4adozenDeveloping an efficient and successful content marketing strategy is not as easy as creating quality content and distributing it to your target group. A good campaign needs careful planning, research and implementation. If done right, a good content marketing campaign can do a lot for your company in terms of branding, SEO, advertising, web traffic, conversion rates and web experiences. With the right strategy and content you can even go in the direction of offering your expertise to others or establishing thought leadership.

Without claiming to have considered all important factors, we identified in the end a dozen of key ingredients, including the following:

1. Audience research

The larger the audience you want to reach, the more expensive it is and the more diffuse your message should be. It is far more effective to either deliver a single message to a highly targeted audience, or to create several messages, each designed to target a specific audience.

A lawyer specializing in contract law probably will have less success writing about basic principles of contracts than one who has particular expertise in employment contracts or entertainment industry contracts. Target a narrow audience so that you can offer specific knowledge that will be most useful to that particular group. Find out which channels your audience is active on, when they are online, and how much time they spend online - you need to serve content to your customers on the channels they are active on, or it will go unnoticed.

2. Involve the entire company

Content is not just a responsibility of your marketing team. Your content represents your entire organization. It’s the single most effective way to generate traffic to your site. Therefore, it’s paramount that everybody understands the importance of both quality content and a content strategy. In addition, if you don’t involve team members from other departments in your content creation, you are seriously missing out on a great opportunity to produce a greater variety of content as well as more targeted content for specific sections of your audience. Communicate to every potential contributor how your content strategy benefits your organization and how each individual can have a direct impact with the content they produce.

3. Roles, rules, and processes

In order to run effective content marketing campaigns, make sure that you know your team and discuss roles and responsibilities. Who will be contributing content? Who will be reviewing it? Who is your editor-in-chief? Who manages your social media accounts? Establish very basic rules, especially with regard to etiquette, response time, and handling negative comments. Make your processes as clear as possible, from generating ideas to assigning tasks, from writing copy to editing and approving, and then promoting your contents. Determining those basic roles, rules, and processes helps avoid bottlenecks and conflicts, but keep an open, agile mind, and make sure that you continue to “inspect and adjust.”

4. Set a goal and define a core message

Each and every piece of content you produce should be created with a specific goal in mind – one that supports your business objectives. If your content piece isn’t being deployed with a goal in mind, then what is the point of it? Don’t waste time, money or other resources on creating content (which is very time consuming and expensive) unless you know what success metrics to measure. Before you embark on a content marketing campaign, you need to assess what knowledge you possess and whether there is an online audience for it.

5. Be an expert in your niche

Don’t try to be an expert in everything; that’s not possible. Be the expert in your niche. Focus on something very specific to your business and be the expert there. We can’t all be good at everything, but we can each be good at something. Find your “something” and stick with it.

6. Content quality

If you are going to promote your products, explain your services, or just provide information of interest and use to your target audience, then make sure you are either a strong writer yourself or you employ a talented copywriter(s). Poorly written articles or badly produced videos can be extremely damaging to you and your brand. Amateurish writing tells the world you lack a certain level of professionalism. A mediocre video will turn people off. Any content that doesn’t serve the needs and interests of your target audience will be perceived as a waste of time and an insult to your audience.

Also, keep in mind that if you plan to use content as a marketing tool, then you must be committed to providing a steady stream. One article or video is not a content strategy, but just a shot in the dark. Often it is best to begin with a number of blog posts on your company website or a series of articles or whitepapers designed to demonstrate your expertise on a variety of topics. It is only after creating a solid body of content that you should even think about broadcasting that content to the world.

7. Originality

But what you should strive for is to find your own unique voice and to provide fresh perspectives. Moreover, shine the spotlight on what makes your organization different. Finally, always be good for a surprise - be it an unconventional contest, an unusual blog post topic or an unexpected giveaway.

8. Engagement

The days in which marketing campaigns solely focused on brand awareness as their goal are over. Marketing is no longer one-directional. It’s all about interaction with your audience. A successful content marketing strategy identifies how to foster as much engagement as possible. Thought-provoking blog posts, sharing of new ideas, polls, a “question of the day”, and interaction on message boards and discussion forums are just a few ways in which you can engage your target audience. In addition, don’t forget to make your content shareable, so that your readers can further spread your content and expand your community. But remember: only if you are passionate about your content can you foster engagement.

9. The freshness factor

Here’s the thing about content: it needs to be fresh. You can have an amazing website with awesome and valuable copy, but if you don’t create new content on a regular basis, you can’t really leverage your marketing campaigns and drive more traffic to your site. When Google updated their search algorithm last fall, placing increased emphasis on the “freshness factor”, it became clear even to sceptics that the “set it and forget it” approach to SEO would no longer be effective. Content marketing requires commitment! Whether it’s blogging or posting to social media, you simply cannot expect to stay top of mind with your audience or on top of SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), if you only blog sporadically or only engage on social media channels if you feel like it. Furthermore, what separates great content marketers from the rest is that they genuinely care - about the quality of content they produce, the people that they help, the customer service they provide.

10. Optimize and measure

Content can look, sound, or be written amazingly, but without search optimization, your content may not be found by the right people, so don’t forget about SEO. Be sure to include appropriate keyword-rich anchor text links within your copy. Even if you’re working with a video, infographic or image, having some introductory content with optimized links can help your content get ranked in the SERPs.

And keep in mind that without metrics it’s hard to tell how well your content is doing. Some of the things that you might consider tracking and measuring are: new visitors over time, conversion rates, SERP rankings for strategic keywords, and, of course, engagement (number of likes, shares, and comments). Furthermore, don’t forget that in order for your data to be meaningful, you need context, such as changes and trends over time and, most importantly, your goals.

11. Volumize your content

Create once, use many times. It’s as simple as that. Say you create an infographic means breaking it up to pin it on Pinterest or upload photos to Flickr and Facebook. Record a voiceover for a video, make a slideshow for SlideShare and don’t stop at the “big” social media networks. Look into niche social networking sites specific to your industry as the opportunities are simply endless.

12. Return on investment (ROI)

A final word on the ROI of content marketing: Your main goal always should be to grow your business. Great content should not just get the attention of your audience, but encourage that audience to learn more about you and, ultimately, do business with you. Remember, you’re not writing as a journalist, but as a marketer. Don’t ever forget that distinction.

By MediaBUZZ