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Baffled by content marketing? Start with the basics!

The concern we hear most frequently from clients just getting started with content marketing is some variation on “What the heck am I going to write about?” So let’s start off talking about what kind of content you can and should be generating. Before long, you’ll be able to identify what you are uniquely suited to write about–and your audience will likely respond.

Is This Interesting To My Audience?
With every piece you generate – every word, every sentence, every video clip – you have to know whether the piece interests your audience. Does it help them solve a problem? Does it provide them new insights into their business or their market? In short, is it about them and their problems rather than about you and your products?

Ready For Your Close-Up
Addressing your targets’ needs is great, but can you do it in a way that highlights your expertise? And can you do it without overt selling.

Graphic from the licensing tutorial
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The information you provide has to be of real value, and can’t be thinly veiled sales copy. Your audience is much too sophisticated not to see right through that. So don’t even try. Instead cite a mix of industry data and other research to support your own thoughts, which can take the form of case studies and white papers, among other things.

And … Action!
Of course, as much as your content has to be about helping your audience address their issues, it also has to help you achieve your marketing and business goals.

You can use content marketing for brand building, to generate awareness of a new product, or to explore an issue that your audience might not realize you can help them with. What’s important is knowing your goals and having tools in place to measure your results. (Another topic I’ll explore in future columns.)

Putting It All Together
Here are a few quick examples of effective content marketing.

“Going viral” is the holy grail of content marketing, and though it’s unrealistic to expect your marketing to spread far and wide, some of the most successful viral campaigns are worth examining for their lessons. Orabrush and Dollar Shave Club have had great video campaigns. They’ve also had the good fortune to have executives who are really appealing on screen.

Blendtec has had great success with their “Will It Blend?” videos. They’re less reliant on a really appealing spokesperson, instead trading on the vicarious thrill of watching interesting things being destroyed in a blender – iPhones, iPads, glow sticks. What’s truly genius here is how well the videos, silly entertainment that they are, highlight the product’s benefits. This is what we’re all aiming for.

Video is, of course, not the only content marketing option. (It just happens to perform really well at the moment in SEO and social.) The Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing uses its posts as a way of staying top of mind with its audience by providing valuable small business marketing tips. The content dovetails beautifully with Duct Tape Marketing’s core business.

One more example before we go: email newsletter from the good folks at CMI, the Content Marketing Institute. If you’re interested in content marketing, you need to subscribe. Great stuff on a regular basis, and a great mix of information, research, and promotion of their products and services.

Next Steps
Generating great content doesn’t have to be hard and it’s certainly easier when you’re armed with information about your audience, their interests, and where they gather (physically or virtually). We’ll dive into these issues–as well as ways to measure outcomes–beginning in next month’s column.

One last thing to keep in mind: as fresh and new as all of this might seem, the concepts behind content marketing are as old as, well, dirt. John Deere, the heavy equipment manufacturer began publishing The Furrow, a magazine aimed at the farmers who were their target audience, in 1895.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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