Content Marketing for Businesses: How to Do It Right
Content marketing has become something of a buzz term for marketers. As Google's understanding of content continues to evolve, so too does our understanding of the importance of great content and as such our ability to create unique, creative pieces must evolve too.
Google expects your website to have great content on your site in the form of written copy, imagery, photography, graphics and videos. It means that websites with poor quality copy will really struggle to rank highly, or even at all, in the Google search results.
How to Create a Content Plan
The first step to successful content marketing is to have a plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are you trying to target?
- What topics interest them?
- How can you best contribute to these topics?
- What resources do you have at your disposal?
Step 1: Understanding the Target Audience
Understanding your audience is the first step to successful content marketing.
You'll need to be more specific that 'we're targeting small businesses' or 'we'd like to work with retailers'. Think about the specific individuals you wish to address. It's them that your content should speak to.
Who do you speak to in sales meetings? Do you meet with the procurement manager, for example? Are you addressing the CEO? Perhaps it's the marketing manager you seek to impress. Consider who the specific people and roles are to really drill down into who your audience is.
You can then go into more detail. Think about an individual you pitched to recently. What questions did they ask? How did they find out about your company? What age range did they fall into? Did they have a good understanding of your product/service already or did they need to be educated? Were they tech savvy and contacting you via mobile devices, or did they prefer telephone contact or even printed documentation. Did they seem time rich or time poor?
All of this information can help you to create a much rounder, much more useful image of the person you're trying to address through your content.
You can involve the wider team in this exercise too. If it's your sales team that has the most contact with your customers and prospects, bring them in. Perhaps it's your customer service team or account managers. Product development teams can also provide great insight into your audience. Get everyone together and build a much clearer picture of your target audience.
Step 2: What Topics Interest Your Audience?
So now you know who you want to target. Now you need to know what will interest them.
Read that again. It's about what will interest them. That means moving beyond traditional marketing methods which tend to focus on what your marketing message is, and instead putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience.
What's topical in their industry at the moment? What topics are they discussing through social media? What are leading industry publications and influencers discussing?
You can find a lot of this by reviewing your existing customers and identifying where they are active online, perhaps their social media profiles (company or individual). LinkedIn forums for their industry are also a great place to look, as people tend to ask questions here that your content could potentially answer.
Find out what interests your target audience and create a list of those topics.
Step 3: How Can You Best Contribute to These Topics?
A wise cartoon rabbit once said "if you don't got nothing nice to say, don't say nothing at all". Of course, your content might not always be saying something 'nice' per se, but replace the word 'nice' with 'valuable' and you've got a pretty good guideline for successful content marketing:
"If you don't have anything valuable to say, don't say anything at all."
That means you need to consider what topics your audience is interested in and how best you can contribute to that discussion. For us at Impression, we know our audience is very interested in mobile marketing at the moment and we know we can contribute to that with our expertise and insight into Google's mobile algorithms and how best to construct a mobile friendly website.
Of course, our customers aren't going to be solely interested in things we already know about or are experts in, but that doesn't mean we can't contribute. We work with a lot of ecommerce businesses and we know that the divide between bricks and mortar retail and digital sales is a topical subject. We don't have a 'shop' of our own so we can't speak from direct experience, but we do invest in researching these matters and also work with a number of retailers and we build our expertise therein. We can therefore contribute to those discussions with the insights we've derived from our experience and through research we've done.
In your business, think about how your existing expertise fits into what your customers are interested in, and how they enables you to contribute to those topics. If you don't have the expertise now, how can you get it? Look out for research papers, read up on topics via industry publications and become an active participant in the communities of your customers. This way, you find the best way to contribute to the topics that interest them.
Step 4: What Resources Do You Have At Your Disposal?
Now you know who you want to talk to, what they're interested in and how you can contribute to their interests. The next step in successful content marketing is to decide how best to craft that content.
Consider how that content will be best represented. Let's say, to draw on a previous example, we decided we wanted to contribute to the mobile marketing conversation with a comparison of mobile website design vs responsive design. We may decide that such a comparison would be well-suited to an infographic, and we know we have an in-house designer who can create that for us.
We have clients who've decided to create content that communicates a journey, with one comparing interior design trends through the decades. In this case, we created a scrolling interactive graphic using the design and development capabilities we have.
You might decide that a more simple blog post is best for you, or to create a video. Whatever medium you decide to craft your content on, you'll need to ensure you have the resources to do it successfully.
Step 5: Promotion and Analysis
Whilst great content will often attract attention on its own merit, no content marketing campaign is complete without a strong promotion plan and the ability to analyse the results.
Back when you were considering who you're trying to target, you'll have come up with a list of the social media platforms they use, the publications they read, the websites they refer to; these are all places to promote your content.
Share it around the web, encourage others to do the same. By promoting your content, you stand a far better chance of it reaching the very people it was created for.
Finally, always analyse the results of your work. Did your content achieve what you wanted to achieve? Did it reach the people you wanted to reach? If so, how and why? If not, what happened?
Content marketing is an extremely valuable marketing tool for any business today and will become increasingly more integral to successful digital marketing. But as with all marketing techniques, it must provide you a return on your investment.