While content marketing seems like the latest buzzword in digital marketing, it has actually been around for quite awhile. With shady link building tactics and the gaming of Google becoming harder for those that relied on it, content marketing is becoming more and more important to small businesses like yours.

What is Content Marketing

Content marketing at its core is centered around creating and cultivating valuable information to not only attract, but to retain customers and clients. The content can come in many forms such as blog posts, infographics, PDF’s, how to guides, videos, case studies, and podcasts to name a few. When these pieces of content are created effectively, their reach can help impact and influence users.

Online Consumer Behavior

In the early days of the web, companies were able to get by with push marketing tactics. Such tactics as banner ads, pop-ups, pop-unders, spam, etc. while some of these tactics can still be used effectively when done appropriately, today’s web consumer is smarter than ever before.

Instead of being blasted by interruptive marketing tactics as outlined above, web users want information. Not necessarily information on your products directly, but how your product or service can benefit them, solve their problem, or help them recognize a problem that they might not be aware of (that you conveniently can fix).

Tell a Story

Not only do consumers want information, how you portray that information is critical. Your business needs to be sure it tells a story through its content marketing and not simply regurgitate product brochures or trying to make a hard sell. By telling a story your business can connect with the consumer on an emotional level.

Your story must provide value to the user. If the piece of content comes across as unauthentic, you will not only lose the interest of the reader, but the trust your business was trying to build as well. If your company can’t provide value and build trust with the reader, your content marketing efforts will be wasted.

Create Remarkable Content

In order for your business to succeed with content marketing you don’t need great content, you need REMARKABLE content. Sure, this sounds great and all, but how does your business create remarkable content?

There are actually four key characteristics of remarkable content.

The first is the create content that is informative. By informative, I mean educational. Using content to educate readers about issues they can relate to, problems that can be solved, or benefits that can be derived from a particular product or service are all great starting points.

Second, this content must be conversational with the reader. Do not talk at the reader, but rather make the content come across as a dialogue with the reader. Most commonly this can be achieved by asking questions throughout the content. Don’t you think it is much easier to engage with a piece of content if you can relate it to your situation? Think about what you can say to get their head to nod in agreement.

Aside from being conversational, the third element is for your business’s content to be emotional. If your business can hook into the emotion of the reader, they will surely be engaged and hang on your every word. Creating emotion with generate an affliction for your content and ultimately your brand.

If your business can get the first three elements done properly, then the fourth characteristic of making it shareable will come naturally. In order to make something shareable, it must evoke emotion, be conversational, and be informative. When your business gets this right, the readers will want to share with their social circles and constituates.

Promote Your Content

Content marketing is all about promotion. What good is creating content if you have no one to share it with?

Luckily for your business, there are some effective ways to get the ball rolling with promotion.

Social media plays a critical role in nearly all content marketing strategies. Depending on your business’ target audience, you will need to know which social outlets need to be utilized. For the most part, these strategies can work on most major social media channels.

A great way to spark interest of your social followers is to provide a snippet or quote from the content. This pull quote should be relatively short and evoke emotion or conversation with the follower. It should be enticing enough to get them to click through to read more. This tactic works well on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

If you want to step this approach up a notch, you could put this quote on an image that relates to the content that the quote came from. Image sharing works really well on sites like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Speaking of images, another great way to create social interest for your content marketing efforts is to share the images you used within your content. These images would also work well on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Another excellent way to boost your content marketing efforts is to browse question and answers sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers. Simply search through questions asked on these sites and find relevant questions that you answer in your content. Be sure to briefly answer their question directly on the Q & A site, then link to the more detailed explanation that is found within your content.

Email marketing to your email list is an easy way to not only promote your newest content to interested people, but also allows your business to stay top of mind. Part of any successful content marketing strategy revolves around frequent creation of content. With freshly generated content, it provides you with a great opportunity to reach out to your email list and to maintain communication with them. There is nothing worse than being on an email list only to get sporadic emails in which you don’t even remember why you are on the list. Your business can utilize content to not to only stay connected, but to build trust and authority with your contacts.

Content Marketing is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Just like the latest fad diet, we would all like to see results for our efforts happen overnight. However, let’s be realistic. How often do instant results stick long-term? Not often.

Content marketing is a long-term, ongoing process – similar to SEO. It can often take months or even years to see a return on your business’ efforts. However, once the results start to happen, your business will reap significant benefits. Therefore, I ask you to be patient, stick to the plan, and keep on truckin’.

Sure, it might be frustrating to not see instant results, but with content marketing you are in it for the long haul.

Struggles With Content Marketing?

Have you started your content marketing efforts yet? What are your successes or even your failures? Drop a comment below to share your experiences.

photo credit: jonathan mcintosh