If every year can be labeled according to the reigning digital marketing paradigm, 2013 will undoubtedly be the year of “content marketing.” Articles on this promotional strategy are popping up all over the place online – but what is content marketing and how can it be used to encourage engagement and conversions on your website?
Content marketing is simply a synonym for the idea of “inbound marketing.” Instead of running an advertisement or actively prospecting for sales leads (two classic hallmarks of “outbound marketing”), content marketing relies on the dissemination of high-value marketing pieces and the resulting viral sharing that occurs.
Basically, the idea behind content marketing is that, by publishing great content and distributing it socially, brand awareness, website traffic and on-site conversions will all increase naturally – without the ongoing, concerted effort needed to continually promote traditional marketing initiatives.
If that all sounds good to you, here’s what you need to know about the process of running a successful content marketing campaign:
Step #1 – Develop high-value content
Unsurprisingly, the key component of any successful content marketing campaign is good content. Cranking out a few “throwaway” blog posts because somebody told you that content marketing is a good way to promote a website isn’t going to get you very far, as this type of activity adds little value to your niche.
Instead, content pieces must meet two criteria in order to work for this type of campaign:
They must be high-quality (as in, well-written articles, well-produced videos and polished infographics), and
They must appeal to your unique audience members.
Having one factor without the other will diminish the effectiveness of your content marketing campaign. If you produce good content that doesn’t resonate with your readers, you’ll never experience viral success. Or, conversely, if you uncover great topics but then put out mediocre content, you won’t see any better results.
It can take some time to hit on this winning combination, though you can make the process easier by actively soliciting content ideas from your community – either through customer surveys or social media posts. You may also find it necessary to invest in outsourcing your content pieces in order to ensure that they’re produced as professionally as possible.
Step #2 – Distribute marketing pieces to your community
Once your content marketing pieces are ready to go, you can’t just post them to your website and hope for the best! Think about content marketing as you would business networking. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are or how great the product you’re selling is – if you aren’t actively putting yourself in contact with others, you’re unlikely to build any kind of traction.
The same thing goes with content marketing. For best results, you need to actively seed your social profiles with your best content in order to encourage the person-to-person sharing needed for true inbound marketing. You need to put your content in front of people and encourage them to share the marketing materials you’ve invested in with others.
It should go without saying that the stronger and more engaged your community is, the more likely it is that your content marketing promotions will be successful. If you take the time to make yourself present and position yourself as an authority on your industry’s social forums, you’ll see much better results with your campaigns than somebody who pops in, drops a link and doesn’t reappear until there’s another piece of self-promotional content to be shared.
Step #3 – Measure and refine marketing priorities
Finally, keep in mind that content marketing – like any other marketing technique – needs to provide some measurable impact on your business’s bottom line. We can talk all day about the importance of high-value content or of having an engaged community, but if your content marketing investment doesn’t translate into real-life business improvements, you’re doing your business a major disservice!
For this reason, it’s important to keep an eye on the results you achieve through your content marketing initiatives. To do so, you’ll need to first determine which metrics you’re attempting to improve with content marketing. Are you hoping to see an increase in overall sales or are you more concerned with improving “soft” metrics like brand mentions or social followers?
Whatever the case may be, decide on a metric and then set up any tools needed to track changes in your chosen figures. For many of these needs, pairing Google Analytics’ “Goal” feature with its “Advanced Traffic Segments” will allow you to tie visitors from content marketing traffic sources to changes in your preferred metrics.
Collect this data and then act on it to refine your future marketing priorities and investments. Content marketing isn’t a perfect fit for every business, though by understanding what it takes to make a content piece successful and carefully tracking your company’s own investments in this promotional technique, you stand to gain significant traffic and brand recognition through this powerful strategy.