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It’s said that 2014 will be the year that content marketing comes into it’s own. Content marketing has been on the list of most buzz-worthy buzzwords for some time. There are magazines devoted to the topic, awards for “best content marketers”, and a quick search of the Internet spits back list upon list of how to do it correctly. Marketers from organizations of all sizes and types have jumped onto the bandwagon with both feet. It’s easy to understand why when you consider that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing, while generating about three times as many leads per dollar spent.

Even Hollywood seems to recognize the importance of content marketing. Oscar-Award winning actor Kevin Spacey will deliver the closing keynote at next week’s Content Marketing World 2014. Oh, and Kevin? He has his own blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, Google+ page, and YouTube channel. Clearly, he has thought about his own content marketing strategy.

Glamor aside, creating and maintaining a content marketing strategy is hard work. There’s much more to it than just throwing up a blog post every few weeks and tagging links on Twitter. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Let’s look at that a little more closely.

Valuable: Does your content educate your audience, share new information, or help them do their job better? Good content is designed to inform your buyers, to make them more intelligent if you will, not sell to them. Potential customers are fickle beasts – one sniff that you’re trying to sell them something and they’ll be running for the hills. But, delivering a steady stream of valuable content will increase the trust your audience has in your brand and in turn, reward you with their loyalty…and more importantly, their business.

Relevant: To create great content you need to understand the needs, lifestyle, and interest of your customers. Does your content matter to their business and lives? Does it solve their problems or answer their questions? If your main objective is just about making yourself look good, then your content marketing strategy is destined to fail. You need to become an expert on what is truly meaningful to your audience.

Consistent: Building an audience requires time and effort. In order for your business to be top of mind, your audience needs to hear from you. A lot. Plan your content in advance and even consider developing a schedule. Planning provides the added benefit of being able to thoroughly cover specific topics in detail, addressing questions and relevant problems your customers might be experiencing, rather than jumping from one random topic to the next.

A clearly defined audience: This is perhaps the most critical piece of the puzzle. We are hyper-focused on establishing our content strategy, developing meaningful, creative content, and optimizing that content for every channel and search algorithm out there. We’re distracted by every shiny new social media platform that hits the scene. But in the frenzy of creating clever infographics and enough witty blog posts to last the quarter, have we spent as much time figuring out who our target audience is? Reaching the right people is crucial to your business and it begins by knowing your audience.

You’ve developed your content marketing strategy, have whiz-bang content, and identified your target audience. Now what? A lot of time and money was spent developing that great content and you want to be sure that it gets noticed. But competition for eyeballs is fierce. Throwing up a blog post and hoping folks see it isn’t effective, and in today’s noisy and platform filled landscape it isn’t as simple as a social media blast.

Content delivery – specifically knowing how your audience likes to receive content and how you will get your content in front of them – is just as important as content creation. Strategically planning the distribution of your content should be a consideration in the early planning stages of your strategy to ensure it appears where it matters to your audience…something we’ll tackle in a future blog.

Until then, are you ready to dive into building your own whiz-bang content marketing strategy?

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