What is Content Marketing? And How to Nail It

Content marketing is about leveraging mixed media to create value for customers beyond your product. It’s about educating them in some way or providing tools to improve their lives or businesses. Premised on creativity, it can take a myriad different forms: written blog posts, videos, interactive maps, infographics, .gifs, podcasts, sound bites, you name it. It builds a personality for your brand and establishes a point of view.

What differentiates content marketing from other types is that rather than promoting your company outwards, you seek to attract customers inwards. For example, a curious person might Google, “what is vegan leather made of?” Imagine your company has posted on this exact topic, and it appears as a top search result. This person may click and unintentionally stumble onto your page, associate your brand with useful information, subscribe to your blog, and eventually convert to a paying customer of your products.

Content marketing can be challenging to nail down. It certainly takes practice to get right. Here are 10 tips I can offer based on some experience:

(1) Know your audience

user persona

Build content for the customers you hope to target and the ones you already have. Use data to identify 3-5 users personas who might visit your site – e.g., young working mom who is struggling to balance work and family and wants to keep up to date with new trends. What helpful material might you offer for these users? At the same time, track who is viewing and engaging with your content. If you are aiming for young working moms but seem to be gaining traffic from teenage boys, perhaps rethink your content strategy or redirect it towards this unexpected audience.

user persona 2

(2) Draw inspiration

Do research on what types of content similar companies are producing. Actively stay on top of the media and bookmark content engines that are particularly inspirational. What are hot topics that keep coming up? Most creative ideas aren’t generated in a vacuum, but rather, are built off of other ideas.


(3) Establish a voice

At the same time, don’t mimic! Establish a voice that’s uniquely yours, and offer a fresh take on trending topics. Always keep your audience and your brand values in mind as you develop a creative piece. 

(4) Have a plan

Schedule when you will publish and circulate content ahead of time. Have a plan that stretches at least a few weeks in advance and gives you time to edit and rework drafts. Make your content timely – to coincide with relevant holidays, current events, particularities of your business cycle, and so forth. Be deliberate about the mix of content you are providing.


(5) Document your company

A great source of content is the activities within your own company. Leverage your own activities and data to create something interesting for readers. For example, Maker’s Row has written about key takeaways from events that we’ve thrown, documented our visits to various factories, used our data to show the distribution of manufacturers across the United States, and recently created a 2015 end of year report that showcases our progress as a company this past year. Being candid about your company’s activities can be fascinating for potential customers and add personality to your brand.


(6) Rein in experts

Where you have knowledge gaps, it’s best to have experts contribute to creating your content. It’s a co-marketing opportunity for both of you – you provide a new and broad audience for them to showcase your expertise to. For example, we’ve had legal, marketing, finance, and production experts contribute for us in the past.


(7) Take creative risks

Keep on top of new mixed media options – for example, podcasts and other audial educational materials have really taken off in the past few years! As have video. Don’t be afraid to play with different types of media, as well as different content topics you haven’t tried before.

(8) Keep your audience engaged

Try to engage your audience beyond a single click to a page – create prompts for them to explore the products on the rest of your site or suggest related content you’ve created that might be of interest. Create a mailing list for those who want to regularly receive new content from you. If your audience comments on your posts, respond to them and create conversations! An engaged audience is more likely to convert into your customers.


(9) Pick the right channels

Creating content is half the battle, but good distribution is just as important. You need to get the word out there that you’ve created something! The channels you choose depends on your audience. You might choose to distribute through social platforms – such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You also might want to try paid content distribution engines such as Outbrain and Taboola to distribute content for you.


(10) Metrics, metrics, metrics!

Luckily, there are so many tools available to assess whether your content is successful. You can track how much traffic your blog generates, how long users are spending on a page, how many subsequent pages they click on, how much of your audience converts to buyers, and so forth. Pick a few goals that are most important to you – e.g., increase blog traffic by 10 percent per month – and focus on reaching those. If your current strategy isn’t helping you achieve those goals, try refining it.

The landscape of marketing is rapidly evolving – from one of pure advertising to one of providing real, interesting content that’s relevant to customers yet out-of-the-box. Now is the opportunity to establish your company as a true thought leader in your industry! It’s a great way to carve out a niche and build a loyal following.

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