If any part of your business involves showing up online — and let’s be honest, almost every business today needs to have at least some online presence — content marketing is one of the most effective ways to build your brand, drive traffic to your website, and get eyeballs on your products and services.
What exactly is content marketing?
The inbound marketing experts at HubSpot define content marketing as “the process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing, and publishing content to reach your target audience. As a business, this tactic can help you improve brand awareness, boost sales, connect with your target audience members, and engage prospects and customers.”
Content marketing can include blogging on your own site, guest posting on other sites in your niche, posting on social media, sharing infographics, producing videos, distributing white papers, running email campaigns, writing case studies, producing podcasts, and creating any other kind of content that educates your target audience and helps them meet their objectives.
Hearing all that, you may think, “Who has the time to create that much content? I have a business to run. I can barely keep up with blogging once a week.”
But keep in mind, you don’t have to create content in every format for every platform to enjoy the benefits of content marketing. You can start with one or two forms of content — blogging and social media, for example — then strategically distribute that content on the one or two channels that make the most sense for your business.
Benefits of content marketing
Content marketing is a long game, so you typically won’t see results right away. That’s a minor drawback, however, when you consider the benefits:
- Content marketing is an effective way to market your business without having to spend money on ads. If you have a minimal marketing budget, but time to commit to content creation, you can still win clients and customers for your business.
- Content marketing builds authority in your niche, and that drives more sales.
- Because content marketing educates and informs your target audience, it’s often more effective at converting readers into buyers than ads and other forms of paid marketing.
- Unlike paid ads, which stop working as soon as you stop paying for them, high-quality evergreen content continues to work for you long into the future. You can post on your blog tomorrow, and if the content is useful to your target audience, it can still generate search results five years from now.
- Content works for you around the clock, even when you’re not working.
- Content marketing presells your products and services, shortening the path to buy.
- Content provides ROI without annoying potential customers with ads galore.
How great is that?
7 content marketing tips to implement in your business today
Now that you know what content marketing is and how it benefits your business, let’s cover a few basics so you can use it to start attracting new clients and customers to your business.
Content marketing tips
- Determine your content marketing goals
- Understand your target audience and their pain points
- Write implementable, actionable content
- Determine your best traffic channels
- Educate your clients and customers, rather than selling to them
- Add CTAs
- Be consistent
Determine your content marketing goals
Understand your target audience and your ideal customer’s pain points
Write implementable, actionable content
Determine your best traffic channels
Educate your ideal clients and customers, rather than selling to them
Before you embark on a content marketing plan, you need to know what your objectives are, both for your content marketing overall and for each individual piece of content you produce.
Be sure each blog post, social media update, image, video, or whatever kind of content you create, advances your business goals.
For example, are you trying to generate leads? Educate your audience? Build brand awareness? Create authority in your niche? Drive traffic to your website? While each individual piece of content might be focused on just one of those objectives, your content marketing as a whole can do all of those things.
Once you’ve decided on your goals, be sure to measure your progress using website analytics, the number of new email subscribers and/or social media followers, the number of new leads generated, the number of new clients or customers, and so on.
In tandem with determining your content marketing goals, you also need to understand your target audience and their pain points, challenges, and problems as they relate to the products and services you offer. This is a large part of what your content will address.
Let’s say you sell gardening supplies. What questions and challenges related to gardening show up again and again for your customers? Those challenges can be addressed in a series of blog posts or videos, a targeted social media campaign, a free e-course, or a case study about how you helped someone’s garden go from sad and lifeless to colorful and thriving, for example.
Let’s take our gardening example.
You don’t want to write content that focuses solely on selling. Instead, create content that helps your customers achieve their goals.
Maybe your ideal customer wants to grow a vegetable garden or prize-winning roses or exotic plants. Once you know what your ideal customer’s goal is, you could write a blog post titled, “Top 10 mistakes people make when growing roses” or “Best practices for growing vegetables you can’t wait to eat” or “10 tips for creating a garden that will make your neighbors jealous.”
Sharing specific tips and how-tos that actually help your customers generates a lot of goodwill, and helps you develop the critical know, like, and trust factor with your best prospects.
Not all traffic is created equal. It doesn’t matter if Twitter sends you 200 new visitors each time you post, if your ideal clients and customers — and they aren’t “ideal” if they are forever lurking and never buying — prefer to spend their time on Facebook.
One way to figure out your best traffic channels is to test a number of outlets and compare results. Which channel sends you traffic that actually converts? Another way is to pay attention to where your competitors are distributing content and test those channels.
High-quality free content does help you sell, albeit indirectly. Again, it’s usually the long game. It’s rare that someone will read one blog post or watch one video, then come knocking at your door, wallet in hand, throwing hundred dollar bills your way.
But what educating your target market with content helps you do, as mentioned before, is develop the know, like, and trust factor. It helps you build authority in your niche. The result? It effectively presells your audience on buying from you.
Don’t forget to add calls to action within, and especially at the end, of your content. Always give readers a next action to take, so they don’t wander off at the end of your brilliant content, thinking, “Cool. Glad I read that,” without taking any further action.
For example, let’s say the online gardening supply store owner wrote the post, “10 tips for creating a garden that will make your neighbors jealous.” If the article is high quality and long enough, a couple of links in strategic places are perfectly acceptable, as well as one at the end of the piece.
One link within the article could link to something specific for sale related to the instructions in the post, another could link to a contact page, an FAQ page, or landing page with an email opt-in. The choices are endless.
Personally, I like to end a content piece with a call to action inviting people to sign up for an email newsletter or other valuable resource in exchange for their email address.
This is one of the hardest things to do but the most important. Yes, regularly posting quality content to the appropriate channels can be time-consuming, but the rewards vastly outweigh the time investment, if done correctly.
Consistently posting to your channel or channels of choice validates your business to your desired audience, and gives them a reason to keep coming back again and again to check out the newest brilliant information you’re sharing.
Because there are so many kinds of content you can create and channels you can distribute it on, content marketing can feel downright overwhelming.
To prevent that feeling, simply start with one or two content formats and one or two distribution channels, test and tweak, then go from there.
If you’re patient, you’ll eventually start seeing the benefits of content marketing. And hey, once the clients and customers start rolling in from your efforts, you always can use some of that hard-earned cash to hire a content manager.