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You may know Aida as the Verdi standard that every opera company includes in its repertoire.

AIDA—all caps—also is a standard, and one all marketers should have in their repertoires. It’s the acronym for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action, which are stages that generate the emotion and logic leading to a sale.

That’s where content marketing comes in. If it fits the first two categories—done well, it attracts attention and builds interest. Without those first two steps, you can’t get potential buyers to the third and fourth and, ultimately, the money.

Following are some insights and ideas to help you launch an effective content strategy that integrates with your other marketing activities to turn prospects into customers.

Content marketing is not substitute for promotional, sales, and brand strategies

Content marketing complements the strategies that comprise the D and A of the marketing model—Desire and Act. That is once the content has attracted prospects and gained the interest, it hands them off to the other marketing components that get them to decide on the value of your offer and act (buy!)

To integrate effectively with the D&A components of marketing, content, typically social media and blogs, should be:

  • Consistent with your brand voice and tone. They must feel like they’re all a part of the same family.
  • Aimed at specific target demographics. Tailor your content to address the needs of different people and businesses in a range of market segments.
  • Designed to create a need. Content is a demand-generator. It sells the sizzle, not the steak.
  • Cross branded. Social media influencers drive sales. If Kim Kardashian hypes a skin-care product on Instagram, 113 million will know about it. Find influencers in your price bracket, connect your brand with theirs, and see what happens.
  • Deliver a return on trust. Effective content builds a bond of trust between the prospect and your brand, and that trust is necessary to creating the desire that leads to action.
  • Optimized for search. Good content is only as good as it easy to find. SEO algorithms love fresh, relevant blogs on your website and will push yours up in the search engine results.
  • Original. Content that is well researched and demonstrates thought leadership attract prospects and gains their attention. It also increases the chances of getting picked up by high quality media outlet, further extending your reach.

Content marketing: Its general value

Content marketing is the sine qua non of business in the digital area because it:

  • Raises brand awareness. Rather than pushing your brand out at prospects, content marketing draws them into it. Instead of feeling like they’re being sold, they sense they are being educated so they can make smart decisions.
  • Generates leads. People will provide an email address and phone number to download a whitepaper or brochure if they perceive the content is relevant to their “care-abouts.”
  • Encourages loyalty. Fresh content keeps people coming back.
  • Promote referrals. Expand your social media presence and thought leadership by encouraging your content consumers to share your content across their networks. You get greater reach at no cost.
  • Increase sales and profitability. Content marketing creates multiple opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell customers. Simply use content to introduce them to different offerings, keeping in mind you’re not trying to sell them but only gain their attention and interest.
  • Build a pay-subscription base. This is not a strategy for content marketing novices. They don’t want to shut out new prospects by firewalling content, but they also don’t want to neglect an opportunity to generate revenue from established customers.

Your content marketing program doesn’t have to be limited to only one of these goals. The best and most efficient ones accomplish many of these things simultaneously.

Content marketing: Its value specific to your business

Think this through because some things are more important to your business success than others. Knowing which is which is important; you don’t want to waste your time on content that doesn’t support your overall business goals.

Start by answering these questions:

  • Why do you need content marketing?
  • How will content help achieve your company’s marketing goals?
  • What budget do you need, and how will you spend it?
  • What infrastructure do you require, including people, equipment, agency support, and more?
  • What does success look like?
  • What are your projected results?
  • What kinds of content will you develop and share, and what impact will it have on business results?
  • Who are you developing content for, and why?

Don’t limit your thinking to these questions. Consider anything that will make your content program more effective.

How to be successful at content marketing

Three attributes are necessary to make a content marketing program successful:

  1. Valuable: Content marketing must scratch a prospect’s itch. It can be how-to if they need a step-by-step tutorial on, say, connecting a virtual home assistant to a Wi-Fi. It can be educational if looking for tips on, say, how to start a content marketing strategy. Whatever the topic, the content must move them from their current situation to a better place.
  2. Relevant: Content must focus on the concerns and information needs of the people in your target audience. It’s not “salesy.” That turns people off. It should show you care about your customers’ and prospects’ care-abouts.
  3. Consistent: Earning a quick win with a single incredible piece of content is great. However, the only way you’ll get the people you’re targeting to stay connected with you—and remain in their consideration set—is to provide something of value to them regularly. You must create, publish, and deliver actionable, meaningful material on a set schedule.

How do I build a content marketing program?

While there’s no single “right way” to build a content marketing plan, the most successful ones include these elements:

  • Purpose and goals. Your plan’s foundation should be a clear understanding of why you’re doing content marketing and how it will pay off for your company.
  • Audience. You must identify and clearly define your target audience before you can create content that will resonate with them.
  • Branding. If any elements of your brand (messaging, tone, style, imagery) are unclear or ill-defined, it’s time to fix them. You can’t effectively represent your brand through content marketing if you aren’t certain about what it is.
  • Processes and procedures. Good content doesn’t just happen. You need to know how and when it will be developed, reviewed, approved, and monitored.
  • Metrics and reporting. You must come up with projected results. It’s the only way you’ll be able to track progress toward your goals. Consistently monitor performance against those projected results to ensure your content marketing is working as intended. It also helps you figure out how to improve things if they’re not performing as expected.

What’s next? Take some time to dig deeper into each of the components of content marketing covered in this article. It will help you move beyond the basics of content marketing and become a pro. Also, feel free to contact Lisa Canning to get answers to your questions about content marketing.