Content is all around us.
From blogs to videos to social media posts we consume different forms of content everyday. Those memes you liked on Facebook are content, the latest make up tutorial you just followed is content and the podcast you listen to religiously is content.
The best marketers are content creators.
They give back to their audience with content, they produce, write and put together content for others to consume, like and share.
To succeed in marketing you need to be like them. Become a content creator.
What is content creation?
Content creation is the process of creating content in a format your audience can consume. It could be in the form of a blog, video, podcast or infographic or any one of lots of other formats.
Not only is it an effective way to engage with potential customers and demonstrate your expertise in your area, it also gives you a chance to provide real value.
What knowledge could you pass onto your audience?
What information is your audience crying out for?
What content would your audience really find valuable?
Your audience is waiting for you to answer their questions and provide them with information that entertains, educates or inspires them.
The world needs more content creators
The world needs more content creators.
Why? For a few reasons.
- Most content marketing is rubbish
We’re bombarded with and overwhelmed by the number of marketing messages we see every day. The answer? Producing content that isn’t directly selling or marketing to a potential customer. While in practice this sounds good, the truth is most content marketing is rubbish and marketers are still using it to promote their products and services.
The power of content marketing is in the trust it builds with your audience. The connection you can build with readers, viewers and listeners of your content is invaluable. Without providing value with your content you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to build those relationships and connections.
90% of all organisations use content in their marketing efforts. But that doesn’t mean 90% of organisations using content marketing are good at it. Far from it. New blogs are produced everyday. New memes. New YouTube content. How many of those go unnoticed? How many of those are ignored by their target audience?
Brands and people currently succeeding in content creation are those who really understand their audience and produce content they love. Not those that use their influence to push sales messages or produce poorly planned and executed content.
- You have a story that needs to be told
Every person and brand has a unique story to be told. You have a unique set of people who you can reach with that story.
- Because it’s good for business
I’m not suggesting you get started with content creation for the sake of it. There needs to be good reason to invest time, money and effort into content marketing and the main reason… it’s good for business.
Content marketing generates 3x as many leads as traditional marketing with businesses who use it winning 126% more leads that ones that don’t. Oh and it costs 62% less than traditional marketing tactics like TV and digital advertising.
The content creation process
Before getting stuck into creating content, it’s important to follow a proven content marketing process to make sure your content resonates and answers your audience’s needs.
The starting point of any successful marketing campaign is strategy. No jumping straight into writing or posting to social media. A successful brand strategy includes everything from your marketing objectives to how you will promote your content.
Setting clear objectives
Start with asking the question – why am I using content marketing?
This will help you generate a starting point to form your content objectives. Just like any other marketing objective, your content marketing objective need to be SMART goals. You could aim to increase social media following by 30% by the end of November. Or you could set an objective to grow organic traffic by 20% with content in the next 3 months.
Once you’ve set your objectives you have a purpose and reason for all of the content you are going to produce, beyond the obvious goal of contributing to your audience.
Identify who your audience is
Everything we do in marketing should be about serving our audience and to do that we need to know who they are.
Every effective marketing campaign is based on one thing. Speaking directly to your target customer. And to do that, you need to really understand who your audience are and why they care about what you have to say.
This is where a buyer persona comes in. It is essentially a semi-fictional character profile used to represent your target audience. It helps you create a clear image of the person you want to focus your content creation efforts around.
You need to research and map out their unique challenges, pain points, fears and aspirations. Most big brands use customer interviews as part of their persona research processes, and whilst this is great for bigger brands it can be tricky for smaller businesses and startups. You might not have customers who you can interview yet.
So how do you gather important persona details without customer interviews?
Surveys are invaluable to business. Free software like SurveyMonkey has made it easier than ever to ask questions and gather information. You can put together a set of questions to help build a picture of your audience.
You might include questions on their demographic including age and location. As well as some specific product/service based questions specific to your industry. Why do they use certain products at the moment? What are there strongest beliefs?
Your questions should allow you to build a profile of your ideal customers based on common themes in respondents’ answers.
Most industries already have an established source of trusted information. Whether it’s a news site or blog, you can rely on these sources to give you up to date information on what is happening in your industry.
Use these sites by looking at their most popular articles, read the comments to see what people have to say. You’ll be surprised how much people are willing to share their problems and talk about themselves online.
Follow these sites on social media to see who is engaging and commenting. This allows you to build a good picture of the people who are interested in certain topics. You can then use them as a basis for a buyer persona.
Remember your buyers’ stage in their buying journey
Buying journeys are becoming increasingly unpredictable.
The days of a buyer moving smoothly through a buying funnel are limited and instead marketers now face the challenge of trying to produce content to meet buyers at whatever stage they’re at in their buying journey.
Whilst it’s impossible to produce content for every stage of the journey we can still split journeys into 3 loose categories.
Awareness, Consideration and Decision.
Within these 3 groups, there are lots of factors that will affect the way someone will move through the journey. The bigger the pain, you’d expect the quicker someone would want to move towards a purchase. However, sometimes the biggest challenges and pains are the most important decisions. This means we need more information and detail before we can make such a decision.
Remembering the stage at which your buyer is at will guide your content marketing. Making sure you create content for each stage of the journey means they have all the information they need at every stage.
The buying journey also has an effect on the format of your content. At the awareness stage you might produce an infographic or blog post to help them understand their problem. Someone who has already identified they have a problem doesn’t want you to list their problems, they want you to show them why you’re the right person or company to solve them. At this stage you might use a PDF product guide to show the benefits of working with you.
You’ve written a buyer persona and you’ve identified the different stages of your buyer’s journey. It’s time to get started producing content.
Your buyer persona research should have given you some idea of the issues your target customer cares about. Whilst it would be nice if you just needed one customer to sustain your business, it’s likely you’re going to need a group of similar people to consume your content.
This is where keyword research comes in. This will tell you if a piece of content is worth writing about. Start by writing down some questions that your buyer persona might ask Google to help them solve their problem or to achieve their goals. Now you can use a piece of software like Moz Keyword Explorer to find the monthly search volume and keyword difficulty of keywords related to those questions.
Lots of SEO experts will tell you that keywords with less than 250 monthly searches aren’t worth writing about. Whilst everyone would love to have their content ranking for these searches, if you’re just starting out the chances of you gaining a high volume, high competition keyword are low. That’s why I suggest you focus on keywords with more than 50 monthly searches. There is search volume and you’re much more likely to get your content ranking on Google and generating organic traffic to reach the objectives you set earlier to get your site ranked.
This is the fun part. Generating ideas that could become content.
The best starting point for this stage is going old school with a piece of paper and a mindmap. Group content in topic groups. For example, sustainability might be one topic cluster. From there you can break down groups to subtopics and more niche categories within the bigger group.
If you’re struggling for ideas, a quick Google search of your chosen topic will give you content ideas from YouTube videos, news to blogs and guides. Don’t copy them. Use them as a starting point for your inspiration.
Remember your content needs to be tailored to your buyer persona, so if you just copy someone else’s content idea you’re not producing content specifically for your target customer.
Once you’ve got lots of ideas down on paper try to narrow them down to the best five. Decide what format the content should take and a title. You can then move onto producing the piece of content.
You’ve got a title and a format for your piece of content. It’s now time to produce it.
I can’t emphasise enough that you need to have your persona in mind at all times. Use language throughout that will connect with them. If you’re using imagery, make sure your use photos and graphics that make sense and build a connection with your target audience.
Most importantly, remember to serve your audience. You’re not selling with this piece of content. You’re trying to add value and help them. You’re creating a unique, memorable piece of content that your audience is going to love.
Edit, edit, edit
Even the best writers and content creators in the world don’t get it right first time.
The best pieces of content are those that are revisited and tweaked to make sure they hit the brief and meet the needs of your audience.
The usual things need to be checked like grammar and spelling but you should also pay attention to the length of sentences, using enough whitespace and tone of voice of your content to make sure it’s easy to consume, understand and connect with.
Distribute your content
You’re ready to post your content, whether you’re uploading a blog post to your website or a video to YouTube you should have a consistent process.
If you’re just starting out, this won’t matter so much but when you’re a more established content creator you should be doing research on the best time to post out content. For example on social media the best time to post your content is when most of your followers are online.
Putting together an editorial calendar would be beneficial to make sure you’re posting our your content consistently and regularly.
You’ve researched buyer personas and you’ve produced a unique piece of content. Great. But without promoting it, chances are nobody is going to see your hard work.
Blog posts are great because they’re picked up by search engines with little effort, your work is indexed and if you’ve written it well with good keyword research you stand a chance of it being ranked. But this takes time and it will take time to establish yourself as a go to in your industry.
So how else can you promote your content?
Start with your buyer persona. Where do your audience hang out? Do they use Facebook or Instagram? Do they use email or messenger? What time of day do they log on to check their social media?
All of these questions will help you identify the best place to promote your content.
Social media is great for building connections with your audience. Most businesses still tend to use it to push out boring marketing messages which gives you the perfect opportunity to really add value to your audience.
Tailor your message across different platforms. If you’re promoting ideas from your content on Instagram focus on imagery and short snappy takeaways. If you’re using Facebook, use longer form content or memes to get the attention of your prospects.
Email marketing has been pronounced dead several times but still seems to be around. Weird.
Email is still one of the best ways to engage with your audience by building a community of like minded people who have opted to join your mailing list. Segment your list based on interests and send them links to content that you think your subscribers will love.
Don’t send mass emails or spam your list with promotional messages 24/7. Focus on really creating a targeted, engaged group of people who love the content you produce.
Measuring content marketing impact
Earlier, you set objectives for your content marketing. This final stage is all about measuring those objectives and how well your content is performing to help you reach those goals.
The best thing about being a marketer in the internet age is the amount of data you have available to you. Tools like Google Analytics and Search Console allow you to drill down into how effective your marketing is performing.
You can measure everything from the amount of traffic generated from organic search, the number of email signups from a content piece, the bounce rate of people leaving your content without visiting another page to the number of shares a piece of content received.
All of this information is invaluable and starts to paint a picture of what does and doesn’t resonate with your audience. If a piece of content you created has very generated little traffic and has a high bounce rate it might mean people don’t care about what you’ve written about. If your video has a low engagement rate it might be time to switch up your style or think up some new topics.
The power of iteration
All of this information gives you the power to tweak your content until it’s right. Too many business owners and marketers focus on producing the perfect image, video or blog. The truth is, most marketing is guesswork. Until you’ve produced something you don’t 100% know if your audience will like it.
The good news though, is that by using data you can get better at knowing what your audience connects with and produce more content that does just this.
By iterating and tweaking you can perfect your content creation process to build an unstoppable content marketing machine that adds value and smashes your marketing objectives.