Credit: Marketing stock photo by Shutterstock
Unless you've been a) living under a rock for the past decade or b) cloistered in an old school advertising agency that just won't let the past go, you've probably heard that a content strategy is essential for marketing businesses these days. Comparatively cheap, data-rich, and much more nimble than traditional advertising and marketing, there's really not any company out there that can't benefit from good content.
But in order to be effective, a content strategy really has to be a strategy. This doesn't mean Tweeting here and there or throwing up a random blog post when the intern has something to say about that excellent lunchtime meal. This means taking the time to really think out just who you're targeting, how you're going to reach them, and what kind of content you're going to provide them.
1. Gear Your Content Towards a Niche Market
Heard of the term "one size fits no one"? It's as applicable to content marketing as it is to clothing. While your company may have hundreds of products targeting a diversity of demographics, the same content strategies won't work across the board, just like an ad campaign for a kid's toy isn't suited as a template for promoting a car to adults.
To do this right, there are a few strategies to consider:
• Write your ideal customer's profile. Location, age, likes, dislikes, interests, needs. Take the time to do a little demographics research and write up one or two comprehensive customer profiles so you know just who you're targeting and what they're all about. This will help you segment your marketing efforts into the most relevant lists for optimal targeting.
• Determine what products would be right for them. Once you know who you're trying to reach, take a look at your product or service line and determine those that would fit naturally into your ideal customer's lifestyle. This is really the heart of finding and cornering a niche, not to mention establishing your reputation to the point where people instantly recognize your name or product as the go-to choice. The goal here is to get your target customers to say, "Oh, you're looking to get someone to do [insert your service here]? You've got to check out [your company]."
• Use analytics tools to research their online interests and desires. Once upon a time, doing demographics research required doing expensive surveys, which still only brought companies part of the way. Now, you can expand upon basic demographic research with help from tools like Google Analytics and the Google Keyword Tool. Together, these will tell you how and what kind of people are finding your site, what kind of information they're seeking, and what holes you can potentially fill with your content.
• Develop a distinct and niche-relevant voice and style. Traditionally, many major companies have aired on the side of caution when it comes to their brand voice. But a "safe" voice often leads to a bland, dry, corporatized and markety tone that's largely irrelevant in the blog and social media spaces, where customers want intimacy. While of course you'll want to keep it professional, don't be afraid to use humor or to ape the voice of your ideal customers as they speak on social media.
2. Create Multimedia Content
With an increasing number of potential customers turning to online venues for both their information and their entertainment, content marketing is beginning to occupy a fair amount of traditional media space. As such, it makes sense to take a few pages out of the books of traditional media companies, particularly when it comes to the kinds of media you create. In short, varied content will get you a lot further than continually posting text-heavy blogs. A few fantastic multimedia options include:
• Video: Ever gone to a restaurant and found yourself constantly distracted by the TV behind the bar? Humans are innately visual creatures, and it's just hard for us to resist video, whether on your site or in ads. What's more, video is great for SEO, increasing the likelihood that a company will show up on the first page of Google by 53% according to Forrester Research. But a shoddily made video won't help you any. Use your broader content goals to shape your video strategy and consider employing a digital agency to do it for your professionally. You'll also want to brush up on your video analytics so you have a much better grasp of how well you're doing. We also can't recommend this guide to using YouTube highly enough, as it takes you through every corner of the platform.
• Photos: For similar reasons, photos are a great way to spice up blogposts, or even to provoke thought and discussion. Consider signing up for a stock photo site like Shutterstock for the most striking and professional photos, or using customer photo contests to provide a steady stream of visual content.
• Infographics: There's a reason why you've probably seen infographics cropping up all over the internet: They're the perfect combination of data and art, and they're easy to share on social media sites. It's worth investing in a graphic designer for the most groundbreaking data. For the rest, choose from a host of excellent free infographic tools, and get creative.
• Social Media: While social media is often used to support and distribute content, it can also be a form of content itself. Take a look at George Takei's Twitter feed if you need any proof. Witty, timely and distinctive posts can both establish your company's expertise and keep you fresh in your customer's mind.
3. Take the Time to Create an Editorial Calendar
Last but certainly not least, taking the time to create an editorial calendar is an investment that's sure to pay off. This will help you vary your content and will also give you deadlines and regularity.
A few things you might add to an editorial calendar:
• Important industry and company dates.You can use these to create timely, expert content right when it's most relevant.
• Theme days. Having regular weekly or monthly theme days like, "Employee Stories Tuesdays" or "November's Top Customer Tweets" will again provide a structure in which you can be creative, rather than leaving you floundering to fill space.
• Content type. Planning out regular dates for producing different kinds of content, like videos vs. blogposts, will keep you from getting overwhelmed and it will also give your content providers firm deadlines.
Take a look at these neat tools to get your editorial calendar going.
Content is a powerful tool for contemporary businesses, but it's not a magic pill. Take the time to learn just what content is and what tools and platforms are available to you before going with a more haphazard, ad hoc plan. With a deep understanding, there's no telling where you'll go.
Luke is a designer and marketer from Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @lukeclum