Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
I’ll let you all in on a little secret. I’ve tried lot of different techniques throughout the years with my content marketing, which includes email newsletters, social media and blogging. Each time, I fell flat. I struggled finding relevant topics and I struggled to produce consistent quality content. My struggles were reflected in low open rates on my email newsletter, low website traffic and minimal social engagement. I had to figure out how to turn that bus around and I want to share with you what I discovered works. How do I know it works? I’ve analyzed the data and I’ve increased traffic organically by 120% in 1 year resulting in just over 2000 unique sets of eyes a month.
The first problem I needed to fix was clearly identifying who my target market was. Just because I could write didn’t mean that I was writing on topics that interested the people I should be writing for. I flip flopped between wanting to be the technical guru that other techies would look up to and the marketing guru that my clients went to for digital marketing help. The ambiguity in defining my target audience made it more difficult to provide valuable and relevant content. Once I decided on who my target audience was, then it was much easier to write helpful digital marketing tips that would be relevant and bring value. If you’re still not sure who your target audience is, please read “3 Clues to Finding Your Ideal Client”.
Once I defined my target audience and focused on providing digital marketing tips for small businesses, then I was able to hone in on common pain points and provide relevant content. The more I became engaged with the small business owner, the more I realized that the technical “how to’s” of blogging, email newsletters and search engine optimization (SEO) were only part of the conversation. So many people (including myself) don’t know what to write, who to write for, how often and how much? This resulted in randomly publishing untimely and irrelevant content without any intent or purpose. This approach to content marketing basically adds to the noise online and leaves everyone going “Huh?” Worse yet, sometimes nothing gets published and that business becomes virtually invisible online. The digital marketing conversation was a hidden problem. I wrote a blog post about hidden problems in my blog post “Hiring An Expert: 3 Tips To Get What You Really Need”.
Once the target audience is defined, it’s easier to figure out what they need and then write relevant content, right? But then sometimes writing becomes tricky because of other hidden problems, like insecurity. You might be wondering where I’m going with this. I’ve witnessed too many people who are experts on their topic but remain invisible because of lack of confidence. I’ve struggled with insecurity, too, and it held me back for way too long. Once I addressed my own insecurities about writing, I was free to write with confidence. You can read about my journey back to writing in “3 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Blog“.
Now that the audience and their pain points are clearly defined and nothing is holding you back, it’s time to create a plan and work that plan. Most small business owners, including myself, wear 100’s of different hats and some days we’re wearing all of them at once. It might seem impossible to sit down and write a blog post, or publish an email newsletter, or make posts to social media. I’d like to introduce a framework that I rely on to set and meet my goals: S.M.A.R.T. Goals. If you remember my blog post on S.M.A.R.T. Goals, “How To Get What You Want, When You Want It”, you’ll see that this is an excellent approach to setting and meeting goals.
Here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T. Goal I use to stay on top of my digital marketing. I’m able to identify what the end goal is and what steps I need to take to reach my goals. The results reflect my efforts.
Write and publish 1 blog post and 1 email newsletter the first week of every month. Publish 3 social updates every week. Increase social followers by 5% every month. Email newsletters will have a 40%+ open rate. Continue to increase website traffic by 10% every month.
The “T” in S.M.A.R.T. goals is for Timely. There really isn’t a hard and fast rule that fits everyone. Some common sense helps in figuring out how often you should publish. If you’re sending an email newsletter every day, that’s too much. But, you post on social media every day, that makes total sense. You can blog once a week or once a month. You can send out email newsletters once a week or once a month. The mode of delivery should help determine how often you’re publishing.
The “R” in S.M.A.R.T. goals reveals that whatever you do, make it realistic. If you can realistically post to social media every day and publish a blog post every week, then do it. Just set a schedule and stick to it.
Alright, now that you have a good foundation to work from and a goal that you’re working towards, let’s get down to writing. I’m going to show you how to write smarter, not harder.
I picked up a new life hack last year at the Bend Oregon Swivel conference when Jason Miller from LinkedIn introduced the Turkey Slicing metaphor for content marketing. If you had a Thanksgiving turkey (analogous with a longer article) and slice it up and redistribute it (analogous with Thanksgiving leftovers), you don’t have to constantly create new materials. This is actually better because your message will be consistent and relevant and since it’s already written, it can be timelier.
This leads me to the next and probably most important trick I’ve learned to maximize my content and minimize my writing time so I can publish relevant content in a timely manner. See how everything comes together at the end?
My formula for writing a successful blog post looks like this:
- Introduction = Identify a problem. This can be a personal narrative that exposes a pain point and the conflicts that arise during the process of trying to resolve that pain point. I love starting out with stories because people are relatable and everyone loves a story.
- Transition = I’ll introduce that pivotal moment; some may call it the “Ah Ha!” moment when I realize what the answer is and the conflict can begin to resolve.
- Value Bombs = I’ll then create a list identifying the steps that got me from point A to point B in fixing the problem.
- Summary = This can include the traditional “and this is what I just told you” along with a compelling call to action “Get X if you do Y”.
Once I have my post written, then I use Jason Miller’s Turkey Slice metaphor and pull out key points that can be published in social media along with images that relate back to the message. And since everyone is so busy and likely not watching my blog for new posts, I’ll deliver it via email with a short intro, a cool image, and a link to read more.
If you have made it all the way to the end of this Content Marketing Guide, I hope you feel empowered to take control of your message because You Are The Expert, and You Can Do It! When you’re active in the online conversation, you’ll be more visible and more relevant and you’ll attract the right kind of clients and provide value to your current clients.