How to Get Started: Content Marketing

Content marketing remains one of the most effective marketing strategies that connects businesses and customers. According to one report, 67% of B2B marketers reported that content marketing not only increased engagement but also lead generation. Given its more helpful aim and focus on authenticity, content marketing cuts through the noise that persists in traditional advertising, allowing brands to build trust with their target audiences. To get started with content marketing, let’s talk about what it is, how to identify your audience, developing a distribution plan, and creating a content calendar.  

What Is Content Marketing? 

Content marketing is the creation and promotion of content, to a defined audience, about your products or services. This content is used to attract potential customers, nurture those leads, and eventually turn them into paying clients—and even cross-sell existing clients. The types of content vary, with some of the most common being blog articles, podcasts, videos, and social media posts.

The key difference between content and more traditional marketing copy is that the goal in content marketing is to inform and educate rather than directly promote a service or product. While traditional marketing can play a critical role in, say, a product launch, such use of traditional marketing will be much more effective if you’ve engaged and empowered your audience through content marketing first.

Content marketing is as important for B2B products and services as it is for B2C—in fact, even more so. For example, suppose you have a line of medical devices that you plan to showcase at trade shows and conferences. Content has a role to play before, during, and after those events, helping to ensure that your lead generation is maximized and your call-to-action lands on eager ears.

All of this said, content marketing does not provide an ROI overnight. Similar to building your social media strategy, your investment is first for awareness and brand-building. But you can increase the chances that this investment is worthwhile by answering some key questions before you make any content: You must first understand who you are making it for, what your goals are, and how you will track success. 

Identify Your Audience 

Your audience is essentially your target customer or client. Once you identify who that customer is, you will want to start asking some questions. In a previous blog on creating a marketing plan, we covered questions that will help you get in the frame of mind of your customer, which are good to review here:

  • What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? Create content that reduces your customers’ worries or fears. 
  • Where are they spending their time or looking for answers? This will be discussed more in the distribution section. 
  • Where is your customer in their buying journey? Is your customer browsing, gathering information, or ready to make a purchase? 

Determining where your customer is in the sales hourglass will shape the messaging of your content marketing. Consider these messages for each phase of the buyer’s journey:

  • Awareness Stage: The content should focus on the customer’s pain points and challenges. The message should be educational, with how-to’s and advice. 
  • Consideration Stage: The content might include case studies, checklists, or benefit guides. The message should be helpful with a mix of marketing. 
  • Closing Stage: The content is often a case study, product video, or user-generated content. The message should position you as an expert and differentiate your product or service in the market.

Who Should Create the Content? 

Having a social media buff or content wizard on your team is like hitting the marketing lottery. Writing a blog is easy; posting on social media is easy. But creating content that is engaging and shareable—and doing so consistently—takes skill. Skill, and a little trial and error. 

While nobody knows your business better than you, if you don’t have a content wizard on your team, it might be worthwhile to get an outside perspective. For example, many businesses are tempted to create copy that dives into detail about product features…but does that really move the needle? It could, but probably not. Having an outsider’s perspective can help to overcome the “curse of knowledge” while also allowing you to leverage some best practices when it comes to content creation.

Depending on your budget, you can hire an agency to help create content, whether it be blogs, social media, or videos for your business. There also might be opportunity to add other a la carte services and receive support with your content marketing strategy or planning. 

If you don’t have the budget for an agency, another option is hiring a freelancer to support your team. An experienced freelancer can take some of the more time-intensive content creation off your plate so you are free to do more strategic work. Plus, freelancers provide a lot of flexibility to your budget, usually working on hourly or project rates. 

AI platforms like ChatGPT are gaining popularity with the time and efficiency it saves businesses. They can possibly be a good place to brainstorm an idea—but it will be surprisingly difficult to stand out using AI generated messages. A good rule of thumb is to use AI to help formulate a simple structure when neither creativity, humanity, nor accuracy are important factors in the equation. 

Develop a Distribution Plan 

Now that you have crafted the perfect piece of content, it’s time to share with the world—more specifically, your target customers and demographics. Finding the best channels to distribute your content so that the right people see it is more of a science than an art.

But with a little research about your target audience, you can easily deduce how your clients like to communicate and what platforms they use the most to do so. Delving into any metrics you have from your website or email campaigns is a good starting point. Ask: How are people finding your content now? Which demographics seem to favor which platforms? Where are people engaging the most?

While metrics are a good starting point, if you really want to get inside of your customers’ head, it’s always a good idea to simply ask: Interview your best clients about their buying process and information consumption. Be sure to ask questions as to what they read or view, where they do so, and where they search for information most often. A quick 15 to 30-minute phone call can really help bring your target audience into focus and identify platforms where your content will be most effective.

Even as you work to identify the most lucrative channels for your brand, don’t forget to leverage your “owned” resources first. For example, use your email list to distribute your new blog, and use your social media channels to showcase how-to videos. Don’t hesitate to cross promote so your content can reach a wider reach and garner more views. Paying for reach can be an option, too.

Create a Content Calendar and Cadence

To have a successful content marketing strategy, you must remain organized and stick to a plan. A robust content calendar is one way to align publishing goals, objectives, and resources. An effective content calendar includes the following:

  • Content topics
  • Keywords, hashtags, and other data (if relevant)
  • Draft of content 
  • Publishing dates 
  • Responsible party 
  • Platform/channel delivery 

Following each publishing cycle, typically monthly, content should be reviewed. Reviewing KPIs and time/cost analysis of each piece, you can better determine how to allocate your resources for future content marketing.

You might be wondering, “How often should I publish?” While there is no magic number, there are a few best practices depending on the goals you have for your content marketing strategy. 

  • If you are trying to increase your SEO… you should post new content to your website every 2 weeks.
  • If you are trying to build your social media following… you should plan to post daily. Depending on the platform, that number could increase in frequency. 
  • If you are promoting content via email… you want to keep in mind the best dates and times to send an email campaign. 
  • If you are trying to become a thought leader… be mindful of current events, how it relates to your industry, and what insight you might have to offer.

Ready to Get Started?

Although there are some upfront costs, content marketing is worth the investment. Once you have decided to join the race, it’s about deciding what lane you will excel in most. As you gain more traction, the customers will start coming to you for the answers to their questions. With the right tools and plan, content marketing can be a winning strategy for your business. If you need a crew to get you to the finish line sooner, schedule a Roadmap Call with our team.

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