The Internet is a wonderful place. For consumers, it’s where we go to buy new clothes, make dinner reservations, and read reviews on our next primary care physician. For businesses, it’s where we set up shop and focus our marketing efforts, all in the hopes that consumers will be inspired to drop by our digital storefront (and eventually convert).
That being said, we’re not living in an age where we can rely on advertisements to lure in new customers anymore. With shrinking attention spans, a rise in ad blocking technology, and a growing drive to give customers everything they want (including control), traditional marketing tactics aren’t all that effective anymore.
Nowadays, content is king.
What does that even mean? Well, the online consumer no longer wants to deal with blatant advertising attempts or poorly designed websites. They want a seamless, fast, and entertaining experience across all channels. And they want you to be a really good storyteller, too. Who are you? Why should they trust you? What makes your product or service any different than the competition’s? Do you really understand their needs?
Sounds like a tall order, right? It sort of is. Content marketing requires a steady investment from a business. It takes time, energy, and money to develop a successful content marketing strategy and plan. However, if executed properly, the payoff has the potential for huge returns on your investment.
The key thing to remember here is that content marketing efforts shouldn’t be centered around pushing your personal agenda. The focus must always be on creating valuable content for your audience.
5 easy steps to create valuable content with ease
It doesn’t matter what type of business you operate; “valuable” content means the same thing to all audiences. Don’t worry about trying to figure this out on your own. The following five-step formula will teach you how to create valuable content for your audience.
Step 1: locate your audience
Do you know who your target audience is? This isn’t really a question about whether or not you can identify your audience with a single identifier (e.g. small restaurant owners, stay-at-home moms, HR managers, etc.) That’s easy enough.
This is a question about what pains your audience. Your goal should be to create content that helps alleviate those pains for them—or at least alleviate them enough to where they realize you’re an expert and someone they can trust to do business with.
Once you’ve identified your audience, you need to know where to find them. You can’t create really great content for your website and hope the search engines do all the work in sending people there. You’ve got to do the work in identifying your audience, finding out where they are, and then making an active attempt to reach them.
Is your audience:
- The blog-reading type?
- Looking for a free giveaway?
- Hanging out on social media? If so, which platforms are they on?
- Subscribing to newsletters for insider info?
- Following your competitors’ or partners’ websites?
- Watching videos on YouTube?
- Listening to podcasts?
Use each of these questions as a guide to tackling down your audience’s whereabouts, so you can create content that will be best delivered to your specific audience on those platforms.
Step 2: develop your content strategy
While it’s important to stay in touch with what’s “hot” at the moment, it’s equally as important to have other ways to source ideas for your marketing strategy.
First, you should identify the core topics around which to create content. Let’s say you run a business that sells candles. You’d probably write content about candles, the best matches to light candles, top-selling scents, and so on. But how many times can you write about those topics without covering the same territory? That’s why you should ask for help.
Without insights from others, you may find yourself struggling to create unique content after a short while. Here are just some of the resources you can use to help plan your topics as well as your overall strategy:
- Your customers: Send them surveys via email, share polls on social media, or talk to your customer-facing employees about the conversations that keep popping up the most.
- Competitor websites: If the competition is doing well, why not use them as inspiration? You’ve got a shared audience, so it only makes sense that you should check to see what’s working for them.
- Social media: Your audience is on social media, so you should be drawing insights from them there. Check out Google Trends, Twitter, Facebook, and join LinkedIn groups where customers and others in your industry sound off on what’s most important to them.
- Holiday planning: Even the silliest of holidays can provide inspiration for upcoming content.
- Keyword search: kw Finder is a pretty cool tool. Enter a simple keyword or phrase and get long tail keyword results you can use to create related posts. Answer the Public works similarly.
Step 3: create your content
Now that you know what you’re going to write about, you need to know how to create something exciting and worth tuning in for. Consider the following checklist to determine if your content is rave-worthy and shareable:
- Did you use headings (h2, h3, even h4 and h5) to create a logical flow?
- Did you break up sections with bulleted and numbered lists?
- Did you avoid using industry jargon?
- Did you keep the topic on point?
- Are you writing about something your audience will feel is fresh and relevant today?
- Have you accurately captured their pains or interests as a consumer?
- If you’ve made use of a trending topic, have you successfully tied it back to your business?
- Have you told a story your audience understands and can relate to?
- Is your content funny? Honest? Empathetic?
- Are you covering something controversial because it relates to them or only because you want to get your audience’s attention?
- Is it clear who you’re targeting with your content?
- Are you trying to help your audience and/or provide actionable insights through your content?
- Have you included one clear call-to-action in your content?
- Have you invited your audience to comment or share?
- Have you given your audience a reason to take action after reading your content?
- Is your content share-worthy and something others would want to read?
Step 4: get interactive
While it would be wonderful to write a blog post and have it immediately go viral, sometimes well-thought-out and -composed articles aren’t enough to get you the attention you desire (or deserve).
That’s why interactive content is big right now. Infographics, podcasts, animated videos, on-site calculators, sliding galleries, and more. If you want to increase your social exposure and get more followers, you’ll eventually need to make the leap into interactive content. Here’s why:
- You can capture short attention spans with quick movements, audio, and other types of content that require less reading and more watching.
- You’ll improve brand exposure and memorability by complementing your marketing efforts with non-traditional content.
- Interactive content tends to compel readers to engage, participate, and share more because it’s colorful, fun, and stands out from the sea of blogs.
- It can also help improve your website’s reception if you use it strategically. For example, an infographic that describes a customer pain and leads the reader down to an attractive call-to-action.
Step 5: broaden your reach
One of the best ways to broaden your content marketing reach is to piggyback onto someone else’s audience. Now, to be clear, this isn’t about stealing anyone else’s spotlight. This is about becoming a part of a community that scratches your back as you scratch theirs.
Here is how to approach this:
- Create high quality and shareable content on your own website. You’ve got to talk about what you know and demonstrate why you’re an expert worth listening to.
- Partner with other companies. Beyond the business partnership, you should both be willing to share and engage with each other’s content; consequently, opening you up to each other’s audience.
- Reach out to authoritative sources looking for guest bloggers and other experts to contribute to their site. This is a great way to expand your reach and get referral traffic from high-traffic niche sites.
- Stay active on social and interact with your audience, partners, and other thought leaders—especially if it’s on other people’s high quality content.
- Make sure that whenever your bio appears somewhere—on your website, under a contributor post, on social media, etc.—that it links back to your website.
Luckily for us, content marketing has become much easier with the plethora of free and easy-to-use tools now available. While that doesn’t mean your content marketing efforts won’t be as time-consuming, it does mean you can automate some of the more tedious tasks or the ones you aren’t expertly skilled in (think about WordPress plugins, for instance). Then you can focus on the ones more deserving of your attention—as the five steps above demonstrate.
Now over to you: have you previously experimented with any of the five steps above and, if so, what were the results? Share your experience in the comments below!