Tips And Advice To Help You Build An Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is not like painting by numbers. This step-by-step guide is broken into processes. This article covers the planning, execution and reflection phases. The content marketing strategy process should be treated like the healing of a wound where each step tentatively approached, monitored, guided, and is not overstretched.
This article struggles with a tug-of-war between offering advice that suits most readers, and being specific without alienating readers. Please excuse the areas that appear a little broad and generic; I did my best to maintain this article’s wide spread appeal while still offering usable content marketing advice.
A Quick Summary Of What Is Covered
This article discusses a few common problems that are faced by professional content marketers. It then moves onto if you have failed yet, which is where you learn the best way to guarantee success. This article then moves on to explain how you sell your brand, and gives some very strong advice on the platforms you should use. There is then a quick word on tools before final thoughts on the step-by-step content marketing guidelines.
Common Content Marketing Problems That Professionals Face
Here are a few common content marketing problems that “professional” content marketers face. One has to assume that professional content marketers do not face problems such as inconsistent cross-platform messages, or poor-quality blogging, and so forth because those are problems faced by amateur and intermediate content marketers. It is bothersome when articles such as this one claim to have advice for creating a content marketing strategy, and then only go over the basics. The problems below are a selection of problems that “Professional” content marketers face. While building your content marketing strategy, you will need to contemplate these problems and work their solutions into your process.
Competitors Are Always Pushing Back
It is true that many of your content-marketing competitors will be piss-poor at it (pardon the expression), but even despite that fact, you have to remember they are updating and publishing all the time. They never stop trying to draw readers, consumers, and viewers away from your content. They are also pushing up advertising costs and taking up advertising space that would otherwise be yours. The fact that many of your competitors are piss-poor at content marketing doesn’t stop or slow the fact that they are taking up space and attention that you could be taking up.
Time Is So Easily Wasted
It is wasted because many content-marketing methods involve platforms that are typical time vampires, and because much of your work will/may be ignored by your target consumer. Sometimes, content marketers feel like they spend hours crafting intricate sand sculptures just before the tide comes in. Time is costly, especially in developed countries where minimum wage laws cripple a company’s ability to stay profitable when spending money on staff hours. As a result, content marketing becomes very expensive unless a marketer has found a way to make content marketing very efficient and hyper effective.
Uneven Stylistic And Content Rules
So far as your consumers are concerned, your business has one voice. The problem with a large writing and creative staff is that the content style may appear schizophrenic. The same thing happened in the Simpsons because they have so many writers. One week Homer is a girly loser, and the next he is a beer-drinking thug. Strong and balanced stylistic and content rules are required to help stop this problem. A smaller staff may also help this problem, but smaller teams have a harder time making enough of an impact online.
This is one of the problems mentioned by Joe Lazaukas, and it deserves a place on this article. Prohibitive bureaucracy is becoming a bigger and bigger problem as the Internet is regulated and policed more efficiently. The sad part is that to get around such bureaucracy requires a lot of extra work. For example, Lemmino (a famous YouTube producer) writes his own music because he is sick of YouTube taking down his videos whenever he plays a relevant musical score. If you would like to know more problems that professionals have, then Joe Lazaukas has some interesting insights.
What Should You Do With These Problems?
I haven’t added solutions to the problems listed above because they are ongoing problems that you will have to solve, resolve, and constantly fix and maintain. As I mentioned earlier, your content marketing strategy is more like the healing of a wound, which is exactly how you should treat your content marketing problems. You need to tend to them, to manage them, and to keep designing solutions for them.
Failing By Creating A Product Before You Sell It
If you have your product already, then you have made your life a lot harder. Have you ever met somebody who wants to write a book? That person is guaranteed to fail no matter what he or she thinks. If you want to sell a book and actually make money from it, then you need to sell 500 copies before it is even written. If you cannot sell 500 copies before it is written, then you will not sell 500 copies after it is written. Creating a product before you sell it is a very bad idea, and yet it is something that content marketers do all the time.
Finding Out What People Want Is Tough
If you follow the advice given above, then common sense suggests that you ask a bunch of people what they want, and then sell your product to them before you make it. Such advice sounds reasonable, except that people do not know what they want. If you ask people what they want, they will tell you things they have already, which creates a hard sale.
Asking people what they like is foolish, and asking them what they want is just as silly. Most people have no idea what they want, and they cannot guess if they are going to like something new that you produce because there is no way of knowing.
The Old Problems And Solutions Technique
Your content marketing strategy can easily employ the old problems and solutions technique. This is where you avoid asking people what they like and what they want, and you concentrate on fixing their problems. The more elegant your solution is, then the easier it is to make a sale/convince.
+ If you ask people what problems they have, and then ask them when solution they would prefer, they are highly likely to buy.
+ If you tell somebody they have a problem, and then offer them something you are selling, then that is a hard sale.
The image below shows a simple process for collecting and using information. When you look at the image, think of it in terms of problems. For example, when you “Collect,” then you are collecting information on the various problems your target audience have. When you “Manage,” then you manage the information you have collected revolving around your consumer’s problems and whatever possible solutions exist.
What If You Have Your Product Already?
If this is the case, then the first thing you need to sell is your brand. You need to educate people on your brand principles and help them trust you. Showing people your content is pointless if you are not trying to sell your brand. People need to trust you on the one hand, and understand what your brand stands for on the other hand. Sell your brand before you sell your product. Such a notion should play to your strongest features if you are a content marketing professional because it involves selling ideas to a target audience, and that is what professional content marketers do the best.
Should You Try Gimmicks?
There is nothing wrong with trying a gimmick. It may work for your product or content, and it may fail, suffice it to say that it often gets attention (be it good or bad). The same is true of guerrilla marketing, viral marketing, and buzz marketing.
Gimmicks are like chat-up lines. They are cute playthings with no real value. Rely on them, and your content marketing (and dating life) will fall flat.
Advice On Teaching People About Your Brand Principles
Your website and your business social media profiles should feature all of your brand principles and selling points. Your content, including your social media posts (not profile bios), should feature just one brand principle.
Social Media = 1 Brand Principle
Website = All Of Your Brand Principles
In cases where your consumer has looked you up (your website, social media profile description, Wikipedia page, etc.) you should detail all of your brand principles. Such areas should offer a wealth of information on the brand you are promoting.
In cases where your consumer has come across you, but has not worked hard to find you, then you should offer just one brand principle. Offer just one selling point and/or just one brand principle (these can be one in the same).
Expose Your Target Audience To Fewer Brand Principles During Brief Encounters
To repeat, if your target consumer looked you up and went to the bother of finding you, such as by visiting your website, then expose them to all your brand principles. If your target consumer just happened upon expose to you, such as on social media, then offer them only one brand principle or selling point.
This sounds counter intuitive. After all, if you have the greatest product on earth or the greatest content, then you should be bragging about all of it…right?
You should be bragging about every selling point your content/products have, but you should be doing it on your website and social media profiles (bios). Your external offsite/off-domain advertising and content should only push one selling point and/or brand principle. It has been that way for generations and there is still no better alternative.
For example, from memory, what can you guarantee about a luxury Volvo? You can be pretty sure it has power steering, ABS, airbags, seat belts, traction control, central locking, automatic windows, and so on. Yet, Volvo doesn’t push all of these attributes outside of its own domain, it pushes the fact that Volvos are safe.
The images above and below are examples of a single brand principle being sold by Volvo. They are not advertising their power steering, alloy wheels, etc. They are pushing a single selling point that also doubles over as a brand principle because they make it clear that their company concentrates on safety above all else.
Volvo Has Changed Its Marketing Strategy As It Has Grown
The idea that Volvos are safe cars is stuck in the public’s consciousness, so Volvo doesn’t have to push the idea as hard as it used to. Now that Volvo is a larger and very well established company, it is able to push a few more of its selling points outside of its own domain, but most adverts still express a single brand principle again and again, even if it is in a subtle way.
+ Push all of your brand principles and selling points on your website and social media bios.
+ Push a single brand principle offsite/off-domain such as on adverts, social media, other websites, etc.
+ Make your message as explicit or subtle as you like, so long as you focus on a single core element.
Google Seems To Reward And Punish Websites That Are Helpful
When websites give things away for free, even information, Google seems to reward them by placing them in the first 10 results of the most relevant searches, while at the same time hindering them from reaching the first page unless the website has affiliate advertising, some form of eCommerce, strong links with active social media profiles, and an active audience (it must have some or all of those elements). This is a common problem that websites such as Find Out Free face because such websites give away free advice and doesn’t ask anything in return. There are exceptions, such as Wikipedia, but they are rare and require a large and active audience. Even we struggle here at eCheck.org because our social media side is severely lacking.
There is no point in giving you a lesson in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because the rules have changed many times since our website first started. Suffice it to say that these are the things you need if you want a chance of reaching Google’s first page.
[O] An active audience
[O] A use that keeps people on the page for more than ten seconds
[O] Strong links with social media profiles
[O] Some type of affiliate advertising or eCommerce function
[O] Content, inbound links, and titles that are NOT misleading
Which Platforms Should You Include In Your Content Marketing Strategy
Should you be using YouTube? Facebook? Blogger? Magento? Forums? LinkedIN? A single website? A series of websites? Affiliate advertising? Blogs? Google+? And so forth. There are many platforms to choose from, and I cannot tell you which are the most suitable for your purposes. The fact is that nobody can tell you which platforms will work best.
As part of your market research, you should try to publish in the same platforms/places as your competitors. If they are investing time and money into high-traffic areas, then it may be worth you trying too. However, there are no set-fast rules for where you should publish, how you should publish, and publishing frequency. Any advice on such matters is futile because every business and every content-marketing group is different.
There is no article, no expert, and no adviser who can honestly and genuinely tell you that “A” is better than “B.” It is something you have to try, and something you have to research for yourself to find out which platforms suit your company/content-marketing group the best.
Which Tools To Use
It really depends on the type of content you are looking to produce. Just like with publishing platforms, you should experiment and research using trial and error testing to find out which tools suit your company the best.
There is not as much fuss about duplicate content these days because people have gotten the message and rarely steal content anymore unless it is part of an organized attack against a website. Nevertheless, if you are buying content from other writers, or if you are having your own writers rewrite content, then you will need CopyScape to check for duplicate content.
You are probably going to use images quite frequently, so you will need a Photoshop program with photo editing capabilities. One hesitates to suggest GIMP, but it is a high quality photo editor when compared to numerous other free programs. If you are looking for a professional photoshopping program and editor, then you are going to have to pay.
Tools that schedule your posts on social media are okay, but you may be better off doing it manually or having your own web app created rather than trusting third-party tools. Google analytics tools are all you need when it comes to web traffic. If you are looking for big data analytics on your own website, then you need to commission your own programmer to set that up for you.
Final Thoughts On Your Content Marketing Strategy
Your biggest ally is a trial and error attitude. There is no solid step-by-step guide to content marketing because it is different for every group, company, brand and product. What works perfectly for one may fail miserably for another. Your job is to try a bit of everything, see what works and then use it.
There is a fairly simple cycle of trial and error testing that you may use within the confines of your own content marketing model. It involves collecting, analyzing, publishing and managing. You may bounce between whichever principle you wish. For example, you may publish and then collect data to analyze to enhance your content management, and so on. Perpetual testing and improvement will “evolve” a good content marketing plan rather than you trying to build one artificially and hang flesh from its bones.
Finally, comments are not as search engine friendly as they used to be. Google now has far better ways of measuring the popularity of a website, but comment sections are a good way of showing how popular your web pages are. Do not try cheap tricks in order to get comments, such as contradicting common knowledge or asking questions at the end of the article. Instead, write personal content and steer clear of the usual sterile and clinical content that litters the Internet.