I don’t have to tell you that starting a business is rough. Fact is, there are so many layers to it, which all have their relevance and importance. In this article, let’s talk about the content marketing side of your business. First of all, then, what is content marketing? 🤷♀️🤷♀️
The Content Marketing Institute -- yes, you get the gist, it has become so important there is an actual institute for it -- explains here that content marketing focuses on creating content that is both relevant and valuable for your target audience, and therefore, promoting your business through your expertise rather than through bland, in-your-face advertising. If you want to know a bit more about key differences between marketing and advertising, take a look at my colleague’s article on this matter here.
In this article on Forbes, this definition is referenced and put into concrete examples: i.e. Infographics, videos, podcasts, books, blogs. What is emphasised here is the key word valuable. This means that your target audience receives knowledge that is tailored to them. Coming back to the layers I mentioned, finding and engaging with a target audience can be just as confusing, so if you feel like you need to catch up on the basics, head over here.
Now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s get serious! 💥
1. Do your research 📚
I know, I know, this sounds incredibly boring and seems like you’re being pulled back into a stuffy library, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Research is a fun and engaging way to not only acquire knowledge, but to trace patterns, make connections, and get your gears going to create new ideas. Hit those keys on your keyboards and search online. Go to your favourite local bookstore and ask the staff. There are so many great articles and books out there that will help you finesse your content marketing skills and develop creative ideas on your own. As a kick-start, check out this blog post for some brilliant book recommendations.
Don’t stop here -- reading is one thing, but moulding an idea is another. You have to push beyond that. Talk to a friend, your mother, your hairdresser, anyone really. It is through exchange that we put knowledge in context, revise and revisit it, and consider different angles.
2. Scan your target audience 👥
I said talk to anyone, really, but the key is to listen to your target audience. Engage with them. They are the ones for which you create content. What are their ideas, their needs, their questions, their worries? Go out and talk to people, start a study, or conduct interviews; whatever suits you. There is also the possibility to do this digitally, which has become increasingly important due to COVID-19. You can do a livestream, or you can do social listening. If you’re unsure about the needs of your target audience and social listening, check out one of my previous articles here that will give your some general guidelines.
3. Take Notes 📝
Okay, I admit, this one seems obvious, but sometimes things are just too obvious for us to pay attention. What I want to emphasise here is the importance of note-taking. You might think that this is a skill you easily mastered, but as this Guardian article points out: “Note-taking is an alarmingly complex cognitive affair.” But, why bother?
Note-taking will not only help you revise ideas you already had, or manifest them in a written form so they cannot hop out of your brain, but it often helps you to bring some structure into your thought process. I’ll give you an example:
When I worked as a tutor while studying, I would teach kids English, German, and French. We would sit down, talk about a story or a poem, and I would ask them to give interpretations to prepare them for what their school exams would demand from them. Sometimes they would go on for minutes, putting out ideas and connections, and asking questions, and that’s brilliant. But then, when I asked them to write it down, all of a sudden, they noted down a sentence or two, condensed three of the ideas to one line, without cohesion or connection.
What happened is that they remembered their key ideas, but no longer how they relate to one another, or because they felt the time pressure of taking an exam would shorten it so much that things no longer add up to one another. 🤯🤯
What I am meaning to say is, noting things down before creating your content out of it, will help you structure it. And the key to structure is tracing connections. 📌 Note-taking can be visual, you can draw and connect, use arrows and links and hashtags; it can be just about getting it out of your head and onto paper and coming back to it later. Keep a to-do-list, keep a notepad at your bedside table, or near the shower, or wherever your good ideas spring up, and always note it down; you never know when it will come in handy for you. In any case, it will help you define your content marketing strategy and kickstart new ideas. Once you’ve done the research, let your brain do the trick and trust it. To find out which way to take notes is useful for you, check out this Thought.co article on how to take notes.
4. Consult an expert 👩🎓👨🎓
There is only so much you can do -- and these are some wild waters to navigate. If you’re feeling lost or you just need to find the right way to begin, don’t shy away from consulting a professional. Experts have exactly what the name suggests: expertise. You cannot know everything about everything; experts are specialised in their field, and this might just be what you need to incorporate.
As a start, here’s a list of some of the leading figures in that context to follow on social media, for instance.
I don’t just mean content creation or marketing specialists. Maybe you need a professional camera(wo)man for a clip you want to shoot, or you want to talk about a certain topic that relates to your business but isn’t necessarily your area of expertise; get a scientist, a researcher, a specialist in that field to help you out. Contrary to what we’re trained to believe by society, there is no shame in asking for help‼️
Now, you’re all set with incentives. Go, go, go said the bird, create some great content marketing plans! That’s a slightly altered T.S. Eliot, but it proves a point: connections are everything. If I can link Burnt Norton to Content Marketing, there are no limits to what your projects can look like! ✨✨✨
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About the Author
Sarah is a PR assistant at GuidedPR. She holds a BA hons in English and Comparative Literature and is currently in the wake of moving to London to start her MA in Modern Literature and Culture at King's College London. She's usually busy writing and consuming caffeine. ☕☕☕
Find her on Linkedin here.