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Content marketing is one of the most important tools in your arsenalUse it well!

Anybody running a business knows that the key to generating new sales is by marketing your products or services. While bigger companies have the budget to launch fully integrated marketing campaigns that combine both digital and offline marketing strategies, you, on the other hand, cannot afford to do that. What you can do, instead, is to focus your marketing efforts on channels and strategies that deliver the highest return on investment (ROI).

Social media marketing, email marketing, and content marketing are different types of digital marketing strategies you can use to promote your products or services in order to generate brand awareness and sales on a limited budget. Even though all three are distinct types of marketing strategies, you can only achieve maximum ROI if you combine all three together. Nevertheless, content marketing still remains the foundation upon which the others rest on. You’ll find out why this is so by the end of this guide.

So, what is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the creation and distribution of educative, informative and entertaining content, such as blog articles, eBooks, infographics, videos etc., to a predefined target audience in order to attract them to your website with the end goal of making them a customer.

Content marketing offers every company, regardless of industry, size or budget, the opportunity to stand out from the competition and gain a profitable market share at the same time. This is because prospective customers are using the internet to find solutions to their needs and pain points, and they usually trust and buy from companies that provide them with valuable information without any strings attached.

When done right, content marketing provides small businesses with the following benefits:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Reputation as an industry thought leader
  • Highly targeted website traffic looking to consume custom-made content.
  • Improved search engine rankings due to new content constantly added to the website

However, regardless of how wonderful these benefits sound, without a content marketing plan or strategy in place to guide your efforts; you’re most likely going to be frustrated. According to a research by the Content Marketing Institute, about 56% of B2C marketers and 64% of B2B marketers admitted to not having a documented content marketing strategy, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have a content strategy – yet.

The steps outlined in this guide will help you get started in creating a content strategy that will attract, engage and convert your prospective customers in no time.

Outline Your Content Marketing Goals

The first step in creating a successful content marketing strategy is to outline your goals and objectives. Goals and objectives will vary from business to business, but the following are great examples regardless of your niche:

  • Increase your brand awareness.
  • Drive more traffic to your website.
  • Generate more leads.
  • Convert those leads into customers.
  • Improve customer retention and drive cross-sell and up-sell.

Knowing your goals before you begin planning your content strategy will help you determine a lot of things, such as what metrics to measure, what content promotional channels to target and what key performance indicators to look out for.

Define Your Target Audience

The second step towards creating the ultimate content marketing strategy for your small business involves you going back to the drawing board to critically evaluate your potential customers. Even if your product or service is generic and can cater to wide demographic, consider choosing an underserved niche in your market in order to quickly capture that market share and establish your credibility.

Defining your target audience helps you:

  • Create highly targeted content that they will definitely want to read, watch or download
  • Determine the appropriate marketing channels to distribute your content for maximum reach
  • Choose the right keywords to use in your content. These keywords are usually words that your target audience would use to find solutions to their pain points.

Decide on What Type(s) of Content to Create

Now that you’ve outlined your content marketing goals and you’ve also defined your target audience, you can now move on to content creation. When it comes to choosing what type of content to create, you have a plethora of options to choose from:

Blog Posts and Articles: Blog posts, like what you’re reading now, are created to educate, inform and engage website visitors. They are hosted on a website and are managed by a content management system (CMS).

Blog posts and articles should contain valuable information that will motivate readers to join in the conversation and even share your posts. The ideal blog length should be between 500 to 2,000 words. Longer posts tend to rank higher in search engines due to the number of times the primary keywords can easily be incorporated into the article.

EBooks and Whitepapers: When it comes to generating leads, eBooks and whitepapers are your best friend. Regardless of size, businesses can benefit greatly from creating eBooks and Whitepapers with more in-depth information for their audience to consume. This helps prospects perceive your company as a thought leader in your industry.

EBooks and whitepapers are usually longer than blog posts (between 3,000 to 10,000 words depending on the subject matter) and you should place them behind a lead capture form on a dedicated landing page. Prospects will only be able to download the content after submitting their contact information. These contact details (or leads) can then be added to your email marketing program for nurturing until they’re ready to do business with you.

Infographics: Are you trying to translate complex data or ideas into simple, actionable and clear to understand content that your audience can quickly read and comprehend? Then an infographic will come in handy. Information graphics, or infographics for short, helps companies (especially B2B) translate complex ideas to their audience in easy to understand images and graphs with beautiful fonts and

Slide Decks: Like infographics, Slides are also a great way to share complex ideas in simple, easy to understand format. Platforms like SlideShare (owned by LinkedIn) are great to share your slides and gain thought leadership along the way.

Templates: Templates provide the dual purpose of generating leads for you, while also providing tremendous value to your audience. A template help people perform tasks faster and make a complex process simpler to tackle and as a result, they’re a very popular means of generating leads.

Videos: Adding video to your content marketing strategy is one of the fastest ways to generate brand awareness and increase conversions. According to statistics released by Adobe:

  • Shoppers who view video are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non-viewers
  • 9 percent of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI
  • Retailers cite 40 percent increases in purchases as a result of video

While video marketing requires more investment to be successful, it could turn out to be an investment worth making.

Podcasts: This is another great form of content to experiment with. Podcasts listeners are growing worldwide, and according to a 2016 research by Edison Research, there are over 57 million people who listen to podcasts every month. Take advantage of these numbers and include podcasts into your overall content marketing strategy.

Off-site Content: This refers to content about your brand that is posted somewhere else. Off-site content helps to generate inbound links which eventually increase your search engine rankings. Off-site content can come in the form of:

  • Guest blogging
  • Repurposed content for social media posts
  • Repurposed content for publishing platforms like Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, and Quora.

Pro Tip: Instead of stretching yourself too thin by trying to create ALL of these content types, consider creating one original content, then repurpose it into other formats for distribution. For example, an in-depth blog post could be repurposed into a slide deck, infographic, podcast, a series of social media posts, and a webinar.

Decide on What Topics to Write About

Now that you have a clear understanding of the types of content available to you, the next step is for you to decide on what topics to write about. How do you go about creating content good enough to attract them in the first place?

The following tips and tools will help you get started:

  • The keywords you identified while identifying your target audience will come in handy. Run those keywords with tools like Google Keyword planning tool in order to view these keywords and variations you can use for your content.
  • Survey your clients or customers to find out more about their pain points. Their answers will give you a wide range of topics you can cover in-depth. give you a wide range of topics you can cover in-depth. Ensure you categorise your answers so you can easily track each of them and provide content tailored to those answers.

Pro Tip: Don’t fall into the trap of plagiarising other people’s work. If you find the content you’re interested in, cite it properly and link to it if possible. Google usually removes any website accused of plagiarism from their entire index and hosting companies hosting companies have the right to suspend such websites indefinitely.

Decide on the Frequency of Content Creation and Publishing

You need to decide on a content creation and distribution schedule and stick with it. Keeping a consistent blogging schedule helps for the following reasons:

  • It keeps your website updated with fresh content and this helps with your search engine rankings
  • The more content you create, the more likely you are to dominate that niche, just as Hubspot dominates the Inbound Marketing niche.
  • It gives your subscribers something to look forward to.

However, due to time, money and resources, many small businesses are inconsistent with their content marketing efforts. In order to achieve maximum results from your content marketing campaign, strive to post at least two original content and four repurposed content every week.

Pro Tip: Use a content marketing editorial calendar to keep yourself and your content creation process on track. Also, note that not all types of content require consistency. Content such as guest blogging on other websites does not require consistency; however, blogging and creating lead generation content (such as eBooks) on your own website requires a higher frequency.

Choose a Content Distribution and Promotional Channel

Another very important step in creating your content strategy is to decide on how to promote your content and through what channels. No matter how valuable your content is, it is useless if nobody reads it. Even if you optimise your content for search engines, it will take a great deal of time (and content) to start generating a high number of website traffic.

Social media marketing is a tried and tested means of generating inbound traffic to your website. You can do this by:

  • Creating social media profiles and pages for your company. Popular social networks to consider are Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
  • Creating social media posts promoting your blog posts and eBooks and add links directing back to your website and dedicated landing pages.
  • Promoting these posts to your target audiences with a minimal budget.

Please note that not all social networks will be ideal for your small business. When deciding on what promotional channels to use, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this social network cater to my target audience demographic?
  • What type of content resonates with the audiences on this social network and can I meet the demand?
  • What is the appropriate tone for this social network?

Pro Tip: Social media networks are meant for people to stay connected to friends and family and to participate in meaningful conversations. Keep this in mind when using social media to promote your content.

Choose Appropriate KPIs to Measure Effectiveness

Key performance indicators (KPIs) help you know what is working and what isn’t with your content marketing strategy. But in order for you to accurately measure the effectiveness of your content marketing campaign, your KPIs should tie perfectly into your overarching goals.

Taking into consideration the goals highlighted in the first step of this content strategy, you can easily choose appropriate KPIs to help you measure the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.

Brand awareness: When your goal is to increase brand awareness, you should focus on creating content that will catch the attention of a lot of people. Funny and inspirational content such as videos or memes do this effectively.

KPIs to measure: social network views, likes, and shares.

Drive website traffic: If your goal is to drive highly targeted traffic to your website, you should be focused on creating search engine

KPIs to measure: number of unique website visitors, the number of returning website visitors, click-through rates on social media links to your website.

Generate leads: Turning your website and blog visitors into leads is critical to the success of your content marketing campaign. You can do this by creating lead generation content such as eBooks, webinars, and templates, which people can download in exchange for their contact information.

KPIs to measure: Number of leads generated from each lead generation content and the conversion rates on each landing page.

Convert leads: After generating leads through your content marketing efforts, you will want to convert them into customers. Not everybody that visits your website is ready to buy from you – that is why lead nurturing and email marketing is a very important component in digital marketing. To convert your leads into customers, you need content that will educate them about what your company stands for, what your values are and finally, what makes your products or services unique. Case studies, webinars, and product demos are a great way to nurture leads.

KPIs to measure: Average time spent to close a new customer plus the amount and type of content they consumed in the process.

Retain, up-sell and cross-sell customers: The major advantage that corporate brands have over small businesses are the loyal brand advocates who shamelessly promote their products or services. Through content marketing, however, small businesses have the same opportunity as well. When your customers are delighted with your product or service, your customer support and overall customer experience, they’re more likely to spread the good news about your company.

KPIs to measure: The number of repeat customers and the revenue from up-sell/cross-sell campaigns.

Running a successful content marketing campaign requires dedication.