Content marketing is one of the most important digital marketing trends of 2015. According to the Content Marketing Institute, about 70 percent of B2B and B2C organizations report that they created more content this year than last. And nearly 90 percent of those businesses say they were successful with it.
Appropriately, content is what powers a content marketing strategy. But with so many businesses “doing” content marketing, how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you separate yourself?
You need to create content that is valuable—content that has a clear purpose and serves to educate and solve your customer’s problems. Here’s how to get it done.
What is Valuable Content?
We know what content is: everything from blog posts and emails to landing pages and social media posts—plus podcasts, videos, infographics, and more. All these forms of content work together to help build your brand, attracting precisely the types of visitors you want to your website and then guiding them through the process from complete stranger to loyal customer.
But how do you make this content valuable? And what exactly is valuable content?
Simply put, valuable content is content that makes people want to read it, share it, and then come back for more of it. While actually creating it is easier said than done, let’s not make it any more difficult than it has to be. Valuable content involves:
- Creating a strategy and a content calendar
- Building your content
- Promoting or distributing that content
- Analyzing your efforts
As evidenced by the increasing number of businesses turning to content marketing, plenty of people are creating content, but just how many are doing it correctly? Only 27 percent of B2C marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, and only 35 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.
It brings to mind the popular phrase: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Yet, so many businesses are neglecting the most important aspect of content marketing—the strategy.
In their “B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” document, the Content Marketing Institute stated that if one key theme emerged from their B2B research, it was: “If you want to be more effective at content marketing, document your strategy.”
Bottom line, you will need to develop a content calendar and adhere to it to maximize your potential for success. Sure, it takes longer than just diving in and haphazardly creating content that you think will work, but it will be more than worth the effort in the long run.
Determine the Purpose of the Content
The initial question you need to ask yourself is why you’re creating content in the first place.
Are you trying to attract more people to your website? Blog posts and web pages are wide open to more than three billion people on the internet, so that would seem like a good place to begin.
Are you trying to convert visitors into leads, and eventually customers? Landing page content might be your solution, where you offer an exclusive piece of content—content your typical customers would deem particularly valuable, something they could not get anywhere else—in exchange for their email address.
Decide What Format to Use
Once you have determined what your goals are, you will need to decide what format you should use to present the content. In addition to blog posts, informational web pages, and landing pages, you might consider a case study, video webinar, infographic, white paper, eBook, or something else.
How do you decide which format to pick? It really depends on how much time you have to create it, how much information you have to share, and most importantly—whom the content is for.
Look to your customer persona—your typical customer—for the answers. If you know your customer enjoys reading blog posts on a regular basis, then it would make perfect sense to create a blog post. If your typical customer is more visual by nature, try a blog post predominantly featuring an infographic or video.
If you’re still in the process of getting to know your typical customer, try a variety of different formats and determine what is working best when you analyze your content. Then adjust until you get it right.
Picking Topics to Feature
Picking what topics to write about or feature as your content can be an especially daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Again, it comes back to your customer persona and what will prove to be the most helpful topics for them. This is your ideal customer, the person you create content for.
Valuable content is solution-based, so focus on your potential customers and how you can solve their problems. It should be educational. It should be important to them. They should want to read it, share it, and then come back for more of it. Tug at their heartstrings and make them feel something. Inspire them. Motivate them.
When you’re trying to pick topics based on your typical customer, do some keyword research and determine what keywords or long-tail keywords you want to rank for. Look at topics that are currently popular in your industry. And if you have a sales staff—or even if you handle this task yourself—draw from the frequently asked questions of your current customers. It’s in these places where you will find what their goals and challenges are.
Always address the issue of how your content will help your customer. In fact, ask yourself these five questions as you conceptualize each piece of content:
- What is your topic and/or keyword(s)?
- How will this content help your customer?
- What format are you going to use?
- What is the structure? (how-to, best of, list post, curated, etc.)
- What is your working, search-engine-optimized title?
OK, here comes the really fun part. Now it’s time to turn your thoughts and ideas into reality. This is where you actually build or create your content. Putting everything you just learned into motion, follow some of these best practices for creating valuable content:
- People are busy so make it easy to read or consume.
- Remember to keep it educational, not promotional.
- Concentrate on great writing and quality information first, then make it look nice.
Your content doesn’t need to be lengthy or monumentally difficult to produce. Just make sure you follow along with your plan and stick to it. Consistency is key when it comes to your content marketing success.
Build it and they will come? Not so much. In fact, you should spend as much time promoting your content as you did creating it. Yes, it’s that big of a deal.
After you have created your content, give it a chance to succeed by distributing it via your website pages, blog, landing pages, calls to action, e-newsletters, emails, and especially social media.
According to HubSpot’s “State of Inbound 2014,” those content marketers who place a priority on blogging are 13 times more likely to have a positive return on the investment of their time and efforts. Blogging should be a part of your content marketing plan.
Facebook now drives 25 percent of all internet traffic, crushing its nearest social competitors Pinterest (six percent) and Twitter (just under one percent). Additionally, Facebook creates 340 percent more shares than any other social network, unless you’re posting food pics on Pinterest. So make sure you’re giving Facebook a long look.
Focus on the primary social networks—Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram—and you will likely enjoy the results.
Also, don’t take a “one and done” approach to your content. As long as it’s still a relevant topic, maximize your efforts by promoting your content again—and maybe again. You put your heart and soul into your content. You might as well prolong its value and get as much mileage out of it as you can.
Finally, you need to find out what you’re doing well—and yes, not so well.
You’re not creating content just for the fun of it—even though it is fun, right? There’s really no point to content marketing if it isn’t helping you accomplish your business goals. When you’re determining what format to use (based on your typical customer’s preferences), try several methods to see what works best.
When analyzing your content marketing efforts, consider:
- How many visits you received
- How many leads were generated in exchange for especially valuable content
- How many social shares were recorded
- How many inbound links you received (which helps you build authority)
- The performance of each piece of content according to the author, the topic, and the format you used
Are your topics spot-on or are you noticing that certain topics are more popular than others? Stop writing about topics your customers aren’t interested in and focus on the ones they’re reading.
Are you noticing that one format is doing considerably better than the others you tried? Do more of that.
Which of your distribution methods is working the best?
Analyze each piece of content you create. By determining what’s working and why it worked (or didn’t), you can adjust your content to better fit your audience. It’s a reality check you need and one that will determine your success moving forward.
Putting it All Together
Creating valuable content is not a simple process, but when you take the time to develop a strategy, and then you build, promote, and analyze your work, you’re optimizing your content marketing efforts.
Your content is valuable if your customers say it is. By continually serving your customer’s needs and solving their problems, you will build momentum over time and enjoy the success that comes from truly valuable content that matters.