It’s no mystery that the most effective marketing strategies include information consumers need — as opposed to irrelevant noise being screamed at them in a radio, TV or Internet ad — and a call to action. Though traditional advertisements will always be with us, social media have ushered in the gilded era of “content marketing,” or what the Content Marketing Institute calls the “art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.”
Content marketing often reaches consumers through their direction or instigation (clicking on a link), not through passive—or sometimes unwilling—observation. It delivers information in the form of a blog post, email, article in a print or online publication, or a video that informs buyers with relevant content.
Just as your small business credit card helps you manage the financial part of your business, content marketing helps you manage the essence of your business: your product or service, corporate message and reputation. Nielsen found that 58 percent of consumers trust editorial content, according to InboundMarketingAgents.com. They trust the information because it helps them in some way—whether it’s understanding a problem or discovering the hidden benefits of solving a problem.
To generate content that works as a fruitful marketing tool, it helps to be aware of what content marketing isn’t. Search engine optimization (SEO) expert Lee Odden points out on TopRank that it’s not simply creating volumes of content. It’s strategic, not “mechanical spray and pray.”
Generating content starts with identifying the themes of your business and how your products can solve problems. One of the easiest ways to narrow down your content creation needs, Right Source Marketing stated in “How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing,” is to identify up to a dozen themes and focus on building a campaign around each of them.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it—producing content that converts prospects to customers can be a daunting undertaking. One reason is that context is often needed for the information in an article, video or blog post, content marketing expert Brian Clark stated on Marketing Land. Provide context by developing what’s known as “cornerstone content” around the topics people need to understand in order to do business with you, Clark advised.
Inspirational content marketing begins with meaningful storytelling, SEO expert Odden said. Then, that meaningful storytelling must be targeted to your current and prospective customers.
Publishing content and optimizing it to attract readers is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the end of the line, according to Right Source Marketing. Content distribution is a strategic marketing tactic, not random attempts to get your message out. Distributing the content entails comprehensive research about your audience and must be disbursed in outlets sought out by your targeted consumer group.
If you’re serious about content marketing, an editorial calendar to plan pieces in advance is essential. An easy way to start to build your editorial calendar is by being aware of holidays, seasons and upcoming events that pertain to your products or services.
There is literally enough information online and in university courses about content marketing to earn a degree in it. Fortunately, by knowing the basics — and keeping up to date with the ever-changing Google Panda and Penguin algorithms — you can begin to position your business to reap the benefits of this most credible form of marketing.