Content can be one of the most frustrating things for a business.
One potential frustration is the number of ways content can be used. To sell. To brand. To help.
Another frustration is the fear of judgment. In the industry. From peers. From customers. From those within the organization.
A good starting point, if you’re struggling with your content efforts, is to understand Content Strategy and Content Marketing. What they are and how you can use them to start and sustain successful content efforts.
Let’s get into some details…
Content strategy is planning to create content. The strategy can be for all types of content or for one specific type. Types fall into three basic categories: Video, audio and text. From these three types are channels and platforms. Some channels allow for one type, others allow for multiple. Some have specific limits, like word count, while others are more wide open.
Content marketing is creating, publishing and distributing content (video, audio, text or all a combination) with the goal of building awareness for a brand. The ultimate goal is to increase sales. But nearly all successful content marketing focuses on the branding aspect with little to no sales focus.
For example, a GEICO commercial typically feature a seemingly random entertainment-based content piece for about 20-25 seconds with the last segment focusing on some sales aspect for the brand. The selling is usually something like, “Save 15% or more” or simply, “Geico.com”. The goal is to attract attention to the brand with the ultimate goal being for that attention to lead to sales, which it often does.
Experimenting With Content
Perhaps the most common hangup in business content is over-strategizing. You see the same thing in business planning.
Is a content strategy good? Yes. Is a business plan good? Yes.
But at some point over-strategizing turns into procrastination.
People like to mention this supposed Abraham Lincoln quote:
If given six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four sharpening the axe.
That can turn into an excuse to procrastinate. Someone focused on action would take the axe and hit the tree trunk a few times. They would learn if the axe was sharp or not. Maybe there is an hour left of good chopping. Then an hour of sharpening, followed by another hour of good chopping to get the tree felled.
Meanwhile, Honest Abe would still be busy sharpening until his axe is supposedly, “just right”.
I’m a fan of getting started. You can certainly create a basic plan. In fact, some of the best business plans are created on cocktail napkins. See: Southwest Airlines.
But at some point, as early as possible, you have to start working. You have to take action and start learning and start building your skills.
In terms of content, you have to start writing, shooting video or recording audio.
If you’re brand new to it, you’ll have no idea what you’re doing. You can google the basics and begin.
So start writing blog posts now. Start shooting and publishing videos now. Start recording a podcast now.
One of the best lessons I’ve gleaned over the years from businesspeople is that many would say, “I wish I would have started [blank] sooner…”
We all realize too late that the real secret to success is action.
How To Form A Content Strategy
Once you start experimenting you can begin tweaking your content strategy.
Let’s say you’re starting a blog…
Commit to writing two posts per week for one year. After a year you’ll have about a hundred posts. You’ll have shared those on social media and maybe even via email. You’ll get some info on what is connecting and what is not.
Now you can revise your strategy on what type of blog posts you’re going to create the following year. More of what works. Less of what doesn’t. And a good helping of new experiments.
It seems simple, but that’s how it works for most businesses and most content creators. Look at the best content creating businesses in the world. Odds are good that they started their content strategy this way and continue to do it, for the most part, today.
How To Identify The Best Types Of Content Marketing
As you get into the first months and years of creating content you’ll start to learn about where you should invest more resources and where you might want to pull back.
You know that there are three types of content marketing: text, video and audio.
The channels and platforms change. But basically it’s always going to be those three. People like all three. Some people like one more than others. Trends might change every few years depending on the channel.
You can follow the trends as they change and tweak your content marketing to reach your target audience.
For a long time, people read newspapers and books. Then the trend started shifting to radio. Then it shifted big time to television. Then the Internet came along and text came back. Connections weren’t quite fast enough for video. But then YouTube brought video back into play. Now podcasts are catching up with video.
There is also the internal focus of what you’re best at. You might be best with writing. Or someone on your team might be best at creating video. You might need to hire people for all three so that as things change you can shift your budget based on what people want the most.
Identify what people want compared to what you’re best at. The best solution for now and the short-term future is usually somewhere where those meet.
Consistency, Auditing & Ongoing Experimentation
The biggest thing with content strategy and marketing is consistency. Creating the discipline to create content on a schedule. Something that the audience can rely on.
Think of music, movies and novels in the entertainment world as one example. They all developed into basic schedule structures for the most part in the 20th Century. Pop albums were released every 18-months on average. Movies from directors were released about once a year. Especially early in careers. Books from popular authors were released every year.
See what schedule is working for the best in your industry. That’s what you’re looking at. You have to stick with it.
Content Strategy seems like it comes before Content Marketing. It can, but don’t let it lead you to an excuse of procrastinating. Getting to work is the most important if you’re serious about growing your business with content marketing. The steps here are what works for the most successful content creators. It really works in all areas of life and business. Content marketing is no different.