No-fail strategy for content marketing

Don't just publish a blog willy nilly. Plan, set goals, and--most importantly--know what you're getting into.

“Content Marketing” became one of the real buzzwords in 2011, and for good reason. Creating great content and then disseminating it online is a fantastic way for businesses to brand themselves, advertise goods and services, establish expertise/thought leadership, and aid search engine optimization through link-building.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll go into greater detail on each component of an effective content marketing campaign. For the purposes of this introduction, though, I’ll look at the big picture: an overview of how to plan, staff, and execute your content marketing campaign.

What's your core message?

Some businesses make the mistake of creating content just for the sake of creating content. They go in with no particular plan other than to write random blog posts and then publish them on the company site.

Before you embark on a content marketing campaign, you need to assess what knowledge you possess and whether there is an online audience for it. For example, service providers have expertise in their particular industries. Clothing retailers know about fashion trends. Stores selling luggage could become hubs for travel tips.

Ask yourself: “What messages am I most qualified to deliver?” And then ask an even more important question, “Will that message drive business?”

Who is my target audience and where is that audience online?

Even if you create the greatest messaging in the world, it will do you no good unless you deliver it to the right people. This is not rocket science—but it is a mistake many businesses make when creating content.

The larger the audience you want to reach, the more expensive it is and the more diffuse your message should be. It is far more effective to either deliver a single message to a highly targeted audience or to create several messages, each designed to target a specific audience.

A lawyer specializing in contract law probably will have less success writing about basic principles of contracts than one who has particular expertise in employment contracts or entertainment industry contracts. Target a narrow audience so that you can offer specific knowledge that will be most useful to that particular group.

Creating good content

The Web has turned everyone into a publisher. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the ability to publish has little or nothing to do with the ability to write compelling content. If you are going to promote your products, explain your services, or just provide information of interest and use to your target audience, then make sure you are either a strong writer yourself or you employ a talented copywriter(s).

Poorly written articles or badly produced videos can be extremely damaging to you and your brand. Amateurish writing tells the world you lack a certain level of professionalism. A mediocre video will turn people off. Any content that doesn’t serve the needs and interests of your target audience will be perceived as a waste of time and an insult to your audience.

Also, keep in mind that if you plan to use content as a marketing tool, then you must be committed to providing a steady stream. One article or video is not a content strategy… it is a shot in the dark. Often it is best to begin with a number of blog posts on your company website or a series of articles or white papers designed to demonstrate your expertise on a variety of topics.

It is only after creating a solid body of content that you should even think about broadcasting that content to the world.

ROI

A final word on the ROI of content marketing: Your main goal always should be to grow your business. Great content should not just get the attention of your audience, but encourage that audience to learn more about you and, ultimately, do business with you. Remember, you’re not writing as a journalist. You are writing as a marketer. Don’t ever forget that distinction.

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