Can you explain what content marketing is?
Everyone’s talking about it, but if pressed, can you explain what content marketing is? Sure it’s blogging, ebooks, white papers, and other text-based creatives – but it’s also quizzes, infographics, videos, and images.
No matter what the format is, the goal is the same – help your prospects get to know, like, and trust you enough to take the next step closer to doing business with you. With content, you can position yourself as an expert, educate your prospects so they can make better buying decisions, and cement the bond they feel with you as their go-to resource for the products or services you sell.
Here’s a lengthy (but worthwhile) article from A Small Orange. You certainly don’t have to do EVERYTHING listed in the 14 step plan below, but even adding one or two more processes to your content strategy will help you get better results tomorrow than you did yesterday.
Worst case scenario, you’ll have a much more thorough answer the next time someone asks, “Can YOU explain what content marketing is?”
What do they want?
Website visitors don’t want to read blog posts about your products—they want you to help them solve their biggest and most painful problems.
Now, if you want to get any sort of ROI from content marketing, you have to do more than just consistently publish and share blog posts week after week. You have to understand what your goals are and develop clear plans for reaching those goals. You have to use the right tools and hire the right people to help you scale your efforts. You have to forget about the old strategies and the old tactics and start trying the new ones. You have to build and nurture relationships, provide more value to others, and leverage yourself and your company as a trusted resource in your industry.
So the question is, where do you start using content to grow your HVAC business?
Here is a 14-step process you can implement at your business in order to start seeing more ROI from content marketing this quarter:
Step 1: Learn from the best
If you want to build a more effective content marketing machine at your business, you have to be willing to take time to learn from the experts. Content marketing is changing minute-by-minute. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow, and what works for many might not work for you.
To stay ahead of the game, you have to be proactive when it comes to educating yourself on new strategies, new tactics, and new processes. Thankfully, there are a lot of content marketing influencers and blogs you can turn to for help. Here are five blogs worth following:
To get started with this step, try dedicating 20 minutes every day to reading a new blog post from one of the blogs listed above.
Step 2: Build out your team
When it comes to content marketing, you’ll never be able boost ROI unless you have the resources and people in place to help you scale your efforts. You might have been able to manage things like content creation and social media publishing for your business on your own up to this point, but the fact is, it’s just not sustainable.
To boost content marketing ROI and success, you need more people to help you manage processes, implement strategies, and become experts in areas that you don’t have the time to excel in.
Ideally, your content marketing team should consist of the following six people:
- A content marketing manager to orchestrate strategy and keep the wheels turning
- A freelance or full-time writer to create blog post content
- A designer to produce blog graphics, advertising graphics, and other visuals
- A promoter to reach out to influencers, manage paid promotion and advertising, and get your content in front of new audiences
- A social media manager to engage with your communities on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social properties
- A developer to create landing pages and help you produce 10X content presentations
To get started with this step, decide which area you need the most help with now. If you’re doing all the writing yourself, for example, your first hire should probably be a writer who can help free up some of your time and take work off of your plate.
For more help, read this blog post from CoSchedule on how to assemble your content marketing team.
Step 3: Invest in the right tools
On the same note, boosting content marketing ROI will require you to invest in tools that can help you automate processes, free up your time, and boost productivity for your entire team. There are hundreds of tools out there to choose from—the best thing to do is identify your need, pick a tool, give it a try, and see if it works for you. Here are seven great tools to look into first:
- Trello – For managing writers and content production
- Buzzsumo – for coming up with ideas, curating content, and finding influencers
- ConvertKit – for building content-focused email drip campaigns
- CoSchedule – for building and maintaining editorial content calendars
- Zemanta – for promoting and syndicating your content
- Google Analytics – for tracking metrics, setting goals, and measuring success
- Grammarly – for editing and proofreading blog posts
Tools help you become more organized and when you’re more organized, you have more time to think about the effectiveness of your content strategy.
Step 4: Set clear goals and track progress
You can’t track what you don’t measure. As mentioned earlier, there’s more to content marketing than publishing blog posts week after week. If you want to see more ROI from your efforts, it’s essential that you set clear goals and track your progress over time. If you don’t have any clear goals set yet, start by thinking about what you want to achieve.
For example, your goals could be related to boosting website traffic, increasing brand exposure, driving more email leads, sparking more engagement and comments, or making more sales. The way you track progress will differ depending on the goals you set.
For more help on this step, take a look at this great blog post by Brian Honigman on the topic of measuring the impact of your content marketing.
Step 5: Make a plan and stick to it
One of the biggest mistakes most people make when it comes to content marketing is not sticking to the plan or giving up too soon.
In order to see success and real ROI from your content marketing efforts, you have to give your strategies time. Don’t expect overnight success, don’t be discouraged by failure, and don’t give up. Learn from mistakes, double-down on successes, and update your content marketing strategy accordingly.
For more on this subject, read this Forbes blog post from John Hall. In it, he explains the value of patience when executing content marketing strategies.
Step 6: Forget what you know about ideation and headlines
The days of link-baity headlines are over. In order to gain traction on your blog, you can’t sell people on your headline alone. That’s not to say you can’t use a compelling, attention-grabbing headline—you can. But if you go that route, you better feel confident about the quality of the content that you’re presenting people with once they land on your site.
In other words, you shouldn’t come up with attention-grabbing headlines first and write your post later. Instead, you should think about the value you want to provide to your readers. Then you should write your blog post. When you’re finally happy with the content, take time to come up with not one, not two, but 25 different headlines for your blog post. Doing this exercise will help you zero in on the true value of the content you’re trying to give to people.
Step 7: Focus on quality
Content marketing used to be a numbers game—how many blog posts can you publish in a month, how consistent can you be week to week—but that’s not what matters to readers anymore and it’s not what you should be focusing on.
Instead of worrying about things like word count and post frequency, you should be focusing on the overall quality of the content you’re sharing on your blog post. That’s what your readers care about. They want to land on your blog post, read through it, and leave with more value and knowledge than they had before landing on your website.
If you need help in this area, here are a few recommended resources worth checking out:
When you focus on quality first, everything else—goals, more ROI, more exposure—naturally follows.
Step 8: Become friends with influencers
Developing and nurturing relationships with influencers can go a long way when it comes to growing and scaling your content marketing machine. Influencers can be powerful promotion partners that you can leverage to boost content marketing ROI.
The idea of reaching out to a famous or well-known person in your industry in an effort to establish an ongoing, mutually-beneficial content relationship might seem intimidating or silly at first, but you’d be surprised to learn how many ‘famous’ influencers are actually open and even actively interested in connecting with companies and people like you.
There’s an easy way to go about establishing a friendship with an influencer. The best way to do it is to ask a well-known personality, blogger, or celebrity in your industry if they’d be willing to be interviewed by you for an upcoming blog post. If you get a response and they agree to do an interview for you, the hard part is over—you’ve successfully made a connection. The time you ultimately spend nurturing the relationship going forward is entirely up to you.
For more on this topic, read this post on the SumoMe blog by Jason Quey. In it, he provides more tips and tactics for successfully reaching out to influencers.
Step 9: Build your army of promoters
In addition to connecting with influencers in order to boost content marketing ROI, it’s also essential that you take time to build up your own personal army of content promoters. Content promoters are people who love you, love your employees, love your business, or love your products or services. These are your raving fans, and they’re the people most willing and able to spread your content to new audiences.
Your army can be made up of:
- Email subscribers
- Social media followers
- Friends and family members
- Business partners or colleagues
- Other companies and people in your industry
Leveraging your army is simple: all you have to do is ask for help. The next time you write and publish a blog post you’re really proud of or that you think people will love, send it to everyone you know and ask them to share it with their friends. You can even make it easy for them by creating pre-written social media updates using tools like ClicktoTweet.
Step 10: Master content promotion and outreach
To see more success from your content marketing efforts, you have to be willing and able to develop a clear promotion plan for every piece of content you produce. You should never create a piece of content that you can’t promote.
Mastering the art of content promotion and outreach means going beyond simply sharing a new blog post on Facebook and Twitter, including it in your email signature, or getting your employees to share it on their social profiles. You have to do more. To help you get started, here are three blog posts worth reading:
Step 11: Repurpose your best content
Content repurposing is another great way to get more ROI and value out of your content. The best blog posts are the ones you can easily reuse and repackage into other formats. To implement this step, simply take one of your best or most recent blog posts and reformat it into one of the following:
- A slidedeck that you can upload and share on Slideshare
- A video that you can upload and share on YouTube
- An infographic that you can share on social media or in a new blog post
- A series of graphics that you can share as Twitter or Facebook updates
- An ebook you can add as a content upgrade offer somewhere else on your blog
- For even more ideas, read through this blog post.
The purpose of repurposing content is to share existing content with other audiences on other sites. In all forms of content repurposing, you should always link back to the original blog post—that’s where you’ll get the added ROI you’re looking for.
Step 12: Add more value with content upgrades
Mentioned briefly in the step just above, you can also get more ROI from content marketing by incorporating content upgrade offers throughout your blog. A content upgrade offer is a way to add additional value to a blog post by offering a downloadable “extra” resource in exchange for an email address. Common examples include worksheets, ebooks, checklists, whitepapers, and other resources that can be easily created (repurposed) from your existing content.
If you want to learn more about content upgrade offers, read this post by Brian Dean. It’s a fantastic case study that will illustrate the true power and value of including content upgrade offers on your blog in order to drive more leads and conversions.
Step 13: Build your email list (and actually use it)
Email is one of the most underutilized tools used by content marketers, which is unfortunate because it can be an incredibly effective way to communicate and connect 1:1 with your blog audience and customers.
If you want to see more ROI from your content marketing efforts, start building your email list. You can easily do this by adding a tool like the Welcome Mat by SumoMe to your website. It’s an easy and fast way to start collecting email addresses from people who land on your website and blog.
Before you start building your subscriber list, decide what it is that you want to do with the emails you collect and make a plan—there’s nothing worse than sitting on a growing email list with no plan to reach out.
Step 14: Test, test, test
The final step that you must take in order to get more ROI from your content marketing efforts is to constantly be testing. If you’re not testing, you’re not learning, and if you’re not learning, you’re not improving. You can test everything from blog post headlines, types of content to publish on your blog, word count, publishing frequency and best time of day to publish, places to repurpose content, types of upgrade offers, placement of opt-in forms, the list goes on and on.