First things first: What exactly is Content Marketing? There are so many interpretations of this term, but the blanket definition is essentially this: it’s about creating and sharing valuable, relevant content with the aim of attracting an audience, and eventually, converting them into customers and finally, into repeat buyers. This means the content you deliver should educate your audience with the aim of building their trust to the point where they will be inclined to do business with you.
Businesses looking to build an audience online need content marketing at the heart of their business strategies. This is because today’s customers are far more information-focused than ad-focused; they tend to ignore or turn-off the interruptive nature of ad marketing and respond positively to content that they’re actually looking for. Thus content marketing is a non-interruptive marketing technique that uses content to engage with your customers without resorting to pitching or pushing for sales.
Content marketing when done right - which involves creating, delivering and curating relevant content at the right time through the right channels - will inevitably result in customer business and loyalty. So, how does one go about leveraging content marketing to build a massive audience, which in turn can grow your business? According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), it takes 6 steps - called the Content Inc. Model:
1. Find Your Content Sweet Spot
If you want your audience to be interested in what you say, you need to be able to convey your own interest in what you’re conveying. Your content needs to get your audience to see you as a trustworthy source of information, as someone who knows what they’re talking about. That is to say, your content needs to straddle the line between what you know and what you love, i.e. your expertise and your passion. The overlap between your expertise and passion is called the content sweet spot. In Pulizzi’s own words, it’s the “intersection between the company’s most effective skill set and the company’s passion point - something the company feels is of inherent value to its customers”.
The line between the two may not always be clear-cut, but if you can find it, you can build your content effort around it.
2. Find Your Content Tilt
Once a company has identified their sweet spot, the next step is identifying how to make the content within that spot stand out. Figuring out how to make the content your own - remember, Google and other search engines love original content - and how to put your own personal spin on the content in a way that makes your audience sit up and take notice. Lack of originality can cause your content to get lost in the flood of content in that niche. It involves trying to dig deep enough to find an angle that will give audiences a unique perspective or take on a common product or idea.
3. Build Your Audience Base
The next step after pinning down your content tilt is finding and building a base around which you plan to distribute content. This involves deciding the following:
- Deciding the type of content you’re going to create: find the type of content you can best create; is it textual, audio or video?
- Finalizing the platform on which you’ll distribute the content: blog platforms, podcasts or video sharing platforms.
- Drawing up a consistent schedule of content delivery: is it daily, once a week, twice per week? Decide what works best for you and stick to it.
- Having the patience to see it through: it can take a while - sometimes up to a year - for your content marketing efforts to yield results. You have to commit to content delivery and marketing efforts for however long it takes, nevertheless.
4. Harvest Your Audience
Once you’ve chosen your platform and built your content base, the next step involves finding ways to increase your audience and converting content readers into regular subscribers. The goal isn’t simply getting visitors to come to your website or platform, it is about holding them there and keeping them coming back for more. This is where SEO and Social Media Marketing come in.
Harvesting is about gauging who among your site visitors are genuinely interested in your content and building your audience with them. How do you gauge their interest? Did they sign up for your newsletter? Did they subscribe to any or all your social channels? Do they actively share your content on their own channels? According to the CMI’s hierarchy of the type of subscribers, e-mail subscribers are the most valuable subscribers a company can acquire.
5. Diversify Your Content Offers
Having built a strong, loyal audience, the next step is to look beyond your main content platform to distribute your content. This will help you reach a broader audience and solidify your authority with your current audience. For instance, if you started out as a blog, you can start diversifying by increasing your posting frequency, including guest posts and then gradually producing content in other formats or platforms.
The key is to keep expanding your influence without losing sight of those who helped grow your business in the first place. Diversifying shouldn’t mean you ignore your original base.
6. Monetize Your Content
Once you have your sweet spot, tilt, base and subscriber base in place, you can start looking into monetizing your content efforts. This involves offering your audience with a service that they can benefit from such as a consulting service, paid content, paid educational events or mobile application.
Even though monetization is logically the last step in the Content Inc. model, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking for monetization opportunities while building your strategy; the key is to ensure that you don’t cross the line between encouragement and pushiness.
A marketing strategy that centers on giving the audience what it wants - relevant, timely and interesting content - is an excellent starting point to building an audience that will only grow with time.