You cannot hope to be a premier content marketer when you first begin. You will grow into this status slowly, over time. And especially if you are a small business entrepreneur with a tight budget, you will be doing the bulk of your content marketing yourself. Here, then, is a guide to get you started, to cover the most important aspects, and to tell you want to forget about or the time being.
Starting With the Basics – Definition and Goals of Content Marketing – the Lego Movie
Content marketing is the act of creating and publishing stuff on the web that brings value to a reader – preferably a reader who is a potential customer. The key term here is “value” because it is value that separates content marketing from just advertising.
The Lego Movie
If you have young children, then you may have recently taken them to see the Lego movie. This was a full-length feature film that was nothing but content marketing. You and your kids got something of value – quality time with your kids and a cute, engaging story. Nobody was trying to sell you Lego in this movie, and no one was really interested in the ticket sales (except the theatre and producers of course). Lego produced this move to spread its brand name, to engage your kids, and to put Lego on the top of their Christmas lists.
Why are you in business? You exist to provide a product or service to customers and to make money while you do that. But if no one knows you exist, then you have to publicize your existence as much as possible to bring in business. If you use content marketing to bring in business, here are your goals:
- To attract readers who will find value in your content
- To provide enough value to readers that they will want to share your content and help spread your brand far and wide.
- To establish relationships with current and potential customers so that when they have need for your product, they come to you.
Notice the goal of content marketing is not to sell product. It is to attract and to provide value. So, one thing you have to forget about right now is sales. Those come later, and you have to be patient.
Defining Your Customer
You can’t do any kind of content marketing until you have developed a “persona” of your customer. Depending upon the product or service you offer, this may be simple or complex.
- If you are selling walk-in bathtubs for senior citizens, your persona is pretty simple – middle-class and above seniors who are homeowners and who can afford the product.
- If you are selling casual career wear, your persona is a Millennial who often has a non-traditional work life and workplace (think the difference between a banker and someone who works at Google)
There are plenty of ways to define your customer – look at the demographics of your current customers, no matter how few; check out your competitors’ websites and see who is going there.
Determining What Kind of Information Your Customer Wants – Real Estate
Remember the key term is “value.” So what type of information is valuable to your typical customer? Here’s how you find out.
- Comb the web for forums related to your product or service – what are people talking about?
- Check out your competitors’ social media pages and blogs – what are popular topics of conversation? What questions are being asked?
- Ask current customers what questions they have and what they’d like to know more about? What problems have they had that your product or service solved?
- What “pain” can you relieve and what problems can you solve for your target customer? The problem may not even directly relate to your product.
Example: You are a realtor and you have a website. What’s your goal? It is to get your name out there by writing content that is of value. Your target customer is not buying or selling a house today. But it’s spring, and you have lots of information about landscaping and gardening to share; you have great recipes for barbecues; you have some unique solutions for keeping a home cooler during the hot summer months. You are solving problems and educating. And if there is enough value, your readers will share that content.
Building Trust and Relationships – Making New Friends
When you provide value, you build trust; when you build trust you can ask future customers for permission – permission to add them to your blog subscription list which you will then deliver to their email inbox.
When you let your potential customer see you as a real human, you are building a relationship. Tell your story; tell stories about your team. Accompanied by photos, they will always get read.
When you help a reader by solving a problem or answering a question, even on not related to your product, you are building trust.
No one will buy from you unless there is a relationship and trust.
What Kinds of Content Marketing Venues Can You Use? Interconnectedness!
Blog: This should be your first step. Set up a blog on your website. You can actually do this yourself now, if you use a platform like WordPress. You can be up and running within 30 minutes. And, as a minimum, get plugins for sharing on social media, for conversations, and for Yoast. Start publishing posts on a regular basis, choosing topics that you have already learned will provide value.
Social Media: Pick just two and forget the rest right now. You can always add later.
- Facebook is a must. It has about 1.5 billion active monthly users right now; and 65% of those users are on daily; 72% of adults are on at least once a month and 31% of seniors in this country have an account
- LinkedIn: If your target customer is a professional, be there.
- Twitter: For a younger demographic via mobile
- Pinterest: 30-something and above, more female
- YouTube: only is you can produce great videos that provide value.
How You will Use Social Media – It’s Promotional
It’s the interconnectedness that you are looking for. Your blog and your social media accounts have to work together to give value.
- You can use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to post “teasers” with links to your blog posts
- you can “pin” a screenshot of pictures with links to your blog posts
- You can post photos of you and your team, perhaps engaged in a community cause, with a link to your blog that tells the full story.
- You can advertise a new how-to video on your blog with a link.
- You can post quizzes, surveys, polls, jokes of the day – all kinds of stuff that readers will want to interact with and share with their friends.
As you use social media more, and as you see how your competitors are using it, you will become far more expert.
Rationing You Content – It’s All in the Percentages
There are three kinds of content:
Niche Expertise: This is the bulk of content you will produce, some directly related to your product/service, some indirectly related (think real estate and barbeque recipes)
Personal Stuff: Already discussed – builds relationships and trust
Fun Stuff: Sometimes, your readers just want to be entertained. Do some fun things like those quizzes and surveys mentioned earlier. You’ve no doubt taken a few of those Facebook quizzes yourself – you know – the ones that tell you what kind of sitcom parent you are or who you were in your past life. These often go viral.
Now, use the 80/20 Rule: 80% of your content should be building relationships and trust. You become the “go-to” expert; you share your stories; you entertain. The other 20% can be promotional, but not in a direct, pushy way. Offer a free download, a discount, a special sale reserved for readers who are receiving your emails. When 80% of your content marketing is focused on developing trust, slipping in the 20% promotional stuff doesn’t faze anyone.
Some Additional Tips
Forget About the Following Right Now:
- You can’t be everywhere in the beginning – don’t try to be.
- Forget about sales as you produce content – that’s not the purpose. If you only have sales in the back of your mind, your content will reflect that.
- Content is about the customer – his needs, wants, pain points, problems. Forget about your needs
Some Points about How you Write
- Use simple vocabulary – about middle school level
- Sentences should be short and clear
- Be conversational – pretend you are talking to a friend
- Be sure that you break up content with lots of media and sub-headings. Remember your readers are scanners. They don’t want an essay.
- Set a regular publishing schedule and stick to it. Readers will look forward to you stuff.
Content marketing campaigns take an investment – a big one. You will either be spending a huge amount of time generating content yourself, or you will be paying someone else to do it. But, it is the great equalizer too. You don’t have to compete with a million dollar Coca-Cola Super Bowl Ad.