Content Marketing Guidebook for an Online Strategy
Have seen statistics on the amount of information available today … doubling every 18 to 24 months? Amazing isn’t it? That is why a content marketing guidebook can be extremely valuable.
Note that Statistic Brain says that our average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds – one second less than a goldfish! It is not surprising then that the battle over content marketing is getting more difficult every day.
All this available information and data is creating a battle for customer attention between brands, publishers, and each one of us who creates content. But more importantly, it’s forcing businesses to think and act much more competitively.
I think we can all agree that content marketing is both practical and potent.
It’s the ultimate form of inbound marketing and makes total sense when you need to reach 21st-century consumers.
I could even spout off a laundry list of stats that prove just how big of an impact content marketing can have.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing involves using writing to make customers and potential customers more aware of a customer’s brand. It also offers help and useful suggestions. This can be in the form of web articles, blog posts, eBooks or white papers. Unlike newspaper and traditional magazine articles, good content marketing does more than just report, however. Good content marketing connects with readers and makes them want to use your client’s product or service.
Marketing content is all about making connections. Your level of success has a lot to do with how your readers react to what you write. People connect with the product or service that your clients sell because they relate to what you’re saying to them. They want to feel that your copy is specifically crafted to their interests and needs in mind. In other words, it should feel personal.
Types of content marketing
There are many content type options available to you. You can create one type of content or multiple types.
Here are the top content formats that we have found to generate the most attention online:
This type is an electronic version of a book composed in or converted to digital format for display on a computer screen or handheld device. An e-book requires deep content (15,000 words or more) to be taken seriously. There are countless examples of brands getting razzed for releasing a 10-page “e-book,” so create something with depth.
If done correctly, your e-book will be so useful that it will get cited or referenced by other books written on your topic. Do a Google Books search for your content name (in quotation marks) to find out if your e-book has been cited!
Guides / Handbooks
Guides and handbooks help someone to make a decision or calculation, formulate an opinion, or execute a strategy or tactic. This content may be best for audiences looking for content with the brevity and aesthetics of an infographic and the depth of an e-book. This is a great middle-of-the-road place to start if your organization is new to content marketing.
Studies are published results of a detailed investigation and analysis of a subject or situation. They are very good for highly educated audiences that want to learn something new that is based on fact and data. It must be based on credible research and contain citations from expert resources. If done correctly, a study can be the most effective way to earn a high volume of powerful citations in a brief amount of time.
Mixed-media posts use a variety of media with the intent to solve problems and entertain. Examples include interactive infographics that can contain audio, video, and animation on demand. The right mixed-media combination may just be an ace in the hole for your brand campaign.
A cheat sheet is a reference tool that provides simple, brief instructions for making a decision or calculation, forming an opinion, or executing a strategy or tactic. A cheat sheet is somewhere between an infographic and a guide. This format is especially useful if your problem is process based and the required content to solve the problem is very brief.
Video campaigns contain a Web-based video with the intent to solve problems and entertain.
People love watching videos online, and marketers are taking notice. Solving problems or educating your target audience online through video can be very effective content marketing.
Not all content is housed on your website. You can create a channel on YouTube or Vimeo that provides another access point to your business. Some content marketers upload videos to YouTube, then reposted on their blog. Others create a video blog, or vlog, that lives on YouTube.
This content type is a self-contained program or piece of software designed to fulfill a particular purpose. Apps are great for building a more native and interactive user experience. Build only apps that truly take advantage of mobile functionalities.
Apps are also ways of supporting other marketing campaigns, such as event apps or loyalty programs. However, most apps that caught market attention did so in the same way as the other content formats–they solved a specific problem for the user.
No matter which content format you choose, just be sure to make a decision on the basis of data. Allowing your audience to make this decision for you will be the most likely path to success.
Think articles that talk about issues related to your core message and secondary messages. They can range anywhere from 100 words to 2,000 words, depending on the format you choose and what your readers prefer.
Podcasts are audio articles or radio shows, often published on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or Blubrry. Podcasting is gaining renewed popularity now because people who don’t have time to read can listen to articles while on their daily commute or other activities.
Webinars and Teleseminars
You can present information to a live audience during webinars and teleseminars, then use the recording and slides as content on your website, in newsletters, and in programs/products.
Speeches, workshops, interviews
If it’s information, it’s content. And it’s easy to recycle this information, incorporating it into other content types to add value.
Offer them on your website. Turn them into infographics. Use them in blog posts. Upload them to Slideshare.
You can create a Web page that provides links to additional information, essentially making a lesson plan for learning something new. This is a great way to build authority in your area of expertise. Remember to tell people what to do if they need additional help.
Infographics are creative presentations of facts and figures rather than dry-as-toast reports. If they’re well done, they are also very shareable. Visual.ly is a great resource for simple infographics.
White papers and special reports
People want useful information that helps them make better decisions. That’s why white papers, special reports, and other researched information make such great premiums and free offers. You can periodically offer these as a value-add to your followers, or you can offer them as an incentive for signing up to your email list.
Content marketing is about building relationships, as we have said. What better way than to send your content to people’s inbox rather than making them visit your website every day? A newsletter also helps you build your email list, which allows you to make email offers as well.
Developing sustainable content
To keep it simple, brands should start by asking two basic — but vital — questions. First, who is your target audience? And second, what do you want them to do? Whether you learned about marketing 30 years ago or 30 days ago, marketing starts with these fundamental principles.
These questions apply to all marketing, not just content marketing. And that is why you have seen us make this point in several sections of this guidebook.
Once you’ve defined the content foundation, consider how to build the most effective content strategy:
People come online for solutions, and they want to be informed of your brands’ products or services.
Money still matters. Whether it’s a coupon or a financial incentive on Twitter or Facebook, people are always looking for a good deal.
Mobile’s prevailing success stems from the notion that people, more than ever, want content that’s fun and gratifying — at a moment’s notice.
Content should hold the consumer’s attention and stand the test of time. If you can engage customers, you’ll be well on your way.
The most important, yet the most overlooked, factor is having an emotional connection with your customers through your content. We discuss this element many times.
You need to define strong values and establish clear boundaries in content messages to confidently show who you are, and where you’re headed. Simplicity helps in this regard.
Content marketing that connects with audiences and earns a high level of organic promotion isn’t an easy task. One of the important aspects of setting your content marketing campaign up for success is choosing the best format for your content.
Choosing a content format requires considerable research to discover what type of content your audience prefers. For example, an infographic may go a long way when targeting Millennials versus an e-book that is much better suited for executive decision makers.
Some are always better than others, but in a general sense, there is no single format that outperforms all the others every time.
New digital marketing ideas
As the author of hundreds of blog posts, one question I often get is: How do you think of new ideas for blog posts?
I have had occasional writer’s block; but for the most part, coming up with ideas has never been an issue. If you pay attention to the world around you, do a reasonable amount of reading, and listen to people, you’ll get a flurry of potential ideas for posts.
Also, there are tools and tricks that will help you find even more ideas.
Before you start trying to brainstorm content ideas, it’s best to be in a problem-solving frame of mind. You’re attempting to solve the problems and answer the questions your target readers have regarding your industry.
In other words, you are looking for questions. It could be questions people ask aloud, things they search for, or things they simply ponder in their minds.
I’m a golfer, and a question many golfers have is: How do I grip a golf club?
If an amateur golfer sees a title like How the Best Golf Pros Grip the Club, they have to click. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a search engine, on social media, in an email, or wherever. The title answers a question and solicits a click.
So start with the frame of mind that you’re going to answer questions with your content and with your content titles.
Now, let’s get into the sources of content ideas:
One of the first places I go to find inspiration for titles is Quora. It’s a huge forum where people ask questions about everything under the sun. Simply type in the topic your readers are interested in or the name of your industry, and you will start finding questions that you can turn into content.
Online Groups (Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
Social media groups are like niche forums. People discuss industries, interests, and topics. Look for the groups that don’t allow lots of article sharing. Those are mostly spam. Look for groups in your industry that have a lot of questions and answers.
Industry publications: popular titles, topics, and comments
Find the sites in your industry that publish all the latest news, trends, tips, and everything else your readers love. Look for the articles with the most engagement: comments, shares, views, etc.
You’ll get a feel for what’s popular and what the hot topics are. Create content on those topics, and try to either bring a different viewpoint or expand on what’s already been discussed. Good value add is the key.
On industry publication sites, you’ll see comments. The people leaving the comments are your target readers, so notice what they’re saying. Since writers do not, and cannot, share everything on a topic in a single article, sometimes readers will ask questions. Look for those questions, and provide answers with your content.
Social media: questions people ask industry influencers
Identify the influencers in your industry. Put them on a Twitter list or follow them. Look at how people interact with those influencers. Often, people will ask influencers questions; but because influencers are busy, they won’t have time to respond to all the questions.
That’s where you can step in and provide the answers.
YouTube: industry videos
There are many ways you could get inspiration from YouTube. The one that works the best for me is to find the most popular videos from your industry, which could be how-to videos, trend videos, news videos, or whatever. Then look for those with views, comments, and other engagement, and you’ll have the topics you should be focusing on with your content.
Google search box ideas
Notice the suggestions that appear when you start typing a search into the Google search box. Some of the suggestions can be ridiculous, but others can give you clues about what people are searching for.
Discussions with interesting people
Talk to interesting people. I like to think that everyone has a unique perspective to offer on something. Even if they’re just telling their stories about experiences they’ve had, it can lead to inspiration for a post. So interview someone. Talk to them in person, on the phone, or over email. Ask them a few questions. Use the discussion as inspiration.
Search for your industry on Google News. See what the latest articles discuss. Find hot trends and topics and look for a unique way to comment on them.
Are you unsure about what your customers need to know? Ask them what they’re struggling with. Ask them for three challenges they’re facing in the industry. Ask them what topics they would like to know more about. Directing even one question to a few customers can lead to great content inspiration and ideas.
Check out the agendas for conferences. See what the big topics are. You can create your content based on the hot topics at conferences.
Customer service representative stories
Here is one of my favorites. My uncle used to work for a large shoe catalog company, and he would get the occasional email from customer service saying they were getting questions about the shoes. Lots of rich material in those conversations and some neat stories also.
Popular posts on business website
Look at the popular posts on your site, even going back a few years. You can create new content on the same topics or repurpose content into other forms like videos, podcasts, and more.
Experiments aren’t just for science class. Try experiments with your work. You can turn the experiment into a piece of content, or you could get inspiration for something you can create that your customers would find interesting.
Amazon’s top industry book lists
Check out the list of the top books in your industry on Amazon. If people are buying a book on a topic, you know they would be interested in a great blog post, guide, or podcast.
Trade magazines are incredibly popular with business professionals, including executives. They depend on these magazines for insight into what’s happening in the industry.
Pick up the magazines for your industry and see what the hot topics are right now. Offer your commentary on the subjects.
People aggregate all kinds of content on Flipboard. Look for the influencers in your industry and see what they’re sharing. These are your clues to the topics your readers care about and that you should be covering.
Behind the scenes
What is it like in your office or workplace? Tour everything yourself. You might get inspired once you get out of your comfort zone. You could even give your customers a glimpse behind the scenes with a few photos and stories.
How it’s done
Go back and see how your product/service works. People like to see how things work so document the process and lay it out for your customers.
Do your own research and surveys
Take a tip from Dustin with his The Anatomy of a Perfect Google+ Post that looked into what Google+ could and could not do with +1s, reshares, and comments. There was no research out there on this, so he did his research experiments and made himself the expert. Even if there is research out there, do your surveys to back them up or take a twist on it to explore new ventures.
Content marketing guidebook … valuable content marketing tips
Content marketing doesn’t have to be a catch-all phrase for all things corporate or boring. As a business owner, you can leverage the power of content marketing just by doing things right on your blog. Here are tips that are simple and will get you thinking:
Quality trumps quantity
High-quality content has become the standard – just an entry point. If you want to compete with others, always publish your best content. You don’t have to do it every single day, either. One great piece of content is much better than ten mediocre ones.
Write benefit laden headlines
It is easy to fall into the trap of writing headlines that are cute, clever or arouse curiosity. Research has shown this time and again that the most effective headlines are those that give you the benefits up front. So put that benefit into the headline.
Simple and easy to read
Let your writing be jargon free. Remember, you are not writing to impress your audience, you are writing so you get through to them. Use their language. Aim to express, and not to impress.
When you write blog posts, write as if you are writing an email to a close friend. What would you say? How would your words sound on paper? Capture that and show your personality.
When you are writing for the web, remember you are trying to capture the attention of people who probably have five windows open in their browser, listening to some music and trying to clear their inbox – all at the same time. People scan on the web, and you need to get to the point fairly quickly if you don’t want to lose readers. Learn the art of being concise at all costs.
People love stories and stories spread easily. Spend some time creating your marketing story and publish it on your About page.
Collaborate with your customers
Harness the power of user generated content. Add a forum to your site if it built around a popular topic that is great fodder for discussion naturally.
Be fast and simple
Long lead times for content development and publication across limited channels can lead to a slow and cumbersome creation process. That is the exact opposite of what content marketing is all about. The best content marketing needs to be as near real time as you can make it. Real-time marketing requires the urgency of broadcast news.
Often a reader’s first exposure to a business comes not from a slick: 60-second ad but from an obscure blog post on a very specific topic of interest turned up in a series of search engine inquiries. A major objective of your content marketing is to build a library that reaches into these corners of search. Content in this form starts the potential customer on their journey of discovery.
In his book, Contagious, Wharton professor Jonah Berger showed that one of the key reasons people share content online is because it arouses a person’s emotion. His point was that content has to go beyond just being useful; it has to be unforgettable. Rather than trying to churn out quantity, take the time to figure out what kind of emotions move your audience.
In doing so, it’s important to remember that not all emotion is created equal. In his research, Berger identifies that certain kinds of emotions – those that get people “aroused” like awe, passion, and anger – are much more likely to drive shares than those that make people feel toned down – like sadness, relaxation, or contentment.
Don’t be afraid to rock the boat.
Content must be personalized to increase its consumption and, more importantly, its influence. It must inspire the actions you desire. Your goal? Get the right information detail to the right decision maker on a just-in-time basis.
Tool for customer service
We are firm believers that word of mouth marketing is the best form of marketing and one of the best sources for memorable topics is customer service. Twitter has become a public facing customer service tool for good or bad and with it comes an entirely new level of service based content.
Content that teaches customers how to get more, how you care for your customers, how to fix problems and how to find the answers to common challenges and functions has become an essential customer service utility.
Ever since prospects learned that just about any claim an organization makes can be supported or contested with a simple search, the need to build content that offers proof of results has risen in importance. Getting at customer success stories in ways that describe the heart of what matters is an essential form of necessary content.
Avoid these killer content marketing mistakes
Mistakes are a part of life. But you don’t want them to be even a small part of your content marketing design experience. We know that providing valuable information via blogs, emails, and social media is the best way to attract customers and clients. And by figuring out exactly what their pain points, needs, and desires are, we can create content that best meets their expectations.
Do you ever wonder if the content you are writing is run of the mill or just plain boring? If no one likes your content, you won’t get any social shares, linkbacks, or traffic.
Whether you write content for B2B or B2C sites, there is an art to content creation.
Content marketing is all the rage. It seems marketers are falling all over themselves to increase budgets, increase volume, and in many cases, decrease value. Like any other business initiative, content marketing is a STRATEGY, not a tactic. And as such, it should be planned and executed with well thought out processes and procedures.
Here we will discuss the mistakes to avoid in delivering content readers are clamoring for:
Focus on public relations
Content marketing needs to put attention on the consumer, not on your business. It’s not about you or the public relations of your business.
Make it difficult to share
It seems like common sense to have sharing widgets on your content so users can easily make a couple of clicks of the mouse and share your words with the masses, but so many people miss this all-important step. And if you’re creating something like a brochure? Include the URL, so you can easily be found.
Successful marketers know good content aims to help, not sell. Be a help and avoid selling at all costs. Remember selling is a component of marketing, but marketing is not selling.
While your blog is one way to create content marketing, it shouldn’t be the only way your company distributes content for your would-be clients to consume. There’s also: social media, eBooks, case studies, informational packets and brochures, presentations, videos, podcasts, and workshops as we have discussed earlier in this chapter.
Everything to everybody all the time
Good content marketing nurture prospects and leads through the entire lifecycle. It should continually aid current customers. One piece of content won’t be helpful to everyone at every stage. And certainly, not every customer has the same needs.
The only way your content has a chance of going viral is if it’s perceived as EXTREMELY valuable. As in, you’re sharing jaw-dropping tips and tricks for your industry. Otherwise, your story about the amazing service you received at the pancake house is just serving your need to see your name in the byline.
It’s not enough to push your content out. To execute a content marketing strategy that is helpful, you’ll need to respond, comment, ask questions, and interact with the people who are consuming your work.
Key takeaways to remember
Stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in. Let your content marketing success be your difference maker. From maximizing quality to increasing your online entry points, eliminating these content marketing mistake will help build a foundation that will serve your customers, your brand and — perhaps most importantly — your bottom line.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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