When my daughter was in fifth grade, she made a model solar system for the science fair. So did 15 other kids. Many of the entries looked sloppy or hastily put together. Some of the kids couldn’t explain their models very well. My daughter took home the blue ribbon. Her project stood out from the others because it was more detailed, had vibrant colors, and included an in-depth report.
Content marketing is a little bit like bringing a solar system to the science fair. Everyone is doing it. Not everyone is doing it well. Follow these 10 best practices to ensure your content marketing stands out from the crowd and actually converts.
1. Expand your definition of “content”
Go beyond whitepapers and blogs. Content can include podcasts, video, artificial intelligence, FAQs, memes, quizzes, photos, infographics, and more in addition to traditional formats like whitepapers, blogs, and reports. Anything that offers useful information to help your audience can be used in content marketing.
2. Choose the right format
Let your audience determine your format. If podcasts are your most popular offering, for example, do more podcasts. If your audience prefers substantive whitepapers and reports, focus your efforts there. If you don’t have much data on audience preferences, a good bet is to keep it brief. Start with short videos (less than a minute), infographics, checklists, Q&As, or memes.
3. Focus on the customer
Know your audience. What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? What are their goals and aspirations? You can’t provide useful information if you don’t know what people want. Consider segmenting your list so you can tailor content to audience needs.
4. Offer something valuable
Once you’ve thoroughly considered #3 above, mine your existing brand assets for things people need. Do you have reports, articles, e-books, podcasts, whitepapers, or other helpful tools that will make people’s lives easier? Repurpose relevant materials, but generate original content if your existing stash doesn’t serve your base.
5. Use available data
Whenever possible, make decisions based on data. Look at past performance of emails, ads, and other promotions to see which topics and offers best resonate with your audience. Choose a marketing channel based on demographics or other insights you have about your prospects and members.
6. Schedule your content
Don’t just look at the content you’re launching. Look at what else your audience receives from your association. What other industry events are going on? Time your content when it will have the least amount of competition for attention.
7. Optimize for mobile
There’s a good chance most people read your communications on a mobile device. That means if your content is not mobile optimized, you are wasting your efforts.
8. Speak like a human
Avoid technical terms and industry jargon in favor of conversational, human speech. Your job is to get attention and engage people. You can always follow up later with more in-depth information.
9. Stay true to your brand
Your content marketing should be consistent, unified, and aligned with your existing brand. Consistency helps people recognize you and trust you, two key things that must happen before people will take action.
10. Include a call to action and make it easy to act
Clearly communicate what you want people to do—listen now, download this report, visit this site, etc. Make it easy for them to take action. Try prepopulated lead generation forms so all they have to do is click a button.
We helped the Association of Corporate Council build a prospect pool and grow their membership with content marketing. To get attention and build trust, we used the ACC’s existing reports, surveys, and infographics combined with lead generation forms on Facebook and LinkedIn. As a result, we grew the prospect pool by 1400 new email addresses and gained over 600 new members new members.
There’s a lot of poorly executed content marketing out there. Unfortunately, it’s competing for your audience’s attention alongside your efforts. The good news is that it’s still possible to make content work for you—to get attention, nurture your leads into high-quality prospects, and convert them into members and loyal advocates. But if you want to take home the blue ribbon, you’ll have to be better than anyone else.