Guestpost by: Becky Sheetz-Runkle
There sure are a lot of people clamoring for attention with their content these days. Do you ever think there are probably a lot more “writers” than there are “readers”? I sure do. To use the cliché writing tool of the cliché, the playing field has been leveled. The barrier to entry in sharing words, ideas and sales pitches has been torn asunder. The internet is the printing press of the new age.
Sort of. Back then, if you had money and could find a printer willing to be associated with the content you were promoting, your words would be framed for immortality. Or at least as long as the books and pamphlets lasted. Today, if you live in a free country, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can share their content with the world. It’s why there are so many bitter journalists.
Everyone sets out for their 15 minutes of fame, or at least mild attention, thinking themselves, for a moment, a corporate evangelist, or a wordsmith. It’s why there are so many frustrated writers.
We hear over and over that content is king. But does that make it true? Businesses that are using content to drive traffic to their websites or online stores, in hopes of ultimately driving sales, are often getting very little return for a whole lot of investment. They’re not feeling like kings.
No, my friends, content is not king for everybody. Sometimes pay-per-click advertising rules the day. Sometimes it’s event marketing. Sometimes it’s a brilliant referral marketing program. But, still, content is an important part of the kingdom. And it can give those who are good at it the keys to the empire.
Just What IS Content?
Content is your message, as well as the vehicles you choose to spread it, such as blogs, syndicated articles, vlogs, news blurbs and feeds, social media announcements, email marketing—and anything that can be pushed our virally by your community to your community.
Start with a Firm Content Strategy
If you’re serious about content as part of your marketing and branding strategy, you must begin with a solid strategy. What is your goal? Is it to drive customers to your website to buy a product today? Is it to encourage them to take advantage of a special offer that will get them through your doors? Is it to shape mindshare so you’re seen as a thought leader, and have customers buy from you when the time is right? Your answer to these questions will determine your content distribution strategy.
You need to ask yourself what you want to be known for and what you want to be known as. If your business is IT services, then you can become the expert in your region for break-fix issues. Or, more specifically, you can be a Windows expert, or an anti-virus pro. What is it your readers will come to you to learn? And, importantly, how will that lead to making you money?
Your content strategy must be colored by the greatest challenges your customers face. If you run a veterinary hospital and you see a lot of patients with parasites, then that’s the kind of content you need to distribute. And you need to do it in a consistent way. Businesses that distribute their content in a fragmented manner don’t reap the rewards.
Reach Buyers. Don’t Just Preach to the Choir.
Many people make the mistake of talking to themselves, or people like them, instead of talking to customers. If your goal is to influence buyers and make sales, you need a message and a distribution network that will reach buyers!
Cross Pollinate Your Content
Sometimes businesses think of their content too narrowly. They post to their blog and perhaps Tweet it. But think about other ways to broaden your audience. If you’re determined that blogging is an essential part of your internet marketing strategy, then certainly you’ll make a commitment to blogging, whether it’s done by one person, a team of staff, or an outsourced consultant or firm. But don’t stop there.
I’ll bet there are some great websites that relate to your content. And I’ll be that they’re hungry for fresh content. Reach out to them! Here’s what I mean. I blog about issues relevant to women in business, such as negotiation, and how women can use The Art of War to their advantage at www.suntzuforwomen.com. With a new book out (my first), my platform is still developing. So I contribute to outlets like Women on Business and the Sonshi Sun Tzu community.
This simply involves spreading similar content over multiple outlets. You see how this expands my message and my platform, while only increasing the level of effort marginally.
I then rely on readers to Tweet and Like articles and even spread the message by “liking” Sun Tzu for Women on Facebook, much like we do with readers to the gonzoblog! You should really “like” this blog, by the way!
Some More Examples of Spreading Content
Also, spread your content by pushing out news and media coverage and relevant social media mentions of your business and executives. If you’d indulge me for a moment, some of my most recent blog entries relate to this approach:
Women: Negotiate Your Way to Higher Pay! – A post and link to a recent article where I was quoted in MSN Careers/CareerBuilder
Women Executives More than Twice as Likely to Leave Jobs – A contribution to Women on Business
How to Become a Leader Through Brutal Self Awareness – A post and link to a recent article in a lifestyle publication in the Washington, D.C. metro area
You Can Now Buy Sun Tzu for Women @ Women On Business – Relevant industry news that also promotes my book and subject matter expertise
Always be looking for ways to distribute your content and keep it fresh. If your company has an active blog, consider an email marketing campaign with a digest of your recent posts and guest bloggers. When you distribute press releases, link to significant coverage on Twitter, Facebook and other social media you use. When you find an article or study that will interest your buyers and prospects, blog about it, using the best, most powerful keywords, of course. And of course, all this gets pushed out through social media.
“Fresh” is Meaningless if it’s not Meaningful
All this talk about “fresh content.” It sounds good. But what does it mean? Is the goal to abundantly sprinkle keywords throughout hastily-contrived copy? No. It’s to publish quality, keyword-rich, relevant content with some frequency.
Look, there are plenty of places that syndicate articles of dubious merit and quality. I’m not going to “out” any of those distribution networks. Suffice to say, if you plan to distribute content through media channels, be sure you’re writing for outlets that will get qualified visitors looking to read your topic, not just “eyeballs” that quickly bounce away.
Look at these syndicators’ websites. If it’s visually unappealing (ugly), littered with irrelevant ads and otherwise uninviting, don’t waste your time. Write for outlets people will read.
So how will you know if your content marketing strategy is working? You’ll measure it by an increased volume of web visitors and people who opt into your viral marketing vehicles. But most importantly, you’ll measure it by an increase in sales. If you’re getting new traffic and boosts in Tweets, those are great indicators. But if you’re not getting corresponding increases in sales and moving prospects along in the sales pipeline, it’s time to re-evaluate that strategy we discussed in the beginning.
As with all things web marketing, always be looking for ways to further refine and enhance. Look at your Google Analytics. Which keywords and referring sites are bringing people to your site? What pages are of greatest interest? Dedicate more and broader content along those lines.
If You’re Not Up to the Challenge…
Distributing killer content that helps you achieve your strategic objectives is serious business. It’s not for everyone. If you can’t commit to implementing the lifecycle of content development and distribution, hire someone. There are experts like me who can help. And if all you need is help on the distribution end, task a junior level staffer or an intern with pushing out your content across various social media. If they’re especially ambitious, they can look for additional venues for your contributions.
No matter what your approach, what you say, and who you target, make sure your empire-building time is well spent and that it leads to honest-to-goodness business opportunities for you.