Content marketing is a big buzzword — you can find it splattered across industry blogs and even in the Harvard Business Review. Despite its increasing importance in the minds of marketers, content intimidates non-experts by eschewing traditional marketing strategies in favor of building brand publications.
Here’s the good news: the same awesome approach that supports businesses like American Express, Intuit, and Birchbox can work for companies of any size or shape. By connecting with audiences in authentic ways, a strong content strategy builds long-term relationships that bolster brand awareness and sales.
No matter your business, you can get started with this go-to guide:
Outline Key Business and Customer Needs
The heart of any effective content strategy revolves around two goals — to serve your customers and to become an authority in your area of expertise. You want to build trust with an audience, encouraging them to rely on your website to get educated, entertained, and informed.
To become a go-to source for your customer, you need to know and meet your audience’s’ pain points. What does your audience need help with every day? At When I Work we focus on helping small businesses demystify the ins and outs of running their businesses. Our blog tackles topics like HR debacles, employee issues, and leadership challenges. Everlane, a top-of-the-line e-commerce site, built their blog to answer questions about their products origins and their company events. Both content hubs offer immediate value with relevant articles that serve their customer base, just like a favorite magazine.
Mirror Your Audience’s Voice
Just as you match content to the interests of your audience, connect your company’s brand voice to their coherent voice. If you’re marketing to twenty-something entrepreneurs, for example, your voice should mirror their best characteristics: enthusiasm, intelligence, wit, and ambition. Voice should stay relatively consistent with the personality of your brand. For more indicators of your company voice, turn to your values. As Kevan Lee, a content creator at Buffer told Contently:
“Basing the company on values from the beginning has been key to defining the voice and tone for our brand. Voice and tone must come from somewhere—a set of values, a meeting or discussion, etc. For us, having clearly defined what matters most to us, we’ve got a great foundation for developing and finding our voice.”
Unlike a consistent voice, which is “the soul” of a company, tone needs to shift with the feeling of your audience. The connotation of an apology — sincerity, seriousness, even regret — should contrast the tone of a congratulatory message. MailChimp’s Voice and Tone website delves even deeper into the subtle differences that enable you to meet your customers’ emotions in different situations.
Optimize Your Content
Amazing content is just like any other creative endeavor — a work of art. But for it to support your company in tangible ways, you need to take your work a step further, optimizing every piece of content to drive audiences to your website.
Search Engine Optimization
Your content is only as good as people’s ability to find it. SEO (search engine optimization) works within Google’s algorithms to maximize your relevance and popularity in search rankings. Experts agree that to reap the benefits of content marketing, you need to get to the top of the list. Here’s how to get started:
1. Dig into Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO for a thorough rundown of the topic.
2. Work with Google Adwords to identify the best keywords for your website.
3. Include these keywords on your website in the following ways:
● Blog article titles
● The first two sentences of your blog posts
● The URL of your post
● Two to three times in the body of any content
● The image title of any accompanying graphic or image
After integrating keyword strategy into your content plan, build organic links to your website from other sites to boost your SEO standing. Kissmetrics recommends you take three steps: create partnerships with non-competitors, add your website to industry directories, and develop high-profile content like infographics to build natural links.
Email Conversion Rate Optimization
If your blog delivers spot-on content every day, your audience will wait for your new blog posts to jump into their email boxes. The rate at which people sign up for your emails or ECR (email conversion rates) is a clear indication of your success at building a community. As Ray Cheng notes, “ECR contributes to both hard-dollar and soft-dollar returns on content investment because it’s a primary driver of brand awareness, new leads, and audience loyalty.”
The best thing you can do for high ECR is to create high-quality, relevant content that resonates with your audience. Compliment awesome blog posts and graphic content with an email capture tool that maximizes your chance of landing email subscribers. Instead of sticking with the same copy, use A/B testing to test the phrases that bring in the most leads — active tinkering will pay off in high ECR.
If SEO brings potential customers to your website and ECR captures their email addresses, sales optimization or CRO (conversion rate optimization) closes the deals. To convert customers, use clear and relevant CTAs (calls to action) at the end of each piece of content. Emphasize your value proposition, or how your product or service meets and eliminates a customer’s pain point. Instead of adding the same CTAs to all your content, personalize your CTAs to different customer segments to convert 42% more leads.
Create A Plan On Where You’ll Create And Share Content
The way that readers digest information impacts the kind of content you need to offer. For example, a group of mobile readers need short content with responsive design and no images. Do some research about your audience’s preferred devices with a short quiz on your website or with some basic analytics. Your clients absorb content in a variety of different ways — you need to meet them where they’re at to optimize their experience.
Write Guest Posts
A teenager may look for content on Buzzfeed, but a serious B2B buyer may be more likely to turn toward the Wall Street Journal for a solid read. As you build your blog presence with a diversity of content forms, consider which websites your audience hits up for content every day. Make a long list, and reach out to a few peer companies, successful blogs, and mainstream publications. By contributing content to their websites, you take advantage of parallel audiences and create an organic channel toward your site and services.
Use Social to Amplify
Use the same customer-centric approach to plan your content distribution efforts. You don’t have to connect your site to 20 different social networks, just the ones your audience checks out on a daily (or hourly) basis. Instagram and Pinterest have emerged as forerunners in retail space, but Twitter and LinkedIn are still the go-to platforms for B2B efforts. Match your distribution efforts to you audience, and don’t forget email marketing. It’s still 40 times more effective than Twitter and Facebook at acquiring customers. Use this customizable template from the Content Marketing Institute to plan your distribution efforts.
As you undertake a new content strategy, always stay true to your client base. Your most loyal followers are the greatest indicator of your brand, aligning your company’s path with a successful marketing campaign.