Content marketing is a broad term that’s gained traction over the years. There’s been an upward trend in content marketing jobs since around 2015. That means more companies are embracing the need for it instead of treating it as an option.
But what I’m seeing is that there’s a glut of content that extols the virtues of content creation to the point where people think all that’s required is creating the right content. It’s like a marketing “Field of Dreams.”
Content creation is only a piece of the puzzle and if you want to move forward with this form of marketing, there needs to be a fuller understanding of this strategy.
Here’s my not-a-guru-like-Seth-Godin take on the subject:
What is Content Marketing?
Here’s what the Content Marketing Institute has to say:
This is a great definition and I couldn’t have said it better.
When I was trying to get a fuller understanding of content marketing and had no idea about the CMI’s definition, I came up with my own. Something I could say that made sense to someone who wanted to understand how this could lead to conversion.
My content marketing definition is as follows:
Again, not as elegant as CMI’s, but it’s how I understood it ( it’s still a work in progress).
I did notice that the one thing our definitions have in common is that we show there’s more than just content creation. Content creation is that tangible evidence that shows we’re accomplishing something in our marketing efforts. The problem is that it’s not the beginning and it’s certainly not the end of what we do.
How Do You Do Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a strategy that can be broken down into 4 stages:
Each stage is a strategy unto itself that’s to be followed if you want to achieve the results you want. The question of How, When, What, and Where are fleshed out here. As far as the Why, you already have an idea since you started on the journey.
Stage 1 – Planning
This is tough, especially for those who are starting out from scratch. All you have is an idea, a desire, and no viable audience that you can see, which makes this step all the more important.
Steps like building personas, research, coming up with possible posts or other assets like a PDF download come into play here. Building a persona means you have someone specific to speak to in your content, which is easier than trying to talk to everybody. Having a content calendar comes in handy as well. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can get a word calendar template and edit that.
You’ll want to make sure you’re doing all of this on an owned asset, i.e. your own website, and not just on Medium or some other borrowed platform.
Stage 2 – Creation
Some people think that content means just a blog post. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Content is anything you’re going to use to move your message forward. It text, visual, audio or video. Your emails are content. Your advertisements are content. Even your comments are content.
This is where part of the research comes in because while you’re crafting great content, you may need to tweak for search engines every once in a while.
When you think about what you’re going to “put out there” for she-who-needs-your-product-or-service, you need to consider all of the methods you’re going to use to speak to your audience and compel their buy in. Speaking of audience, how are you going to find them, anyway?
Stage 3 – Promotion
To borrow a saying, if you drop a post on your blog and no one’s around to read it, does it matter? Short answer: not really
This is the part that’s forgotten in the content marketing conversations. It’s easier to come up with the content than it is to promote it because there’s no guarantee your promotion will hit the mark.
These are the days when you can’t rely on the ‘publish’ button magically drawing people to you (as if it ever did that to begin with). At some point you’ll need to dial back content creation and promote the content you already have in order to find your audience. It’s scary, because some live in the “publish or perish” mentality, but the reality is if you don’t promote your content, what’s the point?
You need to plan for advertising on the platforms your audience lives. That means investing in paid advertising options in smart, strategic ways.
The other side of that is figuring out if the advertising data you get from those efforts work, don’t work, need to be prolonged or tweaked a certain way. Content promotion is involved and necessary, if you want to be seen by the right people at the right time.
Stage 4 – Leveraging
This is another part of content marketing where your creativity gets to play. While you’ve done all the planning and prepping for your main creation and promotion, how about sharing your content in a different form?
Part of leveraging is repurposing your content. You may turn that podcast into an ebook download or that post into a video or a Slideshare. The idea is to share the same content in a way that your audience may be more open to receiving it.
The beauty is that it’s your content and you can use it however you want wherever you want. Just make sure it’s as effective as possible.
These four stages are the mere tip. What many don’t see are the processes beneath the surface, which comprise content marketing. In my Strategic Content Marketing blog, I wade into the creation and planning stages in the hope of helping entrepreneurs gain insight into certain aspects, like creating strong headlines and persuasive content.
In this blog, I focus on understanding the advertising promotion aspects through a practical lens with the use of Google Analytics and PPC ad platforms. It’s important to be able to read your data so that you can make productive decisions.
At the end of the day, content marketing is still a broad area that’s open to individual interpretation, because every business is different. What’s important is to come up with a way to execute the strategies involved in ways that make sense for your goals.