Effective content marketing is like a well-executed recipe. When done right, it’s the perfect blend of data, well-crafted messaging, and an emotional connection to effectively reach your target audience. Why do some companies have delicious content marketing and others taste, well — burnt, bland or bitter? 

The answer is simple: most businesses are missing the key ingredients to a successful recipe, and they don’t even know it. 

Let’s start by defining what content marketing actually is. According to the Content Marketing Institute, it’s:

“a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content marketing is not a direct sale. It’s about connecting with your target audience and stimulating their interest in your product/service. One way to get started on a successful content marketing campaign is to backsolve. What is your competition doing that’s working? Use their content as a template. Mimic where they’ve shared their content, look at who’s engaging with it and reach out to those prospects. 

Here are some other key ingredients to put into your content marketing recipe this year:

Examine your metrics to learn what your target market wants.

Crafting a content marketing strategy without data is like trying to drive blind. You don’t know which way to turn, and inevitably, you’re going to crash. Data is your roadmap. It tells you what your audience wants and doesn’t want. It informs you of the pain points keeping them up at night. These are the points you should address in your content, and then lead your audience to a solution. 

Don’t be the definition of insanity.

Don’t do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. It’s time to analyze what you’ve been doing, and if it hasn’t produced results, stop doing it and pivot. It’s time to change your strategy. Are your ads not engaging with your target? Are you getting bounces off your landing pages? Are you not able to get your targets down through your marketing funnel? You’re not hitting them with the right messaging. 

Look at your data and research your target market’s pain points. Try some A/B testing to see which ads perform better. Even changing a title or color can make a big difference in engagement. Try some different channels, too. Where is your target audience spending their time? Do they like LinkedIn more than Facebook? Are they posting inside groups? Again, what is your competition doing? If you see it working for them, be present in the same spaces they are.

Create clear, actionable content.

Every time you post content, make sure there is a clear call to action (CTA) throughout the piece. What action do you want your readers to do next? Does it lead them to a landing page? Is there a link to a blog? A form to fill out to be on your email list? Or does it lead to your contact page for next steps? Whatever content you’re creating, make sure there’s always an action at the end — never lead to a dead end. 

Include gated content.

As soon as your target audience clicks on your site, you have only seconds to keep them there before they move on. Gated content in the form of a pop-up on your homepage is a great way to capture their information quickly. Invite them to download a free e-book or guide in exchange for their email address, or invite them to join your newsletter list, so you can drip content to them about your product/service.

Make your content easily scannable.

In our scrolling generation, content needs to be a quick read. Anything you write needs to pass the scan test. Use lots of headlines throughout your articles and bullet points to break up copy. Even adding the time it takes like, “3 min read” to the top of the article will let your readers know in advance how much time they’ll be investing reading your content. These little tweaks will go a long way in keeping your audience engaged in your content for longer, which increases the likelihood of conversion.

Fold content into a larger campaign.

Look at your content as a part of a holistic marketing campaign and connect every piece together. This will help move your target audience through the funnel. Here are some places to start: 

  • Push content through digital ads, like Facebook ads, to create a larger campaign. 
  • Create a series of blog posts that lead to a drip campaign or e-newsletter.
  • Create a “Lifecycle Campaign.” Think about educating your audience instead of selling them. This is called “middle of the funnel” marketing.
  • Give them information and educational resources with your content so they’re learning about the value of what you offer, and how that fits into their unique lifestyle. 
  • Have your sales team share with its network by sharing your content on LinkedIn and through sales emails.
  • Cross-promote to other pages on your website and link to other thought leaders’ sites. You can ask other businesses to promote you on their sites as well.

Move from digital to print collateral.

Now that you’ve executed on digital content marketing strategies, you can translate that success to print collateral. Any well-performing email can be turned into a snail mail piece. Send a postcard to prospects and offer them a free resource or invite them to a landing page via a unique URL from which you can track open rates. This will determine the success of your mail piece. 

Also, any well-performing PR features can also be used for physical prospecting pieces. Print them out and keep them in a nice folder for walk-in prospects, or use them at trade shows or other industry meet-ups. The more streamlined your marketing looks, the more reputable you’ll look to your prospects. They’ll trust what you say, follow what you do, and then — they’ll want a bite of that delicious pie you’re offering them.  

Looking for more ways to optimize your content marketing strategy? Take a look at the top social media trends every business must know this year.

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