Twenty years ago, a business owner only had to worry about the big three when it came to allocating advertising dollars:
Today’s business owners don’t have it quite so easy.
With the explosion of digital technology, there are now an infinite number of ways to spend your advertising dollars.
That’s why it’s so important to have a detailed, well-researched marketing plan for your business.
One area of marketing that is universally important for nearly every business is having a good content marketing strategy.
John Jantsch is a blogger, marketing expert, and the author of one of our favorite books on marketing and advertising, “Duct Tape Marketing.” We recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of marketing.
Here’s what some of what John has to say about content marketing:
…People today have come to expect to find information about any product, service, company, individual, cause, or challenge they face by simply turning to the search engine of their choice.
So if the content you produce doesn’t provide them with that information, even if someone referred them directly to you, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be worthy of their trust.
You’ve got to commit to content production.
You have to make it a part of your overall strategy, and you’ve got to produce content with an eye on doing two things—educating and building trust. These two categories of your content strategy must be delivered through the creation of very specific forms of content and not simply through sheer volume.
[tweetthis]Every business is now a publishing business, so you’ve got to start to think like one. J. Jantsch[/tweetthis]
Content marketing, simply put, is creating and distributing useful and consistent content to attract and retain a specific target audience.
Blogging helps your customer find you, get informed about your product, trust you, and ultimately turn to you when she’s ready to purchase.
Blogging is one of the most common forms of content marketing, but content marketing can also simply be content added to your website in the form of infographics, videos, tutorials, book reviews, case studies, ebooks and more.
A Content Marketing Strategy is a Non-Negotiable in Today’s Digital Marketplace
Content marketing is essential to growing your business for several reasons.
First, Google loves quality content marketing, with an emphasis on quality. If you’re typical blog posts reads something like this, you’re probably not producing quality content:
“Tweeties wing clipping service of El Paso is here to answer every question that El Pasoans have about bird wing clipping services for birds in El Paso. Do you have a question for our El Paso bird wing clippers? If so, post your question below and our El paso bird wing clippers will offer their expertise in bird wing clipping. We will tell you about the 5 common mistakes made by other El Paso bird wing clippers”
No content is better than poor-quality content that is nothing more than keywords stuffed into a paragraph.
Quality content actually answers the questions that your potential customers are typing into the Google search bar. It also establishes you as an expert in your field and geographic area.
The good news is that creating and executing a content marketing strategy doesn’t have to mind-bendingly difficult.
6 Steps to Building and Executing a Content Marketing Strategy
Here are a few of the ideas I shared with Tierney, the owner of Total Body Bar. Use these practical strategies, and you will be well on your way to executing your own content marketing strategy or blog.
1. Make Planning a Priority
We all know the adage about the cobbler whose children have no shoes… Well, it could be very tempting for 8 Signal to become a Content Marketing Specialist with no content.
Content marketing is one of the most popular services we offer our clients. With all the time and energy we invest in producing great content for our clients, it would be easy to place our own content at the bottom of the to-do list.
To prevent this from happening, we’ve made content marketing a top priority at 8 Signal.
We hate meetings! So, 8 Signal only has one regularly scheduled weekly meeting every Monday. That is our time to run through every project, task, question, and financial aspect of the business.
At first, we found that our Monday meeting time elapsed without any discussion of 8 Signal’s marketing and content strategy. We were treating ourselves as if we were a client that didn’t matter.
How did we change this?
We came up with a simple solution. We added 8 Signal to the TOP of the list of open projects we review at our meeting. So, “8 Signal” is the first project we review.
We spend several minutes brainstorming possible topics or blog post ideas, and add them to our running list. Then, We each pick one article to spend time on that week.
So we begin our meeting by talking about 8 Signal, then we close every meeting by discussing one business generation idea for our own. It is a great technique for focusing on your own business growth and prioritizing content marketing in the midst of all the other demands of running your business.
2. Set a time to work on it, and stick to it!
If you’ve got an appointment to get your haircut, spend an hour with a personal trainer, or go to the doctor, you make that time a priority. Why? Because if you miss an appointment it costs you money.
The same is true of neglecting your content marketing. It may not be dollars seeping out of your bank account, but it is costing you money in customers and clients who will never find your business.
So, decide on a window of time that you are going to work on your content marketing, and then put it on your calendar.
Set a couple of reminders, and then stick to it. Every time you miss a content marketing session, force yourself to put a $20 bill in a jar. After a few weeks, you’ll start to feel the pain and visually see how that lost revenue can add up.
Ruben and I have set aside two hours every Wednesday morning to work on 8 Signal. Sometimes that means blogging, other times it is working on our website optimization, refining our business plan, or other business related tasks.
Sometimes client meetings make it impossible to stick with that plan, but whenever possible we schedule around that time. We have even added it to our google calendar so we have that time blocked off.
3. Use a task management tool
Master your tasks or they will become your taskmaster. The best way to do that is to pick a task management tool. There are dozens of awesome free tools available online.
At 8 Signal we use a free online tool called Asana to manage our projects, sales and business tasks, and our content marketing strategy.
I absolutely LOVE it. It has totally transformed the way I work.
It allows you to break up your tasks into different project, set due dates, create subtasks, and even assign a task to multiple projects. You can add all your team members too, and assign tasks to different people.
Most importantly, Asana meets a felt need in my life for checking off boxes. I used to do this with pen and paper, but Asana makes it even more fun to check those boxes off.
If you’re a more visual learner/processor, you might be better off with a tool like Trello. Trello works like post-it notes moved across a digital project board. If you’re a Pinterest fan, Trello will feel very natural for you.
With any new tool, there is going to be a learning curve. But stick with it and you won’t be sorry. Youtube is invaluable for learning pretty much any new tool.
Once you get set up, use your new task management tool to track your blog posts from idea to completion. Any idea that comes to mind, stick it in there, each week develop and refine those ideas until you’re finally ready to write.
Don’t forget to include a list of tasks associated with each piece of content or blog post you produce. Our list looks something like this:
- Select blog post idea
- Assign to writer (me or Ruben)
- Write blog post
- Select images for blog post
- Review/proofread blog post
- Move blog post to website
- Complete search engine optimization on blog post
- Publish blog post
- Send email with link to post
- Share post on social media
Your list might be slightly different, but the important part is not to leave any step of the process off the list. Checking off the boxes give a huge confidence and motivation booster, and it also prevents you from missing a step.
4. Turn everything into a blog post!
Remember, anything can be turned into a blog post.
So many clients tell me that they want to blog and be consistent with content marketing, but it just can’t find the time and can’t come up with content ideas.
The truth is, you’re probably already generating a lot of content every day! In fact, this entire blog posts came out of a quick email I sent to a client in response to this exact issue.
I sent a few strategies she could use to begin blogging, and then thought to myself, “that would make an awesome blog post!”
BOOM! Content created before I even added the topic to my Asana content marketing list!
With the content from the email, it only took me about another hour to add some thoughts, add photos, and get it ready to post.
Here are some of the hidden ways you’re probably already generating content you can repurpose for your content marketing strategy:
- Emails sent to clients
- Questions you frequently answer in client meeting
- How-tos: Things you frequently have to teach clients or customer
- Facebook posts
- Internal documents you’ve created for your business
You’re already generating a ton of content, you just don’t realize it! For example, Tierney is currently posting on her business Facebook page with posts that are 200 to 400 words. It only takes a little effort to convert those facebook posts into blog posts!
Remember, a good blog post is at least 300 words of valuable content, but can be as long as 2000 words. Don’t get caught up on length. As long as you can hit 300 words of valuable content, you’re doing great.
5. Become a content curator
This is a topic for a whole separate blog post, but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to mention content curation.
Content curation is a fancy term that just means sharing and building on content produced by others. If you do a search for the word “marketing”, Google returns over 1.7 billion results. That’s a ton of content that is already out there on the web.
As a content curator all you have to do is share a great article you’ve read recently with your readers. Tell them what you learned, offer your own thoughts on the topic, and offer a few quotes from the original article.
The most important thing to remember is that content curation is not simply “reblogging” or cutting and pasting an entire article from someone else’s site. In my mind, that’s just plagiarism.
A good content curation post offers something new to the discussion. It provides some unique insight in addition to the original article. But, most importantly, it always links back to the original article and gives credit to the original author!
6. Harness the power of Google Docs
I could probably write another 2,000 words just on things I’ve learned about content marketing, but I’ll stop with this last tip: Harness the power that is Google Docs.
This is another tool Ruben introduced that I have totally embraced. So why Google Doc over a Word Doc?
It’s just a great place to write posts. You can share posts with other people to get feedback, allow others to suggest changes, and edit your post without ever having to email a file to anyone.
You can also collaborate on a document at the same time with someone else. Try that in a Word doc! Google Docs also has a “text style” tool that allows you to set headlines and other html code. Then when you cut and paste into most blogging software those settings will get applied.
The most important thing I can leave you with is to just get started. Starting is half the battle when it comes to content marketing.
What is the biggest obstacle you have to overcome with your content marketing strategy? Content ideas? Time? Technology? Tell us about it in the comments!
8 Signal offers management Content Marketing Strategies for customers in El Paso, Las Cruces, and across the US.
Jantsch, John (2011-09-26). Duct Tape Marketing Revised and Updated: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide (p. 66). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.