What is content marketing and how can you do it right?

We explain how to create a content marketing strategy in five steps

Even if you're not a marketer, it's quite likely that one of the buzz terms you've heard a lot about is content marketing. But what is content marketing, what does it mean for your company and how can you start implementing an effective content marketing strategy to keep ahead of your competitors?

What is content marketing?

Content marketing refers to the production of content to market your brand. This could include blogs to sit on your own site, or it could mean creating content as guest blogs' to be published in industry publications.

As the name suggests, content is the key to this type of marketing and that means creating quality, effective copy to fill your website, social media and other publications that can promote your services without being a blatant advertisement. This means the content should be useful to potential customers, demonstrating your expertise in your chosen area without plugging your products and services upfront.

Why have a content marketing strategy?

Content marketing can work in different ways for different businesses. For example, you may find your search engine presence isn't where it should be, with your company appearing on the second page of search results, or much lower if you haven't focused on the key searches your customers are looking for on the internet.

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What content marketing can do is help you find customers looking for a solution to a problem, with the potential customer coming to your company rather than a competitor. Only by leveraging your brand will you be able to do this and content marketing is a much cheaper way of doing it compared to placing ads on the TV, in the paper or elsewhere.

Content marketing can also present your employees as thought leaders in the space. The more you're talking in an informed way about your business sector, the more likely customers will want to use your services rather than a competitor's.

The key to a successful content marketing strategy

Any content you publish, whether on your own blog or on other publications, social media or any other platforms, must be aimed at your target customers.

Different platforms will lend themselves to a different treatment of the subject. You can be more promotional on your own website, for instance, but if you've been invited to contribute to a third-party publication, it's better to focus on being informative and useful to prevent being flagged as spammy' by Google, or appearing to readers like you're just there to make a quick buck - again, use the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, which shows why you'd be a great choice to work with.

Vary your sources. Don't just stick to your website as a source of information, but link to other interesting pieces of content in your subject area. It doesn't have to be competitors' articles, but they can be links to industry publications or research papers too.

Ensure your content is informative and don't just write an article to try and jump on a keyword term. Google especially is cracking down on substandard content that has been written purely for SEO purposes and a real focus is being put on the quality of content. What does it teach the reader? What action would you like them to take as a result of reading the article and how do you plan to make them think more about what you have to say?

Five steps for developing a winning content marketing strategy

Set your goal

The first stage is to decide what you want to get out of your content marketing. Do you want more search engine visibility, are you hoping to get more back links from industry publications or do you just want more people phoning up to enquire? Each of these should take a different approach to content and should have their own individual strategy behind them.

Define your customer

Next, develop at least three personas that should turn your key targets into actual people. Create profiles for each of those people, including detailed information such as their likely key concerns and challenges, key considerations of heir personal life and anything else that will contribute to their day-to-day life.

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Create a customer journey

The personas should also be intertwined with a three-stage customer journey, starting with trying to educate people about the general subject matter, which would raise awareness of a challenge, the next stage looking into how this challenge can be rectified in more detail and the final stage is your opportunity to link the solution with your product/service, explaining why it can solve the customer's problem.

Brainstorm ideas - and create

Now, you're ready to start creating your content. Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), choose a persona and where they are on the buyer journey. This should help to give you an idea for a piece of content. You can either find willing members of staff to write content or find a marketing firm or content agency that could offer support.

Promote content via appropriate channels

Now, it's time to get social. Your persona sheet should include information about where your target market consumes information - is it Twitter? LinkedIn? Facebook? Instagram? Each network should promote the article with a caption specifically tailored to the audience.

Although content is an increasingly important part of your marketing strategy, it's also one that takes a lot of time and effort. However, if it's implemented well, you will see great success, with a targeted approach that is more likely to conclude in high-quality conversions and a better search engine presence, ensuring you cover all possible funnels for customers to interact with your brand.

Picture: Bigstock

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