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Some of the most common mistakes you might be making in your content marketing that make it “not work” for you. Part 1

I spoke recently with a well-known internet marketer who said to me, “I just don’t get content marketing. I don’t know how to make it work. I just don’t see the ROI in it and I think I want to stick with what I already know how to do.”

This is fine. After all, most people go with the idea, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

But this person is missing the whole point. And I don’t want you to miss out on this if you’ve said, “I’ve tried content marketing. It doesn’t work!”

Let’s be honest. It’s one of those things that isn’t easy. But that is what gives you the advantage. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

No, effective content marketing that skyrockets your business takes some planning and a focus on execution.

As someone who knows how challenging it can be to finish projects, I feel your pain. And now I want to make it easier for you to be successful.

So in this, the first of a series of posts I want to share with you about content marketing, I want to point out some of the most common mistakes marketers make that torpedo their efforts.

1. Too much content

You don’t need to create content every day. Or perhaps even every week. The key is to create the most valuable, engaging, and inspiring content you can, that will GRAB your prospect’s attention.

Then take that content and put it up everywhere. Blogposts. Social media. Slideshare. Videos. Talk about it on podcasts.


Find out what OTHER errors you might be making in your content strategy! Join us in EPIC Content Marketing PRO – just $12/month! – to learn how your content will help you gain greater Impact, Influence, and Income!


A few people will say, “Hey, I’ve heard that before.” But so what? Did they really HEAR you when you said it/wrote it the first time? Did they DO anything with that information?

It won’t hurt people to hear it or see it more than once, and it’s more likely going to make it stick better. Which makes you look good, when they follow your advice, remember that it came from you, and they get results.

2. Not asking for an action

Content for the sake of content isn’t enough.

While building credibility and authority through thought leadership posts is definitely a worthwhile goal, it’s not the only thing around which you should be creating content.

You should have some sort of call to action in every content piece you create. Blogposts, emails, podcasts, videos…

Look, you are sharing something useful for your audience. It’s not free. They invest their time to consume it, and you are asking them to do something in return.

It may not be giving you their email address (although it might be). It could be calling someone. Or leaving a comment. Or sharing the post. Or making a list.

Ask them to do SOMETHING in response to your content. That is what “inspiring” content is all about. Inspiring action.

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3. Not advertising in the content itself

You can advertise in every piece you share. In fact, you should.

But it doesn’t have to be “in your face”. It can be “seeding” your product or service (“When I work with clients I always tell them…”).

Or if it is a blogpost, you absolutely can break up your text with relevant offers.

Your content should be exposing a problem your audience has. If they want to solve that problem, you owe it to them to offer a solution. If they are invested in solving the problem, they will be happy to invest in your solution.

4. Teaching too much in the content

You DO want to give great value. This builds the know/like/trust factor, which is crucial to building an audience.

You want to tell people what their problem is and why they have it.

And you can even give a high-level overview of what to do about it.

But if they think that reading a few sentences is going to completely solve that problem? They are wrong.

They need to invest in themselves at some level to solve that problem. If it’s with you, great. If it’s with someone else, then at least they are doing something about it. Back to “inspiring action”.

5. Producing content for search engines, not for the user

Despite what people may tell you – because they wish it were true – SEO is not dead.

You do need to write and produce content that will get you found online in an organic way.

This involves keyword research, as well as a variety of other research methods.

But you can’t just produce content for search engines or you won’t have an audience. They want to hear an authentic voice. They want to know that there is a real person behind the piece.

Google spiders don’t care about that. They just care about keywords, backlinks, authority, etc.

Your audience – real people – care that you are a real person. So be real.

6. Not including enough personality

This is related to #5. It’s partly YOUR personality (or at least, that of your business) that people want to relate to.

Think of LL Bean. Even though the company was started 100 years ago, the catalog still talks all about Leon Leonwood Bean, and how he stumbled into boots that kept his feet warm and dry.

This company story is one that readers relate to, because who hasn’t wished they had warm, dry feet in winter??

And it’s also how you relate to THEM and their personality.

What kind of people are your audience members? Young? Old? Male? Female?

Speak to that person as if you are sitting down together in a room, having coffee or tea together.

See part 2 here.

 

Your action. I would love to know: Have you “tried” content marketing and gotten frustrated with it? Have you made any of these mistakes? What questions do you have about this post that I can answer for you? Please share in the comments below! 🙂


Truly effective content marketing can be the difference between having a successful online business, or one that just never takes off.

For only $12/month you can get the inside scoop on how to use content marketing effectively to drive qualified traffic and leads right into your marketing funnel! Join us here: EPIC Content Marketing PRO!

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Ensure your ROI with Content Marketing

This final part of the EPIC Content Marketing Formula, C (Conversion), helps you determine how to tweak your content marketing so you end up making money. We will look at these topics:

  • Define “ROI”
  • Funnel metrics
  • Retargeting
  • Monetizing content

Many people complain that content marketing is too difficult to measure. “How do you know if it’s working?” they ask.

It’s a good question. Most books and articles written about content marketing insist it is a long-term investment.

You commit to content marketing for the long haul. Expect it to take a year – at least – before you can see a return on a tremendous investment of time, money, and effort. Search Engine Optimization is a big part of this plan.

And yes, there are plenty of companies who freely admit their success is based on that long view. Their whole-hearted commitment over several years has now brought them to a point where they are not only successful, but seen as thought leaders in their field, and they are generating great profits.

I want to show you, however, that although it is important to look at a variety of standard metrics to determine how well your content marketing is “working”, there are some things marketers can now do to short-cut the process.

Define “ROI”

Many people feel the only ROI that counts is an immediate sale.

While sales are the END goal for all your marketing efforts – because that’s how you become profitable, after all – sometimes you will get a greater profit on the back end if you consider a few other ways to look at ROI.

“Return on Investment” means acknowledging ALL the gains you make.

These gains can include such things as:

  • The additional people now on your email list after running ads
  • After running ads to cold traffic, people who consume your content are now “warmer” prospects. You have increased the odds of going from “know” to “like”
  • Your CPC will be lower when warm prospects turn into leads more easily
  • You gain market research based on what resonates with your prospects and leads

All of these different gains ultimately lead to better, faster backend sales. Don’t discount their value just because you didn’t get as many frontend sales as you would have liked.

Content Marketing isn’t just for the pros!

Get the inside scoop on how to REALLY get an ROI on your content marketing!

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Standard content marketing metrics

Let’s look first at standard metrics.

Jay Baer, a leader in the content marketing industry, suggests that you look at four sets of numbers:

  • Consumption metrics
  • Sharing metrics
  • Lead generation metrics
  • Sales metrics

Consumption metrics

These include such numbers as: the number of views your page or video receives; the number of downloads; and the number of social conversations taking place about your content.

These metrics should then lead to these questions:

  • Do people take action after consuming the content?
  • Do they come back for more?

Tags and pixels will help you answer those questions.

Sharing metrics

This is for social media posts and blog articles, primarily.

Sharing includes such actions as: likes; shares; tweets; +1s (are people STILL using Google+??); and pins.

You can also measure who is sending traffic to your blog by using online tools such as Google Analytics.

Lead generation metrics

How many people are completing your forms? How many people are subscribing to your list? How many people who land on your page are becoming leads?

If you have low numbers for any of these metrics, you will want to evaluate your content for such things as how relevant, engaging, and inspiring it is!

Sales metrics

And of course you hope that many of your leads actually convert to sales. Measure this through online and offline sales, manual reporting, and customer retention.

Don’t be surprised about measuring sales numbers under the content marketing umbrella. After all, the end goal of marketing is to bring about more sales!

Remember also that only some of your content creation and marketing is focused on prospects. A lot of it should also be focused on nurturing current customers, so you maintain a relationship with them.

Other metrics to measure

Make sure you evaluate which of your channels performs really well, and which could use some work. This will help you decide if you are, for instance, using the right social media channels, or if the content on those channels is most relevant and engaging for your intended audience.

Retention rate

This is how you determine whether or not you are losing too many of your customers. Here are the steps to do the math:

  • Choose a time period
  • How many customers did you have at the end of that period? (End)
  • How many new customers did you acquire during that period? (Acquired)
  • How many customers did you have at the beginning of the period? (Start)

Here is the formula:

(End-Aquired) / Start = % retention rate

For example:

  • You had 1,025 customers at the end of March (End)
  • You acquired 50 customers during the month of March (Acquired)
  • You had 1000 customers at the start of March (Start)

(1025 – 50) / 1000 = 97.5% retention rate for March

Buyer recency and frequency.

These numbers are very important to know, in order to understand the lifecycle of your customer.

When was the last time your customer made a purchase? How often does the average customer make a purchase?

And the most important question: Over time, what is the average lifetime customer value? (See below)

If you can increase your average lifetime customer value through engaging and inspiring content, you will save your company a lot of money on advertising to cold leads – people who don’t already know, like and trust you – and increase your revenue without a whole lot of extra effort.

Average Customer Lifetime Value

This is one of the most important numbers to calculate because once you know how much each customer is worth over time, you know how much you can spend to acquire a new customer without going negative.

(Avg sale) x (# repeat purchases) x (avg retention in months or years)

For example:    $20 x 12 x 3 years = $720 total revenue (or $240/year)

The quick and simple way to do it is to use an online calculator like this one.

Keep track of these numbers in order to determine whether or not your content marketing is reaching your current customers!

The secret sauce for content marketing ROI

There are a lot of changes happening in the way marketers are allowed to advertise online. The rules are changing constantly and it is difficult to keep up.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be changing, however, is that ad platforms like Facebook and Google allow you to advertise a piece of useful content.

So this is the new way to use these ad platforms to your advantage. In fact, this is a huge gift from Facebook! We call it the “reverse squeeze”.

Instead of asking your prospect to commit to you (by giving you their email address) before you give them anything really useful, you commit to them first by giving them content without asking for anything in return. If they like it, THEN they can choose to get the next piece of content by opting in.

The really interesting part though, is that you don’t really even NEED their email address.

Nope. Read that again.

Thanks to the retargeting pixel, you don’t even need their email address.

Of course, if they give it to you, that is better than retargeting them with more ads. Once you can get into their email inbox it is much easier to nurture a relationship with your audience.

But if they follow your ad to a piece of content, it’s like they are on a list of another type; you can now retarget them for future ads and more content.

In fact, they can feel like they are seeing you everywhere, if you do it right! (Just don’t be annoying!)

Content ROI

Here is the new content marketing funnel:

  • Create an audience in your ad platform
  • Send those prospects an ad that leads to…
  • …Valuable content on your website (shorter piece; small time investment to consume)
  • If the prospect opts in on your site, put them in an email sequence that shares more valuable content a few more times (gradually longer pieces that require greater time investment)
  • If the prospect does not opt in right away, retarget them to new content (you can do this a couple of times to determine if you just haven’t connected with their greatest interest yet)
  • Once your lead commits to consuming your content, you have built a relationship
  • Now you can make an offer to this more-qualified, more-knowledgeable lead
  • Retain customer through continued nurturing

Monetization following content marketing

Creating great content and posting it to various online platforms doesn’t have to be the end of your content marketing plan.

No, in fact, there are many ways you can follow up that content and continue to monetize it. Here are just a few ways for you to consider:

  • YouTube ad royalties
  • Book royalties
  • Software as a service
  • Podcast sponsorships
  • Website sponsorships
  • Memberships sites
  • Live event admission fees
  • Live event sponsorships
  • Workshops
  • Consulting/coaching
  • Speaking
  • Products

Next steps

This is the end of our 4-part series about The EPIC Content Marketing Formula. If you missed them, check out the other articles below.:

Essentials

Plan

Implementation

Conversion

However, we only just barely began to dive into the possibilities for truly epic content marketing!

The purposes of content marketing are:

  • To provide quality content that drives brand awareness and lead generation
  • To build relationships with prospects and customers
  • To inspire profitable customer action

It sounds so simple, and yet, because of constantly changing markets and platforms, there is always something new to learn. If you don’t stay on top of what is happening now, you will lose out on a big share of your potential customers.

But you don’t have to do this alone. Here at Winning Content Strategy, we are experts in keeping up with the latest content marketing trends.

You have your business to run! You can’t possibly be an expert in everything. Let us give you some shortcuts to market your business efficiently and effectively.

Are you ready to dominate your market and take over your corner of the world? Then please CLICK HERE to join us in the Epic Content Marketing Formula Club!

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Dominate and take over your market by creating EPIC content

Content marketing is the bridge between your prospects and your business.

In a sense, it is the “voice” you present for your company, and for your products and services.

What kind of voice do you want to have? Fun? Caring? Quirky? Professional?

When you choose this voice, you will draw to you only people who resonate with that tone. So choose carefully. You want to have people in your circle with whom you enjoy hanging out.

The type of people whom you draw to you shouldn’t be a big mystery though, if you have done your homework as outlined in the previous article about Planning your process.

Part of that Plan is clarifying your audience and planning how you will Implement your content marketing process.

These are the 3 key steps in Implementation:

  • Structure
  • Strategy
  • Scenarios (tactics)

1. Structure 

Structuring your content includes such activities as auditing your current content, understanding the life cycle of content, digging into keywords, and creating a systematic process for creating and evaluating great content.

Audit your content

Once you know what message you want to share, start with the content you already have in place. This means that – although it may not be fun – you really should do a “content audit”.

There are some free online tools to help you – such as Content Auditor from Kapost or Screaming Frog – that will give you a useful report. Use this report to figure out where you need to improve, and keep this in mind as you create your content objectives.

What are you looking for in a content audit?

That depends on what is relevant for you, but likely such things as:

  • Broken links
  • Proper tags
  • Topic
  • Shares
  • Views
  • Comments

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Remember, you are trying to maximize your prospect’s experience on your site. You don’t want them to get frustrated by such things as broken links when they visit.

In addition to helping you find places on your website that aren’t working technically, it will also help you find where the topics of your content aren’t working to capture attention, bring in leads, and convert leads to customers.

Once you know what your content objectives are, and you can see what has – or has not – performed well for you in the past, the next step is to make a plan for different types of content.

Understand the content life cycle

The Content Lifecycle

http://www.digitalmarketer.com/content-marketing/

You can actually find a number of definitions for “content life cycle” online.

The one I find most useful at this point is to consider the types of content you want at different stages of your funnel – which, again, goes back to your objectives for your content marketing plan.

Since the core purpose of content marketing is to acquire new customers and to nurture relationships with current customers, of course the overarching goal of ALL content is to generate leads and sales.

You need to have some sort of sales funnel to generate leads and sales, so there are different types of content that help you do this at different stages.

The purpose for the top of the funnel is to create AWARENESS of a problem.

The purpose for the middle of the funnel is to help your prospect EVALUATE and CONSIDER different options for solving that problem.

And the purpose for the bottom of the funnel is to encourage your prospect to DECIDE on a solution, and CONVERT to becoming your customer.

Once you understand this “buyer’s journey”, and where your prospect is located on their level of awareness, you are ready to move to strategize your plan.

 

2. Strategy 

Plan your content pyramid

The Content Pyramid by Curata is a great visual explanation of how to organize your investment into content creation. Your strategy includes putting all of this planned content into a calendar.

Content-Marketing-Pyramid

http://www.curata.com/blog/the-content-marketing-pyramid-how-to-generate-more-with-less/

At the bottom of the pyramid are quick, short items such as social media posts. There is relatively little investment of time or money to disseminate that content.

The further up the pyramid you go, the more time- and money-intensive the content becomes. You have to feel pretty sure that you will be able to leverage something like primary research into new customers and clients. At the very least, it will certainly garner you “thought-leader” status, if you do it well.

In the middle of the pyramid are the other types of content: short and long blog posts; presentations; etc.

It’s possible that you will not get around to the top level; usually only larger companies have the means to do that type of primary research.

However, you should plan your content so you touch on all the other types, and cover all three levels of the funnel. We go over how to do this type of planning in our EPIC Content Marketing Formula Club.

Content platforms

The three core platforms for sharing your content are: your website/blog; social media, and email.

You need to set goals for each platform before creating content (eg, drive traffic, build community, generate leads, build brand recognition, thought leadership, etc.).

Your website or blog is the center of everything you distribute on the internet.

If you think of it as a “hub with spokes”, you’ll see that everything you publish should drive visitors to your site.

Why is this important? Because not only does your site establish you as a credible authority in your niche, but it should also be set up as a lead generation machine.

There are a lot of steps to making this lead generation machine really hum, but you can get started by having ONE INVITATION to join your list that you repeat in multiple locations on the site.

Some people are successful simply with an invitation to “Get our newsletter”, but most websites need to offer a lead magnet that solves a very specific problem for a prospect who is still low on the level of awareness.

Place that invitation in the sidebar of every page, as well as in the footer, and possibly even right at the top of the homepage.

The type of social media platforms you choose will depend entirely on where your audience hangs out.

Poke around in different platforms to find your audience. “Listen” to the conversations for a bit before diving in. Find out what their biggest struggles and concerns and interests are, and then make sure you address those in your content.

Once you know where your audience usually hangs out, you want to use your social media posts strategically. Don’t just use them to distribute your content. Social media is what the name implies – social.

You should be using social media to build relationships with your target customers.

Respond to their comments and questions. Get your message out there. Monitor and research what is going on in the daily lives of your audience. And post prolifically in order to establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche.

There is a lot more that can be said about social media content. We’ll be looking at it in more depth inside The EPIC Content Marketing Club, so be sure to join us there!

Finally, email can be an extremely powerful way to provide content to your target audience.

One of the most compelling reasons to use email is because everyone on your email list has made a decision to give you their address in order to hear from you. They already know you. Now you can use the content in your email to build the “like” and “trust” factors.

And remember the bit about being personal? Email is a great platform for being authentic about your own story, as well as the company story.

As Chris Brogan says, “Write blogposts for Google; write email for humans.”

3. Scenarios (tactics)

The final part of the Implementation step is to decide on which tactics will best serve your objectives.

It’s totally possible to post a variety of media on one platform. You could have audio, video, and text, all on your website. Or on your most effective social media platform.

This is why the strategy comes before the tactics. Know WHERE you want to be seen first, then figure out different media to use once you are there.

Content creation

Brainstorm topic ideas both from what you already know about your audience and from doing your research.

Search keywords on Amazon, YouTube, Google, and in online forums. See what other topics are posted, and the questions people are asking. Then plan and create your content.

Engage different types of learners by mixing up your media. (Because remember, being educational is one of the core characteristics of great content!)

On each of your platforms – website, social media, email – you can reach people who respond best to visual cues with video.

For people who like to skim and scan, use text.

For people who like to have something educational and interesting to listen to while they do other tasks (like exercising, washing dishes, etc.), use audio.

And consider using interactive content. Right now interactive content looks mostly like quizzes.

Sometimes those quizzes are entertaining – like this typical BuzzFeed-style quiz: “Which Harry Potter character do you most resemble?”

And there are plenty of surveys out there now, helping businesses gather information about different segments of their audience.

Note: As a long-time teacher – turned marketer – I believe that 3D and gamification are the future in our educational system, and content marketers may actually be leading the way in implementing these exciting new methods of connecting with an audience.  Keep an eye on this…

Putting the pieces together

–You can now combine what you know about your audience personas with your content calendar to begin creating pieces that speak to specific needs.

–You can also combine what you know from the Content Lifecycle illustration with the Content Pyramid illustration, and begin to see where to put your time and effort (and money) when it comes to creating content for different parts of the funnel.

–I recommend that you not start out too small, or granular. In other words, plan to support your product launches with valuable content.

–Identify who the target market will be for each of those products – What is the core problem the product solves? – and post content around that problem for at least a month prior to the launch.

–Put this overarching strategy into the content calendar.

–Work backwards, looking at the platforms where you want to post helpful information. Then begin to identify the types of media that you will use as the tactics for this strategy.

–Only get this granular about three to four months out. This gives you a chance to test what works, and then tweak next quarter.

What’s next?

We have covered a lot of ground in this article, and yet this is the biggest and broadest part of the EPIC Formula! We’ve really only scratched the surface.

Make sure you check out the other articles in this series:

Essentials

Plan

Implementation

Conversion

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And if you would like to have some hand-holding in order to dominate your market through content marketing, please join us in the Epic Content Marketing Formula Club!

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Plan your EPIC content marketing and drive money to your business

In the old days, before GPS, when you wanted to get someplace, you had to take out a paper map and plan your route.

You couldn’t just turn on a little computer, drive out of your driveway, and start following instructions from a disembodied voice (in our family, we call her Millie).

No, there was a time when you had to actually plan ahead if you wanted to reach your destination!

Running a profitable business will ALWAYS require some sort of map. You always need to make a plan before you start out.

In the first step of the EPIC Content Marketing Formula we laid the foundation for what content marketing is and why it is important. That was E, the Essentials.

In this, the second step of the formula, P is Plan.

You have to plan your process – map out where you are going and how you are getting there – in order to reach your goal: profitability.

As the old cliche says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll get there every time!”

In a nutshell, these are the key steps to planning your process:

  1. Define your goal or objective
  2. Understand, define, build, and speak to your audience
  3. Using prospect awareness levels, escalate your audience
  4. Clarify your position and message in the market vs. those of your competitors
  5. Develop your content marketing mission statement
  6. Plan to improve your content maturity and processes

Keep this simple. You can put it all in one page if you would like.

Here are more details on several of these steps.

Goals and objectives

Once you know your desired destination, you can begin to identify different routes you can take to get there. But each route contains a lot of variables.

For instance, your fastest route to visit your friend might be on the highway. But if it is a Friday evening right after work in the summer, you might encounter a lot of beach traffic along the way, which would slow you down.

Or if you have to run an errand at the grocery store on the way, you might need to take a slightly different route.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but you could almost think of your end destination as your goal, and these sorts of variables as your objectives.

Do you want to get to the goal quickly, at a – perhaps – greater short-term expense?

Do you want work with an affiliate, and split the route to the goal?

If you aren’t crystal clear on your goal, you won’t be able to make informed decisions about the options you can encounter on the way.

Who is your audience?

Your next step is to understand the audience who will make up your target market.

What are their problems?

What are their beliefs that prevent them from solving those problems?

What is their life like, because of those problems?

What do they really and truly want to have happen that would make their lives better?

Content Marketing isn’t just for the pros!

Get the inside scoop on how to REALLY get an ROI on your content marketing!

Click here to find out more

First ask yourself these questions generally in order to identify a community of people whom you can serve. Then get to know that audience much more intimately.

Learn where those people hang out, especially online, and hang out there too. Forums and social media groups are a great place to start. Identify what they read – online and off – and become familiar with that material.

If possible, don’t just limit yourself to online gathering places. Attend live events where they hang out too.

Within this targeted community, it is likely you will find several different types of people whom you would like to serve. Really zero in on who those people are and create personas for them.

For instance, if you are a health and fitness coach who loves to work with women ages 30 to 50, you will have a much clearer understanding of what types of services you can offer if you create the following personas:

Jill, age 34. Up-and-coming business executive. Has an active social life, recently married. Worried about her biological clock that is ticking and making sure she remains healthy enough to be able to have children.

Sheila, age 41, mother of three. Works part-time as an office manager for a local dentist and spends her afternoons running kids around to their activities. She feels frazzled and as if she has no time to take care of herself.

Liz, age 49, stay-at-home mother of two. She is just starting menopause and is feeling kind of yucky about herself. Her doctor has told her she needs to lose around 25 pounds so she can avoid such ailments as diabetes.

Each of these personas can be filled out in much greater detail – and should be, actually. Clarify as much as you can about their questions, their struggles, their lives at home and at work. Go back and look at the questions above and expand on them for each persona.

Prospect awareness

Once you know your audience, you need to position your message so your prospect is most likely to notice it and engage with it. The problem is that various members of your target market will not all be at the same level of problem awareness.

In his seminal book, Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz described the five levels of prospect awareness:

Level 1 – Most aware: Your prospect knows your product and only needs to be made aware of your offer.

Level 2 – Product-aware: Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for him.

Level 3 – Solution-aware: Your prospect knows the result he wants, but not that you product provides it.

Level 4 – Problem-aware: Your prospect senses he has a problem, but doesn’t know there is a solution.

Level 5 – Completely unaware: No knowledge of any problem.

As you can see, your marketing will be determined by where your prospect is located on this awareness scale. Someone who isn’t even aware of a problem is not going to be very open to buying your solution. On the other hand, someone who knows they have a problem and is simply unaware of YOUR solution will need to be exposed to a different type of marketing message.

They need to move along in their decision-making process from unconscious –> aware –> considering –> deciding.

You can’t help them progress in this buying journey unless you know where they are starting.

How to escalate your audience

Another key component of your content marketing strategy is to plan for escalating your audience.

Compare it to meeting someone whom you end up marrying. Before you know each other you are strangers.

After they know and like you, they become your “friend”.

When they trust you enough to buy something from you, they are a “fan”.

And ultimately, when they fall in love with you to the exclusion of anyone else, they marry you. They become your raving fans – who not only buy everything you put out there just because you created it, but who also evangelize for your company. These people are your “Alpha Audience.”

A great example of a company that has created an Alpha Audience is Apple. Their raving fans stand in line for hours to buy the next greatest product and many of them have disdain for anyone who doesn’t toe the Apple line! Wouldn’t we all like to have fans like that!

Your content marketing goals should include something about how to build and keep your Alpha Audience. Because if you don’t have a plan to escalate your audience, you just don’t have a plan.

How do you do this? By becoming absolutely indispensable to them.

Ask yourself, “If my content were to disappear tomorrow, would anyone miss it?”

If the answer is “no”, then you need to sit down and figure out how to make the answer “yes!”

You want to create not just desire, but longing, in their minds, so they are looking forward to hearing from you.

You need to create content so you become part of their daily lives. Again, think Apple.

Your content mission statement

Most companies have a mission statement. School districts and non-profits have mission statements. And as a parent coach, I even encourage families to develop mission statements.

So you also need a mission statement for your content marketing.

Too many times companies spend a lot of time developing mission statements that end up sitting on a poster on a wall, and not as part of the daily decisions that run the company.

Don’t let that happen to you. When done right, it helps you create clarity and focus when things start to get busy and confusing. When you know your content mission inside and out, it becomes easy to make decisions.

A simple but compelling content mission statement has three parts:

  1. Your core target audience
  2. What you deliver
  3. The outcome for that audience

Here is an example:

Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their businesses.

This is simple, yet extremely clear, concise and actionable. You know exactly what they offer, to whom, and what they can expect to get out of their interaction with Inc.com’s content.

Any time Inc.com has a decision to make about their goals and how to achieve them, this statement helps keep the focus on the end game.

That is the purpose of a mission statement. You are absolutely clear on whom you serve, how you serve them, and what outcome you expect to help them reach.

If you are providing content that doesn’t match your mission, you are off-base, and likely helping neither yourself nor your audience as well as you could be.

Content maturity

Finally, your content marketing process needs to have a plan for the maturity of your content.

When you are relatively new at intentional content marketing, it may take a while to get good at it.

It may take some trial and error to figure out who is responsible for which aspects of the content marketing program and which metrics are most meaningful for you to follow.

And sometimes, it can take a while to get the company decision-makers on board.

Don’t give up.

As your content marketing escalates from “ad hoc” to “rudimentary” to “organized and repeatable” to “managed and sustainable” and finally to “optimized”, it will take some advance planning.

So know where you are on the scale right now – honestly – and identify the processes you need to put in place to move to the next level.

Another consideration is the type of content you provide. If you don’t want to be seen as just another player in a crowded market, identify a unique position that helps you stand out.

You want to be a thought leader – the person others turn to for ideas and advice – and stay on the cutting edge of innovation in your industry.

Create content that tells this story and that drives where your market goes.

A quick review

This is the P (Plan) part of the EPIC Content Marketing Formula.

— You really have to know your audience, and this is the place to start. First identify a community of people whom you will serve, then drill down to create several different personas within this community, so you can clarify their needs.

— Plan for how to escalate your audience from hardly knowing you exist to raving fans.

— Begin to craft different messages for your prospects, based on where they are in the level of awareness of their problem (that you solve).

— Create a content mission statement, incorporating whom you serve, what you deliver, and the outcome they can expect.

— Plan to increase the maturity of your content so you move from simple ad hoc content creation without a unique message, to systematic, optimized content that leads your market.

Click below to find out more about the rest of the formula:

Essentials

Process

Implementation

Conversion

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Remove ALL the guesswork from creating expert content, so you can save time & connect with your audience the RIGHT way, every time 

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Content Marketing 101

Decades ago, if you ran a business and wanted to capture your prospects’ attention, you used newspapers and magazines as your primary marketing platforms.

If you were a business owner in those days, most of the time all you needed was an ad with a great picture of your product and an interesting headline message, and you could sell hundreds of units. Everyone did that. And it usually worked.

But then the internet was born. And everything changed.

Instead of a couple of magazines and the daily newspaper, suddenly people were swamped with more information and more advertising messages than they could process.

And it wasn’t long before the majority of online ads all started to sound the same.

When the market stopped believing everything they heard and read, marketers needed to become more sophisticated and offer something unique. Messages that used to be compelling enough to make sales stopped working.

No longer was it simply enough just to tell people that you have a solution to their problem and they would come running.

No longer would cute pictures and a great headline be enough to keep your business afloat (although, for some reason, cats and puppies still grab a lot of attention!).

Marketers realized they needed to start doing something different if they wanted to turn prospects into new customers, and new customers into loyal fans.

Through trial and error, marketers realized they actually had to educate their prospects about all aspects of their problem. Why they had it, what mistakes they were making to solve it on their own, and what they could do about it.

Develop relationships

This process of educating prospects is only possible when you build a relationship with them.

It can’t be an artificial relationship though. Most people can smell that a mile away.

And you can’t just ask them to buy your stuff all the time. That turns people off.

No, to develop a relationship with someone, you have to earn their trust. And trust is borne out of repeated interactions.

In other words, that person has to know you. And once they know you, they have to like you well enough to keep coming back.

How does someone get to know you and like you, not just in business, but in any situation? Through sharing information about yourself. And trust, the next level, comes when you actually help them with something.

As you build your business, it is important to remember that your prospect isn’t just a “prospect” or a “lead”. There is a real person on the other side of that number.

And that real person has real-life issues. People who depend on them, and events and circumstances that make them happy and sad, worried and hopeful.

If you, as a marketer and business owner, always approach your marketing with this in mind, it becomes easy to figure out how to build that relationship.

The 5th P

For a long time, marketers have talked about “the four Ps” of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. How to promote the right product in the right place at the right price.

I suggest that the only way to build the kind of relationship you want with your prospect, you need a 5th P: Personal.

There are two elements to this 5th P:

  1. Your marketing message must be personal – specific – for your prospect and your customer. You must know your audience well enough to know a lot about them and what they are looking for. You have to be able to answer their questions and assuage their fears.
  2. And it has to be personal, about you (your brand; your company). People like to know they aren’t the only ones who have challenges in life. Share yours. When your prospects and customers see themselves in your story, it helps take down the barriers that might otherwise obstruct their ability to trust you enough to buy your solution.

Share your stories – and get personal – through content. Use text, video, and other media to create a connection between you (your company) and the real person who is your “lead” or “customer”.

When you use content to educate, entertain, or otherwise create a connection between your business and your prospect’s concerns, and you make it profitable for both of you, that is content marketing.

Content Marketing is THE way to connect with your audience and grow your business!

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Great stories are the key to both great content and great content marketing.

Truth be told, content marketing has actually been around for a long time and was used by some of the best marketers very early on. But it has become an absolutely necessary tool for any business to be successful in the 21st century.

The word “content” means both communication and information. As with a poorly-written term paper the content could be simply fluff and filler. Alternatively, it could be really valuable information. Really great content can even be transformative for the viewer, listener, or reader.

Of course, there are many different ways of telling your story and communicating both your message and the useful information.

You can write it in text, show it in video or other visuals, explain it in audio, or even create an experience through interactive media and platforms.

But if you don’t want to lose your audience, the most important thing to do is to make it relevant, engaging, valuable and inspiring.

Relevant and engaging

What makes content both relevant and engaging is the story. Both your customer’s story and your own / business’ story.

Your prospect must see themselves in the story in some way. Whether you tell your own personal story, or your customers’ success stories, or the story of your business, your prospect will only continue to give you attention if they feel there is something in it for them.

And that something is based on a feeling. Either a feeling of desire, or a feeling of fear (usually, a fear of loss). If your story does not elicit one or both of these feelings you will lose that prospect.

It follows that if your prospect feels the content is relevant to them, they will be engaged. If you tell the story well, they will not only want to know “what happens next”, they will want to be part of that story themselves. Now you have real engagement!

Valuable (educational)

Most of the time, the prospect also has to feel the content is not only relevant and engaging, but also valuable to them and their life. (Sometimes entertaining will be enough, though that also falls under engaging.)

Value is determined by how useful the information is. Or at least, how useful the information seems to be. (Here is an important distinction: No matter what you, the marketer, may know is the real need, you must remember to address the perceived need first.)

What makes information valuable? When the prospect says something like, “That is just what I need to know in order to solve this problem!”

Simply put, valuable content is when you educate your prospect on something important to them.

So ask yourself, What can I share that will get this reaction from my prospect? How can I educate them in a relevant, engaging, inspiring way?

Inspiring

Anything and everything you share with your prospect must inspire them to take some sort of action. Ideally, it will inspire them to purchase your product or service!

But if they aren’t ready to do that right away, at the very least, you hope they will be inspired to do something to make their life better in some way.

When they use your information to create a better life for themselves, they will like you, and you begin to earn their trust. They will come back for more, and as they get to know you, most will eventually buy from you.

By inspiring action, you create a win-win for both of you.

Why content marketing now?

Many business people wonder why they should engage in distributing content marketing now. After all, it takes a lot of time to produce, it’s difficult to measure the impact, and it is challenging to hit just the right combination of personal, relevant, engaging, valuable, and inspiring educational information that actually captures – no, GRABS! – attention!

Wow! That does sound like a lot of work!

Well, the bottom line is this: The two primary goals of marketing are to:

  1. Acquire new customers
  2. Increase business from existing customers.

Content marketing is the best way to do both of those things.

By including educational, valuable content in all your marketing and sales campaigns you end up with a lot of extra benefits.

  1. Content marketing leads to greater customer acquisition. It is well known that those who – for instance – blog more frequently, get more customers than those who blog less often.

“More frequently” means blogging (or creating YouTube videos, or Instagram photos, etc.) regularly and consistently, and “how often” depends on both the platform and the audience.

In social media platforms you will likely want to create content close to – or even more often than – every day. On the other hand, two to eight content-rich, valuable blogposts a month may be perfect.

  1. Content marketing increases brand awareness, which increases customer loyalty, which ultimately creates more sales. (Remember: it is much easier and more cost-effective to get current customers to become repeat customers than it is to acquire new customers in the first place.)
  1. Content marketing allows you to determine customer interest on different aspects of your business based on how much they engage with your content. This is easy to determine when you have the internet to track these sorts of metrics. Once you know what really resonates best with your audience, you can give them more of the same, occasionally testing out new topics.
  1. Finally, content marketing makes it much easier to slide your prospect through your campaign as you give additional content on the information of interest to the prospect.

This campaign could be an automated email sequence, or a consistent, fresh email broadcast.

Your campaign could be a funnel, leading from something free to a “tripwire” (I prefer the term “welcome mat”), to a smaller-priced item, to gradually higher-priced products and services.

Or your campaign could be a 3- or 4-part video series.

You will need to test out different types of marketing campaigns to determine which one(s) work best with your audience. And throughout each type, continuing to provide great content will keep your prospect’s attention, and keep them coming back for more!

Let’s take a moment to review.

— Content marketing is a long-term strategy to develop and share relevant, valuable, engaging, and inspiring content to a target audience, with the goals of acquiring new customers and increasing business from existing customers.

— Content marketing builds business by providing content that is educational, and that GRABS ATTENTION from a target market of real people with real problems.

— These real people need to know, like and trust you before they will pull out their wallets and give you money to solve their problems. The content you give them helps build that trust.

— The internet makes it easy to share lots of content, but your content message needs to be more sophisticated and unique to stand out from the deluge of other readily-available information.

The EPIC Content Marketing Formula

Many marketers feel that creating content to give away is a waste of time and resources.

As I hope you now see, that is simply not the case, especially in today’s information-rich world. Content marketing fits right into everything else we expect from being part of an internet-obsessed society. If you aren’t creating valuable content, you will be left behind.

Other marketers make the mistake of throwing out as much content as they can, hoping that something will “stick to the wall” and bring them attention. This almost never works. It’s not quantity of content, it’s quality and relevance that count.

Instead, following a systematic process will help you create content that grabs the attention of your target market, and convert them into customers.

Based on my own years of creating content, tons of research, and lots of trial and error, I have created the EPIC Content Marketing Formula that really works.

This article that you have just read is the E part of the formula, Essentials. You are invited to check out the other articles in this series to learn more about Plan, Implementation, and Conversion.

We started with the Essentials because we needed to lay the foundation for WHAT content marketing is and WHY it is critical to the success of any business today.

The Plan part of the formula walks you through all of the considerations you need to take into account as you are getting started.

Implementation introduces you to both the strategies and the tactics that actually make content marketing work for you and your business.

And Conversion is where you can account for and measure the cash part of your business. Because without money coming in, you don’t have a business, do you?

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