One of the toughest parts of running a small business or startup is getting attention for your brand in the early going. In the beginning, no one's yet heard of your business, and your job is to gain exposure without being too sales-y or promotional.
It's generally agreed upon in the startup world today that the best way to do this is with content. If you have compelling articles, infographics and social media updates that can organically draw people's attention, it's a good bet that interest in your business will come naturally from that.
But there's a tough question you need to answer first: "What will you write about?"
Everyone deals with writer's block sometimes, from bestselling authors to high schoolers writing book reports, and content marketers are no exception. Struggling with the brainstorming process is only natural, but in our line of work, you can't afford it. It's important to have a steady flow of ideas if you want to keep marketing your business effectively.
So how will you devise enough writing ideas to keep your content marketing plan in motion? Here are a few strategies that might help.
Begin with your goals in mind
If you're trying to figure out where to begin with content marketing, it makes sense to start at the end and work backward. What are you hoping to accomplish in the long run? Once you have goals in mind, you can then figure out how to achieve them by producing relevant content.
According to the BuzzStream blog, it's tough to come up with a content marketing strategy until you first figure out what results you're looking for. Matt Gratt, a customer acquisition strategist at BuzzStream, points out that different types of content have different targets in terms of ROI.
"Content marketing can achieve many goals. It can attract links, serve as an organic search landing page, move customers further along in the sales cycle (from awareness to consideration, consideration to short-listing, etc), increase customer success and lifetime value and more."
Picture the sales funnel - what level on that funnel are you aiming at? If you're looking just to draw initial clicks, you might want to write about general, keyword-rich topics that'll appeal to a wide audience. If you're looking to build engagement with people who already know your bran, you might be better off zooming in on more specific aspects of your business. It all depends.
Cater effectively to your audience
What do you want to write? Before you can answer, you first need to establish what your audience wants to read. Forbes recently emphasized that the best content marketers only cover topics that are sure to perform well; they don't waste time on anything else.
James Parsons, founder of content marketing startup Blogpros, told Forbes that for this reason, the best strategy is to think about your potential customers and what sorts of content will appeal to them.
"We really have to put ourselves in the shoes of our client's potential customers. Know what they're searching, and write great content that caters to those searches. Without that key element, you aren't going to get the powerful exposure that most businesses are looking for."
Use analytics to look at what people are searching for, what they're clicking on and what gets them buzzing on social media. From there, you can start to build a 'can't-miss' strategy.
Embrace social listening to stay timely
Finding writing ideas by tuning into social media can be challenging. There's a lot of noise out there, and it's sometimes difficult to discern what's just chatter and what's really worth listening to.
Social Media Today made the point that it takes a lot of research to get a clear idea of what your customer base wants. You can't just base your entire plan off of a couple of people's tweets - you've got to go into depth and get a wide range of thoughts and opinions.
"Social gives you a fairly frictionless way to start to understand the voice of the customer. Actively listening to your customers on social media will allow you to get a strong sense of who they are and what interests them. Use your initial demographic research to add more focus to your social listening efforts from the beginning."
Once you know what customers you're targeting, you can zoom in on specific Facebook and Twitter focus groups to get clear, relevant information about how your content strategy that will work. Block out the noise and find the signal.
Stay at the cutting edge
Running a successful business is all about planning for the future. It's not enough just to stay effective by maintaining the status quo - you have to think ahead and consider how your business model will remain sustainable, say, three years from now.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the key is to keep innovating. Don't just follow trends as they come - think ahead about the direction the world is moving, and try to be a trend-setter yourself.
Roanne Neuwirth, senior vice president at Farland Group, says that this can help you build credibility with both the general public and top executives at other companies. She pointed to McKinsey and Company as an example of a business that does this well.
"McKinsey's perspectives have become required reading for many boardrooms and executive tables because they push beyond standard observations. McKinsey provides the 'so what' road map to help its audience think differently."
If your startup really wants to be innovative, it'll aim to change the way its customers think and alter their future vision. The best way to present this mindset, of course, is by writing great content about it - so get to work.
How you can keep the ideas flowing
Everyone gets writer's block from time to time. Even content marketing professionals are not immune. Here's a recap of how to overcome such issues:
- Think about your long-term goals with marketing. What are you trying to accomplish in the end? How can content help you get there?
- Consider your audience and evaluate what they're looking for. Then, try to figure out how your content strategy plays into that.
- Work on your "social listening" skills. Find out what you can glean from social media and apply it to your marketing campaign.
- Think ahead. Anticipate where the business world is moving, and try to be an innovator rather than a follower. Make sure your content reflects that.
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