Developing a successful content-marketing strategy

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A relatively new concept called content marketing has been taking the marketing industry by storm. Sure, it has been around for a few years but marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners can't get enough of it because it works.

Content marketing is about developing useful content for your customers. This content is valuable because it educates, teaches or is thought provoking. Generally, the content is crafted and distributed via blogs, infographics, podcasts, video or social media.

While some are winning with content-marketing, it is still a relatively untapped tactic. Maybe because it is not as easy as it might seem.

There is a bit of a learning curve, crafting content is time consuming and results can be seen generally only after a long sustained effort.

Whether you are business-to-business or business-to-consumer focused or a micro- to large-sized company here in the Greater Lehigh Valley, you can develop a content marketing strategy that will work for you and your business.

Most businesses can't sustain the cost of a lifelong heavy traditional advertising campaign to gain a steady stream of awareness.

For many, these campaigns were easier to run in the past because there were fewer media channels. Now that the market is so fragmented, much more money needs to be spent to achieve the frequency and reach of a mass-market campaign.

The good news is content marketing can help you create a steady stream of awareness in a more grassroots way.

Because you are crafting valuable content for your customers, you can position your company as the expert in the market. A customer or potential customer reading, watching or listening to your content will not only understand your offering, but he or she will understand that your company is a trusted source of information and resources.

Think of how you feel about an industry leader that you follow and like.

You don't have to be a marketer to create these benefits for your company.

(1) COMMITMENT – If you want to test content marketing, be committed to it for at least two years. For many, it takes many months or more to develop a following and become highly ranked in searches.

Leading potential customers to an abandoned blog or social media account is worse than having no account at all. Decide on a schedule that is regular but achievable. I post an article on my blog once a week.

(2) PRACTICE – Writing, speaking and creating all take time to master. It also will take time for you to feel comfortable with the medium.

You also may need a large volume of content before you can see patterns in what your following likes and responds to.

(3) EDUCATE – Effective content marketing is about educating, teaching or sometimes entertaining. This medium is not about promotions or asking for the sale. It is about adding value.

I've heard experts try to quantify this practice by saying that you need to develop 10-40 posts, videos etc. before adding one promotionally oriented piece.

(4) RESPONSIVENESS – On many platforms, content invites comments and shares. Those with questions or particularly poignant thoughts appreciate the author of the content continuing the dialogue with them.

Try to put yourself in your customer's shoes and create the content you'd want if you were them.

There are many ideas to help plan your content schedule: Answer your customers' often-asked questions. Write about what you wish your customers knew to ask. Interview key staff, your customers or vendors on key topics of interest.

Explain the process of a project or of working with your company. Highlight customers or others in the industry who have a best practice to share.

Content marketing isn't just for marketers at giant corporations. In fact, people in the small-business sector who care often can implement it best.

Amanda Kaiser helps businesses make tough decisions by getting the customer insights they need. She authors weekly articles about marketing, marketing research, connecting with customers and beating the competition at www.smooththepath.net. She can be reached at akaiser@smooththepath.net.

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