In the old days if you wanted to start a business you hung a sign outside your door and waited.
If you want to get noticed in our modern world of social media, online advertising, and email marketing you need to use content marketing.
What is content marketing? Content marketing is a strategic approach to consistently sharing valuable content that solves problems for your target market and attracts them to make purchases from your business.
Let’s look at how you can use content marketing in your business.
Why use content marketing?
If you want to increase your sales you have 3 basic choices: 1) word of mouth, 2) advertising and promotions, or 3) content marketing. Each one comes with pros and cons:
#1 Word of mouth
Every business owner loves word of mouth advertising. The concept is pretty simple: wait for happy customers to tell other customers and watch your business grow. It’s free, doesn’t require any management and works 24/7.
There’s only one problem…
It’s completely unpredictable and a really slooooooow way to build a business.
#2 Advertising and promotions
As a business owner, you can always pay for advertising. And it’s never been easier to design and launch an advertising campaign.
You can pay for ads on Facebook, Google Ads, a local, online directory, or with your industry association.
The challenge is getting seen.
Any form of advertising comes with a lot of competition. Everyday consumers are exposed to 4,000 to 10,0000 advertisements.
Standing out with your campaign can be expensive.
And then there is…
#3 Content marketing
Content marketing is all about using valuable content to attract the right audience to your business.
And you do it by solving problems before they become customers.
The concept is pretty simple:
You demonstrate you are an expert in your field and when that follower needs your expertise, they hire you.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
The beauty of content marketing is that prospects are attracted to you. Instead of “pushing” your message on them, you “pull” them to you with information, solutions, insights, and resources they are looking for.
Now that we know what content marketing is, let’s go through 5 questions you should ask before you create your content marketing strategy. Answer these questions before you start creating content and you will save yourself a lot of time and avoid a lot of beginner mistakes.
1. What’s your objective?
Before you start writing blog posts or creating YouTube videos you need to step back and clarify your objective. Just like designing your perfect vacation or building a house, you need to invest the time to create a clear vision and description of the outcomes you want, before you dive into the deep end of work.
For example, if you are promoting a low-cost product, like book sales or sunglasses you might be less interested in building an email list and much more interested in immediate sales.
This type of sales strategy is often referred to as a short sales cycle. In other words, it doesn’t take long for a new customer to make a purchase decision.
If you are selling a more complicated, or expensive (long sales cycle) product or service, like consulting, legal services of financial planning, you will want to build an email list. An email list allows you to build a relationship with followers, and over time, to influence them to become customers.
In this article, I explained the 5 questions you should be asking before starting (or building) your email list.
2. Who’s your ideal customer?
The more targeted your content marketing, the better your results will be. With a targeted campaign you’ll be able to reach the right people and the right people will recognize you are speaking to them.
The good news is if you’ve been in business for any length of time you have a good idea who your ideal customer is. Your ideal customer is often referred to as your “avatar.”
For example, at BlogWorks we have 2 avatars: Amanda and Stephen. We created our avatars by simply thinking about our customers and grouping them into two types, based on their profile and how they respond to our work.
Of course, there are outliers who are not like Amanda or Stephen, but that’s not the point. The idea with creating your avatars is to profile your ideal target market – the clients you want more of.
When we have a marketing decision to make we start by asking what would Amanda or Stephen respond to. It might sound a little silly to be asking “what would Amanda like?”, but it’s surprising how pausing to ask these questions help with our decision making.
Start defining your avatar with these 3 elements:
- Demographics: gender, location, age, family, income?
- Employment: retired, management, part-time, blue-color?
- Problem: what is their single or recurring problem that you can solve?
3. What content will you create?
Now we get to the heart of content marketing – the content!
The content you create is all about solving problems that you know your ideal customer – your avatar – has and then publishing that content on the channels they are most likely to see.
For example, if your product is highly visual, like fashion, make-up, home projects, or cooking you would want to be on Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. If you want to attract a business audience you would want to be on LinkedIn and use your blog to attract organic searches.
In this article, I explain the main differences between blogging and social media and how to choose which is best for your business.
But, before you order your studio lights on Amazon and start recording videos for YouTube, let’s look at what type of content is ideal for both you AND your avatar.
The trick with consistent and successful content marketing is to find the balance between what you can consistently create and what your market is willing to consume.
Ask yourself these 2 questions:
#1. Where can you influence your avatar online? There’s no point building a YouTube channel to attract business if your avatar doesn’t use YouTube for purchasing decisions or there’s already too much competition. Similarly, the cost in time and effort to build a following on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest might be greater than the return you will get. Instead, you might want to focus on building your email list.
#2. What content can you consistently create? One of the biggest marketing mistakes business owners make is underestimating the time and effort it takes to consistently create, edit, and publish valuable content.
Sure, it might take you only 10 minutes to create a YouTube channel, but it takes a lot longer to edit, publish, and promote every video. Many well-intentioned content marketing plans have been abandoned simply because of how much time and effort was required.
Although we are definitely biased(!), we always recommend that your content marketing strategy starts with your blog. Here’s why:
- A blog is low-tech. You don’t need to master video or learn how to use Photoshop or Canva to publish a really great blog.
- A blog is published on your site. When someone reads your blog you have their full attention—they won’t be distracted with ads or competing content, like suggested videos on YouTube.
- A blog makes people stop. Visitors to your site will spend 5 to 10 times longer on your blog articles, compared to any other page on your site. Compared to social media, your blog gives you an audience who are undistracted and willing to explore what else you have to offer.
At BlogWorks we make writing, editing, and publishing your blog easy. Learn how to attract more of the right traffic with blogs from the local team of writers at BogWorks.
4. How often should you create content?
How often you create content depends on 2 factors: time and return. The more time you invest the more return you can enjoy. Conversely, if you have less time, you simply get less of a return.
But, you still get a return.
When I started blogging I posted a new article once every month. It didn’t take long for me to realize that increasing the frequency of my posts resulted in an increase in the growth rate of my traffic.
Once I had a solid inventory of articles I learned I could update and republish my old articles. The results were amazing!
Updating an old article takes much less time, compared to writing a new article. Plus, old articles have earned backlinks (other sites linking to them) and have been indexed by search engines (ranking). When you republish that article it brings all those advantages with it.
In this article, I explain why updating and republishing old articles is such a smart strategy.
5. How to turn followers into customers?
Content marketing is designed for sales, not entertainment. All too often, well-intended – even relevant and valuable – articles, videos, and updates are missing one key ingredient.
It’s great that you spend 2 hours making a video, or writing the perfect blog to answer a burning question you know your clients have. But, if there’s no call-to-action (CTA) you’ve failed to move your reader to action and one step closer to a sale.
Examples of a CTA in a blog are:
- Contact you
- Visit your product/service pages
- Complete a qualifying survey
- Invite to read another article
- Join your list and download a lead magnet
- Watch a video (on your site)
Getting readers of your blog to take one additional action is like getting an audience to put up their hand and say “yes”‚—they are one step closer to a sale. In this article, I explain how the principle of consistency can influence consumers to move closer to a sale.
How to get started
Now that you’re committing to your Content Marketing strategy it’s time to get started. But, first here’s what not to do(!)
Don’t try to do everything.
The Internet is bursting with “experts” telling you to “be everywhere!!” The reality is you first have a business to run, maybe have a family to care for and, of course, your personal health is a priority.
Remember the person telling you to “be everywhere” is making their money as a social media “expert.” You aren’t.
Instead, smart marketers will invest in one or two social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). And that’s it.
Any more and you run the risk of diluting your efforts, or, worse, quitting before you get any real benefits.
Content Marketing is the long game of marketing. It’s also one that can pay long-term benefits for your brand and your income.