Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Write Content that Grows Your Business :Content Marketing 101

There has been so much talk about how valuable content is for marketing purposes over the past year--everywhere you look online, you hear about it; I've even heard radio and TV ads about content marketing. Experienced online marketing professionals know that content marketing is vital for business success--because it works! However, that does not mean that you must pay thousands of dollars to anyone--you can do it all yourself, get a little bit of help, or outsource it completely-- without breaking the bank!

Your readers-- your audience--potential customers and clients-- even current customers-- want to see what you know about the industry you work in or the products you sell, and they love to see that you care enough to share your expertise with them.

There is really no need to overthink writing content for your business-- what you want to do is give people valuable information about your product, your brand, your industry and everything related to it. That might sound like a tall order, but taken in small bites, it is a lot easier. Here are some tidbits to whet your appetite:

  • Content is critical for helping you establish your online presence and build your brand. Today's consumers fully expect to find updated and useful information about businesses online--disappoint them and they may move on.  Even if you have not written anything since high school, you can tell people about your business, right? 
  • Think about what you will write, but don't think too long.You need to post regularly to get and keep your audience attention. At least three times a week is optimal; more is better.
  • Put together a calendar that says when you will post, and what you will post about. It's crucial that you post about what is important to your audience. 
  • Plan your work, work your plan.  This means having a strategy in place for your content---what do you want it to do for your business? Drive traffic to your website? Increase sales? Brand you as a subject expert? Answer the "why" question and it will help arrive at the correct "what" to write about. 
  • Schedule time for your content writing. Making yourself a calendar each week that plans out the content you intend to publish helps you stay on track. 
  • Get help if you need it; these things take time and time is at a premium for most business owners. There are many good writers available with lots of content writing experience and a good understanding about how to engage your audience.
  • Engagement is not just a buzzword--it is one of the most important aspects of content marketing.  You want to draw your audience into conversations...they will tell you if you've delighted or disappointed them, and also what they want from you and your business. Participate actively...respond to all interactions! 
  • There is no magic bullet in content marketing;  in all likelihood, you will not wake up to thousands of new followers tomorrow. Beware of anyone who says there is, as they are likely attempting to extract cash from your wallet. But, if you consistently post good content, you will see steadily increasing followers. 
  • YOUR website is critical. Yes, it is great to share your content via social media, blogging on other websites, and platforms like Tumblr, and StumbleUpon (those will gain you many readers), but you must have your own home online where you send people.
  • Tell your story. It could be about why you started your business, how you decided on a name, who your first client was, or why you love what you do. The idea is to make sure your passions show, and to plan your content to reinforce it as well.
  • Content does not have to be written articles... you might use lots of images, memes, cartoons, and even videos if you enjoy that more. In fact, you want to use lots of visuals, as people respond by liking and sharing visual posts more often. Concentrate on what you like to do, but keep your audience in mind as well. If you use videos, try and post the transcript as well-- some people (this writer included!) would much prefer to read the text.
  • Write about what is unique and interesting about your business, your employees, even your customers. You might choose an employee of the month, and a customer of the month to spotlight on your blog, for instance.
  • Read. A lot. Seriously, in between all of your writing, you should be reading what your competitors or related businesses are writing about. At the least it will give you some ideas and insights about your industry; and might jog something in you that will lead to your next great blog post.
  • Listen. Even more. Set up Google Alerts for the name of your business, your product, your personal name as well. Do Twitter searches for anything in your niche, and if you see questions asked that you are able to answer, jump in and help!
  • If you have a local business, focus on local events, news, and happenings. Why are you excited to live and own a business where you do? Tell your readers!
  • Promote your blog and your content like crazy...online and yes, OFFLINE! Have no idea how to do that? Check out this great blog post, 43 Ways to Promote your Blog Offline, by one of my favorite bloggers, Sadie at SlapDashMom...and you will be inspired! Sadie is real, funny, and yes, real funny, too!
To summarize-- 1.Write about what excites you! Write about your business, your employees, your city, your products, your customers...you cannot go wrong writing about what you are passionate about. 2.Write often. Even in the earliest days when it seems like no one is paying attention-- there are people reading your work and looking forward to it. 3. Engage with your audience, by any means possible. That really is all content writing is about...nail that down and keep it up, and you will find lots of traffic and engagement for your business...and lots of business!