Leading With Change + Innovation

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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Content Marketing: A Guide for Modern Businesses and Brands

Marketing speakers often offer useful tidbits of advice at business and corporate events. Chief among them, or so we’ve seen: In a world of skyrocketing competition and shrinking visibility, marketing is a key cornerstone when it comes to achieving success. Instead of struggling to track ROI on hard-to-measure print campaigns, random radio spots, and fleeting posts on social networks, a pinpointed content marketing campaign may give you the most bang for your buck. With the rules of creating arresting and engaging content having significantly changed as the Internet has matured, content creators now face new challenges, however. So besides crafting eye-catching articles, videos, photos, podcasts, inforgraphics, and SEO-optimized material, what else should you do to succeed? The following expert hints and tips can help you increase traction, takeaway, and traffic in no time flat.

  1. Understand your audience. Take it from one of today’s top marketing speakers… Knowing who your target audience is and where they congregate online will tell you how best to reach them: Specifically gearing your posts to them is key. For example, if you are an accounting firm looking to court small business owners, writing posts about highly-specialized and esoteric tax rules won’t do you much good unless you’re talking about how they impact entrepreneurs’ bottom lines in plain English. Whatever business topic you choose to focus on, make sure it clearly relates to the intended audience and helps meet their needs. Make sure that the information is not too muddled, and make it the kind that search engines say your prospects are searching for—Google’s free keyword research tools can come in very handy here.
  1. Allocate sufficient resources to content strategy. Sometimes having a great content strategy involves bringing in an expert who knows how to create powerful content and craft campaigns to which audiences will strongly and positively react. Managing such programs can be a sometimes overwhelming task, especially if you are trying to run your own business, meaning that hiring the right freelancer or even a full-time community manager can be worth the money if you make the correct hiring decision. However, that’s not to say you should be spending flagrantly on outside assistances, or even require it: Many times you don’t need to go out of house to find subject matter experts (SME)—any given product or management team may be composed of specialized SME, especially if they keep their ears to the ground and know what type of material their audience is buzzing about or seeking. Taking a little time out of their day may be sufficient to help you plan and execute a compelling editorial calendar. In either case, just make sure campaigns are adequately staffed, managed and budgeted.
  1. Don’t cut corners. All posts should be of universally high-quality, and utilize proper grammar and punctuation: First impressions apply online, just as they do in real-life. Which isn’t to say that you need to blow your budget polishing everything to a glimmering sheen—just that everything produced be of respectable professional quality. To this extent, videos should be nicely packaged and presented, podcasts cleanly recorded, and graphics appear as if they were created by a professional designer, not sketched on a napkin. Just as your business wouldn’t use cheap-quality materials to present itself in real-life, so too should online marketing efforts and supporting assets be of similarly high-grade construction.
  1. Don’t rely solely on readers. Yes, word of mouth means everything when it comes to the networking-driven world of business. That doesn’t mean you should completely rely on it, however. As Entrepreneur magazine points out, you must be proactive about building your own presence on social media channels, and incentivizing pass-along. Managing social media, when utilized correctly and proactively, can be a full-time job unto itself. Commit time, either by hiring a new person or pursuing the task on your own, to the networks that mean the most to you, and steadily produce and release content on a regular schedule. Be up-to-date on the latest and greatest outlets, and make a point of being present and stoking the flames of engagement. Simply posting new content won’t be enough to activate audiences also. You must engage with your followers, create conversation, and (gasp!) be social. Once you’ve created your campaign and tried out your strategy for a few weeks, take a look at the analytics, and be sure to reassess what is working and what’s not. Adjust where needed.
  1. Be consistent. As you well know, and content marketing speakers of all kinds can tell you, not every marketing campaign resonates. However, being consistent with your brand and message is extremely important, as is routinely bringing new content to market. Fans, followers and customers need to be able to trust who you are and what you are promoting, and have a sense of how often to check back and where to turn for more information. By consistently and frequently posting high-quality content that resonates, you create relationships and bonds that are difficult to break.
  1. Keep it short, sweet and tantalizing. David Armano, managing director of Edelman Digital Chicago tells PRDaily.com that, “the people we want to reach move effortlessly across a media landscape about which they rarely make distinctions. Increasingly, they spend time on mobile devices, skimming content in ‘streams or feeds.’ The average consumer of media has the attention span of a squirrel on Ritalin. Getting them to pause to read anything more than a paragraph is becoming increasingly difficult.” Attention spans may be getting shorter, but not all difficulties here can be blamed on distracted thinking. While this quote certainly describes a symptom of consumer behavior, the problem marketers encounter here often lies in the way that content is formatted and delivered. Content marketing should be designed to catch audiences’ attention at a glance, and be quickly clicked, consumed and shared—it’s through this pattern that trust, awareness and ultimately revenue are raised.
  1. Create incentive to share. Every piece of content you publish should clearly tell the reader why the information that they’re watching, reading, or hearing is relevant. Effectively and rapidly establishing reasons that your audience should pay attention to and consume your content is a crucial determinant in whether or not it will be read, watched, played, clicked on, or shared. Brief your users and introduce your content with something that cuts to heart of the main idea—i.e. capture their interest in seconds, convey key messages at a glance, and deliver your unique sales points up front. Two great examples would be to describe a common problem and solution, or briefly tease a video series with a quick overview of key highlights, i.e. the unique insights and revelations it contains.
  1. Use graphical elements to tell your story. If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, just imagine how you many you can cram into a short video clip, or so marketing speakers will often poin tout. Likewise, the online world is currently experiencing a boom in interest in infographics—a.k.a. simple visual representations of complex data. In either case, cut to the chase and catch your audience’s eye quickly. Remember: Less is more here, though don’t pare back too much—key messages and data points should be simple, and simply conveyed.
  2. Maintain consistency with messaging. Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, advises in a recent article for Mashable that the content you share should be interwoven with your core branding. He states, “casino sites that make fascinating infographics about animal rights aren’t going to last long.” Therefore, it’s advisable to stick to what you know when it comes to creating marketable content—in other words, keep your story straight and consistent with both brand image and overall campaign messaging whatever vehicle or medium you use to promote it.
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