What is content marketing?
Content marketing shares informative content that is relevant, interesting, and useful to your target audience.
There are four forms of content:
- Written word
We mainly talk about writing, audio, and video here on Copyblogger, so we’ll go through each of those different kinds of content later in this post.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s your job to be useful. There’s no point in creating any content if your audience doesn’t get any value from it.
Your goal is to help them, to improve their quality of life, and establish yourself as a thought leader — someone they can trust to guide them through the challenges they’re facing as it relates to your area of expertise.
Content marketing is one the best ways to do that.
Why invest in content marketing?
When done well, content creates brand equity, meaning: your brand becomes more and more valuable over time as you continue to create valuable content. And the more you help your audience, the more your brand will gain a reputation as a leader in your field.
This creates a flywheel effect where you start to generate more and more momentum until suddenly you’re dominating your field.
The core way content provides value to you as a business is through organic traffic. This is where people discover you on some kind of search platform, like Google, YouTube, or a podcast directory, and go visit your content.
It’s fundamentally different from other kinds of traffic for one critical reason — these people are looking for you. They are actively searching for information related to your business — that’s how they discovered you in the first place.
On every other platform, you’re interrupting whatever they’re doing. They’re passive observers instead of active searchers. It’s typically much harder and much more expensive to do that kind of marketing (think Facebook ads, YouTube ads, and basically every other kind of advertising).
Here’s the difference in a nutshell:
On those platforms, you have to go to your audience. But with organic traffic, your audience comes to you.
This should excite you for a few reasons:
- These folks have a problem.
- They’re aware of the problem.
- They want to solve the problem.
All three of those are critical ingredients for online sales, making content marketing uniquely suited to growing your business.
Creating a content strategy
Now that you’re convinced content marketing is a good idea, you need to create a strategy.
A content marketing strategy is a plan for building an audience by publishing, maintaining, and spreading frequent and consistent content that educates, entertains, or inspires to turn strangers into fans and fans into customers.
In other words, you’re building relationships and solving problems.
If you create value and equip your readers with the information they need to solve whatever problem they’re facing, your content will succeed. If you don’t, all the fancy writing and headlines and strategies won’t do a thing.
Better still, if you can be the one to both make your audience aware they have a problem they didn’t know they had, and provide them with a perfect solution, you’ll create customers for life.
Even if there are other, better solutions out there, they won’t care — you’ll forever be the authority in their minds because you helped them first.
But before you start pumping out content like a machine, you need to do three things:
1. Determine who your customer is
It all begins with who your customer is.
What do they want? What are they struggling with? What do they look like?
You need to thoroughly understand how your customer thinks before you can begin. You need to speak their language.
Your first step is to do the research to create an imaginary version of your ideal customer.
This character, or avatar, should generally represent who you’re trying to reach with your content. You should be making proactive content decisions based on the model you come up with here.
2. Figure out what information they need
Now you need to step into their shoes and walk through their customer journey.
What steps do they need to take to do business with you? What do they need to know before buying from you, and in what order?
This is your content roadmap — your first pieces of content. Create content that addresses each step of the customer journey.
3. Choose how to say it
This is where you get a bit artistic.
You need to determine how you’re going to communicate this information to them.
What format will you use? Video? Or the written word?
What stories should you tell? What kind of tone and voice will resonate the most?
The better you know your audience, the easier this will be to determine.
Ultimately, you’ll need to run with your intuition, and then mercilessly experiment and adjust.
Over time, you’ll hone in on the perfect messaging and find success with your content marketing.
Building an audience
The key to building an audience is to write useful, relevant content about a specific topic. To build relationships through your writing and content. To unashamedly add your unique voice to the world.
That’s exactly what Brian Clark did in the early days to build Copyblogger.
He shared his knowledge, his ideas, his journey as it related to one specific niche: online marketing and copywriting.
His work drew readers interested in that topic, and because the content was good, they stayed.
They subscribed, shared, and created a community of people with shared interests.
While the number of blogs in existence has dramatically increased, and the online world looks different than it did back in 2006, the basics are still the same.
This leads me to a critical point about your content.
In order to build an audience, you need to earn it.
Your content needs to be good enough to warrant the most important resources anyone has — their time and attention.
If you put out average content, your readers will smell it from a mile away and lose interest quickly.
You may have heard that people today have lower than average attention spans, but I agreed with Copyblogger’s Editor-in-Chief, Stefanie Flaxman, when she said:
“I don’t think we have limited attention spans; I think our tolerance for average is limited.”
This hits the nail on the head. Our audiences don’t have time for below-average or even just-average content anymore.
So, the first step is to create high-quality content that is worthy of attention. But simply creating it and posting it isn’t enough.
This isn’t Field of Dreams, where all you need to do is build it and the proverbial “they” will come flocking.
You need to drive traffic, and in today’s content marketing landscape, you don’t have time to wait around to be discovered. You need to give your content a push.
To do that, look at where your audience spends their time online and start posting your content there. (Remember all that research you did about your ideal customer?)
Another option is to run paid advertising. The benefit here is that you can put your content directly in front of a highly targeted audience.
But the downside is that it costs money (obviously) and it still isn’t guaranteed to build your audience.
Putting your content in front of someone doesn’t mean that they’ll like it or want to read it in the first place.
The last way to get traffic is to borrow someone else’s audience, and by that I mean to ask people who already have an audience to share your content with them.
Maybe you publish a guest blog post on their site, or maybe they share something on social media about your article.
Either way, using your network is a fantastic (and usually free) way to get major distribution for your content. For some people, it’s all they need to do.
Just remember: Their audience needs to look like your ideal customer. You don’t want just anybody.
You want your people.
Now that we’ve talked through the benefits of content marketing, how to create a strategy, and the ways to build an audience online, let’s go over the different forms of content marketing.
The written word is the most widespread and popular form of content marketing.
The amount of written content in the world is practically immeasurable, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it for other, more modern, fancy forms of content.
Writing is more relevant today than ever before, so let’s go over how it works as content marketing.
The tried and true way of using writing as a content marketing platform is through blogging.
In a nutshell, blogging is where you, as a thought leader or topic-matter expert, write about relevant topics to your audience on a regular basis. Blogs can take all kinds of shapes and forms, and no two are exactly the same. Anyone can have one.
When you say the word “blogging,” most people think of a misunderstood hipster sharing their thoughts and feelings with the world from their bedroom. Those definitely exist, but that isn’t what we’re focusing on here.
We’re focused on using a blog to earn an audience, build relationships, and market and grow your content.
A blog should live on your website, usually as a subdomain or as another section of your website. From a technical standpoint, creating a blog is incredibly easy. Most website platforms have a built-in blog feature that you can simply enable.
A typical blog has three components:
The post is your actual written text. Think of it as a single episode or unit of content. There’s usually one topic that gets explored throughout the length of the post.
A hot topic here is length. How long should your post be? The longer the better, right?
Not necessarily. It all depends on the goal of the post and what you’re trying to accomplish.
A typical blog post is 500–1000 words. That’s what you’ll find on your average, run-of-the mill blog. With that being said, there are some expectations.
For example, Seth Godin posts very short, 200–300 word posts. Many posts on the content platform Medium are long-form, meaning they’re much longer than your typical blog post, many times upwards of 2,000 words.
It truly does depend on your writing, which is where your topic and understanding your audience comes in to play.
Our general rule of thumb for content is:
Create what you would want to consume.
If you hate super long blog posts, don’t write them! If you don’t like writing at all, you should probably just skip this section and move on to what you do enjoy.
Your content should be an extension of you, so start paying attention to the content you like and try to figure out what you like about it. Reverse-engineer it.
That will ensure you draw like-minded people to your content so you build the right kind of audience for you.
And speaking of building an audience, let’s talk about one of the main ways you’ll get traffic to your blog: search engine optimization (SEO).
Search engine optimization is the process of tweaking your content so it gets ranked higher in search engine results.
I’m not talking about tricking the system here. That used to work back in the day, but as search engines have improved, those kinds of “black hat” techniques have all but disappeared.
Now, it works much better to work with the search engine, and in order to do that, you need to first understand how search engines work and what their motives are.
The goal of a search engine is to provide you with the most relevant information possible to whatever sentence, question, or query you type in.
The more they successfully do this, the more you’re likely to use their platform, which means they get to serve more ads to you. That’s how they make their money (this is how basically every free platform on the internet works, by the way).
So, how do they know what’s relevant or not?
By cataloging every web page in existence (also known as indexing).
Every so often, a search engine robot will “crawl” your website, going through every page, every image, every word, and link, to figure out where you belong in the online world. By analyzing the content on your website, search engines categorize you and save your information for later.
That’s why you often see millions of results when you search on Google. They’re literally showing you every webpage in existence that mentions the thing you typed in.
Obviously, nobody looks through all of them. Most people don’t even make it past the first page, which begs the question, “How do you get on the first page?”
By making sure Google knows exactly what your blog is about. There are a few ways you can do this.
First, make sure your blog is focused on one central topic. The more focused your content is, the more likely it is for a search engine to display your page.
Next, try to think about what someone who needs the information you’re sharing might type into a search engine.
For example, if you’re writing an article on retirement tips for people in their 30s, someone might search “how to save for retirement in my 30s,” or even just “retirement advice.”
Once you’ve brainstormed a few phrases, pick the one you want to focus on.
You want to use that exact phrase in your article.
I’m not talking about mentioning it in every paragraph, but it should be a top contender for your title and as part of your opening paragraph.
Ultimately, your goal is to be as useful and relevant as possible to one specific topic.
As people find and engage with your article, you’ll gain a reputation with the search engines for being relevant, and you’ll be rewarded with a higher ranking, which results in more traffic, which results in a better reputation, which results in a higher ranking, and so on.
It’s a flywheel effect that can drive hundreds of thousands of visitors to your site and effectively build your business completely on its own.
Now let’s talk about the art of engaging your readers with the written word. I’m talking about copywriting.
Have you ever read one of those long ads on Facebook all the way through? Or watched a hilarious commercial, like the one for the Squatty Potty or Dollar Shave Club?
In both cases, those advertisements used copywriting to capture your attention and hold it for the entire length of the ad.
Copywriting is the art of using the written word to engage, compel, and persuade. Whenever you come across the written word in any form of advertising, you’re engaging with copywriting.
But what does that have to do with you and your content marketing?
After all, you’re just writing a blog. You don’t need to know anything about writing good copy do you?
Becoming a skilled copywriter is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve the results of your content marketing. It’s the difference between a reader getting bored or frantically sharing your content with everyone they know.
There’s no way I’ll be able to cover everything you need to know about copywriting in this blog post. It’s simply too broad and deep of a topic.
However, I can share some of the essential elements of good copy that you can use to start improving your content right away.
Obsess over your headlines
Good copywriters know that headlines are important.
Great writers obsess over their headlines.
It’s the one thing that determines whether or not your content gets read. You could have the most incredible content in the world, but if your headline is boring or weak, it won’t matter.
A good headline is clear, specific, and intriguing. It should both tell the reader what to expect while also teasing them about what’s inside.
Your headline should also qualify your reader, meaning that it should attract your target audience. If it’s too vague, a reader will start reading — thinking that the article applies to them — only to discover it has nothing to do with them. They’ll feel tricked.
This is critical. You aren’t just trying to get anyone and everyone to click to read your article. That becomes meaningless. You want the right person reading your article, someone who you know will get value from it.
So spend the extra minutes, hours, even days getting your headline right.
Write to someone specific
Copywriting is all about understanding the emotional and psychological state of the reader. You have to be able to get inside their heads and join the conversation.
One way to do this is to write to someone very specific. This could be an avatar of your ideal customer that you’ve created, or it could be a real person who fits the bill of your target audience.
Either way, picture this person as you write. What do they struggle with? What are there experiences? How would you talk to them if you were sitting on the couch at a coffee shop together?
Once you’re clear on that, write to them. Ignore all of your professionalism and grammar rules. Just write like you’re there at the coffee shop with them, or like you’re writing an email to them.
Without fail, your writing will become more personal and you’ll form stronger connections with your readers. They will feel like you’re talking right to them because you are, to some extent. That’s the kind of writing your audience will read, share, and buy from.
Keep it simple
One of the cardinal sins of copywriting is too much complexity that makes your message confusing.
Good copy is all about breaking things down so that your reader can easily and quickly understand what you’re talking about. This means not using complicated words, insider speak, technical jargon, and long, perfectly structured sentences.
That’s like a death warrant for your copy.
Instead, break up your sentences. State your point simply. Find the easiest, simplest way to say what you’re trying to say. Otherwise, your reader will have to work hard to sift through what you’re writing and get confused.
As a result, they don’t do anything. They don’t read, they don’t share, they don’t buy, nothing.
That’s not what you want. So keep your writing simple and to-the-point.
Creating content isn’t easy. Creating content that’s actually worth anyone’s attention is even harder.
But the reward is worth it. You’ll build a loyal following of readers who resonate with you, your brand, and your values. You’ll earn their attention and trust, which are both critical prerequisites to building an incredible online business.
Next, let’s look at email, which is the backbone of turning those loyal readers into customers.
Email might sound old school, but it’s still one of the most effective and powerful forms of marketing that exist.
It’s a direct connection to your audience. When they give you their contact information, there’s a level of trust that’s given that can’t be understated.
Let’s look at the key ways to use email effectively in your content marketing strategy.
Your entire content marketing strategy should be about building your list. Period.
That might sound like a bold statement (and it is) but it’s also true.
When someone discovers your content, they’ll stay on your website to read it, maybe poke around a little bit, and then leave. In rare cases, they might even buy from you on that first visit.
The problem is that you have no way to contact them. You’re counting on them to remember your content and come back on a regular basis so you have more opportunities to promote your product or have them share your content.
If you have their email address, however, you get to reach out to them. You can send them your new content or promote your products anytime you want (within reason). Your audience becomes a real, tangible thing that you can see and talk to directly.
The truth is, the number of people who read and share your content simply doesn’t matter if your bottom line doesn’t change.
Your goal should be to drive real business results with your content, not just get a bunch of readers and followers. That doesn’t pay the bills.
So, what you want to do is find a way to get their email address before they leave. It’s your number-one goal.
There are a few ways you can do this, but the most effective is to offer something of value in exchange for their email address.
Think of your topic. If someone is reading your article or blog, what are they struggling with? What problem are they dealing with that you could help solve?
Use that to create a piece of content you can offer for free.
Some ideas are:
- A PDF checklist
- A mini-course
- A free video or lesson from a course
- A free sample
- A free call or consultation
- A free quote
The list is endless. It’s really only limited by your imagination.
The key is to make sure that it’s relevant and desirable to your audience, and the only way to really do this is to test several different things over time and see what gets the best results.
You might be thinking, “What happens after they opt in?”
For that, we need to talk about automation.
Automation is one of the most time-saving and powerful tools you have at your disposal, when used correctly.
The concept is simple: You define a series of steps to happen in a sequence after an action takes place, like opting in to your amazing free piece of content or buying a product.
Those steps can be things like adding a tag, sending an email, or waiting for a certain period of time, although depending on the platform you use, the options can get much more complex.
It’s like having an infinite number of salespeople working 24/7 to sell your product, or a virtual version of yourself greeting every single person that walks into your store.
A popular way to use automation in your business is through a nurture sequence.
When someone signs up to your email list through a free opt-in or even just through a “join newsletter” button (which we don’t recommend), chances are they don’t know much about you. They’re new to you and your world.
The nurture sequence is your opportunity to share your story. To build a relationship with them and let them know what you’re all about (and how you can help them). You’re catching them up to speed.
Just this one email sequence can transform your business.
Instead of a bunch of people on your list — all at different stages of knowledge about you and your business, they all get the same introduction and get the same foundation right from the beginning. Everyone is on a level playing field.
This makes them more engaged with you as a brand, more likely to open your emails in the future, and ultimately, more likely to become a loyal customer.
Sounds amazing, right?
The only catch is that you need email software to make this happen. Most of the options are either far too complex and difficult to use, or too simple and limit what you’re able to do.
At Copyblogger, we use and recommend ConvertKit. It’s incredibly powerful while remaining user-friendly, and won’t break the bank. You can read our full review here, or sign up for a free account here.
Once you’ve set up your automation, you need to think about how you want to talk to your subscribers on a regular basis.
Email newsletters are a lot like newspapers or journal publications.
At a regular time, usually every week or month, you send your readers an email with updates, news, new content, or interesting information you want to share with your readers.
You can do basically anything you want with your newsletter. If you write a new blog every week, your newsletter might simply be a way to let your subscribers know about the new content.
It could be a short email with some encouragement or an inspirational quote.
The possibilities are endless.
If you want to build an audience, though, having a newsletter is critical.
In order to maintain any kind of relationship, you need regular communication.
That’s exactly the role of your newsletter — to maintain and improve your relationship with your audience over time.
How do you do that? By continuing to provide value.
Your subscribers aren’t here strictly for entertainment. That might play a small part in it, but in general, they’re giving you attention because they’re getting some kind of benefit from you, some kind of value.
Whether it’s advice, tips, regular content, or just laughs, you need to keep delivering that to them or they’ll get bored and leave.
The absolutely worst thing you can do is waste their time, so don’t go halfway. Put in the extra effort to make your newsletter great.
Email should play a strong role in your content marketing strategy. I would argue that building your email list should actually be the entire goal of your content marketing.
All roads lead to email, or something like that.
By building your list, setting up automation to nurture your subscribers 24/7, and building trust with regular newsletters, you’ll see your content marketing results exponentially improve. You’ll be able to tie real business results to your content marketing efforts.
Podcasting is the audio world of content marketing. There are more than 1,000,000 podcasts covering topics ranging from stock investment to parenting to eating hot wings while interviewing celebrities.
Even though that sounds like a lot of shows, it’s still a relatively small market compared to the other giant content platforms that exist. (For reference, there are more than 500 million blogs. That’s 500 times as many blogs as podcasts.)
But the key difference here is that someone can listen to a podcast while doing pretty much anything, while video or written content requires them to look at it. Anywhere someone could listen to music, they could listen to a podcast.
And while a lot of podcasts are purely entertaining, the appeal for most is that they can learn and better themselves while commuting or doing yard work.
Making a good podcast requires thought, effort, and consistency. It’s not easy (most of content marketing isn’t) but a well-produced podcast can be your top business asset.
It’s also one of the best ways to develop a relationship with your audience. If you think about it, they’re basically just listening to your conversations, to your voice, for hours and hours.
So if your business would benefit from building strong relationships and even intimacy with your audience, you should take a serious look at podcasting.
Let’s look at the key things you need to know about starting a podcast.
Finding your show premise
A podcast lives or dies by the promise of the show, and by premise, I mean the topic. The hook. The big idea that your show is centered on.
This is important. You want your listeners to tune in week after week, which means they need to be sold on your entire show, not just on a few episodes.
Think of a TV show. They don’t want you to just watch one episode; they want you to tune in for an entire season.
Late-night talk shows might promote a specific episode more than others, but they still want you coming back to watch celebrities tell stories and play games with a wacky host.
Once you’re hooked on a show, you keep tuning in. You don’t really care what the next episode is about because you’re hooked on the show. It’s incredibly powerful and it’s why more and more businesses are starting podcasts.
So, what makes a good premise? There are two key ingredients:
- The specific thing your show is about
- How you plan to uniquely approach that topic
Again, think of a TV show. On the popular show MythBusters, a hilarious and eccentric duo uses science and Hollywood special effects to find out whether urban myths are possible or ridiculous.
Here, the topic is science. They’re showing and teaching the scientific method.
The unique spin is that they’re using special effects and urban myths to do so. It’s an insane, fun, and completely unique way to teach the principles of science and physics.
By doing so, they created a premise so strong that their fan base literally didn’t care at all what the next episode was going to be about. Not knowing was actually part of the fun. What crazy thing are they going to do next?
That’s what you want to do for your podcast.
You probably already have an idea for the topic of your podcast, so write that down and then spend some time thinking about your unique approach.
What’s your unique take? What separates your opinion from others? What will you bring to the table that doesn’t exist in the marketplace?
Once you’ve brainstormed a bit, trying filling in this sentence:
On [name of podcast], I talk about [subject] by [unique approach]. I do that by [specifics on how your format or content is unique].
Nailing your premise is the first step to a great podcast. By hooking listeners, you not only build an engaged and loyal following, you enable them to easily talk about your show with their friends and networks.
Your podcast will begin to spread all on its own.
To hear more about this, listen to this episode of the Copyblogger podcast with Tara McMullin. It’s all about how to determine what to talk about on your podcast.
Starting your podcast
Now that you’ve figured out your premise, it’s time to actually start your podcast.
To do that, you need a few things:
- Good audio equipment
- Recording software
- Podcasting hosting software
For audio equipment, you don’t need to go bankrupt getting professional, studio-quality gear. We live in a time when you can sound very professional without spending very much.
First up, you need a microphone.
There are two kinds: USB and XLR
A USB microphone plugs straight into your computer with no extras needed. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to get great quality audio for your podcast.
An XLR microphone requires an interface in order to plug into the computer. These microphones are typically a bit more expensive, but the audio quality is much better.
Prices can range from $30 into the thousands depending on how far you want to go. However, one of the most popular microphones used in broadcasting, the Shure SM7B, is $400.
For a few hundred dollars, you can be on the same audio-quality level as the pros with hundreds of episodes under their belts and millions of downloads.
But if that’s a bit too much for right now, Pat Flynn, host of the Smart Passive Income and Ask Pat podcasts, recommends a $60 mic that he says is just as good as his $400 mic. So you can get pro-level audio for under $100.
Our friends at Buzzsprout put together a great list of recommended microphones for podcasting here. They go into much more detail about what you’re looking for, so you can make an educated decision.
Speaking of Buzzsprout, the next thing you’ll need is a podcast hosting platform. This is a software that hosts and makes your podcast available on all of the different podcasting apps, like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and more.
Buzzsprout is one of the largest and best podcasting platforms available. They make it incredibly easy to upload and manage your podcast even if you’re completely new. We use it and recommend it at Copyblogger. Try it out here.
Once you’ve gotten that all sorted out, create a content schedule. Decide:
- When you want to record your episodes
- Who you want to interview (Unless you aren’t planning to interview anybody. That’s fine too.)
- How often you want to release episodes
This is by far the most important thing you can do to succeed with your podcast. The key difference between successful podcasts and the ones that don’t exist anymore (or never started) is consistency. Above all, consistency is what will make or break your podcast.
Don’t just rely on inspiration. Make a plan and stick to it, no matter how you feel or what comes up to stop you. By doing that, you’ll be way ahead of 90% of other podcasters.
Converting your listeners
As I’ve mentioned before, the goal of your content marketing is not to get more visits, likes, shares, downloads, or impressions. Those are vanity metrics. They don’t really mean anything.
Your content needs to tie directly to a business result, and it’s no different with your podcast.
Don’t get me wrong, building an audience of loyal listeners who love your content is not easy and should be celebrated. But that alone won’t move the needle in your business.
You need to convert them into either subscribers or buyers.
And the best way to do that is to simply ask them.
So many podcasters don’t mention their products or services. They don’t have a call to action for their listeners.
That’s a mistake.
Not only should your premise directly relate to your core products or services, but you should also talk about them in every single episode you publish.
The Building a StoryBrand podcast is a great example of this. They have no sponsors or ads in their podcasts at all. Instead, they tie each episode back to their offer. Every single episode becomes an evergreen advertisement for their products.
If that feels a little too heavy-handed, consider promoting a free resource instead. By creating a landing page with an opt-in form, you’ll start turning your listeners into subscribers that you can email directly. For all the reasons I mentioned in the email section above, this is a very, very good thing.
To create a successful podcast as a content marketing platform:
Podcasting is one of the best ways to attract new customers, build an audience, and develop a relationship with your audience.
In our current marketing and business landscape, customers are craving real connections with brands. Podcasting is a powerful way to make that happen.
The use of video marketing has been around since the first television. If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth thousands of pictures.
Video allows you to tell a story faster than any other medium. In an instant, with the right characters, setting, and mood, you can make someone feel exactly what you want them to feel.
It’s why movies are a 50 billion dollar industry in America alone.
It’s also the closest you can get to real contact with someone. Although podcasting is an incredible way to increase intimacy with your audience, nothing does it like video.
On YouTube alone, people are watching well over a billion hours of video every single day. The sheer size and power of this platform are undeniable.
So, how do you use video to effectively market your business?
One of the main ways is vlogging. In case you couldn’t tell, vlogging comes directly from the word “blogging”. It’s the same idea, except instead of using words you’re using video.
Vloggers will typically point the camera at themselves, either on their computer, on a tripod, or just by holding it selfie-style and talk about various topics related to their industry.
For personal brands, this is an incredible way to build relationships with your audience over the internet. Your viewers get the benefit of watching you, listening to you, hearing the inflection of your voice and getting a sense of your personality.
More often than not, people want to buy from businesses they know, like, and trust. They want to feel that connection to you. They want a human to human connection.
With video, that’s possible on a massive scale.
When starting to vlog, the same principles I talked about in blogging apply.
Pick the topic you want to talk about. This is typically something you’re an expert in, and should directly relate to the core product or service you offer.
Then, start making content. Some people are natural content machines. Ideas and topics simply pour out of them that they can talk about for days.
Others have to plan more carefully and do research to find their content ideas.
Whichever you are, you should keep these two things in mind:
- You’re here to serve your audience
- If you don’t know what to talk about, ask your audience
This is the dirty secret to all of content marketing. Ask your audience what they want, and then give it to them.
This could come in the form of comments on your videos, replies to your newsletter, or just in conversation with your clients or existing customers. Regardless of how they talk to you, this is a gold mine of content ideas and topics to talk about.
Start with the things you talk about over and over again and build from there.
Lastly, make the content that you would want to engage with yourself. If you hate selfie-style videos where the person rambles on and on about what their daily routine is, don’t make that kind of content.
You’ll attract people who think like you and appreciate the same things you do. That’s infinitely more valuable than 10x as many people who are only mildly interested.
In the words of Simon Sinek, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
By sharing your views, opinions, and thoughts on topics related to your industry, you’re attracting people who believe what you believe. They will become your strongest customers and most vocal advocates.
Another popular video format is whiteboard videos. Whiteboard videos can still cover a wide range of topics, but the key difference is that they are animated or sketched.
It’s basically the same as normal videos, except the scenery and people aren’t real.
Whiteboard videos are extremely useful for a few reasons:
- You don’t have to be good on camera.
- You don’t need fancy video equipment.
- You can outsource the entire thing if you want.
It’s a simple way to start producing video content right away, even if you’re on a budget. The overhead needed is incredibly low, and if you’re a busy small business owner that should be music to your ears.
Whiteboard video resources:
How to Create a Whiteboard Video
How to Create a Whiteboard Animation on a Budget
The Best Websites to Make Your Own Whiteboard Videos
Your first step is to create a script for the video. If you’re recording it yourself you can improvise, which is what a lot of people do. But if you’re sending it to a voiceover artist for them to record, you’ll need to provide them with a script and specific instructions for how you want them to come across.
These artists typically charge based on the number of words, so the shorter the video the less it will cost you. With that being said, you can find great voiceover artists with competitive rates on platforms like Upwork or Freelancer, so don’t be afraid to do a longer video.
The same goes for animating and editing the video. If you don’t have the skills to do that yourself or in-house, you can easily find a freelancer to help you out on those same platforms.
Whiteboard videos have a low barrier-to-entry and are a great way to get started with video marketing.
This might surprise you, but one of the largest types of video content is for reviewing products. Physical products, software, apps, you name it. If it exists, people want to see a review for it so they can feel confident in their buying decision.
This is incredibly smart for two reasons:
- You don’t need to have your own audience.
- You’re immediately establishing yourself as an authority.
You’re basically just tapping into an existing market that already has a lot of traffic. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find a product related to your industry, create a stellar review for it, publish it to YouTube, and you’re almost guaranteed to start getting traffic.
To make the most out of product reviews though, you need to remember a few critical things.
1. Pick a product that’s highly relevant to your product or service
You want to attract people who are likely to be a good fit for your business. If you’re providing lawn care service and you post a review of an amazing toilet plunger, you’ll probably get a lot of people watching that video that have absolutely no need for your service.
This comes down again to vanity metrics (views, subscribers, etc) versus actual business results. It’s not just about getting views. It’s about getting the right people to view the right video.
2. Make a great video
Like all of the other content we’ve talked about so far, it’s worth the effort to make a great quality video. Taking a few extra hours to nail the intro, or re-writing the script to be stronger and more clear, can mean the difference between someone engaging and getting value, or getting bored and leaving right away.
Remember, you need to earn their attention. Average doesn’t cut it.
That doesn’t mean you need to spend $10,000 to professionally produce each video. Not at all.
But the content has to be great. The advice you’re giving, the information you’re sharing, needs to be well planned and well-executed.
3. Give your audience a call to action
The worst that could happen is for someone to watch your video, be super impressed, and then leave because you didn’t give them anywhere to go.
Don’t do that. Instead, offer a free download or promote your product from your video. Give them the next step on their journey with you.
For video content, I recommend offering a free download. At this point, going straight for the sale is typically too heavy-handed. They don’t know anything about you. They just met you!
Instead, offer them your free content so you can get their email address and continue to build the relationship.
Don’t be afraid of getting into video marketing. It’s not as complicated as you might think.
And it’s a great way to build the know, like, and trust factor that helps people feel comfortable doing business with you.
You can stick with video staples, like vlogging, whiteboard videos, or product reviews, but there are tons of opportunities to get creative and create engaging content that attracts and holds the attention of your target audience.
Make sure to point them to your other content as well, especially your website where they can sign up for your email list to get more relevant updates from you.
Content marketing on social media
Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay.
The average American spends more than two hours a day on social media. Its widespread use and low barrier to entry make it a perfect candidate to start your content marketing efforts.
To effectively use social media, there are three things you need to remember:
The key thing to know about social media is that it’s a sharing platform. People are motivated to share interesting, funny, or thoughtful content so they get more engagement from their friends.
So when you’re creating content to share on social media, you want to make it shareable.
What makes shareable content?
For starters, you need an amazing headline. That goes without saying.
You also need clean, user-friendly visuals. That means no cluttered up images where you can see what’s going on or read the text.
Make your content big, bright, and bold.
Lastly, it needs to be interesting. When you’re focusing on social media, you need to evoke emotion, otherwise, the content simply won’t be shared.
Happiness, anger, amazement, hilarity. If you’re content triggers one of those big emotions, our human nature compels us to share it. Use that to your advantage.
If you haven’t noticed, consistency is important no matter what content marketing platform you choose. It simply comes with the territory.
Social media is no different.
You want to train your audience on what to expect from you.
That means, posting at regular times, with content that has a consistent and specific style to you so they can immediately recognize it in their feed.
This goes a long way in building a brand and community, which improves your engagement.
This is what social media is all about: engagement.
There are real people on the other end of the line, viewing your content, liking it, commenting on it, and sharing with friends.
It’s an unbelievably powerful way to directly connect with your audience and build a tribe. A group of people who believe the same things and come together around a common purpose.
Through social media, you can build that. But it starts with creating content your ideal customer wants to interact with and then responding to each and every single comment you get.
By doing that, you create a tight-knit community that feels connected to you and your brand.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO)
Conversion rate optimization is the practice of systematically improving the conversion rate of a web page.
For an online business, your conversion rate is one of your most critical metrics. It’s the number of people who opt-in or buy divided by the number of people who visited the page.
One of the biggest traps to fall into with online marketing is focusing too much on getting more traffic.
It’s easy to think that with more traffic, your problems will be solved. It begins this mad chase to get more traffic at all costs that can cost a lot of money and end up taking more time and energy that it’s worth.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be focusing on increasing your traffic, but that shouldn’t be the only or even the most important thing to focus on.
A page with a low conversion rate is a leaky bucket. You should fix the leak before trying to fill it with more water.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say 100,000 people visit your page, which has a conversion rate of 1%.
That means 1,000 people are signing up or buying.
Meanwhile, your friend is only getting 50,000 visits to his page, but he has a conversion rate of 3%.
That means 1,500 people are converting on this page.
Which would you rather have? The answer is pretty obvious. With just a slightly better conversion rate, your friend is getting more conversions with only half the traffic.
So before frantically driving traffic to your page, work to optimize what you already have so that your traffic efforts will be exponentially more successful.
Here are a few simple things to focus on for improving your conversion rate.
1. Add email signup forms
One of the simplest ways to improve the conversion rate of your page is to add an email sign up form to it, regardless of what content is on the page.
If it’s a blog post, offering a relevant guide or course as an email opt-in will not only dramatically improve your conversion rate, it will actually help serve your audience too. You’re providing them with an opportunity to get even more value and deepen their relationship with you.
On your product sales pages, sometimes your visitors aren’t quite ready to buy. It’s a big commitment and means they need to already know, like, and trust you.
By giving them an option to opt-in for something free, you’re giving them a lower risk way to still engage with you. It’s still a commitment, but a much smaller one that allows you to serve them and get another chance to follow up on the sale.
Otherwise, they’ll simply leave and you’ll have no way to re-engage them with your product (unless you’re retargeting them with ads, but that’s much more expensive than email marketing).
2. Have a strong call to action
Your call to action (or CTA) is what you’re asking your visitor to do. Buy, sign up, download, etc.
The problem is that if your CTA isn’t clear, consistent, or specific, your beautiful designed page won’t perform.
To make a strong CTA, you first need to avoid phrases like “learn more” or “get started”. Those don’t actually mean anything. Your CTA should be direct action they can take, like “sign up” or “register now” or “buy now”.
Second, repeat your CTA often throughout the page. You should include it almost every single section of your page so that the moment someone decides they want to buy, the button is right there.
Third, your CTA should be consistent in both language and, if you’re using a button, color. This reinforces that action you want them to take, essentially training your visitor in what you want them to do.
But if you start changing the color or text of your CTA, your visitor will get confused and start to tune out.
It might seem small, but these tiny little details can make or break your sale.
3. Improve your page speed
The speed that your page loads plays another important role in your conversion rate.
Studies have shown that the longer your page takes to load, the more likely people are to leave. They found that:
- Pages that loaded in 2.4 seconds had a 1.9% conversion rate
- At 3.3 seconds, conversion rate was 1.5%
- At 4.2 seconds, conversion rate was less than 1%
- At 5.7+ seconds, conversion rate was 0.6%
So if your pages aren’t performing how you think they should, they might simply be loading too slow.
It isn’t just your initial loading speed either. If the elements on your page have animation or interaction or any kind, they need to be quick and snappy or your conversion rate will suffer.
To test your page speed, you can use this tool from Google.
With just a few simple CRO tweaks, you can double or even triple your conversion rate with very little effort.
Start with your highest-traffic pages and using the tips I provided, see if you can find ways to improve the conversion rate of the page.
As with any experiments, make sure to measure your current results and then only make 1 change at a time. Let the experiment run and then check your results again. If you make too many changes at once, you won’t know which one worked.
Start building great relationships
As you can tell, content marketing is a large discipline with a lot of variety.
It can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started.
Don’t try to do it all at once.
Pick one or two content platforms and start there. Test a few ideas, see what starts to get your results, and then work from there.
It’s so much better to do one thing consistently and well than try to do it all only to crash and burn.
If you still aren’t sure where to start, look to your audience. Where are they spending their time? What content do they consume on a regular basis? Combine that with what you’re interested or skilled in, and you’ll have a much higher chance of success.
As a final parting thought, remember this:
The best content marketing serves your audience, solves problems, and builds relationships.
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