Content marketing is a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand.
Like all things worth doing, it takes a lot of work to build your audience and platform. And it won’t happen quickly. Especially if you are just throwing random content into every marketing channel hoping something sticks.
Hope is not a strategy. But, focusing your content marketing on 4 objectives:
- attracting readers,
- building your authority,
- developing affinity and
- inspiring action.
OBJECTIVE #1: Attracting Readers
Content is freely available on the internet. However, you are literally competing with billions of others for attention in your attempts to drive traffic and be seen and shared. There are many types of “attraction-worthy” content you can publish. But, to be successful at achieving this objective, you must have a clear understanding of what your target audience wants and responds to best.
That requires both creative experimentation and monitoring your analytics. Comprehensive resources for inspiration in terms of what types of content you can try was shared in these two previous posts:
In general, I find list articles and infographics are not nearly as compelling as they once were. Still, if you publish something exceptional and your audience is hungry for content in that format, they can continue to work well for you.
On the other hand, time-saving downloadable assets (worksheets, checklists, cheat sheets etc.) remain popular. As are content libraries, template collections, and even comprehensive reference and resource guides when they are well done and hit just the right nerve.
However, producing these requires a significant investment of time and effort. And, for many, an additional investment in professional graphic design services, to produce attractive, competitive, and high-quality materials.
A few more examples
Last year SlideShare presentations were being highlighted as the new “inside track” for generating high-volume traffic but I remain skeptical about that. Most content marketers simply do not have the skills to put great presentations together — one visit to SlideShare will confirm that for you. And, I rather doubt that it’s the channel your primary audience goes to first and regularly to consume content.
Quite frankly, it you don’t already have the audience to drive a high volume of views over at SlideShare your content won’t have a chance of being selected as a “featured presentation” on their Home Page. Thus, your exposure is likely to be close to non-existent. Just sayin’.
Surveys and statistical reports can work well as attraction content if you’ve established yourself as an authority and go-to source on a particular topic or within your industry but the work involved in preparing authoritative content at this level is unlikely to be the best use of your time. A scaled-back version though has potential for other purposes, especially in promoting strategic alliance partners, so don’t write these off entirely just yet.
Additionally, when considering what you might publish as “attraction” content, review your entire content inventory for potential re-purposing opportunities as well.
Your challenge with this first objective is going to be delivering the right value to the right audience for your business. In other words, not all traffic is valuable or convertible traffic. That said, even when conversion rates are low, the right visibility can raise your public profile and credibility and those are good and worthwhile outcomes too.
SMARTSTART produces original “attraction” content about once a month. Fair warning: it doesn’t necessarily have a long shelf-life depending on the nature of it but it certain has driven exposure and engagement in the right direction. So, until it stops performing, we’ll still keep it in the mix, at least for this year.
If your website is new, you’ll need to publish attraction content more frequently to attract attention. Try making it 50% of what you’re putting out there until you start seeing your content being regularly shared and rising in the search engines. Pay close attention to the type of content that’s getting the most traction and produce more of it.
It can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to achieve this goal, at which point you can reduce your frequency to publishing it just once or twice a month and can focus on publishing other types of content in the open spots on your editorial calendar.
OBJECTIVE #2: Building Authority
Consistently delivering valuable content is a reliable way of demonstrating your expertise in a given subject or field of interest to your readers. To put it in simple terms: show, don’t tell.
Case studies, data-driven articles, and ebooks are all excellent vehicles for this purpose. As is speaking at conferences and events your target audience is likely to attend. Keep in mind, your intention here is not to showcase your abilities and achievements but rather to empower your audience by sharing your best work and giving them what they need to succeed without you.
Contrary to what you might fear, this level of sharing what you know makes it far more likely they’ll want to work with you in the future, if and when appropriate, not less. So don’t hold back. You can improve your results exponentially when you strategically create content bundles and build your content catalogue into a library of related downloadable assets.
You might also have seen references to producing your “cornerstone content”. This is foundational content, published on standalone pages, on which your blog posts are based. Typically, it has a long shelf life (if not evergreen) whereas your blog posts can, over time, become outdated.
All of these assets are valuable for building your professional reputation as an authority. But they require some forethought and planning to work powerfully for you regardless of whether you are promoting them as a series or linking to them from your individual and/or guest posts.
As wonderful as it is to be viewed as an authority on a given subject, don’t pursue it exclusively.
OBJECTIVE #3: Developing Affinity
To quote Copyblogger directly:
“Affinity content is content that attracts people who have the same values and beliefs as you. This content shares your beliefs, so people with similar beliefs feel like they belong in your community.”
Attracting attention and being viewed as an authority are great first steps. However, the world is full of attention-getters and authorities — self-proclaimed and otherwise. Unless your audience can relate to you, you’ll come up short in the know, like and trust factors needed for them to choose you over the competition and feel comfortable doing business with you.
This is where many abandon ship. Because creating affinity requires you to take a position on things and state it willingly and openly.
We live in a contentious world. Conviction is needed to survive. You must draw others to you who hold those same convictions and are willing to stand up and be counted. It is risky. But, it’s the only way to move ahead with certainty in any kind of meaningful way.
Think about it. Do you really want to follow people who don’t believe in anything? Because deep down you know, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
Don’t be afraid to get personal, to be vulnerable, to go real. Let your people see who you are. Put your truth out there in whatever capacity and to whatever extent works for you.
OBJECTIVE #4: Inspiring Action
You’ve reached the point where the work you’ve done as a content marketer can take the final form: action content with the potential to inspire fans to become customers. This last stage is where you can finally begin realizing revenue for yourself, clients or other organizations.
This is also where the really hard work begins. Because, while action content is the easiest to understand, it’s also some of the most difficult content to produce well.
As much as people are calling content marketing a new thing, it isn’t. It’s been around for as long as people have been selling and advertising. Which is, in fact, for centuries now.
And, while language and technology may have evolved, the foundational principles remain stable. The intent is as it always was, i.e., to persuade someone to take action. Not just any action, the exact action (or series of actions) you want them to take.
Some action content is short-lived and singularly driven to a clear end. Examples include salesletters and other promotional pieces fuelling a product or service launch and designed to end in sales. Other types of action content, such as landing pages, have a longer life and broader purpose. Even though they are also targeting the audience to take a specific action.
Action content must be paired with strategic business goals. Achieving those goals requires skill that takes time and a lot of practice to master even when you have a natural talent for it. Although, it’s certainly true some people have no interest in learning anything about copyrighting and advertising and just buy these services when needed.
Finally, while you won’t necessarily be producing all of your own attention, authority, affinity, and action content forever, it’s still well worth investing in becoming reasonably skilled at it. Just because someone else is out there selling such a service doesn’t mean they’re any good at it. Ultimately, you really do have to understand what it is you need and how to recognize when you’re getting what you’ve paid for.
More next time. Until then, remember to LOVE YOUR WORK, whatever it may be.
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