A successful content marketing strategy is worth its weight in gold.

Whether you realize it or not, content marketing is all around you, all day, every day. From an episode of your favorite podcast to an informative trifold pamphlet at the doctor’s office, content provides people with education and/or entertainment on topics that are of interest.

Moreover, content marketing is great for people who hate selling. Here’s how to think about content marketing so you can figure out what works best for you.

What Is Content Marketing, Really?

One content marketing definition I like is the one put forth by the Content Marketing Institute, a leading marketing association.

”Content marketing is 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.”

By providing your target audience with content, you add value to their day. What “value” means depends on what you’re trying to accomplish online.

  • If you’re a fruit and vegetable co-op, you could add value to your target audience by showing them why getting produce from a co-op is more healthy and sustainable.
  • If you’re a chef on Instagram, you could add value to your target audience by making entertaining videos of new recipes, building an engaged audience you can someday monetize later.
  • If you’re a law firm, a social media marketing plan could include creating posts that explain the different types of cases you help litigate, along with education or perspectives about the industry you serve.

Content marketing is a really broad term. One way to think of content marketing is sweat equity. Rather than buy a bunch of advertisements, you’re taking the time to create blog articles, social media posts, video content, or other high-quality content that helps you attract more leads.

Read My Lips: People Love Content (And Search Engines Do Too)

When you design your blog posts or other content to lay well in search engines, you increase the chances of showing up in search results. This is, uh, really good.

Big Idea:There are only two ways people consume information on the internet. One is to search for it, and the other is to look at a feed, such as a social media account.

Both search and social distribution engines have their perks. Search-based traffic is valuable, because these are people who are specifically looking for information. They have intent. A popular online content marketing strategy is to try and position your content where it will be seen by users searching for information.

In contrast, social media platforms can recommend accounts or information you might be interested in, based on past browsing behavior. Users are on social media a lot, but they are often less intentional while browsing. Social media content marketing can help with overall inbound marketing efforts (users coming to you, rather than you going to them).

With me so far? Content helps users build trust with you and your brand, and it helps users better understand the problems and solutions of topics they care about. Content can also be really fun.

Great Content Marketing Examples

Before we get to strategy, let’s see some examples of great content marketing in action.

Example: Nerd Fitness

Blog posts are a tried-and-true content marketing strategy, and they don’t have to be all text. Nerd Fitness is a gaming-inspired fitness and nutrition website. In a post entitled “The Ultimate Skinny Guy’s Guide to Bulking Up Fast,” founder and author Steve Kamb mixes helpful information about muscle gain with a fun theme.

screenshot of a blog post

Notice how the post mixes together text, callouts, images, and video embeds to create an experience that is engaging, yet easy to skim.

screenshot of a blog post

Nerd Fitness incorporates imagery, GIFs, and video to communicate blog content in multiple ways.

Example: Chart of the Day

This Instagram account by CNBC posts charts, and that’s it. Only charts. Every single day.

Since Instagram is a visual platform, these quality charts perform very well. Even though Instagram has moved more into video marketing in recent years, high-quality content is still what matters most. These charts took time and attention to put together, and continue to appeal to users even after the news cycle has passed.

phone mockups of an instagram account showing charts, with a gold image background

@chartoftheday only posts one image a day, but has built up an aesthetically pleasing feed over time, attracting its target audience.

Example: Moz’s Ultimate Guide to SEO

Your blog post doesn’t have to be that fancy. Moz is a search engine optimization software company that has a fantastic beginner’s guide to SEO. The content is divided up into different chapters for ease of consumption.

screenshot of a blog post

Content Marketing Strategy: 6 Questions to Consider

It’s important that your content marketing strategy has intention and purpose. Depending on your goals, certain platforms might be better than others. Here are some things to keep in mind.

No. 1: What Am I Trying to Accomplish?

A common mistake is to try to do everything with your online marketing. Get more specific here.

In marketing and sales, we often use the analogy of a funnel to explain our marketing strategy. A funnel has the following sections:

  • Awareness: people don’t know who you are yet, and are just discovering you. (Metric: traffic or page views.)
  • Consideration: people have shown interest, or signed up to learn more about you. (Metric: leads or subscribers.)
  • Conversion: people took a desired action. This is usually a purchase, but could also be something like a webinar registration. (registration: sales, calls booked, or registrations.)
  • Retention and Referral: In larger organizations or memberships, you can also do content marketing to your existing customers to retain them or inspire them to refer you. (Metric: churn and/or referrals.)

This is where all that math comes in. Individual numbers are not that impressive; it’s seeing how users are moving from one step to the next that is of most interest.

No. 2: What Modality of Content Do I Like Creating?

This one is important. What content type would best serve your audience? More importantly, what do you like to create?

Certain types of content are better than others for communicating information, and you should take these options into consideration when putting together your content marketing strategies.

Video content marketing gets all the attention these days, but blog content marketing, imagery, infographics, other visual content, or audio might result in more helpful content.

Remember: we want to communicate valuable information as succinctly as possible to help our readers get the information they’re looking for.

An effective content marketing strategy is one that you actually like to work on. When you create content, you want to feel productive and inspired.

No. 3: What’s a Realistic Output for my Current Plate?

As you formulate your content strategy, it can be easy to bite off more than you can chew. “I’m going to write a blog post every day!” —okay, how about one every week to start?

It’s important to find the content marketing output rhythm that works best for you. This marketing strategy will require trial and error, and it’s different for everyone. For example, you might discover that a blog post takes you a month to write, but a video about the same topic comes together in a couple of hours.

Pro Tip:Focus on an output you can hit consistently—without burning out—to find content marketing success.

No. 4: What Are Others in my Industry Doing?

Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, give yourself a headstart on content marketing ideas by seeing what other people in your industry are doing.

A professional content marketer will often do this first to get a lay of the land.

No. 5: Where Do My Potential Customers or Readers Go for Help?

Think about your buyer’s journey. Why do users look for a business or brand like yours in the first place? Think about this awareness stage and what content distribution channels users go to, then work to be visible on those platforms. This will help you build brand awareness.

Identify the marketing channels your competitors use to generate leads and initiate the sales process. When you’re able to clearly explain the inbound marketing strategy a brand is using to appeal to the buyer's journey, your content marketing strategy will become much clearer.

Also consider using a tool like Google trends or a social listening tool to see what topics people are talking about in your industry.

Pro Tip:Focus on creating valuable content on platforms where your ideal audience is already at.

No. 6: Do I Have the Budget for Paid Ads?

We are bombarded by paid ad content marketing all day, every day. It’s estimated that consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 advertisements a day.

Digital marketing ads are one of our most powerful content marketing tools. But before you spend even one cent on paid advertising to promote a blog post or landing page, I want you to exhaust your other options first.

Are you creating content that will help your audience navigate the buying process? Can new customers go to your web pages or landing pages and find relevant content that will help them make a decision? Blog posts are particularly powerful here; as you build a library of blog posts, you’ll also improve the search engine optimization of your website.

Pro Tip:Prove that users are resonating with your message through content alone before paying for ads. If your ad messaging misses the mark, you’re just flushing money down the drain.

Improve Your Content Marketing Efforts Today

Content marketing shows your audience that you walk the talk and are a professional. Find a system that helps you create content consistently so that you can reach your goals, whether they be related to influence, income, or both. ◆

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