Content marketing is not like painting by numbers. This step-by-step guide is broken into processes. This article covers the planning, execution and reflection phases.
First, this article discusses a few common problems that are faced by professional content marketers. It then moves onto if you have failed yet, which is where you learn the best way to guarantee success. The article then moves on to explain how you sell your brand, and gives some very strong advice on the platforms you should use. There is then a quick word on tools before final thoughts on the step-by-step content marketing guidelines.
Common Content Marketing Problems For Professionals
Here are a few common content marketing problems that “professional” content marketers face. They do not include problems such as inconsistent cross-platform messages, or poor quality blogging, etc., because they are not problems that professional content marketers face (because professionals are not gormless chumps).
Content Marketing Problem - Competitors Are Always Pushing Back
It is true that many of your content-marketing competitors will be piss-poor at it (pardon the expression), but even despite that fact, you have to remember they are updating and publishing all the time. They never stop trying to draw readers, consumers, and viewers away from your content. They are also pushing up advertising costs and taking up advertising space that would otherwise be yours.
Content Marketing Problem - Time Is So Easily Wasted
It is both wasted because many content-marketing methods involve platforms that are typical time vampires, and because much of your work will/may be ignored by your target consumer. Sometimes, content marketers feel like they spend hours crafting intricate sand sculptures just before the tide comes in.
Content Marketing Problem - Uneven Stylistic And Content Rules
So far as your consumers are concerned, your business has one voice. The problem with a large writing and creative staff is that the content style may appear schizophrenic. The same thing happened in the Simpsons because they have so many writers. One week Homer is a girly loser, and the next he is a beer-drinking thug. Strong and balanced stylistic and content rules are required to help stop this problem.
Content Marketing Problem - Prohibitive Bureaucracy
This is one of the problems mentioned by Joe Lazaukas (mentioned later), and it deserves a place on this article. Prohibitive bureaucracy is becoming a bigger and bigger problem as the Internet is regulated and policed more efficiently. The sad part is that to get around such bureaucracy requires a lot of extra work. For example, Lemmino, of TopTenFacts writes his own music because he is sick of YouTube taking down his videos whenever he plays a relevant musical score.
If you would like to know more problems that professionals have, then Joe Lazaukas has some very real and personal insights.
Have You Failed Yet?
If you have your product already, then you have removed your “guarantee” of success. Starting with the product is often the worst idea. Offer an Eskimo some damp wood, and it may be a hard sell. Ask the Eskimo what he wants, and then offer it, and you guarantee a sale. Also, I am not retracting my use of the word Eskimo, even if you are insulted, because the world doesn’t grant you the “right” to “not” be offended.
If you ask people what they want, they will tell you things they have already, which creates a hard sale.
+ If you ask people what problems they have, and then ask them when solution they would prefer, they are highly likely to buy.
+ If you tell somebody they have a problem, and then offer them something you are selling, then that is a hard sale.
What If You Have Your Product Already?
If this is the case, then the first thing you need to sell is your brand. You need to educate people on your brand principles and help them trust you. Showing people your content is pointless if you are not trying to sell your brand. People need to trust you on the one hand, and understand what your brand stands for on the other hand.
There is nothing wrong with trying a gimmick. It may work for your product or content, and it may fail, suffice it to say that it often gets attention (be it good or bad). For example, take a look at the image below.
Take a look at the image above. Not only does he pose naked when selling his photos, he is actually the world’s most prolific penis painter. He is called Pricasso, and even though his methods (and photo) may not be to your taste, it still got your attention. In addition, now that you know he exists, you are going to have a hard time getting that fact out of your mind. You may even mention it during your next dinner party when the idea of unorthodox outsider art is mentioned. Pricasso’s methods are weird, but it is a gimmick, and it is making him a lot of money. There is still a lot to be said for having a gimmick.
Selling Your Brand
Your website and your business social media profiles should feature all of your brand principles and selling points. Your content, including your social media posts (not profile bios), should feature just one brand principle.
This sounds counter intuitive. After all, if you have the greatest product on earth or the greatest content, then you should be bragging about all of it…right?
You should be bragging about every selling point your content/products have, but you should be doing it on your website and social media profiles (bios). Your external offsite/off-domain advertising and content should only push one selling point and/or brand principle. It has been that way for generations and there is still no better alternative.
For example, from memory, what can you guarantee about a luxury Volvo? You can be pretty sure it has power steering, ABS, airbags, seat belts, traction control, central locking, automatic windows, and so on. Yet, Volvo doesn’t push all of these attributes outside of its own domain, it pushes the fact that Volvos are safe. Sometimes it says it explicitly, such as:
And, sometimes it is a little more subtle, such as this one:
Now that Volvo is a larger and very well established company, it is able to push a few more of its selling points outside of its own domain, but most adverts still express a single brand principle again and again, even if it is in a subtle way.
+ Push all of your brand principles and selling points on your website and social media profiles (on your bios).
+ Push a single brand principle offsite/off-domain.
+ Make your message as explicit or subtle as you like, so long as you focus on a single core element.
Google Seems To Reward And Punish Websites That Are Helpful
When websites give things away for free, even information, Google seems to reward them by placing them in the first 10 results of the most relevant searches, while at the same time hindering them from reaching the first page unless the website has affiliate advertising, some form of eCommerce, strong links with active social media profiles, and an active audience (it must have some or all of those elements). This is a common problem that websites such as Find Out Free face because such websites give away free advice and doesn’t ask anything in return. There are exceptions, such as Wikipedia, but they are rare and require a large and active audience.
What Platforms To Use
There is no single suitable platform. You may need many, from seminars and phone calls to tweets and blog posts. You are supposed to create your own content-marketing model and fill it with suitable publishing platforms that suit your company/marketing group.
Should you be using YouTube? Facebook? Blogger? Magento? Forums? LinkedIN? And so forth? The fact is that nobody can tell you. During your planning phase before you create, you should try to publish in the same places as your competitors. If they are investing time and money into high-traffic areas, then it may be worth you trying too. However, there are no set-fast rules for where you should publish, how you should publish, and publishing frequency. Any advice on such matters is futile because every business and every content-marketing group is different.
There is no article, no expert, and no advisor that can honestly and genuinely tell you that “A” is better than “B.” It is something you have to try, and something you have to research for yourself to find out which platforms suit your company/content-marketing group the best.
Which Tools To Use
It really depends on the type of content you are looking to produce. Just like with publishing platforms, you should experiment and research using trial and error testing to find out which tools suit your company the best.
There is not as much fuss about duplicate content these days because people have gotten the message and rarely steal content anymore unless it is part of an organized attack against a website. Nevertheless, if you are buying content from other writers, or if you are having your own writers rewrite content, then you will need CopyScape to check for duplicate content.
You are probably going to use images quite frequently, so you will need a Photoshop program with photo editing capabilities. One hesitates to suggest GIMP, but it is a high quality photo editor when compared to numerous other free programs. If you are looking for a professional photoshopping program and editor, then you are going to have to pay.
Your biggest ally is a trial and error attitude. There is no solid step-by-step guide to content marketing because it is different for every group, company, brand and product. What works perfectly for one may fail miserably for another. Your job is to try a bit of everything, see what works and then use it.
There is a fairly simple cycle of trial and error testing that you may use within the confines of your own content marketing model. It involves collecting, analyzing, publishing and managing. You may bounce between whichever principle you wish. For example, you may publish and then collect data to analyze to enhance your content management, and so on. Perpetual testing and improvement will “evolve” a good content marketing plan rather than you trying to build one artificially and hang flesh from its bones.
Finally, comments are not as search engine friendly as they used to be. Google now has far better ways of measuring the popularity of a website, but comment sections are a good way of showing how popular your web pages are. Do not try cheap tricks in order to get comments, such as contradicting common knowledge or asking questions at the end of the article. Instead, write personal content and steer clear of the usual sterile and clinical content that litters the Internet.
For example, this article mentions Eskimos, peoples’ rights, and penis painters. It is the reason it was first rejected by another web master. That is why I put it on Find Out Free. It is not that the web master on the other website cared about the issues at hand, it is because he was afraid of a negative response by the wider audience.It is yet more proof how prohibitive bureaucracy is a problem for content marketers. Create content that has a voice, its own style, and that avoids the usual bland this-suits-everybody principle. You cannot please everybody all the time, so don’t try, especially if it means changing your content style or voice.
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Written By Ashley Gaynor, 03/03/2016