What Is Content Marketing (and How Can I Get Started)?

What is Content Marketing

Gaining visibility for your business in today’s competitive world isn’t easy. Clearly, a website is important. And most companies have come to accept that they need to engage in social media. But once you have a handle on these basics, how do you attract an audience?

This is what content marketing is for.

What is content marketing? In this post, I will explain what content marketing is and how you can use it to attract the right audience for your business.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a relatively young field that has come into its own with the growth of the internet and social media. Consumers have become accustomed to researching questions online and marketers have found that providing answers to those questions is a great way to gain visibility.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing can be defined as follows:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content marketing is often considered part of an “inbound” approach to marketing, which favors attracting customers naturally (aka “for free”) by becoming a trusted source of relevant information. That said, it’s not unusual to apply some marketing dollars to boost the reach of content beyond what you can achieve organically.

This seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, maybe not, because the follow-up question I sometimes get is – “Um, ok, what is content?” Yikes! Perhaps defining “content” would be a better place to start.

What is Content?

WordPress branded bike“Content,” in this context, can be just about anything an organization creates to communicate with its target audience. In the digital world, websites, blog posts, e-books, white papers, videos, podcasts, infographics, slide decks, emails and social messages are all considered forms of content. In the offline world content typically comes in the form of printed materials such as brochures or one-pagers.

Content, in itself, is not a new concept. Organizations have been creating marketing content for ages and you’ve probably created quite a bit of it already. What has changed, however, is that buyers are now doing their own research online before engaging with companies. This means our marketing materials must be different.

Buyers want information, not a sales pitch. People who engage with your content may not be ready to hear about what your organization offers. They just want simple, easy to understand answers to their questions. By providing answers, you can essentially guide your customers through their buyer’s journey. And, along the way, you become their trusted solution.

How to Get Started With Content Marketing

Content marketing is an ongoing activity that strives for continual improvement through careful planning, monitoring and adjusting. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and you must be willing to experiment. At its core, content marketing is about getting the right information in front of the right people and inspiring them to take action.

To this end, the most important first step is to create a plan that includes the following elements:

A clear vision of your target audience. 

This is often referred to as a buyer persona. Creating a buyer persona will help you identify the questions your customers are asking. It will also help you decide which keywords to target and the content your customers will need as they conduct their research.

An audit of your existing content.

A content audit will help you organize your materials and spot gaps so you can decide what you need to modify or create.

Measurable and achievable goals and objectives.

These should reflect the goals of your organization. For instance, imagine that your company is working to break into a specific niche and marketing needs to generate awareness and leads in that market. Your content marketing goals should support that effort.

The strategies and tactics you will use to achieve your goals.

This will help you to build a specific plan of action. Then you can measure your results and make any necessary adjustments.

CalendarOnce you have a plan, create an editorial calendar to track each scheduled piece of content. Then think through your production workflow. Determine how long it will take to create each piece of content and who is responsible for each step. This will help you to avoid miscommunications.

A word of caution. Be realistic about your resources. You cannot do everything at once, nor should you try. Focus on creating quality content (vs. quantity) that will resonate with your target audience. Start small, perhaps by addressing one buyer persona or just one or two types of content and grow from there.

Summary

Content marketing is a fantastic way to demonstrate your organization’s expertise and gain visibility for your business. But make no mistake, it’s a tremendous amount of work.

Take your time to develop a realistic plan that centers on the needs of your target audience. With time, patience and a focus on quality you will develop a robust library of content assets. You can then use these assets to nurture relationships with your target audience for years to come.

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