A Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing

Marketing as we once knew it is dead. But this is nothing new. As the internet continues to transform how we do business, you have to either keep up or be okay with loosing.

This is a realization that a lot of businesses face everyday. Either they have been around for a long time and haven’t made the switch to “modern” marketing, or they are a new business who isn’t quite sure where to begin. One thing that’s for sure however, is that no matter where you are at with your marketing strategy, making the switch is overwhelming.

Content marketing isn’t as simple as just creating some ads and posting a few times a week on social media. It’s really more about completely shifting your mindset of how you market your business – without doing marketing. It’s about being transparent with your customer base on what your brand is all about and why it will better their lives. It’s about giving them all the information that they need to make an informed decision before buying your product, ultimately building trust.

Where do I begin?

Before you can successfully start content marketing (CM), you need to set some goals. What a lot of people don’t understand is that CM doesn’t have a quick return. Often times, businesses are under the assumption that they can just set up a posting schedule, blog a couple times a month, and suddenly clients will start pouring in. Although this may happen to a few lucky companies, it takes 4 – 6 months for many businesses to start seeing a return on their efforts.

With that being said, if you don’t know where you’re going, then it’s not worth your time and energy. Your goals don’t have to be over the top, just simple, yet attainable milestones such as 5 new clients a month, whatever makes sense for your business.

Budget

One of my favorite things about CM is that it’s possible on any budget, you just have to get creative. In addition, there are tons of free platforms to help you manage your content at the start.

Website

All of your awesome marketing efforts won’t really help you in the end if your website isn’t supportive. Even if your website is beautiful, it needs to understand your buyers and provide excellent user experience.

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Content Management System (CMS)

Because content marketing requires businesses to wear many hats, you’re probably going to want to invest in a content management system. In the simplest definition, CMS allows you to control almost every aspect of your business from one place – website content, blogging, social media publishing, lead generation, email, contacts…the list goes on and on.

Some systems allow you to have a free account for smaller businesses or solo professionals, but at some point you will most likely want to sign up for the paid account. If you’re not in a good financial place to sign up for this at the moment, then I suggest that you at least become familiar with some of the big names like WordPress and HubSpot so you can get an understanding of what they offer. HubSpot is full of amazing blog posts and even has an academy that will help guide you to content marketing success.

Blogging

Blogging is great no matter what, but in order to really be effective you need consistency. A lot of people struggle to come up with topics every week, but serious bloggers know the importance of publishing every week (or more) and around their usual time. Once you start building an audience, they will be relying on you to continue to have new, fresh content. So before you begin, it’s important to have a strategy.

The most important part of blogging is to make sure you are always thinking about your ideal customers and what type of content they might be searching for. Once you’ve established this, spend some time just brainstorming topics. This is a great way of giving yourself some extra “padding” to pull ideas from on the weeks you feel less than inspired to write.

For formatting an other great blogging tips, check out our post 5 Ways Your Blog is Working Against You and The Building Blocks of Blogging Success.

Social Media

Using social media as a marketing platform is truly one of the most powerful tools any business can use. However, it doesn’t really matter how social media savvy you are, doing it for your company has its own set of rules and challenges. A big thing to remember is that although just simply having a presence is great, you want to make sure that everything you post falls in line with your goals and that your posts are optimized for better reach, this includes remembering to use hashtags on Twitter, and include images whenever possible.

In addition, don’t forget to actually be social. Reach out to your followers and potential customers, thank them for following you or ask them to join in a conversation. When people feel valued and included they become lifetime customers.

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Landing Page

A huge aspect of content marketing is providing your customers with a piece on content, or an experience, that they won’t find from a blog post. Often times, this comes in the form of an ebook or some other type of downloadable content.The ebook could be a guide to completing a difficult task, or maybe it provides users with further information on a topic that your website and blog don’t explain in detail.

The overall goal is to provide your potential customers with valuable information, but asking for a small something in return: their name and email. The customer comes to your landing page, where they find information about the ebook and a form requesting a small amount of info in order to download it. Once you have their information, that person becomes a lead and you can then send them an email later on (a couple weeks after is best) to ask them how they liked your content and if they need any further assistance.

Email

Once you start gaining leads, you’re going to need somewhere to store their information, and preferably somewhere that you can seperate leads from customers and so on. In addition, after you’ve been blogging for a couple months, you may decide to send out a monthly newsletter. Trying to do all this from a regular email account is not worth the time and hassle. If you’re not going with a CMS like HubSpot, which has their own email platform, then you may want to consider some of the other email marketing software recommended for small businesses.

Video

A picture is worth a thousand words….and a video is worth millions. 55% of people stream video online everyday, and social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined.

SEO

Last, but definitely not least, you will want to make sure you have an understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We’ve written a helpful introduction to SEO that will help guide you to search engine success.

Thanks for reading! Are you thinking about starting content marketing? Let us know any questions you might still have in the comments.
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Posted by Ariel Valley

Web designer, writer, social media lover and inbound marketer at Catch22 Marketing. Also known as a professional coffee taster, shoe enthusiast and film buff. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @ariel_valley.

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