What is content marketing? According to Google: “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand, but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”
Basically any piece of content you create as a brand, organization or individual to provide value outside of your normal product and service offerings. There are many different types and approaches for content marketing. This list of keys to success focuses on core elements that we’ve seen work across dozens of campaigns and ongoing content marketing efforts.
1. Select the Right Distribution Channels
Just because a channel is popular, doesn’t necessarily mean you should focus your efforts there. Where does your target audience engage the most? What social platforms? Which blogs? Mobile or desktop? Adding more channels takes more time and money to do well.
2. Create Real Value
It’s better to create fewer pieces of content that are awesome than it is to create a bunch of mediocre content. Make something that people can actually use, that truly inspires and entertains them or delivers fully on whatever value you set out to achieve
3. Identify Potential Partners
Make a list of all the brands, press outlets, influencers, and anyone else who has a similar audience that you could work with to create and/or distribute your content.
4. Create Multiple Pieces of Content
A series of blog posts, one long video with multiple shorter videos, etc. Having multiple pieces gives you a better chance of one piece taking off organically.
5. Use a Variety of Mediums
This gives you the maximum flexibility in your distribution plan. If you have images, videos and articles around a given topic it lets you take advantage of more platforms and promotional tools.
6. Use Paid Promotion
One of the biggest mistakes people make is expecting content to take off on it’s own. As more and more people create content across an ever-growing number of platforms it becomes harder and harder to break through. Leveraging targeted digital ad buys as a part of your marketing mix makes sure your content actually gets seen by your target audience.
7. Budget and Plan for Distribution From the Beginning
There’s a saying in the film production world that a dollar spent in pre-production is worth two in production and three dollars in post. From the very first conversations about creating content you should also be thinking about how that content is going to be distributed and promoted. It’s much easier to allocate dollars up front than after the content is created and you’re scrambling to promote it.
8. Define Success
If you know you want to drive 10,000 visits to your website, 1,000,000 video views, 1,000 Facebook engagements, 35 sales or whatever your concrete goal is, you should budget accordingly. Allocate paid media budget for your minimum goal to ensure you achieve success before you release anything.
9. Narrow Audience = Higher Costs
The more narrow the target audience, the more money you should allocate per action. As a general rule it costs more per action (click, view, etc.) to reach vegan soccer moms in North Dakota than it does to reach all moms in the United States.
10. Budget for Testing
We never launch a campaign without at least one element being tested. It can be as simple as two different headlines in an ad or two different images. With this in mind you want to make sure you budget enough to test these options. The more you budget, the more testing you can do.
11. Reserve Budget to Scale the Best Performers
A lot of people think it makes sense to put money behind content that didn’t perform as well organically, but in reality we always recommend to put money where initial performance is strong and scale those campaigns. As a basic example, say you have 10 pieces of content and $10,000 to spend promoting them. We would allocate $5k to promote all 10 initially and then reserve the remaining spend just for the best performers.
12. Plan to Course Correct
Very rarely do campaigns launch with immediate success when trying something new. This is part of why we always test and re-allocate budget based on what’s working. “Set it and forget it” is not a strategy.
13. Measure & Analyze Results
There are numerous tools out there for tracking the success of your content marketing efforts. Using your goals outlined in #8 you should determine what you want to measure up front. Then when you see combinations that are working, scale them with the budget you set aside in #11.
14. Leverage Owned Media
Don’t forget to tap all the channels you have access to. Your social media pages, email list, website, email signatures, etc. Create internal guidelines for the content distribution process across your channels to make sure you hit all of them.
15. When You Work with Influencers, Let Them Lead
An influencer knows their channel and audience better than you. Give them the general parameters of what you are looking for and let them brainstorm the best approach to connect to their audience. Be open and ready to step outside your comfort zone.
16. Keep Making Content
Content marketing has an awesome cumulative value effect. The more great content you make, the more content new prospects/fans/visitors have to consume and the more effective your content marketing becomes. This also lets you learn and continue to hone your strategy rather than just doing a one-off content marketing campaign.
17. Create a Content Marketing Calendar
Knowing what you are posting, on which platforms with which links, hashtags and @mentions can get increasingly complicated as your content marketing efforts grow. Utilizing a calendar helps you stay organized and more easily adjust for unplanned opportunities and issues as they come up.
18. Leverage Tent-pole Events
Holidays, big sporting events, seasons, and more are referred to as tent-pole events. Anything that aggregates the attention of a large group of people. The size will depend on your product or service. It could be something international like the World Cup or something local like Restaurant Week Los Angeles.
19. Choose Hashtags Wisely
Generally speaking, using a popular hashtag will get you more visibility, but make it more difficult to track performance. This is especially true if you are running contests based on hashtags. Using a unique hashtag for a brand or campaign combined with more popular hashtags lets you get the best of both worlds.
Something we missed here? Disagree with one of the tips? Let us know in the comments.