What comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘content marketing’?
A sleazy marketer on the screen selling Freudian slippers?
Or those billboards plastered with ads of people giving plastic smiles and mechanically pointing towards a product?
Content marketing is really about storytelling.
You see as long as human civilization has existed humans have told stories. Some of the earliest storytellers were the philosophers Socrates, Aristotle and Plato.
Today it’s marketers.
In the words of Seth Godin,
“Marketing is storytelling. The story of your product, built into your product. The ad might be part of it, the copy might be part of it, but mostly, your product and your service and your people are all part of the story. Tell it on purpose.”
With COVID-19, newer trends are emerging in content marketing and how you tell your story is becoming more pivotal than ever.
So, does that mean you take a writing pad and pen and start writing a story like you did in high school?
Let me explain the definition of content marketing and how it’s different from traditional marketing and digital marketing because a lot of people confuse the three concepts.
What Really Is Content Marketing?
Ever seen those ads that pop up on your screen when you least want them to? How many times did you end up buying a product because of an ad you came across?
I don’t even sit through the whole ad let alone buy a product. They’re annoying and salesy.
Yeah, traditional marketing sucks and isn’t even effective anymore.
And this is where content marketing steps in.
Hubspot defines content marketing as
…the process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing and publishing content to reach your target audience. As a business, this tactic can help you improve brand awareness, boost sales, connect with your target audience members, and engage prospects and customers.
Notice the keywords here?
‘Plan’ ‘create’ ‘distribute’, ‘share’ ‘publish’, ‘target audience’, ‘boost’, ‘connect’, and ‘engage’.
Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing is the whole process by which a business
- Educates its customers
- Connects with its customers
- Agitates its customers’ problems
- Solves its customers’ problems
- Builds a relationship with its customers
- Converts customers into buyers
And this process happens via content. (And no content is not just blogs).
Even traditional marketing has long used content in the form of catalogues, brochures, flyers, newspaper ads and TV commercials.
Content marketing uses content in different formats like words, visuals and audio.
Some Content Marketing Formats
· Blog posts
· Downloable guides
· White papers
· Social media posts
Depending on what content format you’re using for your business, you’ll use different platforms to publish your content such as
· YouTube or Vimeo for videos and webinars
· Spotify or Apple podcasts for podcasts and interviews
· Blogs for articles, guides and ebooks
· Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat for social media posts
Now you might ask, isn’t all of this digital marketing?
In a way it is.
But digital marketing is an umbrella under which content marketing falls. Digital marketing spans out into things like SEO, SEM and PR but content marketing is more focused on the content side of things.
Now that you’re clear on what content marketing actually is let’s move on to the next big thing you need to know.
How Does Content Marketing Work?
You don’t just start throwing content out there on every platform you can think of. If you do, you’ll be just another business among thousands out there.
The internet is full of terrible content (blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics etc.) 70% of small businesses with employees fail within 10 years because of their wrong marketing tactics.
This gives you a great opportunity to stand out in the crowded online world and in the words of Jon Morrow ‘breakthrough the noise’.
So what’s the right strategy?
There are tons of articles out there outlining content marketing in jargon that a beginner would never understand, so I will keep this article simple and easy to digest.
Here are some steps you need to take.
Define Your Brand’s Mission
It sounds like a cliché and most people overlook this part but defining your brand vision is super important.
All top companies have mission statements they live by.
For Google, it is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
For Microsoft, it is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
For Squarespace, it is to empower people with creative ideas to succeed.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is having a compelling mission statement from the beginning will help you stay on course.
Next, what are some concrete goals you’re trying to achieve with your content marketing? Here’s what it may look like:
- Grow an email list
- Become an industry influencer
- Make six figures a month
Going back to the storytelling point, what is the story your brand will tell its customers? Your story will differentiate you from your competitors.
Google releases ‘Year in Search’ videos annually. In 2016, their two-minute video reviewed top searches of 2016 illustrating both tragic and joyful moments of the year.
The response they received was overwhelmingly positive and the film ranked top 1% of all ads tested in 2016.
People cared less about how awesome Google is and more about the story that resonated with them.
That’s the power weaving stories into your brand.
Next, uniquely position your brand.
While creating a buyer persona is essential and recommended, it takes time. If you’re lazy, quickly do this exercise by filling in the parts in brackets:
- For (target customer)
- Who (statement of need or opportunity)
- (Product name) is a (product category)
- That (statement of key benefit)
- Unlike (competing alternative)
- (product name) (statement of primary differentiation)
Here’s an example:
“For new moms who are looking to make a full-time income from home, The Mom Project is a blog that teaches moms how to start several income streams and make six figures a month. Unlike other blogs that only focus on starting a blog, The Mom Project teaches moms how to make a full-time income from different side hustles while staying at home with their kids.”
In one simple statement, you identified your target customer, their pain points/ needs, your solution and how it’s different from your competitors.
Now comes something interesting.
The AIDA Marketing Funnel
What the hell is that?
Let’s say I’m a small business owner who sells T-shirts.
When you first visit my website, will you immediately click on the ‘products’ button and order your T-shirt? Of course not, you don’t even know who the heck I am!
So how do I get you to buy my T-shirt?
Through the AIDA marketing funnel.
Simply put, AIDA is a four-step process through which I move you from on one point to another until you purchase my product.
Here’s what AIDA stands for:
A is for Attention
While you’re casually scrolling the internet, I hold your attention. This can be through a blog post, social media post, YouTube video, a podcast episode or even a Facebook ad. My goal is to stop you in your tracks and make you notice me using captivating headlines and stunning visuals.
I is for Interest
Before you start to think I’m just another salesy marketer on the internet, I want to hold your attention and stick with me for a while.
So I make you read my blog post, my social media post or watch my YouTube video- anything that touches upon your pain point. In case of a T-shirt, maybe your pain point is wanting high quality, affordable customized T-shirts.
If I am successful, you’ll start to think I have something interesting to offer.
D is for Desire
Now I offer you something that is exactly the solution to your problem.
Using clever copy, I manage to convince you that my product is everything you’ve ever been looking for, it’s your magic solution, your dream come true.
A is for Action
Finally, I make you press the button and place your order.
Do you see what happened here?
You went from being a complete stranger to my customer. This is how marketing funnels work.
Keep in mind, however, that I simplified the AIDA funnel for the sake of clarity. Depending on your type of product/service and business model, this funnel may have more steps and your customer may spend more time with you on this journey.
How To Come Up With Content Marketing Ideas
This is the real struggle. How do you come up with ideas that don’t look like copies of ideas already out there?
Some people might ask you to sit in meditation like Buddha until God sends you divine content ideas in your consciousness. If you’re a modern content marketer seriously looking to scale your efforts, please don’t do this.
There are two things you need to do.
The first thing is to be trendy.
Don’t be a monk who has no idea what’s going on in the world.
As a business owner, you should know what topics are trending in your industry, what’s engaging customers, what’s getting a lot of shares, what questions customers are asking.
Here’s how to stay trendy:
- Use a tool like Feedly and follow top blogs in your industry. When they post something new, it will pop up in your feed.
- Use a tool like BuzzSumo or Social Animal to research which of your competitor’s content is performing best.
- Use a keyword tool like Ubersuggest to see what people are searching on the web in your industry. You can use the Ubersuggest Chrome Extension as well.
- Follow influencers in your industry. Twitter is a great place to keep an eye on everyone.
- See what topics are trending on YouTube.
- Listen to your customers. Read comments on your competitor’s posts. Stalk forums like Quora and Reddit. Survey your customers.
- Use Google Trends to stay updated on trending queries.
The next thing to create a swipe file.
Whenever you come across a topic idea that you think might be a good fit for your audience, store it in your swipe file so you can expand upon it later. Tools like Trello, Pocket, Google docs and Evernote will help you do this for free.
How To Create Killer Content
The next big question is how do you convert your ideas into amazing content that resonates with your audience and gets shared?
Here is a simple three-step process you need to follow:
Come up with a hot topic idea.
Go back to your swipe file or search the web to see what’s trending in your industry.
Next, start researching.
Find case studies, statistics, quotes etc that you can use in your content. Research-backed content performs better than content where you’re making claims in thin air. Why?
· It builds credibility
· It adds authority to your content
· It establishes your influence in your industry
Next, create your content.
Then, structure your content.
If it’s a blog post, organize your ideas in a sequence, use H1, H2 and H3, use relevant keywords, and format it properly.
Finally, add high-quality stunning visuals in your post.
Let your content sit for some time. Don’t edit it right after you create it.
Come back to it the next day and read it from a reader’s eye. Most people think editing is easy, but it takes a lot of time, in fact, more than actually writing the content.
Use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway Editor to remove errors and enhance the readability of your content.
Lastly, (and this is super important), backup your content in cloud software like Google Drive in case it accidentally vanishes forever.
Depending on your posting schedule, decide when your content goes live. Share it on social media.
Remember that your content creation process can look different depending on the size of your business. If you have a big business or looking to scale content creation, then you will need to put in extra work in this process.
You might need to hire a team to handle different tasks in which case you’ll be responsible for assigning tasks to your team members and following up with them to ensure everything runs smoothly.
How To Promote Your Content
You don’t just create content, post it and call it a day. Your content will not magically promote itself. You need to aggressively promote it everywhere.
In fact, promotion is a long process that can take days and even months before it reaps any results.
Here are some ways you can promote your content:
Social Media Marketing
Yeah, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and all of that.
But don’t make the mistake of being everywhere. If you wish to see faster results without exhausting yourself, focus on one or two social media platforms for your content marketing and growing from there.
Here are some tips for social media promotion:
- Use hashtags
- Use images
- Ask questions to boost engagement
- Do paid promotions
- Use emojis in your posts (emojis have been found to boost engagement)
- Respond to comments
- Add CTAs (calls to action) to your posts
- Get people to share your content
As a content marketer, your list is your biggest asset.
Whenever you hit publish, your list the #1 thing you need to share it with. Here are a few rules to remember about email marketing:
- Schedule your newsletter. Don’t pop up in your subscribers’ inbox every hour. It’s annoying and disrespectful.
- Include CTAs in every email. One CTA per email.
- Use split testing. Try different headlines, content, CTAs and see which works best.
The great thing about email marketing is that you have complete control over your list. Facebook and Pinterest might change their algorithms anytime and all your customers will be gone but with an email list, you promote anytime, anywhere you want.
Others Ways To Promote Your Content
Additionally, you can promote your content using
- Paid advertisements
- Guest posting
- Word of mouth
Promotion requires a lot of time and effort but if you do it right and aggressively, you won’t have to create tons of content every month. You can build your following with just two or three pieces of content a month.
In fact, Derek Halpern, the founder of popular internet marketing blog Social Triggers, teaches in this course Blog That Converts that you post two to three times a month and spend the rest of your time strategically promoting your content.
Now that you’ve learned what content marketing is and how it works, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Lisa Dougherty of Content Marketing Institute says about the future of content marketing:
Marketers will need to create more natural conversations to stay in the content game. Speaking to people from the heart online — with the same conversational language and tone they might use with a friend, or colleague — will help in search (think “how would I respond personally?”), as well as with building deeper, more trusting consumer relationships through the content they share.
The punch line?
Refine your message. Add a personal touch to every piece of content you post. Leverage the power of storytelling. Focus on building long-lasting relationships with your customers.
And stay updated on the latest trends because content marketing is evolving and will continue to evolve.
Take strategic action.