Content Marketing is all around us, whether we realize it or not. Think social media content, emailers, e-books, videos, podcasts, webinars, blogs, newsletters, case studies, games, video entertainment, and even events – almost any way we look, we are engaging with content in some form or the other. And a significant chunk of this content is directly or indirectly colored with a marketing intent, such as building awareness, trust, and preference towards a certain business or idea. This is content marketing at play.
So, what really is content marketing?
Content marketing, put simply, is a way to attract, engage with your desired target audiences through the creation and sharing of relevant content across different audience touchpoints across the real and virtual worlds. When done right, it is a great way to nurture a relationship with your audiences, while building authority and credibility around a desired subject, in their minds.
The main purpose of great content marketing is not so much to sell, but to create and offer something of value to the target audience, at different stages of the sales cycle – awareness, consideration and purchase.
For instance, consider that you offer loans for automobile purchase. Someone who is looking to buy a car and is seeking information to help make the right decision could benefit from content that provides an overview of all the available options in the market across different price points, including financing options. The same person in the consideration stage could be served content around all the factors to be considered while evaluating the best financing options. And in the last stage, the content could just be simple customer testimonials that help you seal the deal with a prospective customer. As you will see, each of these different content pieces serves a different value for a prospect at different stages of the cycle, without only intending to make a sale. So, even while you are sharing useful knowledge, you would be unconsciously earning valuable goodwill and equity, which might make the difference between a prospect choosing you over your competitor.
How Content Marketing can help your business
As you can see, content marketing goes way beyond trying to make a sale. It is really about your audience, and what they care about. But as altruistic as this might come across, content marketing actually offers some very tangible benefits to your business.
For one, it offers a great way to create differentiation for your business in an otherwise cluttered marketplace, and show them that you really care. The adage, “content is king” coined by Bill Gates in 1996 holds more true than ever, even after all these years. Moreover, good content can not only help create awareness, but can also drive quality traffic and generate quality leads, all of which can have a sweet impact on your bottom line. Yes, content marketing does deliver measurable ROI. Surprised? A look at these tangible benefits will help you understand how this happens.
- Building Consumer Trust
Over 90% of consumers do not trust ads. And let’s be fair, as consumers ourselves, aren’t we more likely to trust a non-salesy piece of content as compared to something that we know has been paid for?
Creating quality content that offers value in different ways is a great way to demonstrate that you really care about what your target audience wants, whether they buy from you or not. Unlike the traditional marketing approach which would only emphasize how awesome your business is, content marketing seeks to do a live demo of how awesome you actually are. And this garners a lot more trust as compared to asking audiences to trust a business.
- Better online visibility
With most people seeking information and solutions online, creating content that demonstrates expertise, authority and credibility will help you rank higher on search results. It is a known fact today that organic search commands a far higher degree of trust as compared to sponsored or paid results.
Search engines regularly crawl web pages to evaluate what each webpage is about, and the type of audience that it might be relevant for. So, when you create great content that offers value, you are that much more likely to attract more relevant web traffic that is likely to spend more time on your site. Search engine algorithms look at this as a mark of quality, and reward the page with better rankings.
- Higher ROI
Content marketing is usually more cost effective and scalable as compared to traditional advertising, and is a lot more effective as well. So it already scores an advantage with regards to cost right away.
Also, good quality and consistent content marketing efforts help to draw in a larger crowd of relevant audiences to your website and other online assets. It is a known fact that an increase in relevant web traffic leads to an increase in leads and ultimately, conversions. In fact, a CMI survey goes as far as to say that well planned content offers the possibility of multiplying your leads over 3X times as compared to traditional media. Compare this to any other tactic and you will see the results for yourself.
In case you are wondering whether your business needs content marketing, think no further. Content marketing is an essential tactic to create a pull. The old approach of bombarding prospective customers with pushy marketing messages just doesn’t cut it anymore. Consumer values have changed, and businesses would do good to keep up with them.
Essential Content Creator Tips to Connect with your Target Audience
It was the January of 1996 in which Bill Gates’ essay titled ‘Content is King’ was first published. This was way before digital marketing was even considered indispensable for marketing success and way before social media dominated our mindscapes.
25 years later, it still holds true, and even more so given our times.
The Many Changing Faces of Content
Content has continued to evolve ever since, and today, the content landscape has completely transformed. Instead of a few content publishers with large audiences and huge budgets, each of us today is a content creator and publisher in our own right, with our very own niche audiences. Nobody is too big or too small, and location doesn’t matter – for publishers or audiences. Moreover, there is also quite a huge array of choices when it comes to content types. Apart from the usual long and short form textual content, one can choose from a variety of podcasts, video and music streaming services, social media feeds, user generated content and much more.
As of 2020, the average urban person spent an estimated 6.5 hours online each day, and a large part of this is taken up by consuming content of different types and formats – both from brands as well as individual creators. In fact, content has been touted to be the great leveller, levelling the playing field for anyone willing to play.
This is precisely what makes it challenging and exciting to be a content creator. For brands, what this translates to is that everybody is competition when it comes to content. Well, almost. When vying for attention on the same platforms for the same audiences, it then becomes imperative to be able to stand out amidst all the chatter. This has fuelled the rise of content marketing as a veritable specialty in itself, with expert teams being set up to create content that engages and lands the desired impact.
The Content Marketing Conundrum
It would not be a stretch to say that with the right content and the right strategy, it is possible for nearly anybody to succeed as a content creator.
But content marketing success isn’t just about putting out content on a regular basis and hoping that it hits bull’s eye. It really depends on taking care of a few basics – such as the message, the medium, the audience and the timing, while also being tuned to what’s happening around. In fact, a large part of getting this right is to really know your target audience well. Because when you know who you are speaking to, it will guide your content creation and strategy to organically align with what your audience wants. And this is essential to be able to build connection and the possibility of conversion.
We can then concur that finding the right target audience is a crucial key to content marketing success.
I am often asked about how one can be sure of actually reaching the right people online. If you have the same question on your mind, read on.
5 Essential Tips to Connect with the Right Target Audience
Before we get started, first things first. Have you defined your target audience?
Target audience definition is much more than just your regular demographic filters of age, gender, location and socio economic status. These are often plain and do not do much to paint an accurate picture. Your definition should be as detailed and sharp as possible – you need to be clear about who you want to target, as well as the ones you don’t want to connect with! Getting this right will make it a lot easier to create content that is not only great, but also streamline your own focus and efforts in the direction you want to go.
Once you have a fair idea about this, you can build onto that and continue finetuning your definition as you go along.
- Customer Personas
This is a wonderful way to bring your target audience to life, virtually! This entails creating a life-like character sketch of your customer in such detail, that anyone reading it can visualize what this person’s personality would be like, and the challenges, pain points, triggers and inspirations that this person experiences. It helps to give these personas mock names, to build on to the “realness” of the persona. When this happens, not only will it be easy to create and evaluate content, but you would also be able to identify deeper motivations and feelings that your prospects would likely associate with your product / category. This gives you a better sense of what you could do for a person like that. This will of course, evolve as you go along, but it is a very good first step in reaching your audience online.
In case you are wondering why this is needed when you already have some filters to identify your target audience, then here’s why. It isn’t always easy to relate to these facts and figures, and see them as real people. But when you have a clear picture of who you will be speaking to, your content will naturally flow in a certain way, and will likely have better resonance with your target audience. Of course, I need not mention that these personas work best when based on generalised and verified audience data points available.
- Developing your Content Strategy
Your content strategy should outline the ground rules, focus and the playing field for content creation. Many businesses make the assumption that their content strategy needs to be all about what their business offers. But this is just one part of the equation. Your strategy should certainly be aligned to your business’s raison d’être, but should also take into account the current needs of your customers and what your competitors are up to. This is a more holistic approach.
You need to deeply understand what your customers are seeking, their likes / dislikes, challenges and what matters to them, so that you can find new ways to serve them with content. Of course, you need to be mindful that the content being put out is connected to your business and its mission either directly or indirectly.
This approach works much better as compared to just talking about who you are and what you do, and helps you build a bridge between what you offer and what they are looking for. Moreover, when you keep track of your competition, you also have the benefit of seeing what is working, and bettering it yourself!
- Diving deeper into Analytics
Analysing audience data can uncover stories and insights unlike any other. Thankfully, there are so many rich minefields of data today – from Google Analytics and Social Media Analytics, and many tools and resources available to help make sense of all this data. All of this data allow you to get a sneak peak into the minds of your diverse audiences, and get to know them closely, without having to go onground and conduct expensive research. Right from where they stay, what they like, their marital and professional status, their areas of interest, the areas of commonality and differences – you can get a pretty overview of all this and more, just by digging into your analytics. Some platforms, such as Google Analytics also give you insights on where your target audience spends time online, how they come onto your site and where they go on to. This data can be extremely beneficial while deciding on which platforms you should be focussing on, and guiding your digital media plans.
I would however, also urge you to match this with your actual customer data. There is always a possibility that you might be surprised, if there are customer groups that you aren’t creating content for, or if there are content consumers who aren’t your real customers. Either way, it is a good idea to repeat this exercise every year to ensure that you are engaging with the right set of people online and offline.
- Monitoring Content Performance
Content creation and distribution takes time, effort and resources. But as it is a rather subjective thing, it can be difficult to sometimes evaluate what would work before you actually put it out. And this is why, regular monitoring of what is working (and what isn’t) is one of the keys to be able to get a hold on what you should be doing, content wise. Doing this initially will also help you set the right KPIs for your content strategy.
You can use your analytics dashboards to find out what is your best performing content – whether it is an email, a blog or a social media post. The total number of visits or views should not be your final metric. If you are able to track specific actions taken by your audience after interacting with your content, then that would be a very good barometer of performance. This also offers insights on what your audience really wants, and allows you to focus your efforts on doing more of that and less of the rest. This is also a good way to build a stronger connection with your target audiences online.
- Seeking Feedback
As a content creator, you will likely get the best insights, ideas and directions when you seek feedback directly from your readers! Whether you are a brand or an individual creator, there is nothing more powerful than being authentic, and seeking honest feedback from the very audience that you are creating content for.
Just as businesses do product surveys, you could do a content survey. There are many ways you could do this – through emailers, via your website, comments on your blogs or social media posts, or even one-to-one interactions via phone / video / email. You may not have everyone willingly participate, but the more engaged audiences will be willing to spend some time and telling you what they like, and why. You should even be prepared to hear things that may not be to your liking. But you could look at this as an opportunity to have a meaningful interaction with the audiences you care about, about what it is that they care about. And this can form a strong foundation on which you could further strengthen your connection.
Doing content right is not exactly the rocket science it is made out to be. All it needs is a regular investment of time, effort, skills and discipline. And if you are willing to commit to this, then taking care of the other basics will be a breeze indeed.
A Step-by-Step Guide On How To Streamline Content Creation That Delivers Real Results
If you’re a business owner or marketer…you know:
Content creation is a time-consuming process.
Whether it’s a blog post, social media captions, or email campaigns, writing requires patience and dedication (and time. A lot of time.).
While time is not something many entrepreneurs and business owners have a lot of, content is a crucial part of connecting with your audience. But like every good business owner, you can figure out ways to streamline this process.
As the CEO of a content marketing and copywriting agency, one of my specialties is….you guessed it…creating content strategies. So, let’s walk through three easy steps on how to streamline your content creation process so that you have more time for you know…creating even more content.
Step #1: Brainstorm Content Ideas
Let’s start with the simple stuff.
One of the easiest ways to streamline your process is by brainstorming as many different topics and angles as you can think of. And then making a list that includes both broad and niche subject matter—the more, the better!
Start with big-picture items: What is your audience talking about? Which problems are they struggling to fix? What are their goals, needs, and challenges?
Then move to the more granular aspects: What are some small hacks for making that problem more manageable? What are some tips they could use? What are some common misconceptions or myths about this topic that you can dispel for them?
You should also keep in mind what your strengths and interests are—what topics do you naturally gravitate towards, even if it’s not the most popular subject matter right now? Don’t be afraid to talk about those things! You never know who might resonate with them.
Finally, wrap up by brainstorming some of your most popular content. You never know when these topics might resurface or need a refresh. Think about which ideas you could expand on or provide even more information. What questions came up that you could still answer?
Step #2: Batch each part of your content creation process
Now that you’ve got a complete list of ideas to work off of, it’s time to get creating! One of the most efficient ways to create content is to batch the process. So instead of taking each piece of content from start to finish, you do all similar tasks for all your content in one go.
To do this, you first need to outline your content creation process.
Think about which tasks need to happen for each content type (blog post, social media posts, email campaigns) and put them in order.
For example: When creating a blog post you first brainstorm ideas then outline the article structure before writing it up and finally publishing it.
Then when batching this process, all these steps would be done at once with one task per step. This will save time because instead of starting on the next part after finishing your current piece of work—as we do naturally—everything is already laid out. You can just focus on what needs doing without needing to think about what comes next or how long it’s going to take you.
Time batching makes it possible to create a week or even a month’s worth of content in advance, which will free up your time for other activities.
Step #3: Schedule it Out
Now that you’ve got your ideas and your plan of action, the next step is to schedule your content out.
It’s much more manageable to create one task per day or week than to have the content scattered throughout your calendar. The time you spend when creating all of these posts in advance will be easier as everything is already laid out, and it’ll save you a lot more stress.
Decide how much content you want to create on a weekly or monthly basis and create it based on the batching method you laid out in step two. Time yourself so you know how long it really takes you. Then block off that time in your calendar every month or week.
This will keep you on track with your content goals and your deadlines.
Other Content Creation Tips
Having a process that you return to again and again will make content creation easier because you’re not starting from scratch every single time. In addition, here are some other content creation tips to keep your editorial calendar running smoothly:
- Keep your content calendar public so that you can easily share it with other members of your team. This will help keep everyone on the same page and avoid any confusion about deadlines.
- Share a document or spreadsheet in which to track all relevant tasks, including creating summaries for upcoming posts, assigning draft titles and due dates to yourself or others, and keeping notes about how progress is coming along each week/day.
- Maintain an editorial calendar at least one year ahead (or longer) so that you have ample time to plan out subjects long before they come up. Planning in advance means less scrambling later when topics need addressing more urgently.
- Utilize tools like Grammarly and Ghost to edit your content before posting.
- Track the topics that are most popular each month so you know what type of content resonates best with readers. Track keywords in order to repurpose old blog post ideas for future use.
- Monitor how people interact with your blog via Google Analytics and adjust accordingly (e.g., if few visitors linger more than three minutes, it might be time to find a new angle).
- Ask yourself these questions: “What is my goal?” “How will I measure success?” One way is by looking at engagement rates; another way would be increasing web traffic from organic search results because this is free marketing.
- Focus on content that is of high quality and not quantity. For example, don’t just publish a post every day in the hopes that something might be viral; instead, take time to craft thoughtful blog posts with more depth.
- Use social media as an extension of your strategy through native posting (publishing directly on one site from another). This will increase your reach because readers are likely following you across different platforms which promotes engagement and authenticity.
- Enroll in copywriting courses so that you know that the content you publish is written in a way that compels and resonates with your target audience.
Yes, You DO Need a Content Strategy
Creating content that is valuable, engaging, and drives results will make or break your business. The key to success in the content game lies through understanding what type of content you can produce for your target audience at any given time—don’t just publish blindly!
Once you have a clear strategy on how to create impactful, quality content then all that’s left is execution and consistency.
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