Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2021.
So you want to leverage the power of content marketing to position your company as an authority in your market? Smart move. Properly done, there is hardly any better method we know for attracting and retaining high-quality clients.
Over time, a well-managed content marketing strategy will start to build a steady stream of pre-qualified clients or customers that come to the table already educated on your philosophies, culture, products & services.
Before you get excited and rally your team around a topic, let me ask you a question…
Have you ever wondered how some brands seem to be so much more effective at content marketing than others? I mean, you know who they are. That competitor that seems to be everywhere. People are talking about them, sharing their content and their channels actually have engagement. I’m not talking about vanity metrics such as views and likes. I’m talking about real engagement. As in conversations and comments. The reason is simple. Every piece of content that they create is constructed with a very deliberate strategy that is substantially different to the way most brands go about this.
I create and manage content strategies for brands. The toughest part? Convincing my clients that the content creation part comes later. Much later. The easiest way I’ve come up with to diffuse a situation where a client wants to skip right to the content piece is to ask a few questions:
- Who is this content for? (No, “all of our customers” is typically not an acceptable answer unless you have a very specific service or product)
- What problem does it help your audience solve? (If the answer is not a specific issue, I give it an “F”.)
- What tone of voice have you chosen to ensure the content resonates with this audience? (Yes, it’s ok for brands to publish content with variations of the brand identity. Think technical tutorials vs product announcements.)
- Why must it be a blog/whitepaper/social post/email and can it be anything else? (Your audience uses multiple devices and spans multiple channels. What format will reach them the best?)
If we have solid answers to the questions above, then and only then, can we begin to talk about the content! Based on my (many, many, many) years in this industry, I can confidently say that very few brands religiously go through this process. When you talk about small and medium sized companies, the percentage is even fewer. Why? Because when you’re living the life of a small – medium business you need to move fast! I understand that. However, giving your content 50% effort so you can double the output will only backfire. Why? Because that’s what everyone is doing and as a result
brands have filled the internet with mediocre content, and we hate them for it.
for the first time, (since it was so awesome in 2015!) we are publicly (re)sharing with you the very same step-by-step strategy that I have been using successfully to create powerful content marketing pieces that continue to yield results for our clients every day.
I have even put it in the form of a useful infographic you can download, share, or print for quick reference when you need a refresher.
My treat…really! I just ask that if you like this content, you share it or throw a link back to this page!
So, without further ado, let’s dive deeply into the specifics of what makes a piece of Killer Content Marketing. Strap on your scuba mask and hold on tight, here we go…
Step One: Identify Your Audience
This step is absolutely fundamental, essential to success, yet amazingly, almost no one starts here. Instead, most begin by picking a subject and a title. Wrong, wrong, wrong! First, identify your target audience. Use these questions to help:
- Who is your dream client?
- What sort of age is he or she?
- What sort of language do they use?
- Where would they shop for their groceries?
- What magazine or newspaper title are they likely to read?
- Where are they likely to go to socialize?
Remember, no matter what you’re talking about, it is a human that you want to appeal to and connect. A person with feelings, hopes and dreams.
You might be looking at data, but there are humans behind those numbers. Don’t forget that.
Stay with me here – this is so important. Content marketing offers your company a golden opportunity to attract the kind of client that you actually want to work with. The sort of client that recognizes and appreciates the unique value delivered by your organization and is willing to pay for it without complaint.
Step Two: Pick a Problem
Now’s the time for you to strap on your superhero cape.
What problem afflicts your target market? What things do they lie awake at night worrying about? This could be product education – how can your product make their lives easier? Perhaps it’s a deep dive tutorial on how to do exactly what you do so well – like this one!
Do you have a superpower (knowledge/experience/tip/tutorial) that can help solve one of these problems for them? Yes?
Now you have a topic. One that will grab the attention of your audience. One that will ensure your content marketing piece genuinely adds value to their lives.
Step Three: Solve The Problem
Yes, really. Solve it. Hold nothing back. Trust us on this. Go all out on this problem for your reader. Share the strategies, tools, tricks, resources, everything. Hardly anyone is doing this… still in 2021! In this world of typically weak content, your company will stand out, generating credibility and authority as you freely share your best solutions.
You won’t lose out by sharing your secrets. Quite the opposite, in fact; you’ll position your company as the go-to experts – the ones with the answers. This is emphatically not the time to plug your product or service. Focus instead on adding value for your reader, richly rewarding them for their time studying your content marketing piece.
Step Four: Choose Your Tone and Angle
Think back to Step One and the target audience. What kind of language will they respond best to? Is there a story you can tie in that illustrates your point?
Are you going to weave in some humor, or start right out by shattering a myth about your subject? Are you going to challenge, or are you going to cajole, persuade? Are you going to be the sage or the warrior? Identify an appropriate tone and approach and make sure you stick to it through your piece.
Step Five: Choose Your D.A.T. – Digital Asset Type
It doesn’t have to be a plain-vanilla article or a blog post, you know. Videos, social posts, infographics, and podcasts all count.
Or maybe you should make it a reusable slide deck, or an interactive spreadsheet, or present it as a full-blown book.
What format would your target most prefer to digest it in? My favorite type of content is something that can be easily pun into multiple formats. Make your content work harder for you!
Step Six: Keyword Research
Now’s the time to research keywords, so you can make sure your marketing piece will rank for the appropriate search terms. Yes, SEO is still a thing and yes it should be considered in every piece of digital content.
You didn’t think I’d leave this out, did you? Of course not….but notice where in the process this step is. If you started here, you’d be scrambling to create content for all the wrong reasons. Now, you’re simply taking a great, strategic idea and giving it some SEO power.
Establish a working title and try to incorporate your keywords, but be prepared to re-visit this again later in the process. You may want to experiment with different titles, or you may find the piece takes a slightly different direction to that which you originally expected once you get further into the creation of it.
Step Seven: Establish Publishing and Promotional Sources
You’ve created your content piece, and you’re ready to go live. That’s awesome, but there’s more to do before you publish it. You need a plan to ensure it gets picked up and seen by as many people in your target market as possible.
First, your company email list – all your current and prospective customers. Depending on the D.A.T. you may choose to send your content marketing directly in the body of the email, or direct them to your website to view or download it. Pro tip: one to two weeks after you first send this out, re-send the same email with a different subject line to all those that didn’t open your first one. You spent a lot of time creating this mini masterpiece of content. To get maximum return on that investment, you need to get it seen by as many people as possible!
Next, social media. You need to plan to place links to your content on your main social media channels. Remember to also leverage the power of LinkedIn Groups to get your message out further. For example, if your content marketing piece references a well-known book like “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, there is a LinkedIn Group dedicated to enthusiasts of this book that you can choose to share a link to your piece with. If they are likely to form part of your target audience – why not do them a favor by directing them to your content?
Think about the message that goes with the link before you share it online. You didn’t do all this work just to release it with a boring message like “Check out our new blog post”! You already know your target market and the problems & needs they have. Be creative with your messaging. Ask questions. If posting to Facebook, include an excerpt of the article and ask for people’s opinion. Just please remember, don’t treat all social media the same!
Next – sharing. The beauty of content marketing is the way it can carry your message far beyond your immediate audience. But sharing won’t happen if you don’t create the right conditions.
Two words that ensure your content has the best chance of being shared – Ask and Enable.
Ask your readers, fans & followers to share your content. And then enable them to easily do this – make sure you have working social media and comment plugins so your visitors can share your content at the click of a button. They won’t do it if it’s hard, even if they want to. So test your share buttons and make sure they are all working properly!
Spread the social media promotion out over at least a few weeks. Many times we’ll include a great piece of content in our social media editorial calendar for months, or even years if it’s still relevant!
If you have comments enabled on your website, encourage feedback and engage in dialogue through the comments with your readers. Not only does this further assist with positioning your company as experts in your field, it gives you opportunities to interact with your target market on a public forum, in a non-sales orientated environment where they will be more comfortable and likely to open up to you about where they need help.
Step Eight: Update Your Content Calendar
The “secret sauce” in this Killer Content Marketing strategy is in implementing all of the steps, in the right order, with nothing left out. This is a project that deserves a dedicated timeline. Map it out, prioritize the steps, and tick off each milestone as it is achieved.
Not only will you ensure that nothing gets missed, this will make it far easier to coordinate the project with your external and internal team members, so everyone knows who is responsible for which duties. By carefully delegating and outsourcing sections of the work, you can ensure that your company reaps the benefits without leaving you personally burned out or over-burdened with smaller details.
My favorite content calendar tools:
Getting the steps documented into a Content Calendar frees your mind to focus on the overall goals and targets. Which leads us neatly to…..
Step Nine: Establish Tracking and Goals
What do you want to result from this content marketing campaign?
Obviously you’re hoping for more sales leads and more opportunities to increase your sales, but there are other benefits that can result from a well-targeted and created piece of content.
For example, you might want to make sure that your content educates potential customers to help them self-diagnose what kind of service or product group is the one that most closely matches their requirements. This saves you time further down the line, and allows the prospect to research their subject free from any sales pressure.
Or you might want to reduce customer service calls and issues with some post-order education including real FAQs and information on the order and fulfilment process.
Whatever it is you are wanting to achieve, establish it in writing now, set targets, decide on the tools you will need and measure the KPIs.
You will want to be able to put together a report showing the results of this content marketing project. In order to do that, you will need to put in place everything needed to measure deliverables now. This could be shortlinks, UTM codes, analytics from various tools, etc. So get a clear picture of it now, so you’re not scrambling to assemble a half-baked report later.
Step Ten: Consolidate and Execute
Enough planning and preparation! You’re ready to roll. You have all the ingredients to create something amazing. Something worthy of your prospects time and not just another uninspired piece of junk.
Bringing It All Together
A content marketing strategy is like a marathon. You prepare, train, basically kill yourself for what seems like far-too-long. But then, when it really matters most, you can always tell who really prepared & put the work in.
It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, but here you have the steps for a repeatable and worthwhile process that generates ideas of real substance adds power to your brand.
If you hold your content marketing to a high standard and fully implement this process, your brand will rise above your competitors who are cranking out tired, weak and endlessly recycled content because “they’re supposed to.”
That’s not for you! Set the bar high – don’t settle for content that is less than stellar. Put in the work! And if find yourself willing, but not able, that’s what I’m here for! Call me and lets talk about your digital marketing strategy. But no matter, what: Don’t half-ass your content. Put in the work. It’s worht it, I promise!