In 5 steps to profitable content marketing

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Content marketing is a critical part of any high-performing marketing strategy, but too many people start creating content without first understanding how it will deliver the business results they need.

I applaud anyone with a “just do it” mentality, but it literally pays to do a little planning before you get started. Just ask these five questions for every piece of content you create to create a profitable content marketing strategy.

1. Who is this for?

You need one specific person to focus on. Think about it – the advice you give to Friend A will be different than the advice you give to Friend B. You adjust what you say and recommend based on what you know about the person across the table. Content creation is the same.

Who is your target customer? How is their daily experience? What problems do they face that you want to solve? What do they think about those problems? How will they feel when they implement the expertise you share? What history have you already built with them?

You need to pinpoint these details before you start creating each piece of content because it dramatically changes your messaging and what you want the consumer to do with this information (more on that later).

Related: 5 content marketing tips to achieve all your goals

2. Where will it live?

Will this content be a niche industry article, a short video for Instagram and TikTok, or a multimedia content that lives on your company’s blog? Each format and platform has its own nuance to consider when creating, so you need to know where your content will live, and by extension, what details to include or exclude.

Ideally, you create a lot of content, some for each of the different platforms where your customers spend their time. To save yourself time and headaches, I recommend choosing one topic and creating different pieces of content around that one topic for each of your primary platforms. This way you can reach people in whatever way they want to interact with you or however they come across your brand.

3. What do I want them to know?

Don’t start creating content based on the information you want to share. Start creating content based on the information you want viewers to remember. They won’t remember everything, so it’s best to make one clear point — or answer one question clearly — per piece of content and repeat that point throughout the content.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how entertaining your content is, people aren’t going to remember everything. So pick a takeaway and nail it. Over there to be exceptions to this, such as state of the industry reports and comprehensive manuals, but grasping one point or answering one question is generally the best approach.

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4. What should they do with this info?

When marketing was new to me, all the blog posts I wrote shared what I thought was interesting information and a compelling reason to start using our services. But that was it. None of those blog posts told readers anything To do with that information. They brought in traffic, but no conversions. Then I went back and added “contact” or “schedule a demo” to every post, and the leads started pouring in.

Most people won’t just connect the dots. You have to connect the dots for them. Most people are also prone to passivity, but will move if you tell them to. So tell them.

When creating your content, keep in mind what action you want viewers to take after viewing it. You should not always ask for a sale or lead capture or people will start rejecting you. But maybe your call-to-action (CTA) is to subscribe for more insights, share it with colleagues, or take some steps to help yourself without having to buy anything. Whatever it is, tell them.

5. How do I get it for them?

I always recommend spending four times as much time, money, and effort distributing your content as you do creating it. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how awesome, insightful, entertaining or useful your content is if no one sees it. Distribution ensures that the right people see it. Distribution makes content marketing profitable.

But how will you distribute your content?

Search engine optimization, search ads, social media (organic and sponsored), industry events, webinars, email, SMS – all these and more are distribution channels you can use to get your content out there. The best places to distribute your content are where your customers spend their time. Knowing who you’re targeting and what platform you’re targeting them on makes this part easier, but you still need to take it seriously, usually longer than you’d expect. Let’s say you think you can promote one article on LinkedIn for two weeks and see results, but you actually need to promote it for three to six months.

Related: 7 paid marketing steps to boost your startup’s growth

The best content marketing strategies ask these five questions for every piece of content created and also ask these questions for the strategy as a whole. It may seem like a lot, but take things one step at a time (or one question) and you’ll see that it’s easier than expected to create content that reaches the right people and takes them to your sales funnel.