Guest Author: Darren DeMatas
There’s no doubt that content marketing is growing momentum as an industry buzzword. But what is it really? Simply put, content marketing is creating and distributing customer-centric content that is relevant, and educational, minus the sales pitch.
According to eMarketer, more and more companies are shifting their focus to content marketing and using it as a lead generation tool. But why?
Content marketing helps you connect with your target market in an unobtrusive manner. By understanding how your customers discover and connect with your services, you will be able to guide them through the decision-making process and position your company as a solution to their problem. If you are looking to build a content marketing strategy, these 5 steps can get you started:
Social networking within your industry can build credibility with your peers, but you can’t stop there. Look for discussions and forums in your customers’ industry and you will find a wealth of active online communities that are mostly ignored by outsiders. A good place to start is Google+ and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an optimal tool as it will actually tell you how active a certain community is.
Once you join the community, you can search within the community for terms related to what you offer. While you are listening to conversations, you will identify customer challenges that you can help solve. After you have surveyed the community and understand how much they talk about your service, you can start to engage your audience. The crucial element is: do NOT hard sell. Don’t even talk about your company in these communities. It’s tempting, but you have to resist the urge to send a link to your “get a quote” page.
When you are active in online communities, members will start to look up your social profiles. Make sure that you have plenty of free advice for them waiting. It is critical to time your engagement with strategic posts both on social media and blogs, where you have more control over the messaging.
A business blog can help customers discover your content. You should have identified a series of questions that emerged from your listening. Now is your chance to respond and connect with your audience on your blog. Your blog posts should include topics you uncovered during your listening and high-impact traffic terms. To figure out high-impact search terms, look for keywords with high search volume and low competition. A great keyword research tool is the Google Keyword Planner. This tool will give you search volume and keyword ideas. Another useful tool is Google Trends. With this tool, you can compare trends of keyword searches over time. These tools can help make sure you base your blog content strategy on topics that are gaining popularity. You wouldn’t want to put all that effort into content that no one searches for, right?
There is always a new challenge facing a customer. If you spend adequate time refining your listening and content creation, you will end up with valuable customer-centric content worth paying for. By giving it away, you will generate targeted leads of people that need your help. Once you attract them to your site, offer them a free white paper or eBook. You can also ask them to sign up for your newsletter. Email marketing is a powerful way to nurture leads and convert them into customers.
When developing an effective content marketing strategy, don’t limit it to just the internet. Sales collateral, brochures, and even datasheets should incorporate the key messaging you’ve created during the content development process. Consistency between digital and traditional media is critical for building trust and credibility.
Don’t abandon your communities once you drum up some business. Keep offering free advice. Don’t be the first to share links to your content; let others do so first. When members of the community start “liking” and sharing your comments and links, you are one step closer to being a credible resource to the community.
Online communities and discussion topics will come and go as the market changes. It’s critical that you continue to listen so your content will not be stagnant. No one wants dated solutions to their problems. This is especially true for internet marketing. SEO and social media strategies of yesteryear may not be as effective today.
Darren DeMatas is a marketing strategy consultant that specializes in internet marketing and brand development. Prior to his consulting work, he was Product Marketing Manager at Web.com/Network Solutions. Darren has 10+ years of marketing management experience and an MBA in Internet Marketing.