Are you always trying to win the attention of potential new clients? It is hard to rise above all the social media static and stand out. With thousands of emails clouding everyone’s inbox these days even the catchiest heading can go unnoticed in the barrage of advertisements that one person sees in a single day. Ad-free media is becoming increasingly popular and people are less inclined to watch commercial spots now more than ever before.

People are tired of virtual salesmen hiding behind every corner of their web browser. Ad-blockers are par for the course now. How do you avoid getting blocked out by customers who need your services?

By providing valuable information and building a community around your product and service using creative content strategies that aren’t sales forward. This way, your message is no longer viewed as a pesky sales pitch, but important news delivered by an industry expert.

What is content marketing?

This is where content marketing comes into play. What is content marketing? It is best defined as content curated or created + a strategic distribution to a specific community. Also known as inbound marketing, it is a plan that focuses on building trust between your company and your customer base. This means a quality over quantity approach to distributing your marketing materials.

Rather than directly listing your offerings and prices, and consistently bombarding the same email list with this information, you will be adding value to customers’ lives to create a relationship between your company and your readership. This will inadvertently attract customers to your product as you establish yourself as a trustworthy source of relevant and valuable information.

By targeting community growing pains and offering solutions you become a problem solver instead of a sales person. Content marketing might seem like more work than it is worth. It isn’t just spending a portion of your budget on ad placements, as it requires much more creative production. Why bother then? The fact of the matter is that inbound marketing can generate up to three times as many leads as outbound. More and more companies are allocating bigger and bigger portions of their budgets towards content marketing for this reason.  

Content marketing requires consistently coming up with new ways of delivering cutting edge information relevant to your industry to a very specific audience. The better and more innovative your content the more likely you are to attract new customers and retain old ones. While you might not be a professional writer, video editor, or graphic designer, you don’t have to be! You can hire helpful professionals to create and drive your content. The same way you would’ve paid for outbound content marketing.

Read on to discover the ins and outs of inbound content marketing. Learn how to find your audience and captivate them with your expert knowledge. Here is how to build a community of customers that will view you as a source of industry solutions.  

How to build a content marketing strategy

Before creating any content, it is important that you strategize and outline a plan of attack. Your content marketing plan will help guide your process from start to finish. Your plan will vary depending on your industry and specific goals. Here are the most basic components that every content market strategy should have.

Create your marketing personas and find your audience

A marketing persona is an imaginary potential customer. This exercise will serve as the basis for your content marketing strategy. It will help you teach yourself who your audience is and where to find them. It is a good idea to create a customer sketch for three or five different types of customers, building up a hypothetical diverse audience you’ll need to gear your content towards.

There are pre-made templates for persona sketches you can find all over the internet. The templates have basic information like age, sex, occupation, education level, yearly income, marriage status and more.

From that basic information, templates can get more detailed and include things like hobbies, quotes from real customers that match the demographic, and what websites this person surfs. Drafting these with your team of creators can help everyone put themselves in the target audience’s shoes. You can begin to understand your customer base’s psychology much better this way.

Ask yourself: How does persona #1 use our product? What are the biggest pros for them? This exercise will reveal very valuable information to you that will build the foundation for your strategy moving forward.

Here is an example of a more detailed persona template to get you started.

Reviewing your old content strategy

If you aren’t a new business starting out, it is important to look at what you have been doing so you can identify what has been working and what hasn’t. Review your past efforts in marketing and see if your goals were being met. Set new goals and think of new ways to add to this strategy or eliminate time consuming content creation that was not helping you meet your goals. Or rethink how you market and promote content that was not popular with your community.

Find a content management system

You will need a helm from which to manage your new content strategy from. Depending on how big or small your business is this could be done on free or basic programs. At this point you might realize you don’t have a blogging platform, a website, social media channels, or a way to send out email campaigns. Take stock of what infrastructure you will need to move forward with your plan. Many of these services are free, things like TweetDeck are great tools to implement into your strategy that won’t cost extra.

Check out The Small Business Guide to Email Marketing

SEO keyword research

Your content cannot just be randomized and based on creative brainstorming sessions alone. While those things are a crucial part of the process and being innovative is key, your marketing content strategy should be based on the facts. An SEO-geared content strategy will drive more traffic to your content and help the people looking for your services on major search engines find you.

First define your main topic area. What is your expert knowledge you have to share. If you sell yoga mats, you don’t only want to write blog posts about “Top 10 Things to Look for When Buying a Yoga Mat” you want to explore all of the content topics related to yoga or things people might use a yoga mat for. Think about those performing physical therapy, meditation, strength exercises like sit ups and pushups, and stretches.

Go beyond the obvious to target long-tail keywords. Think about the different ways your personas could use your product and content they would like to read along these lines to generate new keywords.

A good keyword should hit your target audience and your key area topic.

Check out The Small Business Guide to Keyword Research

Choosing content type and distribution platforms

The final piece to your content strategy should be choosing several different types of content to create and the different ways you will distribute your content to your audience. For example you might decide: videos, blogs, a newsletter, and featured articles will be your main types of content. Then you can plan which platforms you will publish the content to like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, just to name a few.

Check out our guide on How to Set Up and Optimize Your Facebook Advertising

Set your goals

Wrap up your content marketing strategy by setting goals. This will help keep you on track and be your guide post. Continue to create goals all along the way. Every piece of content you and your team creates should have outreach goals. Goals can be as small as “We want 1,000 people to engage with this Tweet” and as big as “We want to double our sales next quarter.”  

Executing your content strategy

After deciding on a content strategy, you will need to successfully execute your plan. Here is a general road map to follow when rolling out your inbound marketing strategy:

Hire professionals to create quality content

Unfortunately, we aren’t all writers and graphic designers and we also don’t have the time or energy to do it all ourselves. Before outsourcing talent, look within your own team. You might have a few hidden creatives in the sales department or undercover video editors on your marketing team. Many employees leap at a new challenge or a creative outlet to vary their workload. This will also help build team morale and give employees with special skill sets the opportunity to put their talents on display in a professional setting.

If your team is stretched too thin already or isn’t interested in graphic design or writing, then it is time to start outsourcing. Before hiring someone full-time in-house it is likely you will need to find a freelancer. There are tons of platforms to find excellent, well-reviewed freelancers with a proven track record of success. Look for high reviews, a good value, and a portfolio so you can see if their work or style aligns with your vision.

Build a strong relationship with this personnel, it is easier to use the same freelancers over and over than find a new one every time. They might also have preferred industry professionals they can recommend from past creative projects. A strong creative freelance team is at the heart of almost every inbound marketing strategy these days.  

Finding social media influencers and partners

Finding social media influencers and other media partners is crucial to building your inbound marketing network. Social media influencers will be your “word of mouth” marketers that build trust between you and potential customers. Of course, you are going to tell customers how great your product is, that is why it is always more trustworthy coming from a popular third-party.

Refer back to your personas and SEO keyword research to understand who your ideal social media influencer might be. Build relationships with your influencers, think about who one of your persona’s would find trustworthy. Who do they follow on Instagram? Is it your chosen social media influencer? Peer recommendations are now an institution in inbound content marketing as loyal followers are more likely to purchase upon recommendation.

Creative content marketing ideas

Think outside the box. While regular blog posts and a weekly newsletter might serve as the foundation to your content strategy, strategy execution should know no bounds. Always be open to trying a new idea.

Here are some creative content marketing ideas to consider:

  • Start a podcastConsider starting a podcast with weekly industry-expert guests that your audience would love to hear from. Flex your expert knowledge and professional connections over the airwaves. Podcasts are popular now more than ever. You can convert transcripts and interviews in blog posts to promote episodes.
  • Design infographics Make a poignant infographic to help inform your community. Use data and statistics to appeal to their logic. The infographic can represent a statistic that helps them understand why they need your product or why your service will save them money in the long run. The visual will stick with them.
  • Make a funny listicleMarketing doesn’t have to always be serious. Make a fun GIF-ladden listicle to appeal to your audience’s sense of humor. We all love to laugh so why not make that positive association with your product.
  • Meet the Team content Make videos introducing your team members in a fun way. Interview team members for blog posts or feature a new employee on your Instagram every week. This helps customers feel like they know the faces behind the product or service. It is an important trust-building step that humanizes your business to your audience.
  • Write an op-edWrite an opinion piece for a popular news or media outlet your audience visits regularly. Getting published in places other than on your own channels makes you appear like a more valid and expert source. It can give you an opportunity to discuss industry pain points and put forth solutions that involve your product.
  • Take your audience to workMake a video that shows what a day at your company’s office is like. This will allow customers to see where their money goes and put your company culture on display. This works similarly to the meet the team content. Customers will be able to see your team working hard for them, live!
  • Distribute a survey with rewardsOffer rewards to your audience if they tell you more about themselves. This will help you further detail those persona profiles. In exchange for more detailed demographic information about your audience you will also give them an in to start using your product or service by offering a discount.

How to promote

So, you’ve made some great, groundbreaking content.

Now what?

You need to put your content to work so you can meet your marketing goals. Your content promotion should be more than just sharing blog posts across social media platforms; although a great social media marketing strategy helps – it can often take more than that.

  • Online communitiesBe active in your online community. This means posting your content to forums to help inform customers about the industry. Interact in threads with potential customers to learn more about their needs. Host Q + As in communities based on your content to get honest feedback and gives your audience the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions.
  • Don’t be afraid to payWhile many hate to “waste money” paying for post promotion, the old adage rings true here, “you have to spend money to make money”.  Promoting content on a pay per click basis or by number of impressions will allow you to gain more bang for your buck. This is one of the best ways to bring in new customers is to promote where your audience is more likely to see you.
  • The email campaignThe email campaign is tried and true for a reason, it is a staple in any content marketing strategy. Share your creative content pieces like videos, interviews, infographics, and related news in a newsletter. Your email campaign doesn’t have to be an obvious sales campaign; it can just be an informative letter to your interested subscribers. They’ve subscribed for a reason, and it is because they would like to hear from you.
  • Social media channelsOn social media channels you want to be an informer, not just a me-former. Everything you post doesn’t have to be just about you and your business or product. It should sometimes be about a sale you are having or a new offering, but the rest of the time you should be posting things relevant to your audience. Think about the news or blog posts your audience would want to read, even if you didn’t write them. Then also use your social media to promote inbound content marketing.
  • Article featuresTry to get other media outlets to publish your creative marketing content to help inform their website visitors. For example, if you are offering software, maybe offer to write an article for that website talking about the things customers should look for when shopping for new software. In the article you can mention your software company or that you are the CEO of a software company once or twice. This is a great passive way to get exposure while getting your name out into the community and building trust.

Putting it all together – and making it work for you

Content is only worth the community built around it. If you don’t have a community to view and interact with your content, then it doesn’t matter how great your content is. Conversely, without quality content, you will have trouble building community and retaining interest. A successful content marketing campaign requires a multi-pronged strategy and strong execution.

A marketing strategy should never be set in stone. It should constantly be growing and changing as you adapt to your audience and learn more about them daily. Never be afraid to test out new strategies and continue to build your personas. Content marketing should be fun for both its creators and consumers.

The days of merely paying for a few advertising spots are over. Content marketing strategies are proven to improve sales three-fold. It is no wonder why every company has seven different social media platforms and is actively making videos, podcasts, infographics, and more. Marketing demands diversification to hold the attention of the new, modern-day consumer.