Content marketing is a brand-focused campaign designed to engage a specific target audience. This concept can grow your market and business, but too many people jump into the activities of content marketing without creating a strong foundation. Without this base, content marketing becomes a scattered activity that does not achieve your true goal – expanding your brand’s awareness and your customer base. To be effective, you must build your content marketing strategy from the ground up.
Define Your Target Audience
If you attempt to market to everyone, you will effectively engage no one, which wastes your marketing dollars. Start your content marketing efforts by defining your target audience, i.e., your ideal client or customer. This may reflect your current customer base but look beyond that and ask yourself, “In a perfect world, who do I want to engage?” If your answer is different than your current customer base, it is time to redefine your target audience and learn more about that population.
Next, ask yourself what this audience wants and whether can you deliver it. You probably can, but do they know this? Probably not. This is where content marketing comes into play.
Refine Your Brand
Now that you know who you want to connect with, determine how you want to be perceived. This is your brand, and finding the best way to share your brand with your target audience is the cornerstone of content marketing. When you review your branding, ask yourself:
- What do I have to offer my target audience?
- How is this different from what my competitors offer?
- Are there other distinguishing processes or features that I need to share, such as green initiatives, volunteer, donation or sponsorship activities, or customization options, that set me apart from others?
Ultimately, the question is what makes me unique in the marketplace and how do I express this through marketing activities? For example, are you a book author or the author of quality, can’t-put-it-down-until-the-end books that readers love? Both are brands but one will excite your target audience.
Maximize Your Website
While there are many channels you should use for your content marketing efforts, start with your own website. Use Google Analytics tools to determine your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) score and ranking. Through this system, you will see how people come to your site, how long they stay and where they go. This data will help you see what you are doing well and what needs improvement to engage your target audience.
If you are not blogging yet, start now. Many people avoid this marketing component because they don’t think they have anything to say or don’t’ have the time. Others misuse it by only blogging about promotions, which drives audiences away. Use the 80/20 rule for blogging and all other communication channels, such as Facebook posts and tweets. Eighty percent of your content should be of interest to your audience. Share personal information about the business and your staff to help people relate to you as people rather than an impersonal business. Within this 80% also present information relevant to your audience’s interests that match your products, services and industry. The other 20% of your content should be calls to action such as the introduction of new products, sales announcements and other content that encourage purchases or website visits.
Remember, you don’t have to create all of your blog content, but when you curate other pieces give credit to the originators and add information, such as why you think your audience will enjoy the piece. The goal is to increase readership and engagement as well as sharing of blogs to new people.
Determine Best Communication Channels
Beyond your website, there are many ways to reach and engage your target audience. Unfortunately, some of this will take trial and error so you need to have a system to analyze the effectiveness of your efforts. Communication channels can include:
- Print materials
- Social media including one or more platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,Pinterest and others relevant to your brand
Use lots of images and graphics to draw and keep reader attention. Follow best practices, such as those presented in Walsworth’s Content Strategy whitepaper to avoid communication overload.
Create and Disseminate Valuable Content
The best way to engage your target audience with content marketing is to give them value. Every blog, post and tweet should give them something new or a new take on a trending conversation. Position yourself as an expert on an issue or a great curator of information on a specific topic. Choose something that supports your brand and differentiates yourself from your competitors.
Content marketing is tricky because it requires bringing together several different components to facilitate effective, ongoing engagement with your target audience. Don’t dive into this pool before you fill it with water. Identify your target audience, know your brand, maximize your website, find the best communication channels and share content that brings value to those who read it. This sounds like a lot, but start with your audience and your brand and the rest will fall into place easier than you realize.