Content Marketing can be summarized as a means of marketing wherein the potential of the content is optimally leveraged through the use of audience defined mediums and channels of distribution, to create maximum impact; this in turn can be measured by the quantifying the amount of leads generated and the conversion of these leads into paying customers.
A well crafted, strategic and sustainable content marketing strategy is more than just an absolute must if you want your internet marketing campaign to succeed. This is the kind of strategy that has its ears to the ground and is founded on the cornerstones of
- Facilitating Lead Generation
- Improving Brand Awareness
- Increasing Website Traffic
- Generating Brand Credibility
As is the case with every process, methodology or strategy, there are certain principles that should be kept in mind to guarantee that the strategy can be built without missing out on the its integral building blocks
Big words, and quite often confusing, but think of your content strategy as something that is made up of short and long term plans and things don't look so confusing any more. You are best served by separating your content marketing initiatives into two categories - short and long term initiatives.
So, something like blogging, or even the creation of podcasts can be a part of your short term initiative. Some of you might be a little surprised why I have categorized blog posts as 'short term', well that's because blog posts come in various types, so if there is a blog post with B2B content, its going to be right up there when it comes to its potential, but a B2C kind of blog post is not a great idea over the longer term.
Something else that can be a part of your long term strategic initiative is white papers, infographics and eBooks. An eBook, and I kid you not, can become a cornerstone of your content marketing strategy. A well written eBook has the potential to become the essential problem solver for your audiences. You can either sell it, or offer it for free, but in both cases, you can make it mandatory for the user to share their contact details, name and any other information you might need. What do you think has just happened in this scenario...Well your prospects have just turned into your leads.
There are two other aspects of content strategizing that you must be aware of, and those are knowing the Purpose of your Content and being able to Evaluate its Success.
To put it simply strategic thinking helps you put in place a process wherein you can measure your goals with respect to content marketing.
Knowing Your Audience
You need to know who your audience is and once you have identified it, you will need to be able to relate to it. This is absolutely crucial; get this part wrong and your content marketing campaign has had it, so identify your audience and I am not just talking about the demographics; I am asking you to go a little deeper into it. Define the industry that they belong to, their role, the levels of their domain expertise and their goals and challenges.
What you are essentially doing is trying to zero in on the 'character' of your audience, this then will help you know what they are interested in, which incidentally will allow you to choose the best way to get in touch with them. You will be able to identify and create content that will have an instant connect with them. Your audience will only read something if it is in perfect sync with their interests and preferences, and you will only be able to do that if you know your audience.
Zero In On The Medium
How are you going to get your content to your audience? It's by picking the right medium. The content type, determines the medium, so if you are going to be using blog posts as a part of your content strategy, then a blogging platform will be the medium you will use, on the other hand, if its videos, then sites like YouTube, can act as effective channels for communication.
While choosing your medium, you will need to ensure that the choice fits in with the objectives your content and the accessibility of the medium vis- -vis your audience. You can't choose to use a webinar as a promotional strategy without knowing whether your audience understands and has access to the tools needed to participate in a web based seminar. So be very careful in your choice of the medium.
Ensure Content Liquidity
Your content marketing endeavors will be successful if your content can be used with relative ease, meaning it should be able to spread quickly. This is why liquid content is of such paramount importance. While creating content, think whether it can shared easily; whether it is actually good enough to be shared by people, especially; across social networks and whether it has the flexibility to be used across diverse distribution channels.
Make sure that your content is not trapped within parameters that you have drawn for it. Content is something that needs to be created in a way such that it can be used and reused in different contexts and can be displayed in various formats.
Use Content As A Catalyst
If you use content purely as a means of marketing and not as a catalyst for change, the payout will be on the lower end of the scale. You must ensure that your content is not pure seen as a marketing tool. Yes, all those videos, podcasts, newsletters, infographics, reference guides that are a part of your content strategy might not blatantly look or sound like they are used as a means of promotion, but your audience knows this all the same.
But, here's the thing, they are willing to give you a chance, and it's imperative you grab it with both ends. This is why the content and its marketing needs to be change oriented. It needs to be able to make a difference in the thinking of those who read it; it must help them in some way or the other.
Take it or leave it, but your marketing will only work if it doesn't look or sound like marketing at all.
Is the content that is being distributed through a medium chosen by you, reaching its audience effectively? That is the question that needs to be answered by you time and time again. You will have to measure the performance of your content, because if you can't, how will you know whether your content marketing strategy has proven to be effective or not.
My suggestion is to not rack your brains too hard, and take the help of the plenty of metrics tools available out there like HubSpot, Intense Debate, Google Analytics and the likes. These are comprehensive systems that will help you count the number of unique visitors that come to your website, page views, the organic traffic, exit rate, the site's conversion ratio and the quality of the link juice.
You will save a lot of time that way.
Perceptions Change - Keep Reworking The Strategy
An effective strategy is one that keeps nurturing your prospects, meaning it keeps your target audience interested. This is only possible if you keep repositioning, re-imagining and repurposing your content strategy at regular intervals. Don't allow it to stagnate. So, if you are focusing on the use of blog posts, Newsletters, and White papers as the major types of content to drive your content marketing strategy, you could change it by adding a bit of engagement value to it, by also making use of videos, webinars etc.
You must also have a rethink on your channels of content distribution. If you have been only using the services of free channels, you can start leveraging the potential of paid channels. You will need to realign and revaluate your distribution channels to be in line with the changing expectations of your audience.
Avoiding Messing Up
It is difficult picking up the pieces when everything goes bust, so for my money the critical principle is to not mess up. This is the real McCoy; no mess ups and you got a wonderfully cohesive and amazingly profitable content marketing strategy on your hands. All it needs is for you to avoid some unnecessary pitfalls. Don't bulldoze your way towards a content marketing strategy, plan it and then move ahead. There is many a strategy that has bit dust, due to lack of a plan.
Another pitfall is going about defining the purpose of the content wrong and missing the woods for the trees. Where marketers at times go wrong is they want quick results, and don't really worry about creating value for their target audience. This results in failure and we don't want that to happen, do we?
That's about it. But remember, the principles are not cut and dried and can be tweaked to suit your purpose and objectives. These are just guidelines that help you create right kind of content and reach the intended audience, so use, them and tweak them if you want, but don't lose sight of what you want to achieve. Your content marketing strategy must be driven by your goals and not by anything else. This will ensure its success.
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Pratik Dholakiya is Co-Founder & VP of Marketing of E2M Solutions & OnlyDesign. At E2M Solutions, they focus heavily on content marketing and generate revenue for their clients. And through OnlyDesign they help companies build better web & mobile presence. Get in touch with him on Twitter @DholakiyaPratik to ask for any help.