Considering all the stories your brand could tell about itself, you could seemingly generate an infinite number of content topics to cover. So how can you figure out which story ideas are worth your energy and resources for content development? And how can those bits of content be put to good use and marketed most effectively and strategically?
Understanding Content Marketing
There are lots of ways to define content marketing, but one of the most comprehensive was recently shared by Quinn Tempest of Vertical Measures during Digital Summit Detroit. Following is her definition:
“Content Marketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to your customers without selling or interrupting them. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your customers more informed before they buy.”
There’s a very important distinction here: content marketing isn’t about sales or pitching; it’s about providing useful information. It’s the art of selling without selling. In other words, by creating content that showcases thought leadership, provides advice or answers questions, you can actually train your audience (and customers) to recognize your brand as everyone’s trusty best friend. And that trust will eventually convert to sales.
But if you’re going to shift the focus of your content development from a sales pitch to providing useful information, what should you write about? Here are a few strategies to consider.
- Create a Culture of Content Marketing
Everyone on your team can and should be contributing to your content development efforts. That’s not to assume your IT person or receptionist need to miraculously become prolific writers, however they can certainly be encouraged to offer topic ideas. In fact, everyone at all levels of your company should be encouraged to share ideas for content based on their everyday experiences with your customers.
Each level of your team interacts with your customers in very different ways. What issues or problems do customers complain about the most? What questions does your executive team get most often in their meetings? Start by creating content that addresses these top-of-mind pain points.
Gathering content ideas can be as simple as setting up a general email where ideas can be sent or saving a few minutes during your weekly meetings to ask everyone to share their thoughts. You may even choose to review transcripts from live chats or call center transactions to find out what topics are discussed most often with your customer service team.
- Choose Your Topics Wisely
Every moment of the day, every customer inquiry, every business meeting or research session can be considered a potential content development opportunity. There are thousands of questions that need to be answered and a million ways to do so. The important thing is to choose a format that’s most relevant to your audience and prioritize covering the topics that make the most sense in terms of achieving your business goals.
For example, a customer in a technical field may appreciate a 2,000-word in-depth analysis whereas a millennial shopper casually browsing around the internet might respond better to a 30-second product demo video. Understand your audience demographic and figure out the best methods for delivering your content so that it will encourage them to digest the information you want them to consume. It will probably take some testing of content formats to find which ones garner the highest engagement from the various personas you’re targeting.
- Optimize, Share, Repeat
It requires significant time and energy to create quality content, so once you’ve got a great piece ready to go, be sure the copy is optimized for the search engines. You want your content to be found when users search for certain topics, so if you spent 5 hours writing an article, it doesn’t hurt to spend another 15 minutes on optimization. After all, as they say, the best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results.
Next, share your content on various social networks (more than just once), include it in your email newsletter and repeat the process over and over again. Articles, videos, whitepapers and other long form content can be repackaged and remarketed via as many social media messages as you can create. Change up the images, change up the messages with a different spin for each and you’ll have a number of social posts to promote each piece of content.
Content marketing can effectively level the playing field between brands, large and small. No matter what size, your brand has a unique story to tell, expertise to showcase and ways to differentiate itself from competition. Generate informative—not salesy—content, share it on an ongoing basis and you’ll amass a loyal following of fans and future customers.
Jennifer Baghdoian, avid storyteller & story listener