Technology has rewired our brains to the extent that traditional advertising has lost much of its impact, with viral and content marketing stepping up to fill the gap left behind. The fact is that, whilst thorough reading and learning by rote were prized academic feats fifty years ago, they are no longer necessary in our Google-powered world. And so, our brains are adapting to absorb more content, to skim and scan, to pick out the pertinent, and all within our ever diminishing attention span… still with me?
Consumers don’t buy traditional advertising. Content marketing is not the future, it is the present – and so, unsurprisingly, many entrepreneurs are looking to leverage this powerful tool by leaping in feet first and creating and posting content online.
But that might just be their primary error – because writing content is the last thing you should do if you want to move to a content marketing strategy.
If you want to move to a content marketing strategy, jumping straight in without having an overarching plan, understanding your audience and how you can soothe their pain is setting yourself up to fail. However, if you want to know how to get started on the right footing, read on.
Have a plan
Before you ever set pen to paper – and if there’s a good 21st century replacement for that phrase, I’ve yet to hear it – you need a plan.
First and foremost, be clear on the goals of your content marketing strategy. For example, you may be looking simply to increase your web presence, by adding Twitter followers or building your blog readership. Quantify it – from a general goal of ’increase web followers’, you might have a SMART goal like ’an increase of 15 percent in Facebook likes month on month’.
An effective content marketing plan is based on a thorough understanding of your unique value proposition (UVP) – what you as a business can offer your customer that no one else can. This message influences the content that will work for you, and also the platforms that are best for your business.
Content marketing is often based around blogs, web content, Twitter and Facebook – but remember that there are other choices such as YouTube, LinkedIn, slide sharing, podcasts, Pinterest, white papers, reports, and infographics. The format that works for you depends on your UVP and, of course, your target audience.
Meet your audience
So, before you can get deeper into your content marketing strategy, you will need to create, meet, and understand your audience.
One of the reasons content marketing works is because it frequently is a two-way relationship between company and customer. Luckily, this makes understanding your audience relatively easy to do once you know how.
Great content is great because it addresses your audience’s issues, hopes and fears. It is the start of an emotional link with your customer – understanding the itch they have, and scratching it. A great starting point to understand your customers better is to simply ask them what’s going on in their world. Start a conversation via your Facebook page or by using Twitter – the tone of social media allows and encourages informal chat which can give valuable insight.
Look at the trends on social media in your industry area to get a feel for what is on your customer’s mind – follow industry leaders and read the comments made on blogs and other content created by your competitors. Eavesdropping on the customer conversations that are happening all around you is a great shortcut to the heart of what’s relevant and what’s going to capture the imagination of your customer base.
Soothe their pain
Whatever you learn about your customer, your aim through your content marketing plan is to soothe their pain, make them smile, inspire them, and answer their questions before they have been asked.
Content marketing does not directly sell but rather builds customer relationships, starts conversations, establishes your product name and places in the market, and enables customers to trust you. Your reward is a loyal following of clients which in turn translates into sales. It’s a subtle approach, and a long game – but worthy of your investment because the rewards are handsome!
And then some writing…
Having created a content marketing plan, focusing on understanding your audience, engaging across relevant media, and addressing their unique issues to establish your brand as a leader, you might now be ready for some writing.
But even now, don’t forget that content marketing is about more than just churning out blog posts. Connect others, curate content, add to the conversation by replying to and commenting on others’ work, video and Instagram your product in action, and offer free eBooks, podcasts and webinars. And if you are the product, share yourself. Customers want to see your human side as well as your knowledge and professional expertise.
Great content makes an immediate and intimate connection with your customers – it allows you, virtually, to take every single one of your customers (and prospective customers) out for a coffee and a chat, it gets you into their living rooms, it creates a community, and it eliminates the need for a product pitch, because every word you type is selling your product. And who wouldn’t want that?