Content marketer questions part 1: How do I start?

Feb 20, 2017 | Beginner Basics, Focus Fast, Aim Adeptly

Frequent content marketer questions

Before I launched ContentMarketingStartup.com, I asked lots of people I knew if they were interested in learning how to become a content marketer. About 100 people said “yes.” I then asked these 100 relative beginners what content marketing questions they had, and got some revealing responses that I’d like to share with you.

Are you a new content marketer?

If you’re a new content marketer you probably have some of these same questions.

Content Marketing Startup exists to answer beginner content marketer questions via its pages, posts, ebooks, social conversations and other content. If you visit the site or follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest I’m confident you’ll eventually pick up some answers.

But this week I want to address head on some of those early questions you might have with some quick tips on how to get started as a content marketer.

Part 1 of 3 parts

The full list of beginner content marketer questions I received is too long for a single lesson so I’m going to break it into three parts.

Part 1 covers some basics, including:

What is content marketing? How do I organize my content marketer efforts? What should I write about? Should I build a blog, podcasts or videos? What social media marketing should I use?

Future installments will cover additional questions about the early stages of content creation.

Let’s dive in!

Q: I’m a content marketer newbie – what is content marketing, anyway?

Content is simply information in the form of a story, a blog post, a video, a social post, an infographic or one of many other forms.

Content marketing, then, is the process of providing people with information (content) they care about in order to form a trusting business relationship.

As a content marketer your role in this process is to comprehend, connect and converse with your target audience.

Comprehend

To comprehend means to understand the needs, issues and wants of people you’re trying to reach. This helps you create content that your audience cares about.

Connect

To connect with your audience means to meet them online with relevant content. This helps you attract their attention with offers to assist them.

Converse

To converse means to conduct a continuing dialog (via content) about issues that matter to your audience. This helps you stay visible, relevant and helpful as potential buyers progress from problem awareness to solution knowledge to solution selection (the buyer’s journey).

Time is on your side

This process, unlike traditional advertising or sales pitches, plays out over time and forms the basis for ongoing business relationships that benefit all sides.

To learn more about this content marketing definition, including what content marketing isn’t, check out my Start Here page. To see some content marketing examples, download my popular ebook Content Marketing Isn’t a One-Night Stand.

Q: What framework should I use for content marketing?

Why, the Content Marketing Startup Framework, of course!

Seriously, I’ve spent many years learning, refining and documenting a workable content marketing framework and approach that’s practical and effective for the beginner content marketer.

In the CMS Framework you’ll plan and progress through five stages of development to become an effective content marketer: Focus, Aim, Create, Convert, Enhance.

1.     Focus

The first stage is a planning phase in which you focus on your business niche and content purpose. This gives you direction as a content marketer.

2.     Aim

The second stage continues your planning so that you target the right people with the right messages at the right time. At this stage you define how you’ll aim your content toward your target audience using personas, the buyer journey and your content map.

3. Create

With a firm foundation in place you can begin to create great content that’s organized and effective. A business blog is a solid place to start. You’ll also create social posts, web pages, videos and other types of content that address both your audience’s needs and your goals as a content marketer.

4. Convert

Once you begin to draw attention with the content you create, you’ll use your growing skills as a content marketer to activate and cultivate your audience to find qualified leads and ultimately, buyers.

5. Enhance

Finally, you’ll manage, track and improve your content marketer efforts for better efficiency, automation and effectiveness.

A natural progression

The CMS Framework is a natural, cumulative progression of content marketing strategy and tactics.

You don’t need to be an expert content marketer to start this process!

But skip the initial steps only at your peril: without clear focus and a careful aim, your results will suffer.

Q: How do I decide what to write about?

The short answer here is to write about everything your audience is interested in within your business niche. That’s why it’s so important to define your niche carefully and develop personas for all the potential buyer types within your audience.

Identify pains and issues

Pay particular attention to the pains, business issues, personal needs and wants for each persona as these relate to your niche. Those will give you ideas for where you should start.

Most amateur content marketers start by writing about their business’s solutions. But that won’t catch the attention of your audience if they don’t first feel you’ve identified with their individual job or personal challenges.

In fact, people in your audience might not even know they have a particular problem yet, so start by helping them recognize it, understand it and relate it to others who are in the same boat.

Organize your knowledge

Think about how you’re going to organize the knowledge you have in your niche.

Build an outline of the main categories. Then identify sub-categories, anecdotes, examples and so on. That will give you a structured approach to potential content topics.

Ask your customers

If you have existing customers or a list of potential audience members, ask them what questions they have, what frustrations they encounter within your niche, and where they go currently for help.

That’s what I did when I started out, and I got so many questions I had to break the answers into multiple posts!

Look at any online sources your audience identifies to see what those authors are writing about. Put your own spin on common topics, or see if you can find some gaps in what others are writing.

Q: How do I create content that entices someone to buy?

The role of a content marketer is to build a potential buyer’s trust, solution knowledge and purchase confidence through a series of content over time.

Some prospects may be ready to buy immediately. But more likely than not, they’ll need to get to know your business and its solutions better first.

Incremental steps

As such, content marketing is a cumulative process that builds relationships and buying potential in increments. Accordingly, not every piece of content will ask for a purchase (although you might want to ask for some other response).

The buyer’s journey

As a content marketer, you’ll need to produce content for each stage of the buyer’s journey from problem awareness to solution knowledge to selection. (I’ll cover the buyer’s journey in detail in another post.)

For example, early-stage content might only describe a problem and examine its causes. Solution-stage content might compare your solution to other choices, highlighting your benefits. Finally, selection-stage content might provide viewers with ROI calculators or endorsements from well-known buyer peers to reduce risk and fear.

The enticement

When you do ask for the order, you can increase your chances for success by reiterating your understanding of the problem, the benefits of your solution and the reasons for confidence in a purchase.

Q: What kind of content should I create: text, podcast, video?

This is one of those “it depends” questions. The answer depends a lot on you and your strength as a content marketer.

What’s your strength?

If you like to write, a written blog should come naturally to you. Technically this is one of the easiest ways to create content. All it takes is a blog and a keyboard.

If you’re comfortable speaking, a series of podcasts might be just the way to share thoughts, helpful tips and guidance with your audience. It takes a few more tools such as a recording device and an audio player, so if the spoken word suits you, go for it!

And if you love the limelight, why not put yourself out there in a video, using both your voice and your visual presence? Again, a few extra tools are required, but you could be a star.

Unique format benefits

Each of these media has their unique benefits.

Text is easy and fairly universal. Podcasts are consumable even while someone’s driving, and are unusual enough to break through the clutter. And video is an upward-trending, powerful way to get your message across.

The sky’s the limit

There’s nothing to say you can’t produce all of these formats. Just start with the one you’re most comfortable with, and add the others as you see fit.

In a way, multiple formats increase your chances of connecting with your audience by providing multiple channels of communication.

Q: What social media should I use and why?

Let’s start with the why.

If you follow the CMS Framework you’re going to create some awesome content that would really help your audience. It stands to reason that you’d want to share that content as widely as possible.

That’s where social media marketing comes in.

Your content, your ideas

You can use social channels to promote your blog, podcasts, videos, e-books and other content. You can also use social channels to weigh in on discussions started by others.

Either way, your voice and your ideas get out there when you get social.

Use social to listen

You can also use social channels to listen to what your audience cares about. Read others’ posts and discussions. See what gets shared. What comments get made.

Listen and learn.

Find your audience

The right social channels are those that align with your audience. To learn more about that, read my 9-step social media checklist for startups.

To be continued

You likely have more questions. We’ll get to some of those next time, including:

How do I find time to write those pesky blogs?

Do I write my own stuff, share links, or something else?

How do I avoid duplicating stuff that’s already out there?

Until next time, I’d love to hear your questions and comments!

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