In every field, there are folks who stand out due to their knowledge, innovation and results. In the world of marketing, success tends to be marked by sales numbers, the size of product launches, and the names of brands that endorse or participate in campaigns.
Content marketing is a unique field that requires diverse expertise. The top players understand everything from how to read an audience to how to move your ideal customers to take action. In other words, they’re a powerful ally to have on your team. But what holds these professionals apart, and what can you learn from their everyday best practices and content successes?
1. Knowing your audience is everything. Good content marketing is built on the foundation of a buyer profile. Understanding your audience’s demographics, where they spend time online, what they care about, and the flows of their buying cycles is everything. With this information, content marketers craft sales letters, blogs and other content that sells hundreds of millions of dollars in products and services every year.
2. Every action affects your brand. Building a brand isn’t just about a logo, a great website or a tagline that everyone remembers. These are simply tools and tactics that help good marketers get to the end result of strong, memorable brand. Building a brand is about trust.
Great brands are recognized for expertise, quality and authority within their space. Within content marketing, it’s critical to understand that everything you do carries a brand connotation. Every social media post, every blog article, every customer service interaction matters. Don’t let that hinder your willingness to engage and explore, but always bear in mind when making decisions about your content strategy: Is this the best thing for your brand?
3. Personalizing your brand speeds up your success. One of my earliest insights of social media marketing was that brands which are too “corporate” don’t do well. For example, a Twitter profile with a business logo as the profile picture has a harder time getting traction than a brand that chooses a spokesperson.
In many cases, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, these spokespeople are the entrepreneurs behind the firm. This works to the advantage of the business in two specific ways. First, associating a face with the business helps humanize it for prospects and customers. People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. Second, attaching an entrepreneur’s brand to the bigger business brand helps to position the expertise behind the company. The entrepreneur has the added benefit of building a personal brand that goes beyond just the company name, which is important if you envision yourself as a thought leader or serial entrepreneur.
4. Choose your brand partnerships wisely. On every level, it’s crucial that you choose your brand partnerships wisely. Specifically, just because a site offers you a guest post or a columnist spot doesn’t mean you should accept it. Instead, it’s important to evaluate every opportunity to position your brand vis-à-vis your business goals and some quality criteria.
Is the brand a trusted, quality resource? Is it active and known within your space? In light of Google’s recent algorithm updates that focus on quality content and link content, this screening step is a must. The best partnerships make sense from both a “Google approved” standpoint and a broader branding perspective.
5. Sometimes the best content isn’t sexy. Content marketers spend a lot of time discussing how to create interesting content for unsexy industries. However, I believe this is the wrong focus. The best content marketers know the most effective content often isn’t sexy.
Instead, the best content is basic, evergreen content that’s focused on solving your audience’s most urgent problems. In-depth, helpful answers that speak to your audience’s needs is always better than flashy trends. Focus on quality content over showy packaging every time.
6. It pays to take risks. Don’t be afraid to try something that’s not the norm in your industry. Just because you’re getting a lot of traction with a business blog or on mainstream social media channels, you shouldn’t be afraid to branch out. You could land the flagship podcast in your industry by being the first in, or go viral with infographics and other visual content.
The trick is to make good choices based on where your audience spends time, how they consume content and what goals are most important to your bottom line. Taking risks isn’t as risky when it’s based on a sound understanding of how to capture the attention of your ideal customers.
7. Put adequate resources behind content creation. Content creation is a laborious process. Writing a blog post every day takes a lot of time. Developing a compelling white paper or video script can take days or weeks. Allocating sufficient resources to content creation will ensure that you’re reaching your goals both in terms of time and output. This could be in terms of staff time, or funds to hire an external writer or producer. It could simply mean blocking out sufficient time in your own schedule.
Whatever approach you use, make sure you’re planning adequately for the results you hope to achieve. Tie your goals to realistic investment levels, to keep everything aligned and moving.
8. Put adequate resources behind content dissemination. Creating awesome content only helps you if it gets in front of the right people. To get the most out of your marketing efforts, it’s important to spend as much time (or more) promoting your content as you do creating it.
For example, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers recommends spending 80 percent of your time promoting what you create. That means you’re spending 20 percent creating content. The trick here is that your content has to be exceptional, but creating epic content is not enough—you must work to get it in front of the right people. If it connects with influencers or takes off on a specific channel, you’ll be able to then shift gears back to creation. A percentage of your content will be found organically, but each great piece of content gives you the chance to make a splash.
9. Start with your goals and revisit them often. The best content strategists always work with two things in mind: audience profiles and business goals. What are you trying to accomplish with your content strategy? What, in the universe of possible conversions, matters most to your business? Whether you’re working to drum up leads or expand your email list, there’s a content strategy that can help you get there.
But the key differentiation point is this: The right strategy to get to an end point may not be the same thing. By clarifying your goals early on, you’ll have a working compass that will guide everything from topic choices to channel decisions.
10. Measure everything, during and after the campaign. The final piece of the expert content marketing puzzle is the importance of measuring performance. It’s impossible to know what’s working and what can be improved if you’re not tracking how you’re doing. Depending on the approach you’re taking, important metrics can range from eyeballs on a page to specific actions. However, the best metrics are always actual conversions and revenue generated. If the sales or potential leads of a campaign justifies a campaign in real financial terms, it’s hard to argue with the investment. If something’s not working, it’s important to do a course correction while a campaign is still hot so you can turn around your ROI.
The world’s top content marketers have several things in common. From leveraging audience profiles and existing corporate goals to making calculated gambles on placements and building relationships with great brands, the average entrepreneur stands to learn a great deal.
What major lessons have you learned during your own content strategy experiments? Share your biggest takeaways in the comments below.
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