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January 20, 2015

Content Marketing: A 12-Step Program

Content marketing is today’s most effective way of reaching your customer online. Yet it’s not as simple as drafting a few pieces of content and releasing them haphazardly. Content marketing is just like any other marketing tactic; it requires strategic planning, creativity and a rock solid distribution plan. Not to mention crafty messaging and good timing.

If you’re looking to jump into the game but need help drafting an ironclad formula for content marketing success, look no further. Follow these 12 steps meticulously and your chances of reaching and impacting your chosen demographic will skyrocket.

Step 1: Define Your Brand

This may seem painfully obvious, but it’s staggering how many companies define their product or service offering, but fail to create a brand identity. You need to know who you are before you can decipher how best to market what you do. This step alone has volumes and novels written about the best way to approach it; the point is, before you do even a modicum of marketing, know your company’s identity as intimately as possible.

Step 2: Know Your Audience

Your next step is to target your ideal customer. When I do this for clients, we get really narrow in focus, identifying as many attributes about the core demographic as possible. Many business owners want to take the “all things to all people” approach, but I promise you this is a recipe for failure. The world is far too competitive these days to stay vanilla. If you know who your brand is, you can accurately identify who is your ideal consumer. Know everything about them as you can, and then it’s on to the next step.

Step 3: Find the Right Outlets

Everyone wants top tier media placements for their content these days, and while that can be a boon, it all depends on where your audience is. Sometimes publishing in niche online magazines and communities is far more beneficial than a Huffington Post article mention, simply because of engagement. That’s the golden ticket in content marketing; you want to engage your audience. Discover where they go for news, and create relationships. Most importantly, however, you have to have your own blog, your own YouTube channel, and your own funnels for content publication. Otherwise everything you send out is on rented real estate.

Step 4: Create a Social Strategy and Presence

Social media should not be your sole focus for content releases, but it absolutely should serve to supplement awareness. Find the right social platforms where your audience lives, and create a presence. Be active, support your followers, and build a loyal following the old-fashioned (and truly effective) way.

Step 5: Define Your Content Goals

It’s so important to know what it is you hope to achieve with your content marketing. Is it just about awareness? Is lead generation important? Do you simply want to sell more products? If you don’t have goals, you have no way of measuring success.

Step 6: Select the Right Topics

Before you create your content, chose topics that are relevant to your demographic. Have an even mixture of evergreen content choices, and topics that address current trends or news events in your industry. But be consistent on what you’re covering and why; if you’re all over the place, people won’t engage.

Step 7: Audit Existing Content

If you’ve already published content, learn from its successes and failures. Analyze what content might be reusable in your new strategy; if you don’t have to create everything from scratch, all the better.

Step 8: Define Content Guidelines

Chances are there will be multiple people involved in creating your company’s content. Guidelines will, therefore, be essential to crafting a consistent voice, format and overall cohesion of your content. Consider what’s crucial for your brand in regards to video, images and text, and clearly articulate what is and is not acceptable in content creation. A mission statement about your content marketing strategy is also highly advisable.

Step 9: Draft an Editorial Calendar

Don’t fall prey to the hazards of sporadic content releases. Create a calendar that coincides with major milestones in your company (like product releases), and make sure to stagger content appropriately but still be consistent in your online presence. Treat the calendar as if its etched in stone; it’s crucial to be timely with all your releases.

Step 10: Find Talented Content Creators

The temptation for most business owners is to create content themselves; if it’s at all feasible, hire freelance talent. The quality of your content is so impeccably critical; if it reads like it cost $2 to create or 15 minutes to draft, it will actually harm your brand’s reputation, rather than grow your audience. The content space is also far too competitive now to take the easy route; you will indeed get what you pay for.

Step 11: Create Diverse, Timely, and Relevant Content

Obviously the content you create is paramount to your success; but notice how this is almost the last item on the list! Once you have all the demographic knowledge, brand identity, guidelines, and team members in place, you are poised to generate mind-blowingly engaging content. But do this meticulously. It will make or break every ounce of effort you’ve put into your marketing.

Step 12: Publish and Analyze

Wherever you publish your content, be it on your own sites or on third-party destinations, it’s so important that you analyze the success of each content piece. Monitor your metrics and check for spikes in visits or purchases. Watch for page views in your content, but also comments, social shares, and other social signals that really tell you how engaging your offering was. Then you’ll have a clear view of what your audience is responding to, and you know how to duplicate your successes (and avoid your failures.

You are now ready to go forth and take on the digital world with a powerful content marketing strategy.

What other steps do you think are essential in great content marketing?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile