We hear a lot of buzz about “content marketing,” which proposes that thoughtful, informative content on your website can be a potent tool for turning prospects into paying customers. The right content can build credibility, putting cash in your pocket instead of your competitors’.
The trouble is, your choices are nearly endless. Do you want videos demonstrating your products, interviews with company leaders, how-to articles showing how you work? Editors thrive on making these kinds of decisions, so learning to think like one could help you decide what to post on your site and what to ignore.
A content strategy has at least four components: target audience, story ideas, a contributor list and a publication schedule. An editor developing a strategy for your site would:
1) Zero in your target audience
I’ll start with a sample from my monthly magazine pile: Backpacker, which targets hikers and campers. Every month the magazine’s editors send me a fresh supply of:
- Suggestions for hiking trails
- Tips for staying safe and warm in the wilderness
- Recommendations for great new camping gear
Note the common thread: helping hikers out.
Magazines are instructive because while they can be extremely helpful to their readers, they never let them forget it’s a business. Every other page in Backpacker is hawking tents, sleeping bags, stoves and anything else that goes in a backpack. And just as Backpacker is an advertising channel for its advertisers, your website is a marketing channel for your business.
The key is to publish content that subtly steers customers toward buying stuff (skip the hard sell, it just runs readers off). Once you’ve identified your target market, it’s time to…
2) Brainstorm a bunch of story ideas
Your business generates more than products and services: it generates questions. About your motives, your passions, your ability to solve problems, your knack for besting the competition. If I were your editor, I’d want stories that:
- Show me why you’re in this business to begin with: It can’t be only about the money. Any old 40-hour-a-week job can provide money. Tell me what fires you up to wake up before dawn and work till midnight for days on end, and why you believe if you don’t do it, it won’t get done right.
- Demonstrate how you helped customers in the past: If you have great products they may speak for themselves, but if you’re in a service business, you have to produce evidence that your efforts provided a solution. Success stories build trust.
- Dare your customers to dream. Patagonia, the high-end outdoor clothing company, is great at this: including stories in its catalog that inspire people’s adventurous spirit. Most people will never ski to the North Pole, but they love to imagine they might one day. Help them believe.
These are just starting points. Think in terms of a large number of short articles rather than a small number of long articles. Then it’s time to…
3) Identify potential contributors
Once you have your story ideas in hand, you’ll need people to write them. This can be a major hang-up because professional writers are expensive and amateurs typically produce amateurish content.
However, if fortune has bestowed your staff with a few gifted writers, you could conceivably save some money by setting time aside for them to write articles, and hiring an editor to coordinate their work and guide their contributions.
If you have no writerly types on staff, consider recruiting bloggers who are already covering the business you’re in. They might work for less money than professional copywriters but still have enough knowledge to provide credible content.
Having said all this, professional content producers are the best investment because they already know how to get up to speed on a business in a hurry, and they have a vested interest in helping you make more money — the more you earn, the more they can earn. Nobody else has that kind of motivation.
4) Create a publication schedule
- Start a calendar with firm deadlines.
- Establish priorities on what needs to be written first.
- If your company is seasonal, match your content to the time of year.
- Make somebody accountable for enforcing deadlines and getting your stories told.
By now the main question in your mind should be: Do you really want to do all that yourself, or would you rather hire a professional editor who can make it happen?
Interested? Stop by my Contact page and let’s get a conversation started.