Small businesses have been increasingly aware of and using content marketing. Entrepreneurs have been trying content development or hiring people to write content for their websites, blogs, social media posts, newsletters, emails, and printed marketing materials.
However, simply writing content for an audience to inform them about your product or service will not, in most likelihood, result in the engagement and sales generation you were expecting. You need clear objectives and well-defined ways of achieving these objectives. You need a content strategy.
What is content
Content is the idea, topic, theme, or message conveyed through all media you use to communicate with your target audience. It includes your websites, blogs, social media posts, newsletters, emails, printed marketing materials, images, infographics, podcasts, videos, webinars, publication articles, press releases, advertising in traditional and non-traditional media, and other communication media you use to reach out to your market.
What is content marketing
Content marketing is a way of creating and delivering in a consistent manner useful, relevant, and engaging content (see definition above) to a target audience or market.
Content should be useful to its audience. If your audience consists of entrepreneurs or small business owners (like you), they would want to get hold of useful information about how to start, operate, and expand their business; how to solve a specific business or marketing problem; or, how to create a content marketing strategy. The information has to be relevant to their needs, problems, and pain points. The content has to be engaging, may not be necessarily fun to read at times, but has to strike a direct connection with what preoccupies the thought of your audience.
What is content marketing strategy
Crafting a content marketing strategy is adding to your content marketing efforts a goal (or goals like boosting sales, increasing audience engagement, or establishing brand presence), a plan of action (what contents to discuss, in what form to present it, or what media to use to distribute it), a time frame (how frequent and when to deliver the content), and a performance measurement standard (quantify your goals or set milestones to be achieved within a certain period of time).
A content strategy imbues your content marketing with purpose, direction, and basis for measuring and evaluating results.
Why is content marketing strategy important
Without a content strategy, your content marketing efforts will fail to deliver the results you want. You will not have a starting point, you will not have clear courses of action, and you will achieve nothing significant or simply just get lost along the way. Your efforts will be almost a total waste.
How to develop a content marketing strategy
There are several ways of developing a content marketing strategy. Let us just focus on a simple one which every entrepreneur can easily understand and implement.
- Know your target audience. All content starts with your audience – who and where they are, their values, interests, and preferences, including their online habits.
- Know their needs, problems, and pain points. These are the concerns you have to address for your content to become useful and relevant to your audience.
- Determine what value you can offer. What experience and expertise do you have from which you can develop content that can be of value to your audience?
- Develop your content marketing strategy.
- Set your objectives. Your objectives have to be specific, measurable, and time-bound. You may consider boosting sales by 20% in 2018 or increasing website traffic by 30% within the first half of 2018.
- Select what topics you want to discuss. You may be an expert in organic and healthy food, natural beauty products, health and fitness, clean energy, or in any other topic about which you can confidently share your expertise. Remember: your audience does not take care about your product or service; they repulse a sales pitch. Your audience would value your content if these answer specific questions they have. If you become an authoritative source on topics of interest to them, you gradually develop a relationship with and build a loyal audience. Over time, this morphs into a beneficial and profitable relationship.
- Determine appropriate forms of presenting your content. You can use written materials, infographics, e-books, slides, videos, podcasts, webinars, or printed collaterals.
- Select cost-effective media to deliver your content. You can deliver your message through your website, blog, social media, email campaign, online and offline ads, and other media.
- Create a content calendar. You need to put your content topics, selected forms, media, and distribution schedule into one file to make sure you cover, coordinate, and monitor everything.
- Set your metrics. You have to periodically monitor what really matters like website traffic, engagement, and sales (new and repeat sales).
- Analyze and evaluate results; iterate for improved performance. If sales, for example, are not being generated as desired, check your engagement and traffic data. See what you can do to improve these data, implement tactical improvements, and iterate. Good results require time, persistence, new skills, and deeper knowledge of your target audience. Back to #1 above.
Desired results from content marketing cannot be achieved within a short period of time. You have to keep working at it (like I do until now). Being consistent and persevering at what you do is very important. Learning best practices, keeping abreast with the latest trends (those proven effective only; avoid the hype), and seeking professional advice about content marketing will help improve results.