The 3-step content creation cycle
Consumers are constantly bombarded with advertising and marketing messages. All day long their activities are interrupted by sellers trying to get their attention - ads on TV and on the radio, billboards and posters in shops and in the street, paid search results and banner displays online. They're used to it, and they tune it out.
So how are you supposed to market your products or services? By providing useful, valuable content that your customers seek out and actually want to pay attention to.
Content marketing provides two-way communication with your target market, allowing them to engage with your brand on their terms. Rather than directly promoting your product or service, you provide value to your customers through highly relevant information that educates or engages them, helping them to understand or solve their problem or need. This establishes your brand as a thought leader and builds trust, so that when your customer decides they are ready to buy, it's your product or service they choose.
Sounds great, but how do you get started? The following three-step content creation cycle will help you generate content that is relevant and useful to your target market and drives brand awareness and leads for you.
First, define and understand your audience. What are their interests and media habits, what social platforms do they like? Do some research to help you choose content topics and types that appeal to your customers and provide value.
You can also generate content based around current news and trends that have caught your target market's attention. Google tools such as Trends, Blogs, News, and Alerts can help you stay on top of what's hot on the web.
Later, when you've developed some content and have some results to track, you can use Google Webmaster tools to find underperforming keywords. Creating content topics around these can boost your search rankings and help your content to be discovered by potential customers. (You can perform a Website Audit to assess the quality of your web content.)
If you aren't sure how to get started, try content abstraction or curation, look at other websites for ideas, or try reworking some of your existing marketing or customer service materials. Begin with only one platform at a time, such as a social media brand page or blog, and get comfortable using that before expanding to other content types.
Pay attention to the content that your customers are already consuming and match your tone and complexity to your audience, the platform, and your brand. Different levels of content serve different purposes (ex: Twitter is for real-time, quick interactions while a YouTube video will take more time and effort to create but will be useful to more consumers for longer) so consider what you are trying to achieve and create your content accordingly. (Use a Website Planning Roadmap to strategize the type of content you want to develop.)
Promote your content
Post links to your content from your website, emails, and social media accounts so that customers can find it. Include transcripts of any audio or video materials so that it can be easily indexed by search engines, and consider blogger and journalist outreach through platforms like PR Web to generate some public relations exposure as well as backlinks from other sites, which will boost your search rankings.
You can also recruit friends and family to post comments on your content and share it through their own social media accounts, which will help by improving your search rankings and by making your content appear popular to new visitors.
Measure and track the success of your content using Google Analytics and social media management tools like Hootsuite. Measure the number of visits, referrals, links of your content and the number of likes, comments, RTs, and follows on your social tools. Content topics or types that don't perform should be either reworked or abandoned, while those which prove popular with your target market can be built on when you begin the cycle anew.
Above all, be patient and consistent with your content marketing. It will take time to build a following, but in the meantime you have to “fake it ‘till you make it” by continuing to produce useful, quality content on a regular basis. Visitors who come back will be reengaged by the new material, and newcomers who see an archive of content will view you as a good resource. They will see you as a trustworthy, knowledgeable provider of products, services, and information that meets their needs. Then, when they decide they need to purchase your product or service, they’ll know just who to reach out to.