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Content Marketing: Seven Questions You Need Answered Before it's Too Late!

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This white paper considers seven basic but vital questions you need to consider if you hope to effectively market your business in 2012 and beyond. …

This white paper considers seven basic but vital questions you need to consider if you hope to effectively market your business in 2012 and beyond.
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  • 1. SPECIAL REPORT: Content Marketing: Seven Questions You Need Answered - Before its TOO LATE! By Justin P Lambert Author of the Words That Begin With You blog.
  • 2. Content Marketing: Seven Questions You Need Answered - Before its TOO LATE! By Justin P Lambert Your guide to helping prospects and customers know, like and trust you through the power of spectacular content!The face of the marketing industry has completely changed over the last twenty years.Sure, some aspects of the way things used to be remain with us, and at the same time, some aspects ofthe way things are now have actually been around for a while.But as a whole, the entire industry is now leaning in an entirely new direction. How so?Consider this:In years gone by, all it really took to successfully launch a product was to buy sufficient ad space: TVcommercials, radio commercials, a newspaper display ad... whatever, wherever, whenever, as long asyou could saturate the market with your brand name, your slogan or your jingle, you stood an excellentchance of selling enough product to make some money and stick around.But today, thats just not enough. Why not?Theres just way too much out there, for one.In a global economy, everyone is competing with everyone else. Not just in similar products, butcompeting for attention in an environment where absolutely everyone is barraged with advertising fromevery angle every day, and we all ignore nearly all of it all the time.Secondly, even if a company is able to grab sufficient attention in the marketplace, they then have tostand up to the critical, internet-powered research every consumer is now capable of: every aspect of aproduct or service can be torn apart, reviewed, rated, praised or complained about, all before its evenofficially released, due to the power of inter-connected, super-savvy consumers.So what can a business do to avoid being lost in the obscurity of this advertising black hole? How cana business embrace the savvy consumers thirst for information to use in making educated buyingdecisions?The answer, is Content Marketing.
  • 3. First of all, what exactly IS content marketing?Content marketing means different things to different people, because out of necessity, it has to becustomized to each individual, organization or industry that uses it.But, for the sake of our discussion, Im going to go with the following general definition: Content marketing is the consistent, strategic production of valuable information, through media your current or potential customers enjoy consuming, in order to help them know, like and trust you, viewing you as a valued source of help at the right time.A few points that I underlined in the above definition bear some quick elaboration: • Valuable – Content marketing is not about throwing together a few paragraphs of meaningless junk, stuffed full of keywords for the Google robots and telling people something they already know. Thats called wasting time. The kind of content were talking about here is information you could easily sell, but choose instead to share freely. Information your customer values. • Enjoyable – To have true value, your customer needs to enjoy taking in your content. This means a few things: first, you need to understand your customer and figure out what type of message shell get the most out of. But also, since everyone learns and engages with information differently, this dictates the variety of different types of content youre going to need to consider creating if you want to reach your target audience effectively. • Timely – One of the most difficult, but rewarding, aspects of good content marketing is its consistency. Producing high-quality content on a consistent basis isnt easy. Distributing it effectively and working to engage your audience wherever your content goes isnt easy either. But its a blast! And its how youre going to manage to strike the right chord with the right person at the right time, bringing the reward back to you.
  • 4. Why is it so important?As I mentioned in the introduction, marketing has changed dramatically in the last few decades.At this point, businesses are beginning to sink or swim based on their ability to successfully implementa good content marketing strategy. Small or independent businesses, traditionally the backbone of mostfree market economies, are in the very best position to take advantage of the power of contentmarketing to further level the playing field in their industries.Here are a few huge benefits your small business can see if youre doing content marketing right: • Search Engine Ranking – By consistently adding quality content to your web presence, whether it be in the form of blog posts, landing pages, social media conversation, or article marketing, you are creating two things Google absolutely loves: relevant information their audience will appreciate, and links that connect your content to other sources of relevant information their audience will appreciate. But, it has to be written correctly and distributed properly to accomplish this vital purpose. • Expert Status – Loads of free, valuable content, distributed widely and ranking high in the search engines, creates a certain aura about you. Your name becomes synonymous with quality information about your subjects of choice, so you become the go-to-person or company in peoples minds. Soon, your audience will be seeking you out when they have questions or concerns about your subject, and thats where the tires meet the road. • Inbound Marketing – Well-planned and strategic content marketing is a huge part of an inbound marketing plan. Unlike old-style interruptive marketing (such as telemarketing calls at dinner time, pop-up windows on websites or TV ad) inbound marketing relies on broadcasting information that your target audience (your hottest prospects) want to consume and share with other like-minded people. This way, when youre ready to offer something for sale to your prospects, they dont need to get over the initial “who is this and why are they trying to sell me” phase that always accompanies a telemarketing call or advertisement.
  • 5. How can you market with content?At its most basic, producing content is as simple as writing down the answer to a question your targetaudience is asking and get it out in front of them. While that was a fairly difficult and expensiveprocess as recently as 15 years ago, its free and instantaneous today.For most people, the most effective starting point for a content marketing program is a blog, combinedwith the distribution and syndication power of social media.If youre a business person hoping to help people understand what you do and what it means to them, ablog is indispensable. Heres why:CheapYou can get into blogging literally for free.The established leader in blogging technology is Wordpress, and its available for free fromwordpress.org. There are thousands of free themes you can pick up in seconds once you have thesoftware loaded, so your blog looks neat and professional. Generally, Wordpress will integrateseamlessly into any current website you already have established, or will work just fine as a standaloneif you currently have no web presence.And if youre not even interested in spending the $3 it will cost you to register a domain name,wordpress.com has you covered. For no cost whatsoever, you can use a scaled-down version of theWordpress platform on their servers and get started in ten minutes flat.Of course, your blog can be made even more spectacular if you want to spend a little money forpremium or custom themes. Many web designers make their livings just creating and supportingpremium themes and Wordpress customizations, so you can spend to your hearts content. But its notrequired.FastAs I mentioned above, setting up a blog can be as fast as minutes. (Which is not to say you cant spenduntold hours working on it. You can.)But even beyond that, updating a blog is fairly quick work as well. Im not personally familiar with alot of other blogging platforms, but if youre a fast typist and already know what you want to say, youcan pull up your Wordpress interface, complete a solid 500-word post, check it over for dumb errorsand publish it in ten minutes flat.I dont mean to minimize the work involved, because the more time you spend making your blogarticles perfect, the more benefit youll get out of it. But if youre in a rush and youve got somethingthat needs to be published yesterday, you can pretty much accomplish that.FlexibleAlthough a blog is most effective if its kept fairly focused, the format still leaves you tons of room toexplore.
  • 6. Do you prefer short, pithy, powerful nuggets of wisdom? It works for Seth Godin. Go for it!Are you a bit wordier? Steve Pavlina routinely publishes 5000-word mini-books on his personaldevelopment blog, and theyre read by tens of thousands!Does your topic of choice lend itself more to pictures than words? Photo blogs are very common, andmany free and premium themes are designed specifically to showcase images.And if you do a Google search for just about any topic you can imagine, chances are a significantpercentage of the top sites you see in the results are blogs. People are literally blogging about anythingand everything all over the world, and theres no indication the trend is going to slow down any timesoon.PowerfulFinally, and perhaps most importantly for our purposes, a blog provides a business person or expert theperfect media for getting found by the masses.You see, the average person relies on Google to let them know who can help them solve their problemsand satisfy their desires. They have no means of differentiating one person or business from anotherwhen theyre looking at the yellow pages or passing your office on the street. But when theyre online,they can learn a tremendous amount about you, your level of knowledge, passion and ability, based onwhat they see on your site.A blog combines the power of online presentation with the search-engine friendly feature of regularupdates. Plus, as an added bonus, blogs are routinely shared via social media because theyre usuallyquick, focused bursts of interesting information that fans will share with their networks as a matter ofcourse.By using social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.) to let people know aboutyour blog posts and engage customers in conversation about your topic, you can start generating trafficto your blog and start building the reputation youre looking for.Beyond blogging, there are also dozens of other content types you can consider, based on what is goingto be most effective for reaching your target audience. Here are a few other possibilities:Online • Social Media updates • Videos • Podcasts • Online Article Bank Submissions • Guest Blog Entries (in someone elses blog) • E-mail Autoresponders • E-newslettersOffline • Newspaper Articles • Newspaper Columns • Interviews (giving and receiving) • Case Studies • Newsletter Articles (in someone elses newsletter)
  • 7. • Complete Newsletter (of your own) • Trade Magazine Feature Articles • Trade Magazine Columns • Consumer Magazine Articles • Consumer Magazine Columns • Pamphlets • Booklets • Books • SpeechesAgain, the main goal is to find whatever media is going to most appeal to your target audience, andwhich media youre most interested in creating. Where those two lists intersect is where youre goingto want to focus your efforts.
  • 8. How much? How soon? How often?The short answer is... it depends.Every strategy is different as it fills different needs and targets different people.But the bottom line fact is, its not quick and its not necessarily easy. To be truly effective, its going totake a lot of content, distributed far and wide as often as possible. So youre best off starting as soon asyou possibly can.The Content Marketing HurricaneContent marketing is not an overnight-success strategy.One of the reasons it works so incredibly well is that, instead of touching down with brief bursts ofpower, then disappearing, like a tornado, it builds slowly and steadily like a hurricane.This, unfortunately, is where most small business owners and independents lose traction.Its a lot of work, and at first it may even seem like its not accomplishing much. But consider this:Even the most awe-inspiring hurricane started out as a couple of measly thunderstorms out in themiddle of the vast ocean where no one could see them, and where no one would have paid attention ifthey could.But as the storms start gathering momentum, combining their forces, picking up moisture and headingtoward land, then people start taking notice.As time goes on, more and more people start noticing the growing power as the storm becomes atropical depression, then a tropical storm, then a hurricane. Now its motivating people to action:theyre boarding up windows, theyre leaving town...When it finally hits land, theres an inevitability about it, isnt there?Thats exactly how content marketing works.Slowly but surely, you add awesome content to your mix. At first, its just a few measly blog posts outin the middle of the vast online ocean, and no one pays any attention.But as you keep adding to the mix, guess what happens?Via social media and good old word-of-mouth, your content starts coalescing, gaining power andgaining momentum.People start to take notice.
  • 9. Then, as you keep working your strategy, the storm starts heading toward land and people really startperking up. Your posts are shared, youre starting to engage with people who like what you have to say,you start building your list of prospects...By the time your contents ready to hit land, you have customers raising their hands, ready, willing andable to buy from you because your content storm has hit full hurricane force, and these people whoknow, like and trust you want to take action.And thats a powerful thing.
  • 10. How Do You Get Started With Content Marketing?So how do you go about getting started?The more research you do online about the subject of content marketing, the more conflictinginformation youll find. Im not going to sit here and tell you my methods are the only way to succeed,or even the right way for you.But, since its worked well for me so far, Ill let you know how I would do it if I were starting fromscratch tomorrow.BrainstormingHere are a few questions you need to ask yourself: • Who is my target audience? • What do they want and need to know about my area of expertise? • How far can I narrow down my subject while still having plenty to say? • What valuable information would people likely be willing to pay for? And how can I best offer it to them free?The answers to these questions should give you a starting point for brainstorming content ideas. Iwould recommend trying to sit down for an hour or two and generate a minimum of 100 ideas thatwould appeal to your target audience, and can be communicated in ways your target audience willappreciate.For each of the ideas you come up with, try to quickly outline two or three main points youll want tocover under that topic. Dont spend too long doing this. The purpose of the exercise is to get and keepthe flow of ideas as you move quickly through the list.Then, consider which content format might be most appropriate for each subject youve written down.Many will work well as textual blog posts. Others may do better as videos, or presentations. Somemay include audio, such as interviews with other experts. Many will be able to be re-purposed inmultiple formats, which works even better.*Note* - If you dont already have these items established, youre also going to need to get running witha website, Wordpress (or other blogging) software, and whichever social media profiles make sense foryour personality and your goals.Editorial CalendarNext, you need to be brutally honest with yourself:
  • 11. • What schedule can I commit to for creating content regularly? • What can I commit to doing to distribute and promote my content? • How long can I realistically keep up the schedule Im arranging?These are tough questions to answer truthfully, especially when youre just starting out, because youreprobably going to be surprised at the amount of time youre going to spend on making this happen.Unless words flow fast and smooth from your mind to your fingertips, and you know social media likethe back of your hand, youre probably going to find the entire blogging/syndicating/retweeting thing abit overwhelming.Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, many would-be success stories have never occurred because thehopeful content marketers got caught up in one thing or another and found they were unable orunwilling to stick to their content creation schedule.Ill stress again, its not easy. But its so worth it.Once you have a realistic idea in mind and in writing as to how much content you can produce and howoften, its best to set up an official editorial calendar.You can do this on any paper or on-screen calendar program you like, as long as its something youplan to keep in front of you at all times.This becomes your Bible, where you look for guidance when times get hard.You can insert your 100 or more ideas for blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc. into the calendar on thedays you want to publish them over the course of the next several months. Make sure you build in timefor plenty of research and rewriting.StrategyContent marketing strategy is far too deep and rich a topic for me to give appropriate treatment in thisreport, but here are a few items to consider as you begin fulfilling your editorial calendar: • Although each individual piece of content is valuable in itself, “the hurricane” cant build up speed and intensity unless each piece builds on the last. That doesnt mean each piece needs to directly connect like an ongoing series (although thats an option to explore, depending on your situation,) but rather that each piece needs to work together with a cohesive theme and recognizable voice so people can start putting things together in their minds. • Different kinds of messages lend themselves to different kinds of media. So, although a particular topic may work very well in a 750-word blog post, if youre going to re-purpose that content to make a video, reading the blog post into the camera is NOT going to work. Experiment with the different methods and media until you find the right mix that works well for you and your audience, then focus on what works. • Always keep your goals in mind. If you are using content marketing to eventually sell a product or service to a group of people who have shown themselves to be hot prospects for that
  • 12. sale, make sure your content production is heading toward that goal. It would be foolish to try to sell them on every piece of content. As a matter of fact, that would be disastrous to your content marketing strategy. But at the same time, its possible to get so caught up in the production of valuable content that you never get around to a call-to-action. Remember that youre not looking for readers, youre looking for customers.• Social Media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+) are a fantastic tool for getting your content out there in front of your audience, sharing what youre doing and starting conversations about it. But, its also a huge time waster if youre not careful. You absolutely MUST take advantage of this technology to quickly and economically distribute your content and build relationships with your audience. But dont get so caught up in it your content creation or the other work your content is intended to market begins to suffer.• Finally, remember that your strategy is fluid and will need to change as circumstances change in feedback comes in. Dont stubbornly stick to a plan thats not working. Test, test, test. And change as needed to take advantage of the information you receive.
  • 13. Final WordsWe flew through this information because I knew this wasnt the time or place to try to teach you allthere is to know about content marketing.But I hope youre coming away from this brief report with at least a surface understanding of whatcontent marketing is and why its so vitally important that you get involved in using this powerfulmarketing tool if you havent already.While building and maintaining a content marketing strategy is simple, its certainly not easy. But Idont want that to scare you off.Rest assured there are hundreds of excellent resources online that can help you learn various aspects ofhow to put the whole strategy together, how to produce killer content, and how to stay motivated tostick with it through the long haul. Ive included a few of my favorites in a resource list at the end ofthe report for that purpose.Id also like to humbly offer my own assistance as well. As a content marketing specialist, my maingoal is to help small businesses and independents harness the power of content marketing for their ownsuccess, and for the betterment of the whole world. So, if I can be of any help at all, call me at 828-404-7619, or e-mail me at justin@justinplambert.net.ResourcesCopyblogger (www.copyblogger.com/content-marketing)Content Marketing Today (www.contentmarketingtoday.com)Content Marketing Institute (www.contentmarketinginstitute.com)Words That Begin With You (www.justinplambert.net/content-marketing)