It’s no secret that content marketing is a valuable channel to reach new customers but how do you turn your online content into living, breathing customers (and revenue)?

Whether you have the strength of a marketing team behind you or you’re a one-man shop fitting your marketing efforts between spreadsheets and client calls, just building content in the hopes that customers will follow is a lost cause. We’re in an age of information overload and it seems everyone is scrambling to grab consumers’ attention. It can be easy for your efforts to get lost.

The key is to to provide value through your content - and provide it to the right people. So how do you go about doing that?

Know Your Customer

It’s easy to say “Oh, we market to consumers” or “We target small to mid size-businesses” but the more you know about your potential customers, the easier it is to make a content plan. Perhaps your target audience is really “consumers in the NYC-metro area renting/buying their next apartment” or “small to mid-size organizations in need of digital marketing services”.

Once you have an idea on who your customer is, you need to know what type of content they are already engaging with. Check out what they are interacting with on social media, research trends within the industry and even take a gander at what some of your competitors are doing. The more intel you can collect, the better you can equip yourself with content that is hyper-targeted to your potential customers. In a time of content-overload, the more value you can provide to your customer’s specific needs, the better you can stand out amongst the noise.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Your Personal Brand

When it comes to creating content that delivers value to the company, your personal brand is one of your strongest assets. As a business owner/entrepreneur, you are the face of the company. Potential customers, partners, press, and investors are all looking you and your business up online. This is an opportunity to leverage your personal brand and content to grow your customer base.

Say you’re a small business and shopping around for a digital marketing firm. Based on recommendations, you’re researching two companies comparable in services and cost. The first company you look up, you find their website, social media, and some positive reviews - but not much else. You then research the second company and also find their website, social media and positive reviews. However, you also find that the CEO regularly blogs about the latest marketing trends, tools, and best practices. She’s incredibly active on social media and even contributes to a few publications as a guest blogger. She’s genuinely an authority in digital marketing. At this point, you’re probably leaning towards company 2, right?

A strong personal brand online can be just as powerful as a personal recommendation. So how do you get to that point? To start:

  • Build out a foundation of websites and social media profiles that highlight you and your expertise in the industry.
  • Create content that potential customers will find useful. Don’t know where to start? Try turning frequently asked questions you get from current customers into a blog post or create a SlideShare from something you would usually give to a potential client.
  • Promote your content via social media, newsletters, and other avenues that you are communicating with current and potential customers.

The Power of the Content Calendar

If you don’t already have a content calendar, now is the time to create one. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a schedule of the content you will create, curate, as well as promote in the coming months.

A quick Google search brings up a number of templates that you can use or you can create one that works best for you. When planning yours out, keep in mind the following for each piece:

  • Audience:  Are you trying to reach a particular demographic or appeal to a broader audience?
  • What’s the meat of the content? Determine the topic and the points you plan to cover
  • Call-to-Action (CTA): Getting someone to view your content is half the battle, but now you need to get them to take the next step and further engage with your brand. You can go with a hard sell and direct them to purchase your product/service or a softer sell and provide additional content or value in exchange for their contact information
  • Promotion Plan: Are you posting it to social media, including it in your next newsletter, sharing it on a partner’s blog, etc.?
  • What is success & how will you measure it? For certain pieces of content, success may mean high engagement on Twitter. For others, it could be direct sales. If you understand the metrics for success, it’s easier to plan future content.

Your content calendar isn’t set in stone - you may make changes based on current events/seasonality or decide to shift focus. There will be a period of testing what works and what doesn’t, but going in with a plan is a lot better than just creating content for the sake of it.

On the surface, “content marketing” may seem like an abstract concept, but it doesn’t have to be. By having a clear understanding of what you’re communicating and to whom, you can develop a strategy that starts to see a return on investment.

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