You need a great content marketing strategy to stay relevant online.
It’s at the core of how small businesses earn trust and build loyalty.
And, for many small businesses, it’s the most cost-effective marketing option you have.
But small business owners aren’t typically marketers by nature.
So, for many, content marketing is something outside their field of expertise.
If you’re one of those who are willing to get better and understand everything you can do with it, you’ll trample your competition.
Not only will your content bring you more leads and sales, but it will likely make your brand stand out as a frontrunner in the industry.
Since people want to work with the best, that’s a definitive advantage for your brand.
Learning how your content marketing can be it’s best will reshape the results you get from your online efforts.
A Content Marketing Strategy Has To Stay Focused
Every successful content marketing strategy has one core thing in common.
Their different content platforms all share a completely focused message.
It’s nearly impossible for your content marketing to succeed if your message is split, divided, or sporadic.
Approaching content that way makes your brand look erratic and doesn’t create an image of expertise or authority.
But some small businesses aren’t sure how to handle the different content platforms.
They don’t have a unifying, underlying idea that brings all their content platforms together for the same goal.
Unfortunately, that undermines their efforts on each platform, making their brand look like amateurs.Your message must be focused entirely on the same goal across platforms for your content marketing to work. Click To Tweet
When your message is directed entirely at the same goal, your audience knows what you know, how well you know it, and why they should choose you when they need what you offer.
There is no confusion or mistrust.
Your audience can see the value that you bring to the table, making it easy for them to choose your brand for their needs.
Your Content Marketing Strategy Can Become A Beast
The obvious goal of any content marketing strategy is to help build and grow your business.
When it does a better job at that you can do a better job at doing what you love.
And, of course, life gets easier when your business is on the right track.
Therefore, the ideal situation would be when your content marketing helps make your competition look like amateurs compared to you.
By infusing your content with the right ideas, you can get there.
But when I say, “right ideas”, I don’t mean the ideas you’ll be sharing with your audience.
You have to discover those for yourself.
I’m talking about you holding the right ideas about your content marketing strategy that will get you the kind of dominating results we’re talking about.
So, let’s dig into those ideas and start building a content marketing strategy that will take your brand to the forefront of your industry.
Focus On The Benefits
If you want your content marketing strategy to succeed, the first idea you need to grasp is that your content must connect with your audience if it’s going to get anywhere.
To do that, you need to know what people want to learn about.
What people don’t want to learn about is how cool your product is.
The features your product possesses that make it “amazing” aren’t the things that your audience (and potential customers) care about.
They want to understand how your product or service benefits them.
Thus, your job is to show them.
Elaborate on the ways your offering can educate them.
Expand on the improvements it will make to their lives.
Expound the ways it will solve their problems.
By focusing on the ways your offering benefits your audience, you’ll attract much more of their attention.
Find The Magic Stories
If you’ve ever experienced the pleasure of finding the knowledge you were looking for on the subject you were looking for, you know what a magic story is.
This is where your level of expertise overlaps with the topics your audience wants to know about.
A magic story is an idea that allows you to build strong connections with your audience.
It’s the place trust in your knowledge is built.
Any time you find a topic that you can cover well that your audience wants and/or needs to hear, dive into it.
That’s the area that’s both specific and interesting in a way that draws in the right qualified market for what you do.
Staying in that area of content allows you to do an excellent job proving that your brand is the right one for your audience to partner with.
Design It For The Audience
Your content has one intended target – the audience.
Everything you create to communicate ideas to them has to be something they’re willing to consume.
One of the fastest ways to turn them off is to create ugly content.
Yes, ugly content.
As you execute on your content marketing strategy, you need to step back and look at what the result of each piece looks like.
Each piece of content needs to be pleasing to the eye if you expect your audience to look at it.
There are two reasons the visual design matters.
First, the visual design will determine how well your content is received by your audience for their consumption.
Ugly content doesn’t get consumed.
Second, every piece of content reflects your brand.
Think about how that reflection is affecting your audience’s opinion.
Make sure your content is designed to earn your audience’s best reaction.
Don’t Sell When You Shouldn’t
Something has changed in marketing in recent years.
Your content marketing strategy must now include sales as well as marketing.
Yes, there is a difference.
Marketing is about brand differentiation, showing your audience who you are, and what about you is unique.
But you’re not telling them that you’re awesome.
You’re demonstrating it.
Sales, on the other hand, is the direct articulation of the benefits of working with your brand instead of your competition.
The goal of sales is to help make your audience’s purchasing decision easier and ask them to become your customer.
When developing your marketing content, it’s important to know when marketing is appropriate and when you should be selling.
That requires you to understand which phase of their buyer’s journey they are in.
While people are still inquiring and not making purchasing indicators, they need marketing content.
However, when they’ve given you a buying signal (like a trip to your pricing page), it’s a good time to give them some sales content.
Pay attention to the timing of each and you won’t drive customers away too early or wait too long for them to buy from you.
Respect Your Audience’s Time
There is nothing worse than content that wastes your time.
Think about how many sales calls you hang up on because telemarketers don’t respect or listen to you, or about all the articles you’ve come across that didn’t answer the question you Googled.
If you feel like that, what makes you think your audience feels any different?
Nobody likes it when their time isn’t respected by someone else.
You must treat your audience’s time the way you want yours treated.
Your content marketing strategy needs to focus on delivering as much value as possible and eliminating the unneeded filler.
So, what exactly does that mean?
Content that tries too hard to sound like expertise probably is.
Jargon, buzzwords, and overly technical information don’t interest or educate your audience most of the time, so avoid them.
Simply get to the point of your content, offering as much information and value as possible using as few words as possible while still being complete.
Doing that shows your audience you respect them and their time, and they’ll likely come back for more.
Create In A Creative Space
Ideas for content can be tough to come up with.
However, your content marketing strategy needs them to work.
Otherwise, it would be a content-less marketing strategy.
You need a healthy dose of creative thinking.
Creativity within your content is incredibly important to assure it’s good enough to attract your audience.
That’s how you find new ideas to try out and take the risks that give you new data to work with.
But sometimes your environment isn’t a place built for creativity.
If that’s the case it can cause a ton of problems for your content creation process.
Handling your content requires you to dedicate yourself to working in spaces that help boost your creativity.
Not in all of your work environment, mind you.
Only while you’re producing your marketing content.
Set aside an area that allows you to dig into a creative space.
Provide yourself the freedom to brainstorm, experiment, and make mistakes.
And make sure any of the people allowed into that space do the same.
Giving yourself a place to be as creative as possible helps to make sure your content is the best you can create.
Remember To Write For People
Yes, all the content within your content marketing strategy is about marketing.
But your audience doesn’t care that marketing is your reason for creating content.
It’s the fact that you’re thinking about them when you do.
Your content marketing strategy needs constant scrutiny so you can continue to remember what you’re supposed to be creating and why you’re doing it.
The value that you’re providing for the benefit of your audience needs to be number one.
Every time you have an idea, it needs to be put through its paces to make sure it’s valuable.
Be certain the concept is as beneficial as possible for your audience.
Approach every idea from a perspective that benefits your audience.
Then, make sure your previews (headlines, excerpts, email preheaders, etc) communicate that value as much as possible.
When you write for people, you attract people too.
Know your Audience
Every content marketing expert tells you that you need to know your audience whenever you begin your content marketing strategy.
They talk about knowing buyer personas and understanding who your customers are.
I’ve even made the same statements in my previous content.
But what does it mean to know your audience?
It’s a more basic concept than you might realize.
Knowing your audience is about understanding the way your ideal clients think.
You’ve got to get inside their heads and understand the problems, frustrations, desires, and other driving factors that lead them to purchase your offering.
Understanding your audience this way helps you identify what content they need and want most.
Remember the magic stories we talked about earlier?
This is the information you need to help draw the Venn circle around the content they want.
As you identify what your audience wants to know about, you’ll start to understand what content your expertise lends itself to create.
Creating personas that include this content is integral to remember who you’re trying to reach through your content.
That allows you to continue creating content filled with the expertise that they care about.
Put Your Audience Before The Sale
You don’t like to be sold to.
Yet, many small business owners and content creators tend to spend too much time focused on making the sale.
If you intend to dominate your competition, stop spending so much time selling.
Instead, focus on empathy when you create your content.
Spend less of your content talking about your brand, services, pricing, or how awesome you are.
Listen to your audience and customers and put more effort into listening to what they want and need, and how they feel about what you create.
Your goal, at some point, is to get your audience to become a lead or customer.
So, it’s not unreasonable to occasionally ask them to sign up for a mailing list, grab your digital download, or contact you to ask questions.
But keep the sales pitches minimizes so your content marketing strategy remains customer-centric.
When you can, you engage your audience at a higher level and see better results.
Variety Is Necessary
Your content marketing strategy can’t be one-dimensional.
So many small businesses focus solely on one content outlet hoping it will bring in the results they want.
Often, that outlet consists of a third-party platform, like a social network.
As we all know, social networks can’t be 100% reliable.
Look at the number of times Facebook has gone down in the past several years.
If your content exists only on one of these platforms, you’re at their mercy.
That’s why you need variety in your content.
Creating content on a variety of platforms allows you to reach your audience no matter what happens with an individual platform.
However, it’s not the only kind of variety you need.
Multiple formats need to be included in your content marketing strategy.
Video, audio, image, and text-based content need to be created for the platforms you’re using.
Make sure you understand the ways those formats work best on each platform so you can get the best results from them.
Varying your content formats allows you to better connect with your audience, catering to each style of attention to reach more people.
And, if you’re reaching more people, you’re going to get bigger results.
Optimize Everything For Search
Before I get into why this is important to your content marketing strategy, I’ve got to remind you of something more important.
Never sacrifice the human nature or quality of your content to optimize it for search engines.
Putting search first will damage your search results more than it helps.
However, your content marketing strategy is inextricably integrated into your search rank.
All the content you produce will have an impact on the position you rank for on Google.
That means you need to make sure your content is ready to help you rank higher.
Without damaging the quality, make sure your content amplifies keywords and key phrases that you’d like your site to rank for.
Include as many SEO best practices as you can in every piece of content.
Because your content plays such an intricate role, you must find a way to make your SERP rank better without driving off your audience.
When it’s done well, your content will be as natural as conversation, but Google will still know exactly what to rank you for.
Build Strong Social Distribution
I already talked about making sure your content isn’t one-dimensional.
This idea is about taking that a step further.
Your core content also referred to as your long-form content, won’t be fed to an audience automatically.
Though you’ve optimized it for search, it takes time for that ranking to get your content in front of the right audience.
In the meantime, you need a way to get that content seen.
That’s where your social media steps into the role of content distribution.
Using your social network as a distribution system for your content marketing strategy seems like a no-brainer.
One of the fastest ways to get people to see your content is to put it in front of them.
However, sharing it with your family and friends through your account can’t be the limit of what you do.
You need to make sure you’ve built a strong social following to deliver that content.
By creating an engaged community around your brand you can help make sure your content gets seen early, building its SERP rank faster.
Pay Attention To The Reaction
As you create content and distribute it to your audience it will get a reaction.
Every piece of content does, whether you realize it or not.
Sometimes you don’t realize it’s gotten a reaction because there has been no engagement.
However, that lack of engagement is a reaction as well.
Most of the time it means the content wasn’t in that magic story zone.
Other times it gets all the clear feedback – both positive and negative – you could need.
By paying attention to that reaction you can learn where to take your content marketing strategy in the future.
When you’ve found content that doesn’t earn a positive reaction, you know to remove content like it from your efforts.
Content that gets a positive reaction, especially a larger positive reaction, tells you when you’ve done something correctly.
Combining those reactions over weeks, months, and years helps you identify patterns in your content that help you gauge future reactions.
In every circumstance, the reaction will give you the information you need for your content to grow.
Engage With The Engaged
An ideal product of a content marketing strategy is an audience that engages with your brand.
Engaged audiences are paying attention and being impacted by your content.
So, the last thing you want to do is lose them.
To keep your audience around when they’re engaging, show them you hear them.
When your audience leaves a comment on your content, respond to it.
If they share your content (and you’re notified of who shared), thank them.
No matter how they engage, do your best to engage with them.
People expect brands to respond to their comments.
The biggest reason is that they don’t want to be ignored.
They want their voice to matter.
There isn’t any expectation of an instant solution to a problem or some other request that’s impossible to fill.
Your audience just wants to know that, if they have a problem, you’ve heard them, and you’ll work on a solution.
It’s about acknowledgment more than it is about results.
And responding to a positive engagement gives them that “feel good” feeling about your brand.
By letting your audience know you’re listening, you’ll earn their loyalty.
Master Your Content Schedule
“What may be done at any time will be done at no time.”
It’s an old Scottish proverb that tells you to set a deadline if you want to get things done.
This is especially true with your content marketing strategy.
Great content can’t simply be created on a whim.
Effective content needs to be consistent.
Put those two ideas together and the best solution becomes clear.
You need to create a content calendar that decides what you’ll create, which content channel it will go out on, and when you’ll need it done by.
Becoming the master of your content schedule allows you to maximize your effectiveness through the art of preplanning.
Knowing what you will create in advance helps to eliminate time wasted trying to think of an idea.
And knowing when it’s due helps to assure you get it done.
Because content that isn’t created doesn’t do anything for your results.
If you haven’t created any content before, you’re likely uncertain what will work on your audience.
You need to know more about the content you should be focused on if you want your content marketing strategy to work.
That requires you to test different kinds of content on different platforms.
Get experimental with the content you create.
Then, by targeting a smaller cross-section of your overall audience, test the content to see how effective it is.
Testing like this – provided your cross-section is an accurate reflection of your total audience – should give you a good indicator of whether your content works without risking damage to your entire audience if it doesn’t.
These tests must continue throughout all your content marketing if you want continuous improvement.
As you get better at testing, you can begin to A/B test those same cross-sections.
Two or more experimental pieces of content with slight differences are randomly fed to the test group to find out what gets a better reaction.
Continuous testing will help you continue to make your content better and draw in more clients.
Infuse Your Mission Into Everything
Your mission is the stated goal and values of your brand, and it should be at the core of everything you do.
This is extremely important to your content marketing strategy.
All the content you create should incrementally further your brand’s mission, communicate it to your audience, or reinforce an idea as a tenet of the mission.
Why is this so important?
Potential clients, especially those in the Millennial generation, care more about the values your company holds than the products or services it offers.
They’re more likely to work with a company whose values align with their own.
So, if you plan to earn anyone’s business today, you need to communicate your values as clearly as possible.
Let your content make it incredibly clear what values you hold.
Nothing should contradict them, even slightly.
Any time your content does, your audience will notice, and it will damage your credibility.
Then again, if your mission and values are honest, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Connect With Your Audience’s Content
One of the most valuable ways to connect with your audience is through the content they create.
This idea has a twofold effect on your content marketing strategy.
I’ve talked about one factor before.
User-generated content is a powerful addition to your content marketing strategy.
It’s a great way to show how your product or service makes the lives of your clients better, personifying the benefits of what you offer.
Like we talked about earlier.
The second factor is one I haven’t mentioned as often.
Your target audience is creating content of their own.
Be it through any social network, their blog, or other content channels.
Reach out to that content when it relates to what you do and be sure you offer genuine engagement.
Comment, like, and share content they’ve created that isn’t about your product, but still relates to the industry you serve.
Because the content you share should always be relevant.
Your engagement with their content that shows them you’re not only listening when they come to you but that you’re also thinking about them when they haven’t come to you.
Demonstrating that you value your audience in that way can create a permanent sense of loyalty that can’t otherwise be earned.
Be As Clear As Possible
The messages your content sends are key to drawing in an audience and converting them to clients.
Overall, you want your audience to know that your company has expertise in your field and that they can trust you to handle their problems.
But, as I previously mentioned, you’re not making these statements outright in your marketing content.
These signals must be sent as clearly as possible, however, if you expect your content marketing strategy to succeed.
That means clarity in your content is imperative.
Think about what you’re trying to tell your audience in each piece of content you create.
Consider the ways you can make that message clearer through the story you’re using to illustrate it.
Could you better demonstrate your ability within your industry?
Your ability to be as clear as possible about your content’s message will dictate the success you have.
Understand Your Platform
Every content platform is unique in the way content is shared across it.
For your content marketing strategy to work, you need to understand these nuances and put them to work within your content.
Content formats work better on some platforms than others, and each platform has different requirements for those formats.
Using the wrong ones will demonstrate that you don’t fully understand the platform you’re on.
Worse, it demonstrates that you don’t understand the audience using that platform.
It’s in the best interest of your content marketing strategy to learn the limits and best practices for every content platform you choose to add.
Be sure to vet the content you want to use for the platform before you share it.
Verify that everything is optimized to succeed on each platform so you can get the best results from it.
No matter how good your content is, you’ll damage its success by failing to respect the language of the platform you share it on.
Use Content More Than One Way
Marketing content takes a long time to create.
Research, creation, and optimization are all time-consuming processes.
To have to uniquely create all the content necessary to make your content marketing strategy successful would leave you no time to run your business.
But you don’t have to restrict the culmination of that research and creativity to only one kind of content.
Put the same information you want to share into multiple content formats and expand the results you get for the time you spent.
There are tons of ways to do it.
A few examples include:
- Reading a blog post out loud to record it as a podcast
- Turn a section of your YouTube video into a 30-second clip for Instagram.
- Translate a downloadable PDF lead magnet into a webinar.
The possibilities are expansive.
What’s most important is that you don’t let any content you’ve spent time creating exist in only one format.
Expand it to as many formats as you’re comfortable with so you can reach as much of your audience as possible while reducing the work to do it.
Update Your Old Content
Like repurposing your content, updating old content is a way to get more mileage from it.
Often great content includes statistics and other information that may change over time.
That’s a part of supporting the ideas you share.
Sometimes the subject that content shifts course over time or grows massively.
When these situations occur, you have an excellent opportunity to turn something old into something new.
By updating your old content, you can get additional mileage from it, putting that new information in front of your audience to see again.
It’s also a chance to have Google improve the rank of that content because the information is more up-to-date and possibly covers more.
Searching for old content you’ve created and renewing it allows you to take far less time creating content without losing the benefits of new content.
Put Yourself Elsewhere
One of the most powerful ways to spread your influence and build your reputation is to create content for platforms you don’t own.
Other content creators, like industry blogs, have already developed audiences that are looking for the information you can share.
While your long-term goal is to bring that audience to you, you can go to them in the short term.
Guest posting is a powerful way to get your expertise in front of audiences you want to capture.
Not only does it take advantage of an already assembled audience within your target market, but it lends the site’s credibility to your content.
By allowing your content on their site, they’re giving you an endorsement of sorts.
They’re telling their audience to listen to you because you know what you’re talking about.
Provided your content is full of value for their audience, you’ll likely earn some of them as new members of your audience.
Growing your exposure this way helps your content marketing strategy be more successful faster.
Link Up With Influencers
Influencer marketing is a huge topic of interest in many marketing circles.
The ability for brands to connect with a local micro-celebrity to endorse their brand has changed the amount of leverage small businesses can earn in their communities.
And, for many small businesses, it’s a worthwhile investment for your content marketing strategy.
Many influencers can be partnered with for a price that’s within the marketing budget of most small businesses.
Some can even be bartered with, which is usually even more affordable.
Consider the ways influencer marketing might benefit your brand.
If it makes sense, start researching influencers whose audiences are within your target market.
Once you’ve found the right influencer, you’ll see a huge increase in the number of clients you can bring in.
Listen To The Data
When it comes to your content marketing strategy, data is your best friend.
Of all the things we’ve discussed so far, nothing is unimprovable through data-based adjustment.
Data helps identify what’s working, what’s not, how well it’s working, what you need to adjust for, and how opinions are changing.
However, most small business owners who handle their marketing either don’t collect any or ignore what they do collect.
This is a huge mistake.
Pay attention to the data that different content platforms offer by default.
Let them tell you who is paying attention to what you do.
While you’re at it, make sure you are collecting user data about your website.
What’s the most visited content?
Where are you losing the most visitors before they convert to leads?
By watching the data and putting it to use you can patch any holes in your content marketing strategy and continually improve it.
Your Content Marketing Strategy Can Dominate
Content marketing is a complex animal, and a successful content marketing strategy has many moving parts.
But core ideas like these, when infused into your strategy, make the level of success so much higher it becomes worth it.
For many small business owners, it’s even a necessity.
Understand that, without content marketing, you can’t earn success through the internet.
There simply isn’t enough reason for people to believe that your brand can do the job if you don’t provide the evidence.
And that’s exactly what content marketing is all about.
Apply these ideas to yours and watch your competition run for cover as you grow into the industry frontrunner you know you should be.
Once you’ve shown your audience that your brand is the right choice by educating them, solving their problems, building trust, and engaging in genuine conversation with them, they’ll be left with every reason to work with you when they’re ready to make a purchase.