As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably found yourself wondering what the “fuss” about content marketing is all about.
In this article, I’m going to help you with two things. First, we’re going to focus on the definition of content marketing so that you know what it is and why you can’t ignore it.
After that, we’ll look at the pitfalls and traps to avoid, and what the first steps of your content marketing steps should be.
What is Content Marketing and Does It Matter?
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
‘A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.’
For you as an entrepreneur, this means creating and distributing a streamline of content on a regular basis to share your expertise, talk to your prospects and remain top-of-mind with them, as well as with current and past customers.
Noticed how the Content Marketing Institute used the word consistent in its definition?
If you’ve been publishing a new blog post once or twice a year, you shouldn’t be surprised if content marketing doesn’t seem to have worked much for your business…
In the Forbes article How Often Should You Update Your Blog? author Jayson DeMers paints a great picture of this aspect:
‘Blogs don’t work like billboards. You can’t just create some good content, publish it, and sit back and wait and expect to see significant results. Instead, you need to promote that content, make regular changes, updates, and additions to it, and add new content periodically’.
And if you find yourself wondering whether your business should embrace content marketing, here are a few reasons why:
- Engage Website Visitors: imagine walking into your favorite bookstore or your regular newsstand only to find that the selection of books and magazines offered hasn’t changed since last year…how many times would you go back?
- SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the strategy that can help your content be more findable on Google.
Because of this, you need to make sure that you have fresh content to present to Google as the solution to your prospects’ problems (if you’re new to SEO, I’d recommend listening to my interview with SEO expert Phil Singleton or check out the post 3 Easy SEO Tips for Driving More Traffic to Your Site).
- Lead-Generation: consistently creating and distributing new content — and connecting the pieces of content to downloadable lead-magnets — can help you grow your email list and turn those who consume your content into email subscribers.
- “Engineer Your Celebrity”: this is a concept I’ve heard and learned from business growth strategist, author, and speaker Kelly Roach.
The idea here is to leverage content as an avenue to share your expertise and, by regularly doing so, to showcase your expert status. As people hear you talk about a specific topic day after day, week after week, they’ll start seeing you as the go-to expert to help them with that.
Where Most Entrepreneurs Get Stuck With Content Marketing
Ok, so now you know why you can’t ignore content marketing.
This is where most entrepreneurs get stuck. They freeze.
They have no idea where to start, what content to share, where to post it — a myriad of questions pop up and they hit a wall.
If you have thought about using content marketing in your business before, then you’ve probably found yourself wondering things like:
- What platforms should I use – there are so many!?
- Should I do blogs – but I’m not a great writer?
- Should I do videos – although doing videos scares me?!
- What topics should I talk about?
- Should I start a podcast?
I remember, I once had a prospect call me. She knew she needed to do something, needed to get content and social media posts going and knew she needed help.
I shared my proposal on what I could do for her and I heard crickets. Yep, no email back, no call…
Something inside of me wondered if she was overwhelmed by all the options.
So, I called her and asked if she felt overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do first or where to start.
Boy was I right (a valuable lesson for me: I get so excited about the strategies and possibilities, I didn’t think she’d be a deer in the headlights LOL)!
I’ve been much more aware of this since then, and that’s why I’m sharing this information here.
I want you to have a starting place, so let me simplify things for you!
There are 5 key points you need to focus on before you create your next piece of content.
1. Analyze Your Perfect Client
You want to begin by thinking about your ideal client or top 5 clients.
Write down what they struggle with, what type of business they are in, where they live, their age, their lifestyle, their career.
Write down ALL their similar characteristics.
Think about WHY they need you, how you benefit them, what are you solving for them.
Really deep dive into everything you know about them.
You can take your notes using pen and paper or with a digital note-taking or project management tool like Evernote, Trello, Asana or Teamwork (in case you’re wondering, Teamwork is what my team and I use).
And if you’re curious to learn more about your client avatar, Ryan Deiss of Digital Marketer has a great checklist.
2. Learn Their Pain Points
Once you’ve identified your client avatar, it’s time to focus on the struggles.
What are their biggest issues, problems?
What do they struggle with on a regular basis?
Write out how that makes them feel, how it affects their business, their life, their day (if you don’t want to have a bunch of post-it notes lying around your office, look at one of the digital tools I mentioned in the previous point and have all your notes in a centralized, digital, place).
Let that guide you on what topics to cover and which medium to use — a podcast, a video or blog?
It’s these pain points that draw them to you.
If your content is valuable, relevant, consistent and solves the aforementioned pain points, it will help you attract, retain, and convert them.
3. Learn How They Absorb Information (aka Choose Your Medium)
Now that you know what your ideal customer base struggles with, you need to take the next step and think about which medium you’re going to focus on and leverage in your content marketing endeavors.
Keep in mind that each medium has its pros and cons:
- Written Content (articles/blog posts): it’s the type of content most people are familiar with and is the easiest one to leverage for SEO and lead-generation purposes (though podcasts and video are improving in both those areas).
However, it can’t really be consumed while multitasking, doing other things like walking your dog, exercising, cooking, driving, etc.
- Audio Content (podcasts): it’s the medium with the easiest and longest consumption rate, for the fact that people can easily listen to your podcast episodes while doing pretty much anything else.
In addition, it’s easier for your personality to shine through on a podcast than it is through articles published on your blog. The podcasting industry is growing — see The Infinite Dial 2019 for more stats — and has a relatively low barrier to entry.
Even though Google has recently started indexing podcasts for discoverability and SEO purposes, the process isn’t as established as the traditional SEO for blog posts and webpages (and same for lead-generation, turning listeners into email subscribers still isn’t as easy as for written content).
- Video Content: while podcasting is quite a personable medium, video is the closest we get to recreate a face-to-face interaction and experience. People don’t only get to hear you but they see you too.
Plus there’s YouTube, the #1 video platform and the world’s second-largest search engine with quite the SEO power to it.
Nowadays, you can easily create high-quality video without having to spend thousands of dollars in equipment (the smartphone you own probably lets you shoot 4K videos).
Similarly to written content, however, people can’t incorporate video consumption into their routine — like some podcast listeners do.
If you’re at a crossroad, wondering which way to go, here are a few aspects you should take a moment to think about.
How does your ideal customer avatar learn?
Are the people you’re trying to attract through content marketing avid readers? Are they tech-savvy?
Do they watch videos on YouTube or Social Media? Do they listen to podcasts? Are they busy and on the go? Do they have time to read ebooks or hefty chunks of text?
Feel free to survey your clients or prospects to learn more!
You want to know what medium they would prefer so that you know whether it’s best to invest more time, effort and money in: writing, shooting videos or recording a podcast?
You don’t want to throw spaghetti on the wall and hope it sticks. And when you DO start churning out content — check the statistics to see which one truly resonates more.
Remember that you can dedicate part of your content marketing efforts outside of your platform and ecosystem by leveraging strategies like guest blogging (which blogging and content marketing wizard Neil Patel dubbed ‘Best Inbound Marketing Strategy’) or podcast guesting, do interviews for other people’s shows.
This means that, as you’re “engineering your celebrity”, you need to consider looking at websites, blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels other than yours. And if you do, try to get a link back to your website.
Backlinks from quality websites are good in terms of SEO and your site’s domain authority.
4. Find Out Where They Hang Out (and Focus Your Content Marketing There)
‘Which platforms and channels should my content marketing strategy focus on?’
The best advice I can give you when it comes to identifying the channels to direct your attention to is to do some research.
Ask yourself this question: where are my clients and prospects hanging out?
In other words, what platforms are they using the most? Is it specific websites, something like a forum or social media?
If the answer is social media — is your target audience mainly on LinkedIn, do they love Pinterest, are they Instagrammers?
Knowing WHERE they are will help you narrow down which platform or platforms you need to focus on.
There is no sense spending time and money posting the heck out of Twitter if your audience doesn’t even know what Twitter is.
See where I’m going with this?
5. Identify Your Content Marketing Goals
There’s one more thing you need to consider before diving head-first into content creation: your goals.
If you could choose any outcome, what would that be?
What is it that you would like your prospects to do after they’ve consumed your content?
Think about the next steps you’d like them to take:
- would you like them to connect with you on LinkedIn? Or perhaps to join your Facebook group?
- would you like them to get on your email list?
- would you like them to listen to your podcast (or a specific episode) or browse through your YouTube channel?
- would you like them to get in touch with you or schedule a free call?
- would you like them to purchase a specific product or service you’re offering?
While it’s true that you may want all of these things to happen, my advice is to do your best to have just one goal for each piece of content you create and content marketing campaign you run.
The last thing you want to do is to overwhelm people and give them “paralysis by analysis” because you have, two, three or four Calls-to-Action associated with an individual blog post, video or podcast episode.
If you do a good job, content marketing will help you attract your ideal clients. Having a clear set of goals will help you with their retention and conversion from something like readers to email subscribers or customers.
Starting With Content Marketing in 6 Steps
Remember how I told you that I wanted this guide to be a content marketing starting place for you?
In this last part of the article, I’m going to give you a quick, step-by-step, overview of the content marketing process so that you can come back to it whenever you’re planning new content.
Keep in mind that, in my explanation, I’m going to discuss things as if you’ve already gone through the points we looked at early on (you know who your customer avatar is, what the main struggles are, which medium to use, etc.).
Let’s say the medium that makes the most sense for your target customer is written content and you’re planning an article for your blog.
Here are the 6 steps you’d need to carry out.
Step #1: Decide What Topic You’re Going to Focus on
Of the many pain points your prospects may have, which is the one your piece of content is going to focus on?
In the case of this guide you’re reading, for example, my goal was to help you get a better understanding of and get started with content marketing.
Step #2: Choose One Goal
Think about the ‘next step’ you’d like a person to take after they’ve read your article.
In my case, the one thing I’d like you to do once you’re done reading this guide is to book a FREE consultation call so that we can discuss your content marketing needs and how my team and I can help you with them.
Step #3: Pick a Keyword (aka Carry Out Keyword Research)
There are several angles you could cover a topic from. That’s why I believe it’s always a good idea to take a look at what searches people are doing on Google — or other platforms, such as YouTube — when it comes to your topic.
You can achieve that by carrying out keyword research.
Use a tool like the Google Keyword Planner to identify your focus keyword. Ideally, you would want to go for a keyword that many people search for.
Step #4: Create Your Content
This is pretty straight-forward: it’s time to get your hands dirty!
As you’re creating your content, keep your customer avatar, the pain point you’re focusing on and the target keyword at the back of your mind.
If your goal is to turn the reader into an email subscriber, then you would add ways for him/her to do that (opt-in forms, buttons or other easy ways to join your email list) on your blog post page.
Remember that I’m addressing you but it goes without saying that content creation is something you can outsource to your assistant or someone else.
Step #5: Proofread and Optimize Your Content
Once you’re finished with the content creation phase, it’s time to proofread your content (or edit it in the case of podcasts and videos) and optimize it so that you increase its chances of ranking high on Google and appear among the first search results.
I optimize my articles and blog posts using a WordPress plugin called Yoast SEO — I can’t recommend it enough!
As far as my videos are concerned, my go-to video and YouTube SEO tool is TubeBuddy.
Step #6: Prepare Your Content for Publishing and Distribution
The next step has to do with you sharing your content with the world.
First, decide when you’re going to publish it (whether you want to do that today or on a future date).
After that, “prepare” your content for distribution.
If you’re going to focus a chunk — or the majority — of your content marketing efforts on Facebook, then you should make sure your content is optimized for Facebook.
Are you going to promote your article with Facebook posts that feature images? In that case, you can use a tool like Canva to create images that have “Facebook-friendly” sizes.
For some social media platforms (Twitter and Instagram), hashtags would be something to think about too.
Chances are the majority of your content will be evergreen, which means that the advice you’ve shared will still be relevant in weeks, months and years to come.
Because of this, it would be a good idea to look at social media scheduling tools that let you “recycle posts”, have a post be re-shared at a future date. MeetEdgar, SocialBee, and RecurPost are a few of the options that allow you to do exactly that.
Bonus Step: Update and Interlink Your Content
Every now and then, you’ll have to update some of the information you shared in a specific piece of content — the frequency of this updating process will vary, depending on the topic you cover.
And as you publish new content and your content library grows in size, you should take a moment to interlink relevant pieces of content (yes, Google likes that!) with one another.
Don’t need to go overboard with updating and linking pieces of content but it’s important to keep this bonus step in mind.
There you have it, now you have all the key ingredients needed to get started with content marketing!
Remember: you don’t have to do it alone.