The Ultimate Practical Guide to Content Marketing

I’ve done a lot of content marketing over the last twenty years. For large companies such as Vodafone, to smaller software businesses and FMCGs.    Many of the same theories apply regardless of the industry or size of company. So here’s my approach, some bang up-to-date theories, and some tools to keep things simple, fast and effective.

What kind of asset should I produce?

Arguably you might want to start with ‘What to Write?, but I find if you have a feel for what the kind of assets you could produce, this will help with the thought process.  The list is almost endless really, but you should be guided by what you know of your customer and the channels you have to reach them.

Senior business-decision-makers may like a podcast for the car, but a 16-year-old may want a Snapchat filter. The ultimate in content marketing is something like The Lego Movie...your options are endless, but here’s the top 15 to get you started:

  • Blog Posts

  • Long Form Articles

  • Original Research

  • Video

  • Infographics

  • Case Studies

  • White Papers/Reports

  • Ebooks

  • Presentations

  • Webinars

  • Quizzes and Polls

  • Podcasts

  • Checklists

Creme Egg Snapchat Filter

Creme Egg Snapchat Filter

What to write?

The way to great content is rather like the way to a ‘good sell’.  

  1. Expose the person’s paint point

  2. Ruminate on the pain

  3. Solve their problem

The great news here is you know your customer and your product/service the best.  So it’s literally a question of locking yourself in a dark room, doing a little googling if you like, and giving it some thought.  

What do prospects want ?

Initial efforts should be focused on 1) evergreen content and 2) content that’s search-friendly.  

1  Evergreen Content 

Evergreen refers to content that is always of interest and relevant to your client, the kind of content that is lower in the sales funnel:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • “How To” Guides

  • Tutorials

  • Testimonials

  • Industry Resources

  • Glossaries of Terms and Phrases

  • “History of” Articles

2  Search-friendly Content

Search-friendly content is written in response to larger search volumes.  To find out what are the more popular searches, go to Google Adwords, (you can reach the keywords tool without publishing an ad) have a play with some of your keywords and phrases, and see what produces the most searches.   Then give them what they’re searching for. And when you’ve exhausted your subject matter you can get clever.

Once these two things have been established here’s some other considerations to speed your way:

3  Goals

Know your website goals -this will help focus your efforts.

4  Content Audit

Take a look at what content your top-ranking competitors are providing, that you currently aren’t, and try and improve on that.  BuzzSumo (subscription needed) can help with this.  It will show you the most popular content in the subject matter

5  Keep Abreast 

Keep up with industry news and find content ideas with Feedly

6  National Day? 

You can use websites like Days Of The Year to have a flick through and make a note of anything that might act as a hook for a post relating to your brand, perhaps a day that will resonate for clients.

7  Your Friend Google

Still Stuck? Type ‘What to Write?’ in google and you'll be inundated with various articles to help inspire you.

Too many ideas?  Need some structure?

You can’t have too many ideas really.  Jot them down and work them up into Topic Clusters. These are great for your SEO.  Now Google is smart enough to understand search semantics, (for longer explanation click here) having several blogs around the same subject all interlinked is really good for your SEO.

And if you get beyond the basics, quite frankly I’m impressed.  A video or two, a couple of guides and I would be quite proud of myself.  But if you get a taste for this thing and factor time into your weekly routine, you can get quite sophisticated.

Neil Patel's Content Marketing Sales Funnel

Neil Patel's Content Marketing Sales Funnel

Different types of content can be used at different stages along the sales cycle as you can see from Neil Patel’s Funnel.  The lower funnel (the orange part) are kind of essential, often overlooked when it comes to the content budget, but really help the prospect compare and make up their mind.

Others are fun or informational and fall into three stages along the buying cycle.  Stage 1: Blogs and videos.  These you should share with your prospects liberally at all touch points.  Then pieces that take more time to compile and contain more of your IP are Stage 2 and should be reserved for lead generation, i.e.  request an email in exchange for a Guide or eBook.  I call these minor transactions on your website ‘micro-conversions’. They’re very important, as with that email address, you can send the next piece of content - Stage 3, and this will ideally close the deal, a free webinar with an offer for example.  An American called Scott Oldford does an excellent web course on this structure. Be warned he’s good at this stuff and will follow you around forever on social media until you opt out.

Producing your content

There are so many websites and apps out there, many free of charge, that do what you need done, but you may not know about them.  These are all things my partners and I use on a day to day basis. Take a look at my Resources page for more links to tools.

Writing a blog

Grab a pen or your laptop and just do it.  Make time. You may need a couple of sessions a week, a few hours at a time.  Make sure it’s good or at least better than your competitors.

Grammarly is worth a look - the basic version is free and corrects your grammar and spelling wherever you’re typing - so within Facebook, for example, or an email.

Need help refining the topic? HubSpot's Blog Topic Generator will help. Simply drop in 3 nouns and they’ll spit you out some great ideas.  It’s too good to be a gimmick, give it a go, they’ll want your email though.

If you’re happy with your headline have CoSchedule's Blog Post Headline Analyzer take a look for helpful hints to make it even better.

Designing something visual

Try Canva.  This is my buddy and I couldn’t do without her. Photoshop for dummies really.  Easy to use, free software that has templates for just about anything; infographics, Facebook posts,  ebooks, invitations, brochures -  so you can create beautiful designs and documents.

Producing a video or podcast

Invest in a little equipment for your phone. This guy is very good. I have a rode boom mic that plugs into my earphone jack, a few essential lenses and a bendy legged tripod.  I then use iMovie to edit.  You can also whip up a video with images and slides using Animoto (subscription needed), like Canva, it’s very easy to use.

Affordably outsourcing your content design

If you’re not keen to DIY for whatever reason, you could try the Global Talent Pools of 99designs or Fiverr.  These are great gateways to freelancers all over the world, quoting excellent prices for graphic design, writing, video production and more.  Quality is varied, so in 99designs make sure your prize money is big then you’ll get the best players, and in Fiverr check out their reviews and FAQs….you get what you pay for, so be very vigilant.

Now, this is by no means essential, but I always find 101 things to do instead of writing a blog.  Keep focused, calm and inspired with Momentum.  Seeing this screen every time you open a tab can help! It’s a chrome extension (these are worth getting to grips with one night - life changing).

Now you're ready to go

As more and more business recognise the value of content marketing, it doesn’t really matter how you get it done, choose a path you can afford, put time aside, and do it.  Trust me, it will pay dividends and your customers will love you for it. They may even look forward to hearing from you and share your hard work...softly softly catchee monkey ;) Good luck!

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"Senior business-decision-makers may like a podcast for the car, but a 16-year-old may want a Snapchat filter."