In the modern economy, content marketing is key. Shoppers are bombarded with ads on a daily basis, leading them to tune out traditional marketing. Content lets you break through this noise, capture customers’ attention, and convince them to trust and buy from you. But not all content marketing campaigns are created equal. The following guide will help you develop effective content, distribute it far and wide, and build on its success:

Step 1: Know Your Audience

Getting to know your audience is an essential first step to any content marketing campaign. Only once you understand who your customers are and what they want to accomplish can you create content they find appealing.

Knowing your audience begins with defining it, or getting a sense of whom you must market to. Will your customers be individuals, organizations, or both? Where are they located, and do they have any unique characteristics? The better you can answer these questions, the more precise your content strategy can be.

Once you’ve defined your audience, you must figure out what problems they're trying to solve. If you can present what you’re selling as a practical solution to customers’ problems, they’re more likely to read and respond to your content. To find out what these problems are, interview past and potential customers, and ask your customer support team what conversations they’re having with shoppers. You can also study analytics on the questions people have that are related to your product. For example, say you sell replacement pipes and plumbing fixtures. If you look at search engine data and see that many people are Googling “how to fix a leaky faucet,” you know that leaks are a common concern you can address.

Step 2: Know Your Business Goals

Besides determining what your customers want to accomplish, you have to set goals for yourself so you can determine what type of content to publish. For example, do you aim to increase the sheer number of customers who turn to your business? If so, you should focus on writing short, engaging content that catches the attention of people who haven’t heard of you before. On the other hand, if your goal is to get current customers to stay loyal, you may want to publish long-form content like ebooks and whitepapers. This type of content gives current customers more details about what they’re buying, leading them to view you as an authority and trust you for future purchases.

Step 3: Align Audience & Business Goals

Having determined your goals and those of your customers, the next step is to connect the two. You can then publish content that promotes your interests and those of your customers together. For example, say you’re a plumber and your goal is to get current customers to sign up for an annual inspection and maintenance package. You then learn that many of those customers want to lower their water bills. If you publish content about how regular maintenance leads to less wasted water, you offer customers a solution to their problem and convince them to sign up for your service package all at once.

Step 4: Distribute Your Content Effectively

Now that you know what type of content to publish, you need to distribute that content somewhere customers will see it. This involves:

  • Using Branded Marketing Channels - Post links to your content on popular branded channels. These include social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, as well as public blogs and discussion fora. You may also be able to publish sponsored content on news sites.
  • Following Your Audience - In choosing specific channels, consider where your audiences are likely to be when purchasing a product like yours. If they’re likely to be specifically researching such products, you should focus on improving the SEO of your content, so it will appear at the top of their search results. On the other hand, if you’re appealing to customers who are interested in a related hot topic or controversy, link to your content on discussion fora and social media comment pages related to that topic, which potential customers are likely to visit.
  • Engaging with Influencers - Influencers are artists, comedians, celebrities, and others with large numbers of online followers. If you can get them to share your content, you instantly gain the attention of those followers. You should thus offer them incentives to host your content on their sites or link to it on social media pages.

The more effectively you distribute your content, the greater an impact it will have. You’ll thus be able to attract more interest and more revenues for the same cost and effort.

Step 5: Measure & Tweak

Once you start distributing your content, you need to gather data on customer conversions, or purchases, subscriptions, and other actions by customers that create value for your company. Measure how many conversions each piece of content produces, and ask yourself:

  • What Worked? Pay attention to content that met or exceeded your conversion goals. What was that content about, and where did you publish it? The more you know about successful content, the easier it is to build on that success.
  • What Didn’t? Whenever you publish content that disappoints, determine as specifically as possible why it failed. Was the problem the topic? The writing style? The place of publication? Only by figuring this out can you avoid similar failures in the future.
  • What Opportunities Are There? Just as some pieces of content will disappoint, others will prove wildly more effective than you ever imagined. By figuring out why they did so well, you can identify new opportunities to attract customers. For example, if the content you publish on a certain blog proves way more effective than that published anywhere else, you know to pursue the type of people who read that blog.

By learning from past experiences, you can refine your content continuously. This sets the stage for growing success throughout the life of your company.