Many business leaders under estimate the work required to develop good content marketing that drives real results. Many think it's as easy as a simple blog post and you're done. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Every piece of content you create should have a marketing plan to support it. Why invest in something if you don't have a plan for how you are going to reap benefit from such?
Below are 16 Golden Rules for Content Marketing. I could write a much longer list of these. However, to keep things simple, we'll stick to short and simple for now.
16 Golden Rules of Content Marketing for Real Results
1. Slow down to speed up. This is pretty straight forward. Take time to do the following things on this list before you invest in a copy writer. Content marketing is much bigger than a blog post or words on a page. Content marketing involves knowing your audience, setting goals, determining and executing marketing tactics to leverage the content to help you meet business goals and the list goes on. Take time to slow down so that you can speed up over time and continuously drive higher and higher return and efficiencies.
2. Build your content foundation. Think brand and message architecture versus random acts of messaging. Random Acts of Marketing will eat every last morsel of return for breakfast and lunch. Same goes for content marketing. Your brand architecture should include images, design and content. The content should be broken down into tiered messaging versus everything having equal value. For example, the highest tier would be your vision and mission statement where a product or service level message is several tiers lower. If you communicate with your audience not understanding these tiers and what they mean to your audience you will likely confuse them greatly.
If you are lacking at minimum a basic message and brand framework you will likely have a difficult time answering and/or following the rest of the tips on this list. If you having trouble knowing what to write about, how to integrate your content marketing then chances are you need to slow down to speed up and focus on your foundation before you execute additional random content marketing tactics.
4. Know who you are. Know who you are and what value you offer your audience. Know what you mean to them. Know your strengths, weaknesses and how you differentiate from your competitors and replacement products or services.
5. Know what your audience wants. What do your customers, partners, clients, prospective customers, stakeholders and community want from you? How can you help them solve problems? What keeps them up at night? How can you offer them the highest value possible. Download our POST audience analysis worksheet to help you identify and prioritize your top audiences.
6. Know what ya' got. What content do you have that you can leverage? Start by doing a content asset inventory. Identify all assets including but not limited to video, podcasts, written content, blog posts, whitepapers, and presentations. For each piece of content mark it as a status of “IN”, “OUT” or “UPDATE”. This basically means each piece of content is either going to be used, will not be used, or needs updated before it gets used externally. Download this content asset inventory worksheet to help you get started.
7. Embrace Imperfect Perfection. You must start somewhere. If you wait until everything is absolutely perfect you'll never launch, or by the time you do it will be old news and not relevant. Focus on value to your audience over perfection.
8. Create once, use many. Focus on creating the framework mentioned in #2 above. When you invest in a solid foundation and create a “Message House” or “Message Bible” it enables you to create once and use many. This increases the ROI on all content. You start by developing a foundation from which you can build upon. From the foundational messaging and content you can tweak for different audiences, niches and campaigns as needed.
9. Integrate and avoid Random Acts of Marketing. Make it a goal to eliminate Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs) wherever and whenver possible. The bast way to do this is to ensure content marketing is integrated with your business and marketing. Content should not be used as a band-aid to a bad sales or marketing week. Instead leverage it as a competitive weapon to inspire and connect with your audience. Focus on integrating content with every step of the sales and marketing funnel.
10. Be You. There is only one you, so be that person or that brand, period. Don't copy your partners, customers or competitors. Build your own plan, brand and content marketing strategy. As I always say there is only one way to do social media, social business and content marketing, and that is the way that works for you and your business.
11. Stay fresh. Don't get stuck in old ways. Stay up to date on industry trends, data, and news. Keeping your content fresh will help you stay relevant in the eyes of your most important audiences.
12. Try the cow. Think out of the box. The image to the right of this tip is a simple cow stuck on a fence. I have used this image in presentations, blog posts, ads and more with high return. It is one of the highest perfoming images of any we have used. Who “woulda thunk” a cow would work so well? Try it. You never know what results you may have. Your “cow” image may not be a cow. It may be a monkey, human being, plant or anything that makes people laugh or think different. My point here is to try something different.
13. Create a real conversion funnel. Don't trick your audience into multiple opt-ins making them think they are getting something free when in reality you just want their email address so you can spam them. Focus on real value and a conversion funnel that quickly delivers them the content requested and helps you achieve the desired conversion over time.
14. Don't over complicate it. Bottom line, you don't need to over complicate content marketing. Focus on building your content and message foundation and brand, knowing your audience and the other things on this list. When you do such the content marketing becomes easier and easier.
15. Take them on a journey. If you are just starting out with a new venture, business, brand, campaign, research project or anything, take your readers along for the journey. Humble yourself and your brand. Let them know you are starting something new. Share with them the highs and lows. When you do this they become a closer part of your community. When you achieve success, they then feel as if they were part of building you, because they were. They will then celebrate the wins, achievements with you.
16. When in doubt inspire them. If you are new to all of this, the best thing you can do is to inspire your audiences as you work on the foundation of brand and message architecture. If you focus on inspiring your audiences to connect with you with a goal of helping them achieve their objectives, you will then achieve your objectives by default. Inspire – Connect – Achieve!
- Worksheet: Download our POST audience analysis worksheet to help you identify and prioritize your top audiences. It is based upon the Forrester POST methodology.
- Worksheet: Download our Content Marketing Asset Inventory Worksheet
- Slideshare Presentation: 16 Content Marketing Golden Rules for Real Results
- Blog Post: 25 Content Marketing Ideas for People Who Don't Like to Write
- Blog Post: 28 Attributes of Good Content Marketing to Rock Your Social Business!
- Blog Post: Content marketing is not a new shiny object invented via social media
- Blog Post: 15 Reasons Random Acts of Marketing & Social Media Don't Work (Marketing Nutz)
- Blog Post: You Can't Fake Relevance in Social Media, Business & Life
- Blog Post: Is Your Content Worthy of a Like, Share, Pin, Retweet or Google +1? (includes definition of content marketing)
- Blog Post: Social Media Buzz, the False Perception of Social Media Success
- Blog Post: Are You Ignoring the Social Inspiration People Metrics?
- Blog Post: Inspiration Made Simple: Pick 3 Things
- Report/ Blog Post: Content and the new Marketing Equation (Brian Solis)
- Blog Post: The Definition of Social Business
- Website: Content Marketing Institute