevant to the audience for whom it’s intended? We’ll talk a little more about this in the next section.
- Time-bound - Time-bound simply means putting a deadline for when you’d like your content to reach the goals you set for it. (for example, ‘I want 10 comments on this social media post by next Monday.’)
Applying these parameters to your content will ensure that you reduce any time waste in producing content that either doesn’t have a point, doesn’t work, or doesn’t resonate.
So, now that you know the goals to set for your content, how do you know what to actually write? Let’s look at choosing your niche:
Identifying your content marketing niche
There’s no doubt content marketing is a flooded space in most of the major markets. The majority of companies online are doing it.
But don’t let the amount of content out there already discourage you from getting into the game. Every company and every individual has a unique story to tell, and a unique voice to tell it in.
Identifying what that is isn’t as hard as you might think! Think about the following questions:
- What is your company an expert in? Don’t just go with your industry as an answer. Drill deep here. Look at what your company does internally as well as externally.
- What sets your company apart from competitors? Is it culture? Something in your value proposition?
- Who is your ideal customer? (Go beyond personas, think of an actual ideal customer you currently have)
- What’s your brand’s voice? If you don’t have one already clearly identified and defined, go back to step one and do that first!
- What questions are my ideal clients asking? Is there a theme?
Now, look at the answers to your questions and do some research. Use a tool such as Google Trends to discover what type of content already exists in your industry, and what you can write about that’s different. Look at social media inquires and questions from your clients or customers. What do they want to know? What’s a common set of questions you’re always getting about your industry? Start there!
Know who you want to talk to and when you want to talk to them
So, once you’ve chosen your target audience and niche, start thinking about the actual people you are trying to reach, and exactly what you want to convey to them.
When doing content marketing, your goal is to get the right message to the right customer at the right time. This means, understanding the questions a customer or buyer has at each phase of their customer journey.
A typical customer journey looks like this:
Awareness: I have a problem, but I’m not sure what the cause is
Consideration: I understand the cause of my problem and now I am researching solutions
Decision: I understand the solution I want to implement and now I am researching companies and products who can solve my problem.
The different types of content you use to address each phase of this customer journey should be related to the questions they might have at each phase.
Let’s look at an example. Say you’re a construction company and your target niche is customers looking to refinish their basement.
When your customer is first aware of their problem (that they want or need more space in their home) they may have questions such as “Should I finish my basement or add-on to my home?” “What’s the ROI in finishing a basement?”
Once they’ve decided they understand the problem and want to research solutions they might be searching in a search engine questions such as “What is the timeline for a basement remodeling project?” or “Is finishing my basement going to be a pain?”
Say they’ve decided it’s not going to be a pain after all because your content was so convincing and they’re jazzed to begin their remodel. They are going to enter the ‘decision’ phase of their journey, and likely will be wondering “Who is the best basement remodel company in my area?”
The benefit to you addressing their questions in each phase is by the time they get to the decision phase of their journey, they’ve already been exposed to your company and message, and hopefully, your content was helpful enough to keep you top of mind.
Let’s say you’ve now decided on a bunch of great content topics in your selected niche that address all phases of the customer journey - now where exactly is the best place to put it?
Be selective with your channels
Have you ever heard the saying: “Fish where the fishes are”? It’s a great metaphor for content marketing.
You want to make sure your ideal audience is hanging out wherever you post content that’s written for the said ideal audience. For example, if you’re a B2C business and very young adults are your target, putting your content on LinkedIn probably isn’t going to do you much good.
This is going to take a little research on your end. Since you’ve already identified your target audience in the sections above, take that information and find out exactly where that type of audience spends their time online.
There are tons of data tools and statistics to help you do this (Google Analytics, SEMRush, Hubspot), but you can easily start by identifying how your current customers or clients (preferably your best ones) found you, where they hang out and what social networks they’re on. Birds of a feather flock together so odds are there are more fish primed and ready to take your bate in those waters. #wildlifemetaphors
If you haven’t been collecting this data from the get-go, consider sending out a survey or doing some covert strategic stalking on social media.
Create your content strategy
So, we know your audience, we have topics in mind and we know where we want to post it. Now comes the really fun part: helping people find it!
It would be a wonderful world if we could all just post our great content to the right channels and be assured that eyes are on it, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The good news, however, is that there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of your article, blog or video getting read or seen.
Enter SEO. We wrote a pretty comprehensive blog on this recently if you want to really get into it, but the basic gist is this:
Content is usually found through the use of keywords and keyword phrases on search engines. In order for your content to be found, you need to use those keywords and keyword phrases in a strategic way. To begin outlining a content strategy that helps you to prioritize your content and identify your most potentially profitable topics, ask yourself:
- Which keywords/topics do I want to be found for? Once you’ve decided, you will want to incorporate those keywords into your content, your titles, your subtitles, and your meta descriptions. The key here is to incorporate them really naturally, otherwise, you might be penalized for keyword stuffing.
- Which keywords or phrases are my competitors currently using? This is where it gets really strategic. If someone is going to be searching for your companies solution, you want to be the top result that shows up. That means you have to beat your competitor’s content in almost every topic. Do searches on Google or use a tool like SEMRush to find out what keywords and phrases your competitors are ranking highly for.
- How can I write better content then my competitors using those same keywords? When you’ve figured out the keywords or phrases you need to beat your competitors with, form content using those keywords and phrases and make it more appealing to the search engines by:
- Making your content longer and more-in-depth with great research and outbound links
- Making sure your content takes into consideration the user journey (because the search engines do!)
- Find opportunities to answer questions that do not yet have answers in the form of featured snippets in the search engines
- Including visuals and correctly formatting and tagging images within your posts
So to recap, your strategy is simply to research what type of content your competitors are producing and produce content that is better suited for your customers in each and every phase of their journey.
Don't be afraid to repurpose content
Just as recycling is good for our planet, repurposing is great for your content! Once you have all this fantastic content written that is blowing your competitors out of the water, don’t be afraid to repurpose and reuse!
There are a ton of ways to repurpose content and give it new life.
Did you write an incredible blog that is resonating great with your audience? Make it into a video or a series of social media posts!
Keep a vault of all your best performing past content and decide on a timeline to revisit it. We love this guide from Gary Vaynerchuk on how to create 64 pieces of content per day using repurposing. Even if you’re not aiming for volume, there some great ideas to get you thinking about creative ways to repurpose.
Publish your content on multiple sites
Along the same lines as repurposing, the goal of syndicating your content on different sites is to get as much ROI as possible for the pieces of content you spend time creating.
If you primarily post content on your company blog, did you know that you can repost that same content on sites such as Medium and Linkedin using a canonical link?
Doing so will keep you from getting penalized by search engines while still giving you the opportunity to reach a broader audience. It’s a true win-win.
Reach out via email
Email marketing is very much alive and well. In fact, a recent study showed that email marketing was the primary lead generation channel for 89% of marketers. Newsletters, case studies, videos, and special announcements historically do really well for audiences via email.
However, if you want to push your content out via email, there are some best practices to follow to ensure, again, that you’re reaching the right person, at the right time, with the right message:
- Segment your mailing list - It’s of the utmost importance that you segment your list in order to know the type of customer or lead that is on each list. It goes back to the section above ‘know who you are talking to’. List segmentation and personalization are the two most effective email marketing strategies out there.
- Send them content that's relevant to them at their stage of the customer journey - You don’t want to send the ‘decision’ content to a lead who is in the ‘awareness’ phase!
Automate what you can
As you’ve probably realized by now, inbound content marketing to attract leads takes a lot of time, time that most marketers don’t have. That’s why it’s important to automate what you can. Automating some things will help you free up time to actually produce great content, which is the key to all of this!
There are some things that are pretty easily automated. Automating social media posts to go out that promote your content, and automating the publishing of your content at regular intervals is done very simply with free tools from Wordpress, Hootsuite or Buffer.
Here are some great automation tools to check out that can help you begin the automation process.
Learn from what you post
Data is a marketer’s best friend ALWAYS. In order to successfully attract leads with content marketing, you have to know if what you are doing is working, and what is working best.
Once you get your content strategy set and rolling, keep an eye on what type of content (what subjects, what channels, what mediums) are performing best, and keep doing that! And on the flip side, check out what’s performing least, figure out why, and either look for ways to improve it, or just let it go completely.
The best content strategy for you is going to come from you, so track, optimize, and revise.
Lastly, just keep going!
Don’t be discouraged if you are not seeing major results right away!
Attracting leads with content marketing can take time, creating great content can take time, and getting ranked in search engines can take time.
However, if you stick with it and begin consistently producing amazing content that beats out your competitors and informs, educates and entertains your target audience, you’ll no doubt find success in time.
Strapped for time but amped to get started executing a killer content strategy for your team? We’d love to chat!