Content marketing is the single most effective way to grow your business online without paying for ads or sponsorships. It’s so effective that even large corporations with massive advertising budgets still use it as part of a multi-pronged approach to marketing.
What exactly is content marketing and how can you create an effective content marketing strategy to grow your business? That’s what we’ll cover in this article.
What Is Content Marketing?
According to Lexico, content marketing is “a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”
What Makes Content Marketing So Effective?
Are you more likely to buy from a total stranger hawking their product or someone who you know and trust?
Content marketing provides value to customers before the sales pitch—building familiarity, trust, and a feeling of reciprocity. This dramatically increases the chances that the sale will be successful and that customers will send more business your way in the future.
Content marketing also positions you as an expert and leader in your field. Selling a course on how to train for a marathon? Publishing free content that shares genuinely helpful information with your audience shows that you know what you’re talking about and adds credence to the claim that your course will help them improve.
Now that you know what content marketing is and why it’s so effective, let’s move on to implementation. How can you create an effective content marketing strategy?
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk (*).
Step One | Pick a Content Marketing Strategy That Works for You
There are many different types of content marketing.
Ebooks and PDFs
All of these delivery methods share a common goal: to deliver value to your audience of potential clients and customers.
I recommend choosing one social media platform and one other content marketing strategy to start with, especially if you’re running a business solo. Content marketing is time-consuming and you’ll get better results if you don’t spread yourself too thin.
Let’s look at the advantages and drawbacks of the most common content marketing strategies.
Blogging is one of the most common content marketing strategies and my personal favorite. Here are two great reasons to start a blog.
Blogging is amazing for SEO. Click here to read my guide to optimizing your blog posts for search engines.
Blogging pairs well with every other content marketing strategy. Do you podcast or post videos on YouTube? Publish a blog post and embed the audio or video along with a transcript. Have a free course, quiz, or PDF download to offer? Adding a signup form with a lead magnet or content upgrade to your blog posts is a great way to grow your email list.
Blogging might not be a great fit if you lack strong writing skills. It also requires consistent effort if you want to reap the SEO benefits. Read my guide to writing a killer blog post if you’re not sure where to start.
If you’re more comfortable speaking than writing, podcasting is a great way to grow your audience and share your expertise. And with the audio content craze in full swing, now is the best time ever to start a podcast and reach people who would rather listen than read.
You can start a podcast right on your phone using Anchor, a free app that lets you record, edit, and distribute your podcast. You can even invite a guest to record with you!
More than 10% of website traffic around the world goes to YouTube and more than 85% of Internet users in the U.S. watch video content online. Add to that the fact that many business owners still don’t use video and it can give you a serious edge over the competition.
Video is the best content marketing strategy if you want to make a personal connection with your audience. Write a blog post and people will see you as an expert. Record a video and people will feel like they know you.
Video content also integrates with most other content marketing strategies. Pretty much every social media platform now offers video content (Instagram TV, Facebook Live, etc.) and that content can lead to a lot more engagement than standard text and image posts.
You can start making video content using your phone, a mini tripod*, and free editing software like iMovie.
Social media marketing is an essential content marketing strategy. It’s one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website and other content, grow brand awareness, and send traffic into your sales funnel.
The key is figuring out where you should focus your efforts. For more information on choosing a social media platform to start with, read my guide. It covers Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Email is another essential content marketing strategy. In fact, I would argue that it’s the most essential content marketing strategy.
You don’t own your social media accounts. They could be suspended or the algorithm could change in a heartbeat and all those leads would dry up. You do own your blog but if Google’s algorithm changes or something happens to your social media accounts, your blog will lose a lot of the traffic that makes it such an effective marketing tool.
Not only do you own your email list, but it’s also a direct path to the place your audience is most likely to see your content: their inbox. The people on your list are already invested in your content. They’re hot leads. And it’s easier to sell to hot leads than anyone else.
All of the other content strategies we’ve talked about should lead to your email list. Have a blog? Add a signup form with a free content upgrade to your posts. Have a podcast? Put a link in the show notes to your signup form.
I recommend ConvertKit* for email marketing. It has excellent deliverability rates and makes it easy to set up email sequences and automations. (ConvertKit also has a free plan* for beginners without sequences or automations and a limit of 100 subscribers!)
For more info on how to write a welcome sequence to engage new subscribers, check out this post by Meera Kothand, the queen of email marketing.
Other Content Marketing Strategies
Here are some other ways you can deliver your content to potential customers:
Offer a mini-course or masterclass as a free lead magnet or low-cost tripwire.
Write an ebook or create a PDF checklist, worksheet, or guide and offer it as a free content upgrade.
Create a quiz to grow your email list. Quizzes are great because they’re interactive.
Design an infographic and share it on Pinterest and your blog.
Step Two | Create a Content Calendar
Once you’ve decided which content marketing strategies you want to implement, it’s time to create a content calendar. Consistency is the key to success. Having a plan will help you stay on track, reduce stress, and lead to better results.
There are two things you need to consider when creating a content calendar—posting frequency and content categories.
Contrary to popular belief, more is not always better when it comes to content creation. If you commit to a posting schedule that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and burned-out, you’ll either quit or neglect other important parts of your life or business.
While there’s no such thing as an ideal posting frequency, here are some guidelines that can help you get started.
Podcasts and Videos
Podcasting and filming YouTube videos are the most time-consuming content marketing strategies, so a weekly or bi-monthly posting schedule might be a good place to start.
Writing quality blog posts is also time-consuming but it doesn’t require the long hours of editing that videos and podcasts do, so try for once or twice a week to start.
Email marking can annoy your subscribers if done too frequently, so I recommend sending out an email blast only 2-4 times a month unless you’re in the middle of a launch. The great thing about email marketing is that you can schedule sequences in advance to be sent out to subscribers automatically based on certain criteria. This can make your job a lot easier.
Social Media Posts
Tweets get buried in the feed faster than posts on any other platform. That doesn’t mean you have to be visible all the time but aim for a schedule of 1-5 tweets a day and increase if you have time for more. Use a social media scheduling tool to make your life easier.
Facebook page posts tend to get buried in the feed, so I recommend focusing your efforts on groups or ads. If you do post to your page, aim for once a day and try to go live 2-4 times a month.
Instagram accounts that post once a day tend to receive the most views. I also recommend making liberal use of Instagram Stories. Posting at least one story a day, if not more, can really increase your visibility. Instagram TV is also a great way to increase your visibility, though you don’t have to use it quite as often. 2-4 times a month should suffice.
Pinterest is my favorite social media platform because you can automate everything and it’s a huge traffic generator. I recommend pinning 20-40 times per day. You can easily schedule pins en masse using Tailwind. Read my Pinterest guide for more info.
Breaking your content down into categories will ensure that you don’t post similar content too close together. For example, I group my blog content into four broad categories:
This is what my posting cycle looks like:
Let’s say you’re creating a content calendar for Instagram. You might break your posts down into the following categories.
Behind the scenes
After you decide how often to post and come up with your content categories, create your content calendar using an app that will remind you when you need to post or schedule content. You don’t need to fill in the details yet. Just add the content categories and due dates.
I use Asana to outline my content marketing strategy. Here’s a sneak peek at what my blog content calendar looks like in Asana:
I love Asana because it’s free and you can view your content schedule in list, board, or calendar view.
Step Three | Brainstorm Content Ideas
The final step to creating a solid content marketing plan is to start brainstorming content ideas. I recommend planning out three months of content every quarter. This will make it easier to create and schedule content in advance.
I use Evernote to brainstorm content ideas before adding them to my content calendar in Asana. I add ideas to Evernote as I think of them but I also sit down periodically for an intensive brainstorming session.
If you have trouble coming up with content ideas, start by asking yourself what sort of content your ideal client would find helpful. You don’t want to give away all your secrets for free but you do want your content to be genuinely helpful to the people you want to work with.
Here are some other ways to brainstorm content.
Start with keywords. Go to Ubersuggest and enter a keyword related to your business. Ubersuggest will give you a list of related keywords, which can give you new (and SEO-friendly!) ideas.
Ask your followers. Invite your social media followers and email list to ask you questions, then use those questions as content topics.
Start with the title. Check out this list of blog post title templates and fill in the blanks.
Choose content marketing strategies that work for you. I recommend choosing one social media platform and one other content marketing strategy (blogging, podcasting, videos) to start with.
Create a content calendar and break down your content into categories so you don’t post too much of one thing.
Brainstorm content ideas. Remember, you can repurpose content on multiple platforms!
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