Big data, native advertising, vlogging, content marketing. With new buzzwords cropping up every week, how do you know which new marketing strategy is actually worth pursuing? And which ones will just fizzle out and die, à la MySpace?
While you don’t have to immediately start video blogging (vlogging), we do recommend that you pay closer attention to “content marketing.” This strategy is not a trendy, temporary buzzword, this is a tried-and-true strategy to attract, engage, and ultimately convert potential customers.
Content marketing is basically a fancy way of saying, “Writing helpful stuff for your target audience.” In other, more eloquent words:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
– Content Marketing Institute
Content marketing doesn’t even have to involve writing — you could design an infographic, create a webinar, make a video, start a podcast, and more.
Now, at this point, you may wonder, How does a piece of content get me more customers? You have to think about content marketing like a long con. You will not generate revenue and gain customers the day you publish a new piece of content. Not even that week, or maybe not even that month. It’s about providing value to your customers before you ask something of them. It’s about building a long-term relationship and helping solve their problems.
Here’s an example. You’re an SEO consultant and you created a webinar to walk people through Google’s new change to its search algorithm and what that means for businesses. This is a free webinar, but you ask for people’s email addresses to register. Now, you have a list of email addresses for your target customers and you can create a whole email campaign with more helpful, relevant content, giving you a reason to contact them again.
This nurture campaign builds a relationship with other SEO professionals, you establish yourself as an expert, and you build brand awareness. Then, when one of these people decide to hire an external SEO consultant, they’re very likely to go with someone they know has already helped solve their problems. That is content marketing.
What Content Marketing Is Not
In order for your content marketing strategy to be successful, you cannot promote your product or service. You’ll lose people as soon as you start selling. You have to always think about what’s in it for your readers. If you cannot identify the value proposition, don’t create it.
You also can’t create an infographic or white paper, publish it on your website, and expect the customers to rolling in. Once you’ve written or designed something, you’re done with the “content” phase of content marketing. Now you have to continue with the “marketing” phase. You must have a well thought-out strategy for how you will promote the content and reach your target customers.
And lastly, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Content marketing is not solely about pumping out as many blog posts as possible. It’s better to write one long, well-researched article per month than 2 fluffy posts per week.
How to Get Started with Content Marketing
Brainstorming ideas for content can be the most challenging part of content marketing. Especially when you’re first starting out and you don’t have data to prove what is working and what isn’t.
So, the easiest way to start a content marketing strategy is to first think about and identify the problem your product or service is trying to solve. Are you a chef that wants to help people eat healthier? Are you a PR consultant wanting to help startups tell their story?
Once you’ve articulated the problem your business is trying to solve, create content that also helps solve that problem. Produce a weekly webinar series about cooking 5-minute meals under 500 calories or write a guide about how 20 local startups broke through the noise and found success.
If you take the time to truly understanding your audience and their pain points, and develop 100% valuable content, you’ll create a flywheel effect that will continue on its own, indefinitely. The more people who read your content, the more they will share it with others. The more it’s shared, the higher it will rank on Google. And the higher it ranks, the more potential customers it will bring you.