The new year may seem the perfect time to try something new, but can also be the time to plan something more sustainable. By now, you probably have heard the term content marketing.

According to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends released last year, 86% of respondents stated they used content marketing for their business.

This dramatic trend toward content marketing is unfolding rapidly. But there’s no need to fear falling behind! To start the new year well, we’ve written an easy content marketing guide to help you create a sustainable marketing strategy for 2017 to meet your business objectives.

So buckle up. We’re going to talk all things content marketing, to help make your marketing year successful. Cheers to a new year!

What is content marketing?

Content marketing. If you search for this term on Google Trends, you’ll witness its soaring popularity in the last five years.

And no surprise, the interest in content marketing has peaked this past year.

So why is it so popular? And what does this buzzword actually mean?

Here’s a definition from the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

This definition might seem confusing at first glance, but have no fear; it will make more sense as you read on.

In the past, marketers relied on some form of traditional paid media advertising, whether offline or digital. In recent years, a growing number have taken a content-based approach. In contrast to mass-marketing, content marketing is based on an individualized, niche-specific strategy.

There are pros and cons to both approaches. But many companies have been spending more of their marketing budget on the development and execution of content. Traditional advertising is usually costlier to produce and distribute, and targets a wide audience. It feeds a “one size fits all” strategy. Make no mistake, advertising can be a great way to reach consumers, and to make a statement about the brand and product.

On the other hand, content marketing requires a comprehensive process that is focused on the consumer’s journey. It is not only about the sale, but also about lead generation, lead nurturing, and forming a continuous relationship with the audience. Ads may inspire a consumer to purchase your brand, but content drives this process by following them before, during, and after the purchase.

Simply put, content helps brands develop a strong connection with the consumer in today’s world. Brands need content to gain the consumer’s attention, followed by affinity and trust.

Consumers are no longer easily moved by online ads. Consumer surveys have revealed that online banner ads are often seen as annoying and are rarely noticed. In order to gain the consumer’s attention, we need to create good content that not only lures, but also engages and rewards them.

Creating original content & targeting

Before you create original content, you need to develop a solid content marketing strategy.

This involves identifying your current consumer, defining a target audience, and determining what is valuable and relevant content for your target consumer.

Here are some good guides for building your content marketing strategy.

Then, you can create a content marketing plan, which consists of the details of your content. This refers to what your content is about. If you are a real estate developer, for example, your content may consist of a mix of blog posts to establish your expertise and create a connection with the reader, video content and photos to showcase your properties and upcoming projects, and infographics of upcoming trends and industry news. Consistent social media engagement also helps.

Read about some forms of marketing content that you can create.

All in all, you should develop a clear idea of your audience before you dive into the creative realm.

So you go to work. You develop engaging, useful content to address the needs of your customer.

Good for you! You’ve cleared a critical hurdle. Unfortunately, original content alone won’t be enough. Next we have to target that content. To drive awareness, boost engagement, and increase ROI, we direct this content to the right audience at the right place and at the right time.

Where are your consumers? On their smartphones? On their tablets? How do they access content? Are they on Netflix or Youtube? Are they frequently shopping online or searching for tech news?

Whether you decide to spend on paid online media advertising or not, you need to determine where and when your consumers will be most receptive online. Each type of content you create needs to reach the most relevant and valuable audience, at the time they are most receptive and interested. This ultimately results in goal-driven marketing campaigns that are consistent throughout all your channels and platforms.

Good content also leads to endorsements from former clients, influencers, and even the press. Each brand then needs to manage this community, keep themselves relevant and interactive, generating loyalty and trust. Key to your efforts will be diligence, consistency and quality. You must create relevant, original content on a sustainable schedule.

No future without numbers

Most important, you should be thinking about measuring and analyzing your results to improve your content marketing initiatives in the future. You can’t measure your success without data to back you up.

Many free software tools can help you do this. You can create a free Google Analytics account and measure your website traffic if you house your content on your website. Not only that, but you can also view data about your audience and the channels they come from. Google Analytics also provides comprehensive data about audience engagement and user flow. Google provides many incredible things, and you can take full advantage of them.

There are also many other free analytics tools out there that are very useful. Check out this great blog post for the full list of options.

Social media platforms are frequently used for pushing out content. Some, such as Facebook, have good analytics and insight tools that come along with the package. Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter also offer these insights, but they aren’t as extensive as Facebook’s.

Regardless of the software or platform you use, you must determine what your success will look like. Most blogs consider consumption or sharing (page views, average view duration, subscriptions) as key performance indicators (KPIs). But perhaps your success will be measured in sales or new leads. In any event, you will need to identify appropriate performance indicators to fit your purpose before you start publicizing your content.

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