9 steps for optimal content marketing

Setting goals, strategizing and conducting research are crucial underpinnings of creating and curating content that will engage your target audiences. Here’s what you need to know.

9 steps for great content

Creating snappy content and posting it consistently are only two aspects of a broader content marketing process.

Every piece of content has a lifecycle, so you should understand clearly what it is designed to achieve, a strategy for fulfilling that purpose, and a way of measuring success.

Follow these steps to wring the most long-term benefit from your content:

1. Set your goals. Clearly define what you want to achieve. Your goals can be ambitious (total dominance of your market) or humble (increasing your Instagram followers), but they should be achievable and measurable. This enables you not only to budget for digital marketing, but also to accurately assess the success of your content and change your strategy if it is not working.

2. Create a strategy. Build on the goals you have set, and specify how to achieve them. Focus on your target audience, and outline the way(s) that you plan to engage with them. Your strategy should be informed by an assessment of your competitors, identifying areas where you might gain a tactical advantage and where you could emulate your competition’s successful techniques.

3. Do your research. Conduct keyword research to find out what is trending among your target audiences, and then develop superior content for them.

4. Create your content. Plenty of content marketers start with this step, but that’s a mistake. Your content should have a simple aim: to provide a unique insight and a solid benefit to your target groups.

5. Curate your content. If carefully curated with all your target audiences in mind, even a small amount of content can generate huge levels of interaction.

6. Distribute your content. There is a difficult balance to be struck. Apply the 60/40 rule: Spend 60% of your time producing content, and 40% of your time distributing it. Another crucial aspect is the platform you choose. Most companies still publish their content only through their blog, and that’s fine: Blogging is still a powerful tool, despite assertions to the contrary.

7. Ensure your content is available when it counts. Despite the ubiquity of blogging, be aware that there are significant differences in uptime among hosting providers, and this can affect how accessible your blog content is if you are the only one hosting it. For that reason, you should consider reaching out to websites that cover your industry. The more places your content appears, the more likely your customers are to see it.

8. Encourage engagement. Great content doesn’t just provide your customers with insight; it also compels them to share with their friends and colleagues. Because of this, every single piece of content you produce should include a call to action—one as simple as a request to share an article on social media, or as complex as instructions on how to put your ideas into practice. The important thing, as ever, is to encourage your audience to be an active participant, working with your brand for mutual benefit.

9. Measure success. Once your content has been available for some time, conduct a detailed—and candid—analysis of whether it achieved your identified strategic goals. After working incredibly hard on a piece of content, it can be tempting to declare it a great success when in reality its impact was limited. Think of this assessment as a learning opportunity: It’s important to congratulate yourself on your successes, but also to be aware of where you might improve.

Dan Fries is technical product lead at Next Ventures.

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