In 2013 you planned to be more organised about your content marketing. Your intention was to publish more frequent blog posts, grow your social media influence, and improve your discoverability in search in order to attract and engage more customers.
However, as a CEB study shows, 2013 was not the year in which marketers mastered content marketing: “79% of marketers consider content marketing important; yet only 12% feel ready to deliver against it.”
But 2014 can be different for content marketing, and my three golden rules, before you do anything else, are these:
- Plan for how your audiences are going to discover your content before you spend time and resources creating it. (thanks to Ann Handley for this invaluable advice)
- Anticipate your readers’ questions before you create and publish anything. Ask yourself: What are their pain points? What are their information needs? What utilitarian content do they seek?
- Never set a goal without putting a deadline against it. Download an editorial calendar template from Smart Insights.
Then, once you’ve mastered these three rules, follow these 6 essential content marketing steps:
- Go deep into topic coverage. Your content marketing needs to go deeper. It needs to drill down into your customers’ core themes, their critical pain points and issues. Make your content more meaningful and relevant to them. Spend time creating a content strategy, without which you will only continue to produce ad hoc marketing content and waste more precious time and money. Going deeper into content works hand in hand with your search engine optimisation (SEO), with your keyword research, and with your Google AuthorRank (Google+), because, when done properly, these efforts collectively drive sustained long term search engine ranking performance (SERP). Aim to produce marketing content that’s actually wanted by your customers, and by that I mean deeper content they will love you for: downloadable guides, PDF eBooks, Video demos, case studies, research papers etc..
- Gain deeper insights into customers. Knowledge of customers, their needs and buying cycle, tends to be very shallow and superficial. You need deeper customer insights if you want to engage and convert your audiences online. You need an intimate knowledge of your customer’s buying cycle so that you can plan an effective content strategy, and produce effective lead-generating content. Ironically it’s never been easier than it is now to observe, listen and interact with customers directly. Get the deeper insight into your customers that your competitors don’t have. Interview your buyers or their proxy. Use a tried, tested and trusted interviewing process like the five rings of customer insight.
- Set crystal clear metrics for your content marketing. Metrics fall into four buckets: Consumption metrics, share metrics, lead generation metrics and sales metrics. And determining the right metrics depends on defining your goals for your content. Setting clear goals gives you the basis for measurement and evaluation. I don’t expect you to master the Holy Grail of content marketing ROI overnight, but content ROI is a top priority for marketers in 2014, so keep your eyes peeled, and follow me on Twitter @concentricdots and get a notification of when the Smart Insights Content Marketing ROI Guide publishes in February.
- Create an editorial calendar. If you’re struggling with your content marketing, attaching deadlines to your activities is the first step toward being more disciplined. One of the best tools that publishing lends content marketing is the editorial calendar. If you’re struggling with creating an effective editorial calendar, our Content Marketing Masterclass might be the training you need in 2014.
- Influence the influencers. When your influencers share your content with their audiences it escalates your influence by proxy. Experiment with tools like Little Bird to identify and tap into the influencers that are blogging, tweeting and sharing content that matters in your sector. Influencer marketing goes hand in hand with content curation and aggregation, two key activities that help audiences filter out the rubbish content and filter in the best content. Click here for advice on influencer marketing.
- Promote your content. Remember the #1 Golden rule at the beginning of this post: Plan for how your audiences are going to discover your content before you spend time and resources creating it . There’s no point producing great content if you haven’t planned how you can reach your audiences to tell them about it! In 2014 you need to focus as much on content distribution as you do on content creation. You need to plan your promotion with the same care you plan your content and use tools like HootSuite and other automated scheduling platforms to target and reach your audiences.
Reality check: The popularity of content marketing is making it more difficult for you to stand out. It’s inevitable that you’ll struggle: Content marketing is tough, but the above disciplines will help you avoid disappointment in 2014.
I’ve described the actions to take to improve the effectiveness of your content marketing in 2014, but nothing is more important than producing content that your customers actually want. Remember this: Anticipate your readers’ questions before you create and publish anything at all.
If you’re afraid that you’re going to struggle with content marketing in 2014, you can attend one of our Content Marketing Masterclasses, where we’ll give you all the tools and templates you need to succeed. More details on the Content Masterclass website