Content marketing dates back to antiquity, before technology, the written word, or even the spoken word. Go back thousands of years to some Patagonian cave, and you’ll find drawings on the walls. These are the fruits of the world’s first marketers, the goal was to tell a story for an audience and sell them on the idea of their hunting prowess. That’s just about all content marketing is—even today.
Of course, we’ve slightly evolved since then. Whereas content marketing in the 1960s meant just a few channels (print, television, etc.), today there are a staggering amount of content formats and channels such as e-books, whitepapers, blogs, vlogs, webinars and press releases.
All of these should-be tools in your overall marketing arsenal. But how do you optimize it to ensure effectiveness? To that end, here are some professional tips to help you craft a winning content strategy.
Always start with your audience
This is true even if you have an entire marketing department at your disposal. If all they’ve achieved is to create general content that doesn’t appeal to your audience, then it’s a wasted effort. However, the pros acknowledge that content is itself a single piece of the puzzle, one that integrates with your overall marketing plans. Still, content is one of the most important elements of your marketing approach, many arguing that content should, in fact, inform your entire marketing strategy.
Regardless of where content sits in your marketing plan, it still needs a strategy of its own. This can be difficult to nail down specifically, since “content marketing” is an umbrella term and general in nature. What works for one business might not serve your business or its goals.
However, one overarching strategy can be found in a model endorsed by Neil Patel. It’s called the 3D content model, and it outlines what should be the fundamental goals of any content marketing strategy in three steps:
- Mapping to pain points
- Mapping appropriate content
- Mapping to buy cycle
First, you’ll want to design your content around the pain points of your audience. What problems does your potential customer have that your content can help solve? Then, provide them content specific to that problem in a format that’ll be easy for them to find and digest. Finally, link your content to the purchase cycle of folks with that problem.
So, in the simplest of terms, you should always focus on the audience even more than the content itself. To get bogged down in the nature of the content itself risks losing sight of the target goal: reaching the customer. In that unfortunate scenario, you’ll no longer be able to see the forest for the trees, and your content will have little if any effect.
Hone your message
On top of focusing squarely on the audience, they also recommend creating buyer “personas,” or projections of your target audience segmented by interests, needs, buying habits and preferences. As a marketer, you likely already have all of these tools at your disposal, meaning you have everything you need to craft the perfect message for them.
A solid message will be relevant to your audience and keep your content pointed in the right strategic direction. Of course, to achieve this you’ll need to insert that message as naturally as possible in your strategy. And there are few better delivery devices for this type of branded messaging than blog posts.
Blog, blog, blog
All digital marketing heavyweights acknowledge blogging as an integral part of any successful content strategy. Moreover, studies have found that businesses that blog more inbound links than those that don’t. So if you have yet to begin blogging, it’s time to get started.
The best part is that you don’t need to be Shakespeare in order to do it. The question you should be asking yourself when crafting an effective blog has nothing to do with eloquent writing and everything to do with being useful to your target audience. If your blog is filled with quality content that’s helpful to them, they will surely want to come back for more.
To start, experts recommend designing a solid content plan. To manage this plan and stay organized you’ll want to implement a content calendar. This won’t just help you stay on top of your posts, vlogs, etc., it will help you stay on top of your SEO goals and to know which metrics are bearing fruit or not. Identifying pain points on the customer journey and plugging them into the calendar will reveal certain productivity hacks, telling you what content your audience wants more of, and what they want less of.
Just as the data points to blogging as an effective form of content marketing, it also suggests that visual content attracts even more people. Therefore, your content should include as much multimedia as possible and appropriate. That means high-res product images, video clips, webinars, infographics and more.
In fact, the good folks at the Content Marketing Institute have put together a list of 12 types of visual content you can use in your blog posts starting now. Aside from the elements mentioned above, you can include quotes from influencers, GIFs, memes, screenshots and even Slideshare presentations—anything to keep your audience engaged and their attention retained.
Don’t be scared to repurpose
There’s no reason your content should exist on a “one and done” life cycle. Solid content has value so long as it remains relevant, and if you have backlogs of good content just taking up digital space, you should repurpose it. Maybe that means compiling previous blog posts of a certain topic into a whitepaper. Or perhaps these blogs contain loads of evergreen statistics which you can transform into an infographic and publish again.
As you develop new content, keep its shelf-life in mind and identify opportunities to repurpose that content - extending its life.
And finally, be sure to perform regular audits of the content you’ve already created. This is an integral part of crafting a successful overall strategy because it will tell you where you’re falling short. Breaking it down simply, there are four steps to a content audit:
- Inventory existing content
- Organize your content by topic, length, tone, relevance, and features
- Add success metrics like social shares, web traffic, engagement and conversions
- Analyze the data
In this last step, you’ll want to inspect the data for success patterns as well as gaps in strategy that leave room for improvement. Although it might take some extra work, the insights you get from these audits are well worth the investment in time.
Lorie Loe is the vice president of content strategy at Elevation Marketing. An acknowledged industry leader with over 19 years experience in content marketing and strategy, Lorie’s deep expertise integrates a highly creative and intuitive approach to B2B storytelling with practical implementation and measurement throughout all organizational tactics and channels. Lorie is a sought-after expert on the topic of practical content strategy and applying real-world marketing to the art of B2B storytelling and digital marketing.