The 3 Essential Elements of Successful Content Marketing

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I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Sonia Simone.

Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Copyblogger Media. Come find her on the Copyblogger blog, where she writes extensively about content marketing for small business.

I don’t care how big or how small your business is.

If you’ve been thinking about content marketing, one issue probably keeps cropping up.

Let’s face it … this would all be a whole lot easier if it wasn’t for that pesky content.

What makes content “good”? What’s the difference between content marketing and just writing an entertaining blog? And can content really be the backbone of a serious marketing plan?

Let’s get very clear … not all content serves a marketing purpose. If you want to build a strong business around content, you need three key elements.

Here are my choices for the three key components of effective content marketing:

#1: Make it entertaining

The biggest mistake businesses make with content is the assumption that the audience actually finds their business interesting.

No one owes you their attention. You have to earn it.

That means your content (and all the rest of your marketing) needs to become relentlessly focused on the desires and needs of your customers.

That means you write content that’s entertaining and interesting. Content that benefits the reader — often by solving a problem she might have, or possibly by giving her a good laugh.

You make sure your formatting is audience-friendly. No one wants to read long, unbroken paragraphs, even if the writing is top-notch. Use plenty of subheads, white space, and a clear, legible font that’s large enough to be read by someone over the age of 12.

And if headlines aren’t your strong suit … fix that. You don’t have to be clever — clarity is much more effective. Be sure the headline communicates how the reader will benefit from reading that piece of content.

#2: Make it strategic

Not all entertaining, readable content will move a prospect closer to becoming a customer.

It doesn’t matter how many Facebook “Likes” you have, if you’re not communicating the benefits of doing business with you.

This is where your copywriting skills will pay off. You don’t actually have to be able to put the words together yourself — but you need to understand the underlying strategic elements of copywriting.

That means you know the difference between benefits and features — and your content focuses on the benefits of your product or service.

It means you know how to overcome your most common objections.

It means you understand social proof, calls to action, your unique selling proposition … and you use these elements in your content.

You don’t need to cram every copywriting element into a single piece of content, and you probably shouldn’t. Content should look like content, not advertising.

But it still serves a strategic purpose.

To borrow a phrase from classic sales training, your content exists to get prospects to know, like, and trust you. (Duct Tape readers know this is the top half of the marketing hourglass.)

That high-quality experience is what paves the path to a sale.

#3: Make it shareable

Did you get sucked into the “social media marketing” buzzfest over the last few years?

Well, social media marketing (when it’s effective) is content marketing. Banner ads and promoted tweets can’t hold a candle to strong content. And social media is typically the most cost-effective way to carry content right to the prospects you’re looking for.

Take a look at what Oreo did last weekend by posting a single piece of visual content to Facebook. It’s generated publicity (overwhelmingly positive, despite some rumblings for a boycott) that even Kraft/Nabisco couldn’t buy.

Social media is a terrific venue for getting your entertaining, strategic content shared. The specifics change somewhat year to year — this year’s hot spots are Facebook and Twitter, next year we may be looking at different platforms.

But the essential strategy remains the same. Look at how your prospects and customers share the type of content you’re creating … then make it easy and enjoyable for them to actually share it.

How about you?

Is content marketing an important part of your business? What elements do you consider essential to a successful program?

Let us know in the comments …

Image credit: npmeijer


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Content, Marketing, Sonia Simone


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  1. The problem is that many B2B companies have difficulty making dry boring products interesting. Any ideas/resources to make interesting creative content for really dry boring industries?

    1. It’s tough, but that’s what a really good copywriter can do for you — delve into the business to uncover the stories that are interesting *to your customers*. The general public might not find the material fascinating, but they just need to fascinate those who are in the business.

      Someone in the company is passionate about the work — even to the point of being a bit of a geek about it. Get a strong writer connected to that person, to harness that geeky passion.

  2. So true! People still struggle so much with blog content, great timing.

    It’s actually a great opportunity that businesses never had before blogging came around. Done right, a blog helps people find out what THEY want to know, well before a purchase or public endorsement.
    When my clients learn how to use their blog with social media, their eyes get wide and they get excited about what sharing means. They really love what websites can do now, just takes them a little bit to get used to using them.
    Some still buck and kick, but they’re listening 🙂

    1. It’s definitely a new way of thinking about how to talk with your potential customers.

      Some companies embrace it and others kick. I know the ones I’m betting on. 🙂

  3. Sonia,

    Great to see you on John’s blog…

    I would add make it Powerful… And by powerful I mean take a stand on a topic and deliver your message with confidence and authority.

    Wishy-washy content is tough to read.

    Thanks!!

    Ryan H.

    1. But I think establishing youself as an expert in particular industry is even more important than entertaining content. with knowledge you can more easily dispose visuals, jokes. etc.

      but providing value and structure of posts is clearly important 🙂

      1. The web is full of experts who can’t find an audience. If your content is dry or dull, it just won’t get read — your audience will look for another subject matter expert who packages the information more appealingly.

      2. If you’re literally the only expert in your topic, that’s great, but very few of us can say that. We’re always competing with someone else’s expertise.

  4. I’d like to add: Make it consistent. Intigi.com is a tool that helps you post relevant content on a consistent basis by finding interesting articles while you sleep. [Disclaimer: I’m one of the founders]

  5. [The biggest mistake businesses make with content is the assumption that the audience actually finds their business interesting.]

    Probably one of the best lines I’ve read in a long time!
    I try to incorporate this into my blog but sometimes I’ll back off because I read so many other “bland” articles that I feel out of place & too wacky. Maybe I should be even more entertaining & zany?

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