No matter your industry, sector, professionalism or expertise – your business requires content marketing. The tables have turned over the last decade or so giving rise to the “All Powerful Consumer”. From your average Joe to the leaders of the free world, we all walk around with a super computer in our pocket and the world’s information at our fingertips. Consumers now decide what they want and when they want it, and an extremely important transition has taken place: Consumers no longer want to “sold”.

In the mobile era, consumers hold the cards, therefore it’s our responsibility to convince the consumer WHY they should select us among the multitude of competitors. But if billboards, direct mail campaigns and TV commercials have ever-diminishing returns, how can we succeed. Simple. Convince your audience of your superior level of knowledge and service that they would be foolish to consider trusting anyone else to get the job done right. This can be accomplished through Content Marketing.

You’ve probably heard of it before, but here’s a working definition just for good measure:

content marketing definition

Now if you’re new to the idea of content marketing and “attracting” new customers rather than “selling” to them, getting started may be somewhat overwhelming. It’s actually quite simple:

  1. You have a website.
  2. People visit your website.
  3. Hopefully, your website convinces people that you are the right company to solve their problem and they call you, visit your store or purchase your product/service online.

That’s it. In a mathematical formula it reads: Traffic x Conversion Rate = Clients

The more traffic we receive and the higher our conversion rate, the more clients we will have and the more money we will make. Content marketing can help us improve our traffic, conversion rate and our customer retention rate.

However, like all worthwhile strategic initiatives, before we go guns blazing into the unknown, we should conduct a little background research into the state of our specific market, industry, audience and competitive landscape.

All businesses when first setting out, need to answer a specific set of questions to perform successfully. While many of these may be specific to your particular industry and geographic location, others are standard across the board: Who are we? What do we stand for? What’s our price point? Who’s our target audience? and so on.

Luckily, if we have competitors, we can learn a lot about which content marketing strategies, tactics and channels are most effective for our target audience. It’s important to clarify the difference between learning and imitating. Just because Competitor A is holding daily podcasts doesn’t necessarily mean we need to jump in the studio and do the same. This phase is called Competitive Analysis.

The Blog 

Blogging is content marketing 101. The standard. The tried and true backbone of a content marketing strategy. While your blogging strategy will be defined by your business size, industry and target audience, a lot can be gleaned by looking at your competitors blogging strategy. How often do they publish? What types of content are they creating? And most importantly, what level of engagement are they receiving from your target audience? This analysis will help give you an idea what content is most valuable to your audience, how they like to consume it and which types of content is most effective for converting new customers and retaining their business.

content marketing blog where to start

You can now begin to sketch a content marketing framework for your blog. With your content marketing competitive analysis you can now answer key questions based on your findings of what is most successful in your market:

  • How often should we blog?
  • What topics should we cover?
  • Who should author our blog articles?
  • How long should each blog article be?
  • Where can we produce and promote guest blog articles?
  • What channels are most effective for sharing/disseminating our blog content?

Beyond the Blog

Content marketing does not live and die with your blog. In fact, content marketing has been around for almost 150 years! No, your blog is just one channel among many that can effectively reach your target audience, but because it’s so intimately tied to your website, people often forget about the rest.

The best thing about content marketing is that there are no rules – creativity and originality can run free. You may find success experimenting with webinars, podcasts, videos, Slideshare presentations, infographics, custom publishing, white papers, e-books, and other forms of custom content creation.

If your competition is already creating a certain type of content, don’t immediately add it to your “to-do list” – that’s long enough already! Instead, set some metrics to determine if it’s actually working. The level of engagement can be measured in the number of likes, reviews, downloads, views, shares and comments, but the most important metrics of all are traffic and conversions. Does this content increase our visibility, interaction and sales for our products and services? These are the most important factors to measure.

Tools for Finding Inspiration in your Area of Expertise

Everyone needs a little nudge in the right direction and oftentimes that creative spark (or lack thereof) is what’s holding us back. Luckily, there are many tools out there to get us started.

Content Marketing finding inspirationGoogle Trends – an amazing free tool provided by Google shows us the popularity of a specific search term relative to all other searches being made on Google. Google Trends uses real-time data to help you understand how people are searching for your brand, industry or spikes in traffic.

Feedly (or other RSS reader) – with the fall of Google Reader came the rise of Feedly. The all-in-one RSS reader and seamless sharing tool loved by digital marketers everywhere.

Google Alerts – an easy and free way to track your competition and industry experts is to setup Google Alerts. Once setup, Google Alerts sends you a message anytime a new piece of content hits the web.

Twitter Hashtags – hashtags remain a powerful channel for tracking topics, conversations and current events. A well-time hashtag tweet can snowball into a global feeding frenzy – check out Oreo’s tweet during the 2014 Super Bowl.

BuzzSumo – one of our favorites – it allows you to analyze which content is performing best in terms of its social sharing and engagement. Set up BuzzSumo to analyze your competitor’s content or direct it to measure topics across multiple channels.

Be Yourself

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You are not your competitor. Take the best elements of what seems to be working for your target audience and develop your own unique strategy that matches your abilities and resources.

The objective of conducting a competitive analysis for your content marketing strategy is to jumpstart your own content marketing initiatives without wasting time with tactics that don’t work. Learn from their mistakes and be careful not to repeat them. As you build your framework, look for niche markets and customer needs that are being ignored by your competition. That can provide a strong foothold to enter a crowded market.

Next time, we’ll dive into social media sharing and best practices in content dissemination. If your content is the fire, then social media is like gasoline. Stay tuned!


image credit: Shutterstock