In the last few years, there’s been a rush by marketers and marketing product creators alike to tell people that it’s gotten a lot easier. Just launch a blog! Post to social media every day! Give people real value and they’ll find you!
It’s a compelling message. If you shift gears from sell, sell, sell to help, help, help, people will find you instead of you having to track them down. And it works. Inbound marketing and content-driven campaigns based on helping people solve problems rather than selling them on features and scarcity is both a cost effective and efficient way to improve sales in most industries.
But what the excited marketing crowd doesn’t always mention is that creating the content, building the blog, and posting to the major social media channels is not enough on its own. In fact, by itself, content production can be a black hole into which you throw your marketing budget. Without promotion of that content, it won’t do a whole heck of a lot unless you get lucky. And the last thing you want as a business owner is to rely on luck.
So once you get past what seems like the hard part – actually sitting down and writing all that content or hiring someone to do it at exorbitant expense – how do you get people to read it, click, and interact with it so you can get your money’s worth out of it?
The Three Fundamentals of Content Promotion
When it comes to inbound marketing, a lot of the most effective tactics come back to things you’ve been doing for years. The difference now is that instead of publishing an ad that touts the newest features of your software, you’re writing an article about software selection and publishing ads to promote that article. It’s only a slight paradigm shift, but it trips up a lot of people.
Here are three fundamentals of content promotion for an inbound campaign and why they differ so much from what you may already be doing:
- Where Is Your Audience? – Your audience is different from most other companies. So you need to evaluate target personas and determine exactly where they spend time, what type of content they consume, and then focus your energies there. Why invest time and money in Facebook as a software company targeting accountants if your target audience spends no time on Facebook during work hours?
- Where are Your Influencers? – Every industry has a number of key influencers. These are the men and women who know their stuff inside and out and speak out on it. They are the speakers at your industry conferences, the by-lines on industry think pieces, and the people whose books you have on your shelves. Find them and do your best to engage with them. By engaging with people who the industry respects, you can grow your audience as they help to share your content.
- Are You Distributing? – Finally, there is the very real, somewhat tedious, and incredibly effective process of distributing content. A brilliant blog post remains anonymous until people can actually find it, and Google won’t help unless there are other sites linking to it and readers engaging with it. Create a list of viable channels through which to syndicate your content, blogs where you can ask for links, and people who can share on your behalf. This is a time consuming process – usually about twice as long per piece as it takes to produce that piece. Budget for it in advance.
Content marketing isn’t quite as easy as some make it out to be. But here’s the good part – where you can rest easier to some degree.
Once you’ve done the three things above – identified your audience, thought leaders, competitors, and distribution channels – you can create a system to automate a lot of this. A good promotion checklist with a list of everything that needs to be done as soon as a new blog post goes up, for example, can be executed by a marketing coordinator or intern instead of a high priced marketing agency or the writer.
The key is to take the necessary time to build out the information you need, build a pipeline for promoting your content, and then ensure you do it every single time. Only then will you start to see maximum return on your content marketing investment
This is almost certainly not the first article you’ve read about content marketing. The Internet is littered with them; good marketers trying to help small business owners get more out of their marketing efforts through content generation.
But it’s not that easy.
You can’t just write a blog post and flip a switch to start generating dozens of new leads. There’s a lot more going on behind the curtain. You have to connect with your audience in targeted ways.
So rather than repeat the same tired (and somewhat useless) tips about quality content and writing for your readers first, let’s look at real, specific ways that the content on your website can be used to connect with your target audience on the things they care about most.
Build Content Around Singular Actionable Items
Keep your content concise and to the point. This doesn’t necessarily mean short, but it does mean you should avoid meandering, unfocused pieces that don’t necessarily provide value to the reader.
For every piece of content you write – whether it is a blog post, the script for a YouTube video, or an eBook – imagine the one problem your audience has that you can resolve. Develop content focused on solving that problem.
Complete guides to broad topics can be extremely valuable and will still generate downloads, but they take much longer, slowing down your marketing campaign, and they will attract more general leads – possibly including people you may not be interested in doing business with.
By building content around a single actionable concern, you can get stronger, more targeted leads through your efforts.
Clearly Define the Role of Each Piece of Content
A strong piece of content is not only well written, but well situated in your marketing funnel. When writing an eBook, or preparing a case study, what is the specific role of that piece? Where will it live on your website, who will read it, when will you email it to prospects?
More importantly, at what stage in the buying process will a prospective lead be interested in this content?
Imagine your ideal customer is on a 1,000 mile road trip from their home (not knowing anything about you or what your products do) to yours (becoming a customer). At what milepost will this piece of content live? Is it a Milepost 5 acknowledgement of the problem they face, or is it a Milestone 800 introduction to your services and pricing?
Know exactly where your content will live and it will perform much better when developed.
Pair Lead Magnets with Strong Published Content
It’s tempting to link to the same eBook over and over again on every page of your site. After all, you didn’t have anything on your site before, so that one book is better than nothing, right?
While this is true, it won’t result in the strongest results for your marketing efforts. The more targeted and specific each downloadable marketing offer you create is, the better it will perform.
So think of the different problems people visiting your site might have and how you can address them in different formats and with different subjects. Create content that covers these concerns and marketing offers that relate to them. For some businesses this might mean 3-5 different eBooks all working to provide value very early in the buyer’s journey. For others, it might mean only 1-2 offers. For others still, it might mean 30+ different offers.
There is no cookie cutter formula for this. It’s entirely dependent on your business and the problems faced by your audience. If you are stuck while trying to figure this out, get help from a good internet marketing specialist who understands this.
Invest Heavily in Your Headline
The single most important slice of real estate on any page of your website is the headline. It captures attention, defines the page’s purpose, and spells out the value proposition of what you’ve written.
So spend as much time on this as possible. You only have 10-20 seconds to capture and hold the attention of the average web user – your headline is the lynchpin to making this happen.
This does not, however, mean you should get overly creative and try to pen the world’s snarkiest headlines. On the contrary, simply, straightforward and to the point often get the job done best. I always look for the following when evaluating a headline:
- Does it clearly spell out what the visitor will get?
- Is it phrased in terms of benefits?
- Is it short enough to be scanned in less than 4 seconds?
- Does it make immediate sense without any jokes, metaphors, or rereads?
In some industries, additional rules may apply. Concrete numbers that make the headline more definite might be important if discussing a piece of technology or medical supplement. The goal is to be direct and ensure someone knows exactly what they are getting from your site.
Write to a Specific Individual
At first, persona marketing can seem counterintuitive.
Talk only to one person instead of broadening your message to as wide an audience as possible? Why would you want to do that?
But there’s a subtle magic in this kind of targeting. By identifying not only the demographics, but the actual needs and desires of your ideal customer, you can create much more specific content that speaks to real problems instead of general observations.
It doesn’t matter if the exact wording of your content strikes a chord with every reader. It will strike a resounding chord with the small handful of perfect targets you’ve been trying to track down, and others will respond to that personal-touch.
By following these five tips, you can produce better targeted, more specific content that speaks to the needs of your target audience in the most effective way possible. By doing this, you will generate more leads with the same efforts, and see much greater results from your content marketing actions.
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