Guest Contributor: Matt Hillman, Creative Director
September 2017 was the fifth anniversary of my first visit to the annual Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland. Back then, content was a term that was showing up more and more frequently at all levels of marketing, but there was still confusion around some of its most fundamental elements—and as I work with clients, I still witness a certain degree of blank looks and furrowed brows when talking about what content is and what it can do for a brand.
So to mark the five-year anniversary of my own immersion into content marketing’s biggest event, here’s a quick review of three content fundamentals to help building materials marketers better understand content—or at least feel less lost in content discussions.
There are many, many definitions available to explain what content is, and while I have my favorites—not to mention my own definition—let’s start with what content isn’t. Content isn’t about selling; it isn’t sales collateral, spec sheets, features & benefits, or anything else that drives the audience to buy. Instead, content is about informing and sharing what you know. Content drives the audience to understand what you know as a subject-matter expert—and that, in turn, makes them more comfortable buying from you.
So whether it’s a blog post, ebook, video, Slideshare post, infographic, podcast, or any other vehicle for sharing thought leadership, that’s what we mean by content. And content can be something you create yourself or that you curate from other respected sources, demonstrating that you’re plugged in to industry information and trends.
Like a strong brand, strong content doesn’t happen by accident. It begins with deliberation and is sustained with discipline—and that means planning. Content Strategy is simply the plan you put in place to determine what your content will say, who will create it, and how frequently it will be shared.
Having a written strategy—and this is key, it must be captured and shared with everyone who will be contributing—is step one. Look at what you are qualified to speak to, what your audience is interested in consuming, and what else is out there on those topics; what comes out of that is your strategy. At the heart of a content strategy is a curator who makes sure what’s being created, referenced, and shared aligns with the plan—if it doesn’t, throw it out. Focus and consistency are critical if your content is going to get recognized.
Once you have content, now you need people to find it. Sure, you have it available on your website or on YouTube or in that monthly newsletter, but that’s passive content. What you need is to connect your valuable, information-rich content with the people who want to consume it—that means marketing.
Getting content to your existing audience is easy enough through emails, newsletters, and blog posts. Getting it in front of new audiences takes more effort. Organic web searches will help, so having SEO keywords and phrases woven into your content is important so that Google and Bing will offer it in search results. But to really charge your content game, look at social posts—LinkedIn is an especially good place to find to your B2B audience—pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, as well as services that specialize in distributing content across multiple platforms.
The Key Takeaway
Most importantly, remember that despite data being a critical element to charting your content, content is an art, not a science. Chances are you won’t get it perfectly right on your first try—or even a few after that. So do your research, make a plan, and then be ready to bob & weave as you learn what works and what flops with your particular audience.
Content is about a conversation and building trust, and trust doesn’t happen overnight. Being the consistent, reliable, relevant provider of valuable thought leadership for the building materials industry is the immediate goal, so think long-term and plan ahead, and in time, you’ll find more and more leads are coming from people who tell you, “I saw your video on YouTube” or “I’ve been reading your blog for a few months.” That’s the ultimate power of content.