by Danielle Styles

In my last post, we saw how content marketing turns traditional advertising on its head, by prompting pro-active and interested customers to find you. But the question still remains – what exactly do you need to do to make this happen?

Putting out any old content sporadically and hoping for the best is unlikely to have much of an effect. To reap the results you’re looking for, you need to prepare and execute a smart plan. And your plan needs to incorporate these five golden rules.

1. Document your strategy

Writing down your content marketing plan is essential to carrying it out effectively. Why? Because writing focuses your mind. It makes it easier to check that the steps you’re taking lead logically to the result you want. It allows you to nail down the whatwhen and how of creating and distributing your content, in a document that your colleagues can refer to. In short, it keeps everyone on track.

Your strategy doesn’t necessarily need to be flashy or in-depth, especially if you’re a small organisation with limited resources. What’s important is that you answer these critical questions:

  • Who are your customers? What are their needs? How will your content meet them?
  • How much time/resources are available for producing content?
  • What do you want your content strategy to achieve?
  • What’s the most appropriate channel, tone and structure for your content, taking into account your audience and aims?
  • How will you convert your readers into subscribers and/or buyers/donors/supporters?

2. Give your customers something that genuinely enhances their situation

It’s simple: your content needs to improve the lives of your target audience. It needs to have real value for them by meeting a genuine need.

Your first task is to work out who you’re marketing to. A vividly imagined persona is far easier to work with than a vague demographic profile, so flesh out a description of the single character who best represents your audience.

Now put yourself in that person’s shoes. What are they striving for? What gets in the way of what they want to achieve? How can your content be written, styled and delivered so that it really floats their boat? (Include these notes in you documented strategy.)

Remember: to truly educate, entertain or otherwise help your target customers, your content needs to be high-quality. Hastily churned-out rubbish won’t cut the mustard. If your free content is so fantastic that a little voice in your head is questioning the wisdom of gifting it to people, then you’re probably on to a good thing. Generosity is the whole point.

It’s when you’re authentically yet strategically generous that wondrous things (like increased site traffic, customer conversions, loyalty and brand awareness) start to occur. Which leads me to my next point.

3. Deliver content regularly and consistently

It’s simple. Give your audience a reason to keep returning to your site, and don’t disappoint them when they do.

Decide how often you can reasonably produce new content without compromising on quality. Schedule in regular release dates – whether daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Then make sure you stick to that schedule.

If you regularly deliver content with the wow-factor, people will keep coming back to you, strengthening rapport each time. Having set their expectations high, what you don’t want to do is let them down and risk losing them. So make sure you keep the timing and quality of your content consistent.

4. Integrate social media

The more your content is read, liked and shared, the more influential it’s going to be. The right kind of social media exposure triggers behaviours that (1) get your content read and (2) drive relevant traffic to your website. So you need to make sure you’re stoking the flames.

Know what social-networking sites your target audience use, and get active on them. You’ll need to invest time to create and engage a following, and this calls for a strategy of its own. Broadly speaking though, your social media activity needs to be two-way, cooperative and (as with your content) focused on the interests of your audience.

Particularly when you’re starting out, and you don’t have much content of your own, it pays to promote other people’s. This may seem counter-intuitive, but if the content’s excellent and relevant, the benefits can be huge. Selectively promoting other people’s content not only builds your reputation as a savvy ‘curator’ worthy of a follow, it also makes the owners of that content more likely to share your content in return. (Plus it feels like a rewarding, human thing to do.) So suss out who’s generous and influential, and – as long as their content is right – focus on sharing their materials.

Writing irresistible headlines and posts is another social media technique you must master, to get your links clicked on and your content read. Which brings me to…

5. Apply time-tested copywriting techniques

With all this emphasis on content, you could be forgiven for thinking that copywriting is defunct.

Nope! Guess again.

It’s true that writing a classic one-page newspaper ad is not the same as writing a delectable piece of content. If the tone of your blog post or e-magazine is overtly salesy, you’re just going to turn people off.

What’s also true – from a marketing perspective at least – is that without copywriting, your free content is pretty much useless.

You may not be using old-school marketing methods, but the techniques of copywriting still stand. Integrating them into your content is an vital part of encouraging your prospects along the path to conversion.

Your content needs:

  • To offer a real benefit, and communicate it in an irresistible headline
  • To pull the reader from one sentence to the next, all the way through
  • To speak to the audience with a targeted, compelling tone of voice
  • To have a clear ‘call to action’ to direct them to the next step

It’s copywriting that captures your reader – first the intriguing headline hooks them in; then the fantastic tone and style pulls them through; and finally the call to action pushes them onwards – to subscribe to your mailing list, register for a demo, or share your content with their social media connections.

In my next blog post, I’ll be passing on some tips and tricks to help you hone a skill that’s absolutely critical to the success of your copy, content and social media marketing: writing headlines.

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