Content marketing is a hefty subject and one that can seem a bit daunting, especially if you’re a small business. It’s not just another fad or buzz word, it’s here to stay. The more you understand about the benefits of content marketing, the more value you will add to your business and your customers.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to content marketing. You just need to find the right approach and balance for your business.
I’ve put together this alternative A to Z guide that focuses on how you can incorporate some values into your strategy, along with some of the more traditional concepts of content marketing. It features advice, useful insights and bite-sized recommendations of what to think about and how to get started.
A is for Audience
The best place to start in content marketing is with your audience. Before you do anything else you need to define your target audience. Who are they? What’s important to them? What are their desires? What are their problems and pain points and how do you help solve them? They need to understand and believe in the value you have to offer. If you can talk about the pain points and desires that your prospects talk about and build this into your content on your web pages, blog posts and emails then you will inspire trust and promote credibility in your brand. If you’re struggling for ideas then don’t be afraid to ask them what type of content they like to consume. Ask them about their struggles, reading habits and what burning questions they have. Remember, nobody knows your audience better than your audience.
B is for Blogging
The world of web content is more crowded than ever before. Having a useful and engaging blog on your website is a great way to educate people on your products and services and it can be one of the best ways to connect with new audiences and build relationships. Blogging provides free value and free value builds trust. It gives you a chance to showcase your brand’s personality, create a tone of voice and share ideas in your own unique and authentic style. It’s a good way to set yourself apart from your competitors that don’t have a blog. It also really helps with SEO and getting you discovered (more about that under ‘S’).
C is for Consistency
It’s essential to ensure you are consistent in terms of the messaging, language and visuals you use in all of your brand communications. It’s good practice to review and sense check your website, social media posts, emails, adverts, and packaging to ensure that all of your content is consistent. This is really important for your brand identity. If you confuse you lose. It’s a good idea to think about developing a “style guide” or define some style rules so that every piece of content published by your band is consistent. This promotes familiarity, makes you more memorable and fosters greater trust which will ultimately help you grow.
D is for Discovery
It’s important to be open-minded to new possibilities. In business we’re always learning. We live for those “aha” moments. Discovering new strategies, tactics and ideas is an important part of developing your brand. There are lots of content discovery tools that will help you find what’s trending and what’s relevant in your niche and can help you get more out of your content marketing efforts. Platforms like Buzzsumo and Quora are great tools and assets for research, competitor analysis and for supporting your content creation efforts. Discover what questions people are asking in your industry. Discover what key influencers are sharing. Discover new ways to engage your audience. Never stop discovering.
E is for Excitement
Generating a buzz around your brand and getting people excited about what you’re offering will help you get noticed and increased customer loyalty. Running your own business is exciting in itself. If you’re not excited, enthusiastic and passionate about what you’re doing then how do you expect anyone else to be? Facts don’t persuade, feelings do. We are moved to action only by emotion. When we’re excited, our emotions become more powerful and we make a greater connection and affiliation to what we’re experiencing. Focus on what excites you about other brands. Whether you’re creating content, running a campaign or posting on social media, there are lots of ways to be exciting.
F is for Facebook
Facebook is the internet! It’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool to grow any business. Facebook is different from other social networks. It has over 2 billion active monthly users so no matter what country you’re in or what the demographic of your target market is, your customers or potential customers will be on Facebook – it’s that big. It’s easy to build buyer personas through Facebook profiles as they have an incredible amount of data on their users meaning you can reach them efficiently and affordably. Facebook also owns FB Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram meaning the powerful Facebook Ad platform is all integrated.
G is for Goals
When it comes to content marketing, setting goals is crucial. This gives you a sense of purpose. Goals are incredibly motivational so can also give your mental health a welcome boost. Keep it simple. Think about what’s important to you and exactly what you want to achieve and then write it down. Commit to your goals and hold yourself accountable. A goal without a plan is just an aspiration so you need to make sure they’re part of some kind of strategy.
“It’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.” Stephen Kellogg.
H is for Humility
Humility is about being real. In a culture obsessed with self promotion, you don’t have to be desired to be admired. Invite people to get to know you – the real you. How people experience you and how you exist in their minds is an essential part of your personal branding. Humility inspires openness. It draws us closer to others and builds stronger connections and relationships. The world is ready for a new type of message and humility is very much at its core. It inspires real conversations. Real humility is in drastic short supply so if you really want to stand out then embrace this underrated virtue.
I is for Ideation
There are a variety of strategies and tools you can apply to come up with ideas for content. Consuming lots of content is great for idea synthesis. Use brain dumping or mind mapping to encourage the ideation process. Limit yourself to 3-5 minutes to create a sense of urgency. Use sticky notes and don’t filter anything. Focus on quantity and not quality. Look for emerging patterns that could potentially fit into your content strategy. Sometimes, seemingly unrelated concepts can suddenly click to form an incredible idea. This is what psychologists call “unconscious creativity.” There are lots of ways to aid your content creation efforts. Applications such as Trello can help you keep track of your ideas and share these with other members of your team.
J is for Journey
Content marketing is a long term game. No matter what, always keep the end goal in mind. The journey is what happens on the way to achieving it. If you run a service-based business then the journey is critical. From where your customer is right now to where they want to be and what they want to achieve, remember that you are their journey. Your business, your brand and your service is the journey they will experience. Invest in that journey, take them with you, make it memorable. They’ll want to repeat it.
K is for Knowledge
The knowledge you possess is a valuable resource for your business. Once you’ve acquired it, it can’t be taken away. It’s yours to keep. Think about how your unique knowledge and subject-matter expertise helps your clients and prospects. How do you tell them about it? Knowledge sharing can help you build trust and credibility. Showcase your knowledge through producing educational and informative content. Give your audience some free value. Share what you know. Be helpful and useful. Always strive to acquire new knowledge that you can translate into something that will be of benefit to your prospects and customers.
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin.
L is for Loyalty
Building brand loyalty is essential for customer retention. Ultimately you need people to develop an affinity and a commitment to your brand. Loyalty involves trust and building emotional connections. The challenge is then to convert those connections into repeat business. You can encourage loyalty by giving your brand personality, by making sure you truly understand your audience and by creating content that is relatable. Do what your competitors aren’t willing to do. Use social proof and generate an infinite stream of epic content. Be consistent, deliver quality and this will have a positive impact on how people feel about your brand.
M is for Metrics
You want to implement a content marketing strategy that drives results over time. There are various data points and metrics you should be tracking depending on what your goals are. For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness then your metrics will be the number of social media followers you have, the number of online reviews and website backlinks you have and what the google search volume is for your brand or products. If your goal is to generate leads and sales, your metrics will be based on lead magnet performance, opt-in rates and whether your sales funnel is closing people effectively. Metrics help you test specific variables in your strategy so you can make adjustments and improve.
N is for Nostalgia
Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tactic. Brands love nostalgia. It transports us back to happy times and wraps us up in a big comfort blanket. There’s something reassuring about being taken back to the past. We love to be reminded of the foods we tasted, the music we listened to and the places we visited. Vivid memories awaken our senses. When something makes us feel nice, we’re more open to the messaging behind it. Using nostalgia in content marketing will help your audience to form an emotional connection to your brand. It’s an alternative concept that can help you come up with a new angle for your content.
O is for Originality
“There’s no such thing as a new idea. It’s impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.” Mark Twain.
Being original means being yourself. Your brand and your business is an extension of who you are and you are like no one else. You are your own blueprint. Creating something that has never existed before is perhaps rare but putting your unique interpretation on something that already exists – that’s originality.
P is for Psychology
The application of psychology is hugely important in the content marketing process. The world may have advanced digitally but human psychology hasn’t really changed that much over the centuries. Whether or not we want to do something or buy something is a mental and emotional process. The psychology of persuasion, the study of neuromarketing and principles of occupational psychology all reveal significant insights when it comes to influencing decisions. Having a solid understanding of human behaviour and what influences and motivates people as consumers will dramatically improve the success of your content marketing efforts and your messaging.
Q is for Quality
Google’s algorithms are designed to promote good quality content. The aim is to provide value and solve people’s problems. The world of web content is more crowded than ever before. You want your content to be the diamond amongst thousands of rocks and stones. The quality of your craftsmanship needs to come across in every piece of content you create. You need to ensure your content is conveying a benefit, that you are matching the attitudes of your audience and that you are unique.
“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It’s what the customer gets out of it.” Peter Drucker.
R is for Recommendations
Constantly reminding people how awesome you are will eventually put them off. Be even more awesome by getting other people to rave about you instead. Social media can be a really powerful referral channel. Your customer recommendations can be repurposed to create content that will boost your SEO and credibility. You can use customer quotes as micro content, collate customer feedback to produce an engaging infographic and build a strong testimonial page for your website. Nothing says “I’m trustworthy” more than a good recommendation from a customer or a peer.
S is for SEO
SEO is a hot topic in the world of content marketing. It’s all about maximising your exposure. Your website needs to provide a positive user experience. Backlinks are important as the more links that point to a page then the more useful it appears to the algorithm. Think of the questions that the people in your target audience often ask. Research and select the right keywords by getting search volume data and trends – Google Keyword Planner is great for this and you can access this through your active Google Ads account. Choose your target keyword and create a piece of content that is worthy of ranking for that keyword. SEO is all about long term value and you will gain more by focusing on the quality of your content.
T is for Trends
What’s hot right now? What’s the next big thing in your industry? It’s essential to keep up with emerging trends both in your own niche and in the world of content marketing. Tik Tok, the increasing popularity of stories on both Instagram and Facebook and the rise of the micro-influencer have all had a significant impact on how content is created and delivered. Be prepared to mix things up by using different content formats and repurposing older content. Make sure you’re using the right applications, platforms and channels to maximise your content marketing efforts in line with current trends.
U is for Useful
Is the content you publish useful? Think about how you can help your customers or audience with informative and insightful snippets of content like quick tips, helpful hints and FAQs that are relevant to their challenges. The more useful your content is, the more valuable and shareable it becomes. By producing compelling free content that is useful, you will attract more people to your brand, experience increased engagement and ultimately generate more leads and sales.
“To be useful to others and useful to myself is definitely a better place to be.” Marc Jacobs.
V is for Video
The use of video as a content format is highly effective. Video production has become a much easier and far more cost effective form of advertising. You don’t need a diploma from the London Met Film School to produce good quality animated content. The idea is to try and stop the scroll and people are far more likely to watch videos than they are to respond to text or images. The rise of video marketing on social media cannot be ignored and it should be one of the most essential parts of your strategy. Not only is video content highly engaging, it also presents tons of options for repurposing.
W is for Why?
Your ‘why’ is your purpose and having a strong brand purpose is essential to your success. It’s the very core of who you are as a business and what you stand for. With too much focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ you start to lose some of the ‘why.’ Start every project, every campaign and every post with the question “what’s my why?” It will help you concentrate your efforts and your strategy on what really matters – your customers. What do you strive for beyond just making more sales? Think about how you define your business both internally and externally. Why? Because being different is more effective than being better.
X is for Xennials
Do you think about how your product, service or message can support different generations? Understanding different generational constructs is very useful when it comes to content marketing. Xennials make up a unique micro generation of those born between 1977 and 1983. They are tech savvy and love social media but remember how good life was without it. They love online and offline in equal measure therefore an omni-channel content strategy will appeal based on their buying habits. Tapping into the general attitudes, habits and values of the xennial demographic will provide you with a very keen and dependable customer base.
Y is for Year Planner
Working ahead is smart. Creating a content and editorial calendar for scheduling and publishing your content is a great way to get organised, be consistent and keep to deadlines with projects and campaigns. Keeping your content calendar full all year long sounds daunting but you can start by creating monthly goals. It will help with making sure you’re consistent across your social platforms and is also a good way to ensure you’re mixing it up. Some of the earlier suggestions under ‘I for Ideation’ can help to generate themes and concepts for your content that will help you build authority.
Z is for Zany
If you want to create the kind of attention-grabbing content that gets talked about at parties then discover your zany side. We don’t have to take ourselves so seriously all of the time. Being quirky and a little unconventional occasionally will get your brand noticed. If you know that being a little zany will work with your audience then it’s safe to get creative. Think of an angle based on a feature of one of your products or services. Be a bit avant-garde, be a bit eccentric, be a conversation starter. Be more ‘Z’ and less ‘ZZZZZZZ.’
The world of content marketing can be overwhelming. There’s so much technical jargon and so many different facets coupled with limited budget and no time. If you’re a small business with no dedicated marketing resource then finding the right partner to support you with your content marketing strategy is 90% of the battle.