Content marketing is a relatively new term in the marketing industry. In fact, content marketing is such a new component of marketing that prior to writing this article—I went back and reviewed some of my marketing textbooks from when I was in college, and believe it or not—there were no reference of the term content marketing in any of them (which wasn’t that long ago).
Although content marketing is an ultramodern marketing concept—thousands of executives around the world have already realized the impact that it could have on their company's bottom-line. So much so that according to Forbes, content strategists are now one of the six marketing careers that are likely to be in high demand over the next decade.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve spoken with business professionals who have no idea what content marketing truly is—but did know that they were now ready to apply it in order to help their business connect with their audience on a deeper level. Also, they wanted to utilize it because a few of their competitors were already applying it in their marketing strategies and they were crushing it.
If you’re not exactly sure yourself of what content marketing actually is—content marketing is the process of creating compelling content for a targeted audience with the purpose of influencing a desired action (e.g., a purchase, a subscription, a renewal). I like to think of content marketing along the lines of creating a publishing company within a business for the sole benefit of its bottom-line.
Now that you know exactly what content marketing is—let’s get into the ways you can craft the type of content marketing that’ll connect with consumers.
Understand your audience…and your opponent
By far, one of my favorite films of all-time is the hip-hop cult classic 8 Mile. Released in 2002, 8 Mile stars Eminem as aspiring rapper “B-Rabbit.” In the pursuit of achieving his dream to land a record deal and help alleviate his family’s economic hardships, B-Rabbit agrees to participate in rap battles in his hometown of Detroit, at a place called “The Shelter” at the behest of his best friend and hype man “Future.”
And while B-Rabbit was a stellar rapper—he often struggled with stage fright. Mostly due to the film’s antagonists—a group of rival rappers called the “Free World,” who belittled him on and off stage every chance they got.
That’s until B-Rabbit had an epiphany and realized that if he beat the Free World’s leader “Papa Doc” to the punch by cleaning out own his closet (I couldn’t resist the reference) during their battle on stage by making fun of himself, as well as revealing secrets about his opponent’s privileged upbringing—Papa Doc would have no ammunition to use against him when it was his turn to rap during their battle.
Needless to say, B-Rabbit’s plan worked perfectly and he ended up leaving Papa Doc speechless and embarrassed after he destroyed his thug image in front of the crowd during their final battle.
The reason B-Rabbit’s plan worked perfectly was because after failing on stage on multiple occasions—he learned his audience well enough to know what would resonate with them and what would not. He also studied his opponents and knew their weaknesses. The same rationale applies to crafting your content for marketing purposes. Select your target audience (your ideal customers) and learn as much about them as you can.
What do they do for a living? What do they read in their spare time? What are their hobbies? What do they want to become? What do they like and dislike? In other words, create an avatar of the ideal person you'd want to sit in the front row if your brand was a band and gave a concert.
Be sure that you only aim to engage with those that’ll be most likely to embrace what your content focuses on—as opposed to aiming to appeal to everyone. Once you select and get to know your target audience—you’ll be able to create the type of content they’ll deem valuable and beneficial.
Also, be sure to study and understand your competitors as well so that you’ll know them well enough to create unique content that they cannot replicate. Which in-turn, will make you the go-to source in your industry for that type of content.
Be an expert at conveying outcomes
Since you’re reading this, I have both good news and bad news for you. The good news is that there’s an extremely high chance that you’re already an expert at something that you could create content around.
The bad news is that in order to craft content marketing around your expertise—you must be able to convey why it matters to your audience. Which means that your expertise has to be relevant to what's in it for your audience if they were to engage with it.
Here’s the thing, with both social and conventional media being so prevalent—every day, your target audience is being bombarded with thousands of brands vying for their attention on multiple platforms.
Therefore, in order to pierce through the noise and have your audience give your content what thousands of other brands want—which is their undivided attention—you must convey via your headlines and content; just how taking a certain action will make their lives better.
The truth is that everyone is the hero in their own life’s story. And in every great story, a hero sets out to do one of two things: attain a reward or avoid a repercussion. Your job as a content marketer is to create content that conveys just how it’ll help your audience attain that reward they want or avoid that repercussion they fear—both of which will help them have a happy ever after ending.
As Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson said, “In order for people to embrace something, they have to see where they fit into it.”
Don’t sell when you can compel
When most direct marketers think of content marketing, they often view it from the scope of simply selling something. For that reason, content marketing often gets misconstrued.
While the objective of content marketing is to influence a desired action that’ll eventually lead to revenue for your business—to get a person to the point that they’re ready to make a purchase, your content should skew more towards the side of being compelling—rather than simply selling.
“Good content marketing makes a person stop, read, think, and behave differently.” Says Joe Pullizi, author of Epic Content Marketing. Who went on to state, “Helpful and compelling content cuts through the clutter. Everything else gets ignored, skipped, or disregarded.”
In order for content marketing to be most effective—it needs to build trust by being informative, entertaining, and most importantly…compelling. Remember, great content marketing builds a bridge that connects your brand with its audience—not a billboard.
Create content that’s culturally relevant
This one is pretty short—but tremendously important. Regardless of which industry your content is aimed towards—make sure that your content is culturally relevant to your audience.
When it comes to content marketing—don’t try to change the things that people already care about. Instead, craft content that connects them to more of those things that they like.
Avoid putting yourself in a box
The difference between content marketing and simply creating content—is that content marketing is created with the objective of influencing an audience to eventually take actions that will be profitable towards an actual business. As opposed to simply creating content without a profitable end goal.
However, far too often—marketers make the mistake of only limiting the content they create towards their respective expertise or niche. The reason why that is a mistake is because it'll confine your creativity to only familiar topics—which eventually will bore your audience.
“If you keep doing the same thing and the things you love every day—you can only write so much because you’re used to it. In order for you to find material, you got to be uncomfortable. You got to put yourself in situations you wouldn’t normally be in.” Says comedian and screenwriter Deon Cole in an interview with TVOne.
Avoid putting yourself in a box by being willing to step outside of your comfort zone and create content that may not always be within your particular expertise—but would fit in with your brand and what would benefit your audience.
Be extremely generous with your stories
The key to being a really good storyteller is never being afraid to be vulnerable. Always aim to be generous enough to create content that freely gives valuable information that’ll help those you seek to serve. By taking this approach, it'll help people connect more with your brand and trust your offers.
Lastly, content marketing isn’t only successful when your audience purchases what it is that you’re selling. Content marketing is only successful when those that do make a purchase also benefit by doing so.