Ready to get started with content marketing? The content marketing process consists of four steps: strategy, content creation, distribution and conversion.

1. Content marketing starts with a solid strategy

The first step to content marketing is to develop the right strategy. A study from the end of last year found that 64% of marketeers and communications professionals have already defined their content marketing strategy. An even higher percentage say they use a content calendar to plan their content marketing schedule.

When formulating your content marketing strategy, start by defining your company. It might sound a little abstract, but it’s important to fully understand your company’s role as a content provider. It goes without saying that your organisation wants to make money. But that is not a good starting point for your content marketing strategy. If that’s your only focus, then you’ll wind up writing only advertisements. As you may have noticed, people are increasingly turned off by advertising. Content marketing is not a medium for selling your products. It’s a means of strengthening ties with your target groups. It makes them feel good about your company so they’ll want to continue buying from you. So, the first thing you must do to get started in content marketing is start looking at your company as a media brand. Think of yourself as a publisher.

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The next step is to determine who your target groups are. One way of doing this is to create buyer personas. Then you have to think about which types of content you want to make for which phase of the customer journey. Each piece of content you create serves a purpose in the funnel. It won’t work to create the same content for everyone in your target group. Not everyone who comes across your content will be in the same stage of the buying process. We’ll discuss this in greater detail below.

Your tone of voice also has to match with your target group. So, for example, if you’re targeting seniors, avoid using internet slang. If you’re targeting a young audience, feel free to name-drop Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey. Just remember, your company’s tone of voice is not set in stone. Over time, it evolves. You may have had the perfect tone of voice for your target group ten years ago. But that’s no guarantee that this tone will keep working for you forever. So, be sure to keep monitoring and updating your tone of voice document.

2. Content marketing requires high-quality content

Now you’re ready to start creating your content. Your content consists of a medium as well as a message. Both are important. It’s also important to stick with a consistent strategy. Think about who your target audience is. In which stage of the customer journey are they? If your prospective customers are still in the orientation phase, you’ll want to provide general, informative content. Say you’re just getting started with content marketing. In that case, you’re still a long way off from deciding which marketing automation software to buy. You may not even know what this is yet. So, as a prospective customer, you’d probably be more interested in general articles and videos about content marketing. It wouldn’t make any sense to bombard you at this point in your customer journey with in-depth content about the features of marketing automation software. Instead, you’d probably be more interested in a blog post about the four phases of content marketing, or how to generate leads with your content.

The medium you use depends on which channels you’ll use to distribute your content. If you’re using Instagram, for example, then your medium will be photos and videos. You can also get a lot of attention with videos on Facebook and LinkedIn. Ebooks and white papers are also very popular media to use on LinkedIn. If you’re creating content for your own website, it’s wise to use a combination of text and images. If you have a page devoted to case studies, it’s a good idea to stick with a consistent format for each case study you publish. The images you use and how you connect them with your brand are also important factors. Your content must be on-brand. But remember: a link with your brand is not the same as a link with your product. Think of Red Bull for example. On their corporate site,  there’s not a single reference to their product. Yet the content is always clearly linked with their brand.

Just like the flavour of bread depends on the quality of the dough, the quality of your content depends on the language you use. If the language is no good, the content will never work. You can have the best graphic design and the smartest insight, but if it’s badly written, you’ll never get through to your readers. Writing is a skill, and not everyone is good at it.

3. Distributing your content

So, your content is ready for publication. Now it’s time to release it to your target groups. There are many different channels for doing this. The PESO model is a good structure to go by. PESO stands for ‘paid, earned, shared and owned’ media. It starts with content on your own domains (owned media), such as blog posts, product descriptions, FAQs, customer cases etc. Your newsletter is also part of your owned media. You can also publish your content on other channels, such as a guest blog post that you write for another website. This generates attention that you have earned (which is why it’s called ‘earned’ media). Shared media includes social media, referrals and word-of-mouth testimonials. Lastly there’s paid media. These are the channels that you pay to distribute your content. Perhaps you’ve done a paid LinkedIn campaign or sponsored a post on Facebook before, for example.

4. Converting interest into leads

Conversion is the word on everyone’s mind in the content marketing world. That’s no surprise. After all, companies want to know what they’re getting out of the money they invest in content marketing. You could easily ask the same question about conventional advertising. How can you tell what the return on investment for a billboard is? Still, compared with an AdWords ad, it’s harder to measure how profitable a content marketing campaign is.

So, the first step towards conversion is to define your goals. Do you have a blog on your corporate website? If so, then your goal may be to attract more visitors to your site. Content on your site can also serve the purpose of making you easier to find on Google. And as a secondary goal, you may decide that you want to get visitors to stay for at least 30 seconds on a specific page.

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The rise of marketing automation software makes it easier than ever to drive conversion. It’s all about using content in a structured, measurable way. Content boosts your sales the way motor oil keeps an engine running smoothly. Content draws leads into your funnel, helping them to discover and consider which products and services they need. This ultimately drives conversion. You must use separate pieces of content at each stage of the funnel. But one thing remains immeasurable: the impact of creativity on your target groups. Above all, your content has to be enjoyable, generate loyalty and make an impact.