Content Marketing Basics: What is Content Marketing?

Chances are, you’ve heard the term content marketing recently. Content marketing isn’t really a new concept, but it’s gained new attention over the last couple years.

People on the internet are wise to all the advertising schemes, and they don’t want to engage with advertisements. They do, however, want to engage with people and communities.

Consumers are willing to build a relationship with your company if you provide them with a valuable customer experience. In fact, 55% of purchasers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.

Enter content marketing. This marketing strategy allows you to provide those experiences and relationships your customers are looking for.

The question is, what is content marketing? While there are many types of content marketing, they all serve the same purpose.

What is Content Marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute has the best content marketing definition available:

A strategy of creating and distributing useful and consistent content to attract your target audience and convert them to customers. (A paraphrase)

So, what can you take away from this definition?

  • Content marketing is a STRATEGY.
  • Content marketing provides valuable information.
  • Content marketing strives to provide consistent information.
  • Content marketing is how you attract prospects.
  • Content marketing helps you convert prospects into customers.

That’s a lot for a one-sentence definition. It still sounds like a pretty simple concept though, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

Being simple doesn’t mean it won’t require work though. The trick is taking your understanding of the content marketing definition and turning it into actionable steps.

How Does Content Marketing Work?

Content marketing is a relationship building strategy. The goal is to show your target audience that you care about their concerns and you have a solution for those concerns.

How do you do that? This requires a couple steps.

  • Identify your target audience.
  • Identify their interests and concerns.
  • Highlight your understanding of those areas.
  • Providing a solution.
  • Determine the best way to present these solutions.
  • Analyze results and adjust as necessary.

Let’s take a look at these content marketing steps in more detail.

target audience

Identify Your Target Audience

Before you can create content, you have to know who you’re creating content for. Remember, your content is telling a story about you, your brand, your products, and how you can be of value. To bring value, you need someone to bring value to.

This is where the customer avatar comes into play. If you’ve never heard of a customer avatar, it’s simple. The avatar is the fictional customer you create to meet the demographics you want to address.

There are many templates you can use to create your customer avatar. To determine your ideal customer, you’ll have to ask yourself a couple questions.

You can be as detailed as you need to be with your avatar. Some people even create a fictional name for their avatar. To begin, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Marital Status
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Education Level
  • Income
  • Where do they search for needed info?
  • What role do they place in purchasing decisions?
  • What will they want to know about your product before making a decision?

You may not have to answer all these questions but answer as many as you can to create the ideal target. Do some research to answer these questions. Look at competitors, questions being asked online, current customers, etc.

Get a good understanding of who you’re trying to target.

Identify the Interests and Concerns of Your Target Audience

Once you have an avatar in place, make sure you understand the issues they will face and the things that will interest them. Is there a common problem you can address? Is there an intriguing offer you can share?

To answer these questions, you have to know who you’re targeting.

  • What challenges and issues do they face?
  • What are their goals?
  • What’s important to them?

The question about where they search for info can help with these questions. Make a point of spending time in these places to see what issues come up most often. Go where your target audience is and listen to the conversations happening around you.

This is where creating an observation journal can come in handy. Take notes so you can keep up with the points of interest. These hangouts can be online or in likely hangouts in real life.

This is why it’s so important to understand who you’re targeting before creating a content marketing strategy.

Highlight Your Understanding of Your Audience’s Concerns

Remember, you want to share a story with your audience that shows how you can help them with their problem areas. This means highlighting your understanding of these issues.

You can do this by providing statistics and research on the topic. You can also do this by sharing personal anecdotes or stories from others with the same problem.

By highlighting your understanding, you can move them along to the solution you provide. They won’t care about your solution unless you prove you understand their needs though.

Providing a Real Solution

Real Solutions

Providing solutions can be trickier than it sounds. While it’s easy to say you have a solution, it’s important to make sure it’s a real solution.

How many times have you clicked on an article promising to share valuable information, only to find platitudes or regurgitated info? Or you click on it to find it is only an ad to get you to buy a product for the solution.

While the goal is to get them to purchase something, you need to add value before they will purchase. This means providing some type of solution in the content itself.

No, you don’t have to provide your knowledge completely for free. You do need to show your audience that you can add value immediately. If you can do this, you create trust and loyalty.

If you can show your ability to provide solutions, you will also be more likely to convert a new prospect into a customer. Think about it, if you can provide this value immediately, how much more value will they receive by purchasing what you’re offering?

Choosing the Right Types of Content Marketing to Highlight Your Value

Once you have a good grasp on the problems you’re addressing and the solutions you can offer, it’s time to share that information in the best way possible. This is where the different types of content come into play.

There are numerous content options to choose from. You just have to decide which options will work best for your business.

Remember that research you did on where your target audience goes for information? This research is your best friend when making content decisions.

  • Where do they go most often for info?
  • What type of content do they engage with most?
  • What content are they sharing with their friends, family, and coworkers?
  • Do they respond most to written word or pictures and video?

Look for content patterns on social media among your target audience. Pick out the content types that get the most engagements and shares and create your content around those models.

For more ideas, you can start with some of the most popular types of content marketing:

  • Blogs. Even if you have a website for your business, if you don’t have a blog, you’re missing out on a great option for sharing valuable content.
  • E-Books and PDFs. Using downloadable resources such as e-Books and PDFs are a great way to grab attention. You can create these with minimal cost. This type of content can be a freebie for email signups or provided for a minimal price.
  • Share valuable data and research with an easy to read infographic that breaks down the pertinent points.
  • Videos or slide shows. You can provide great visuals while sharing news and how-to info with your audience by creating videos and slideshow presentations. They don’t have to be big productions, they just need to provide value.

Of course, there are several other options available. Make sure whatever you pick will be appealing to your target audience though.

What works_

Analyze and Adjust

The best way to determine what types of content marketing will work for you is to start producing content to share. Try out different styles and watch the trends.

What’s getting engagement and shares? What’s generating interest? And just as importantly, what’s not working?

If you’re sharing on social media, you can use the analytics tools provided to get this information. You can also set up Google analytics to watch for engagement trends.

The important thing is to pay attention to the trends and adjust your strategy accordingly. If something’s working well, create more content like that. If something’s not working find another strategy.

Applying Your Content Marketing Strategy to Your Overall Business Strategy

Keep in mind, your content marketing strategy is just one aspect of your overall business plan. It’s important to have a good business plan in place to help create a winning content strategy.

If you haven’t created a business plan, or you haven’t given it the importance it deserves, take another look at it. This business plan will help you make decisions as you grow your business.

Use your goals and values to guide your content marketing strategy. It will do you no good to understand the content marketing definition if you don’t know how to apply it to an overall plan.

Would you like more tips and resources to help you create a winning business strategy? Make sure to sign up for the newsletter to get updates straight to your inbox.

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