Content marketing is definitely a lesser-known marketing avenue than its bigger, more popular cousins, social media marketing and digital advertising. I mean, content marketing probably buys people rounds at the local bar while PPC takes all the credit. Classic.
That’s not to say that successful content marketing is some kind of miracle cure that’ll unclog your pores and instantly grant you a business with the revenue capabilities of Tesla. It still takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication to get it working the way you want it to.
But, it’s sure as hell one of the best things you’ll ever do for your business. Let’s take a look at why you need a content marketing strategy, and how to build one that'll take your business to the next level.
Why Do You Need Content Marketing?
People love content. Ask anyone for their favourite YouTube channel, podcast, Instagram account, or blog, and you’ll undoubtedly get a different answer every time.
According to Ofcom, the average adult spends over three hours a day online, with nearly 2 ½ of those hours on social media. Internet users are constantly hunting for content to occupy their time, which is why content marketing is such a powerful tool.
Not only that, but the Internet is such a powerful front of knowledge because of content marketing. Think about it. If you’ve got a question, then your instinct is to, of course, head over to Google. Let’s say you’re curious about what you should be feeding your new puppy.
What many users don’t always consider is that these top results are from companies that are trying to sell a product or service. For example, with this search, the RSPCA is trying to sell pet insurance. So, part of their marketing strategy is to create useful, authoritative content that gets their website in front of users and demonstrates their expertise.
Okay, so you decide to click on the first result from the RSPCA, and it’s got a tonne of helpful information that helps you understand a puppy’s nutritional needs. Then, one of two things happens.
You close the tab and don’t think about that website again. But, when it’s time to insure your puppy, and you begin comparing prices, RSPCA Pet Insurance stands out because it’s a familiar name. Chances are, you’re more likely to choose it as a product because it’s familiar.
Or, you see that this same website has advice on why it’s important to clean your dog’s teeth and what to do if your dog has a barking problem. You click on these links and carry on reading. Before you know it, you’ve gone down an RSPCA-sponsored rabbit hole that’s taught you everything you need to know about your new puppy - and, probably, the benefits of their pet insurance, too.
So, you’re more likely to buy their pet insurance product.
And that’s why content marketing is important.
Sure, it’s a slow burn kind of deal when you compare it to other marketing strategies like PPC, but it’s definitely effective as a means to grow organic traffic and improve perceived quality and attention on search engines.
However, you can’t really go into content marketing with a “wing it and see” attitude. While it’s true that any content marketing is better than none (within limits, people!), just like everything in marketing, you need to have a plan and an overarching business goal.
Types of Content
Looking for some content marketing examples? There are a bunch of different content marketing strategies, most of which revolve around a different form of content. But, if you’re looking to learn content marketing fundamentals, then it’s easy to get lost wondering which type will work best for you.
Before we get into content marketing strategies, let’s take a look at what types of content exist online, what the benefits of these content formats are, as well as some quality examples of content marketing efforts that smash it outta the park!
Podcasts and audiobooks are great content marketing tools if your buyer persona doesn’t typically have time to watch or read their content - or if you don't have the capacity to execute on a written content creation process. Whether that’s because they spend a lot of time on the road, have an extremely busy schedule, or just don’t like videos, audio content is a very efficient way to deliver content.
Examples: No Such Thing As A Fish
YouTube, Twitch, webinars, and narrated slide decks garner both traffic and engagement as a means to answer questions in a dynamic, visual way. Video content can range anywhere from a few minutes long to a few hours, depending on the subject. YouTube videos are typically under an hour long, and webinars two hours or more.
Infographics, slideshows, checklists, social media graphics… the list really does go on with visual content. Graphic content isn’t always considered a solo thing, particularly as things like “swipeable” graphic files can be considered lead magnets in their own right, but it’s a great way to represent things like facts and statistics in an easy-to-digest way.
Examples: This awesome infographic from SEMrush
As far as examples of content go, it pays to get your author on! Blog posts, emails, quizzes, whitepapers, social media posts, image captions, and more. Written content is the most easily recognisable in content marketing, and it garners massive organic traffic for a reason. From in-depth guides to quick explainers, this format of content strategy is as old as the Internet itself. But, it’s worth mentioning that it’s best suited to users who regularly have the time to read. As you might expect.
Examples: This blog post (hey there!), or this blog post about the German Shepherd dog breed
Your Step-By-Step Guide to Building a Content Marketing Strategy
Okay, now that we’ve given you the run-down of the different content types you need to consider, let’s take a look at how to build a content marketing strategy that knocks your marketing goals out of the park and puts you on track for content marketing success.
Step 1: Who’s Buyin’?
Yup, just like with your other marketing strategies, you need to know who your potential buyers are ... who’s going to be buying what you’re selling. But, what content marketing tips often forget to tell you is that buyer personas aren’t the be-all and end-all of content marketing tactics.
Look. There’s going to be people reading your content because they’re curious about what you do and what your product is. And, if you’re only focusing on the customers you know about, that’s a huge chunk of your audience you’re missing out on addressing.
Okay, so imagine you’re selling organic, small-batch, artisanal birdseed. You already know that a key part of your customer base are wealthy wildlife lovers who don’t want to use the same bird food they can buy in the supermarket. Or, the same food that Sandra next door is using.
But, what you also need to consider is that your business will inevitably attract people who wonder why on God’s green earth they’d pay a fortune for birdseed when surely, wild birds aren’t all that fussy. And those people might never, ever make a purchase.
While they’re there, though, wouldn’t it be a good idea to show them why fancy birdseed is a good thing?
So, yes, 300% you need to focus on the people you know are buying. Just make sure that when you’re creating your buyer personas, you don’t neglect the people who might just need a teensy nudge over to your side of the fence.
And then, once you’ve figured out who these people are, you need to get to grips with their problems. Fortunately, I’m not talking about existential crises. I’m talking about the kind of problems that your product needs to solve or problems that are stopping them from making a purchase.
Thankfully, problems can be as simple as “why would I spend a fortune on fancy birdseed?”, but they can also be as complicated as “look, I’ve been buying the regular stuff for months and the birds won’t touch it, but they always go to Sandra’s house - what gives?”.
Step 2: What Are Your Goals?
You can’t start a journey without knowing where you’re going. I mean, you can, but it’s not ideal, is it?
So, once you’ve figured out who your potential customers are - and who’s going to be reading/watching/listening to your content - you need to figure out what you want them to do. Of course, that’s going to be buying your super awesome product or service, but there are a few steps you need to take care of before you get to that point.
You need to know why you’re creating content, far beyond “but I want more money - duh!”.
Do you want to improve your lead generation so your email marketing and social media content starts to generate more revenue?
Do you want to increase organic traffic with optimised content marketing campaigns?
Do you want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry to drive more profitable customer action?
Do you want to advertise your products without feeling weird and spammy about buying advertising?
No matter what your goals are, you need to get to grips with them now before you get started.
Step 3: Know Where You’re At
Now you’ve got your goals and your customers in mind, you need to know what you’ve got to work with. If you’ve already got a website set up for your business, then you need to run a content audit to see how the content you’ve already got is performing - and how it stacks up against the others in your industry.
If you’re planning on publishing content through social media, then it’s also worth looking at all of your previous posts to see how well they’ve performed.=
Content audits sound scary, but they’re surprisingly simple once you know what you’re doing. The only problem is that they’re lengthy, and they do result in a tonne of data that you need to know how to action.
Pssst...we can totally run a content audit for you if you need help. Just get in touch!
Step 4: Video (Might Not Have) Killed The Radio Star
We’re starting to get a clearer picture now of your content strategy, but there’s still one major thing you need to decide on. And that’s what format your content’s going to take.
Like I mentioned earlier, different formats have different benefits, and the one you choose needs to be tied into what your audience wants. So, if you run a business teaching newbie investors on how to build their stock portfolio, then chances are that a podcast will be the best option for your content marketing strategy.
But, if you’re selling artisanal birdseed, then blogs and infographics will likely be the best alley for you to head down.
The key thing to remember is you need to meet your audience where they already are. Whether that’s LinkedIn, Reddit, or browsing Google trying to figure out why their garden’s so boggy, a great content marketing tip is to roll with what your buyer personas already love.
Step 5: It’s Not Official Unless It’s In The Calendar
Okay, so we’ve got a plan coming together. But you know what they say - it’s not official until it’s in the calendar. (Just me?)
For real though, you need to get a content calendar going now that you’ve got a plan. It’s okay that if, right now, you’ve not got any solid idea of what you want to talk about in your content, but you should at least get it plugged into a framework so you know when you’re going to get it published.
You should also carve out some time to create your content in your schedule. I know this can be tricky when you’re busy, so even if you’re planning on outsourcing your content, make sure you’ve got enough time during the week to put together briefs and review the content that’s coming back in.
Step 6: Why Do You Write Like You’re Running Out Of Time?
Yup, now it’s time to get creating like your life depends on it. Or, like I said, if you don’t have time, get on creating those briefs and finding ways you can outsource your content creation.
As a rule of thumb, we like to suggest that businesses have 2-3 months of high-quality content ready to go before they hit publish for the first time. If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and if you’re the only person in charge of your content marketing strategy, you need to have backups and resources in place in case you can’t get your content on time or things go pear-shaped.
Step 7: Distribution Time!
So you’ve done your planning, got a bunch of content ready, and you swear you never want to read about fancy birdseed another day in your life. While we can’t help you with that last bit, we can give you some content marketing tips for distribution.
Once you’ve published your content, then it’s time to start linking it through your social media channels and your email marketing lists using your all-important content calendar to ensure you're spitting out consistent content and not leaving your audience hangin'. Just like with the format of content you chose earlier, you should be distributing your content through the channels your audiences already use. Whether that’s Facebook, Reddit, or some super-specific hobby forum that looks like it’s trapped in the 90's, make sure you tell as many people as possible about your new content.
Step 8: You’re An Influencer, Baby
Grab a glass a Vino and celebrate!
And then put it down, because sorry, there’s still work to be done...
After a few months, make sure to check your content’s metrics to see how well it’s performing. This is the best chance you’ve got to evaluate your efforts and make sure you can get things better next time.
But seriously, you should be dang proud of yourself.
And that's it! You're now well and truly ready to drive quality traffic, lead generation and a world-class experience for each stage of the customer journey with a content marketing solution that'll meet both your budget requirements and your objectives!