One of the first things I tell people when they ask me, “What is content marketing?” is that it’s complex. Because it really is. Effective content marketing involves a lot of elements and moving parts. It’s called content marketing, as opposed to ‘blogging’ or ‘vlogging’ precisely because there’s far more complexity to it than simply publishing a blog, vlog or podcast on a regular basis.
Yes, that’s certainly part of it, but only part. There are lots of other parts.
The natural follow up question is ‘What are all the parts?”
When I explain that getting content marketing right involves understanding core concepts concerning your brand and business, creating an effective and balanced schedule, crafting the right kind of content, adding effective lead magnets, nurturing those leads, and repurposing the whole lot so you get as much mileage out of it as possible, people generally look at me like this:
This is the point where a lot of people become overwhelmed at the prospect of using content to market their business, and decide it’s too complicated.
It’s never going to be worth all that effort.
There’s no way they can figure out how to do it all. Or they simply don’t have time to fit it all in.
I get it.
Prior to learning all of this myself I was in exactly the same boat.
But I was also trying to run a business with zero budget for advertising and marketing. I couldn’t pay for fancy Facebook ads, and the few times I did manage to scrape together the cash and run a GoogleAds campaign or a social media ads blitz it didn’t do my much good. In fact, it was tantamount to standing on the top of a very tall building, chucking cash into the wind and hoping that one of the random people who picked it up would go to the trouble of tracking me down so they could give it back, and hand over some more for good measure.
That almost never happens.
So I learned every inch of the complexity involved in content marketing and figured out exactly how to make it as uncomplicated as possible while still retaining all the parts need to make it genuinely successful.
Content Marketing is complex.
But a lot of things are incredibly complicated when viewed as a whole, and become very simple when broken down into their various parts and viewed in isolation.
The human body, for example, is one of the most complicated biological structures in nature. Understanding how the whole thing works takes many years of study and multiple degrees, yet understanding what all the main organs are and the function of each is really very simple.
We teach basic anatomy to children in primary school and they’re fully capable of understanding it.
In that spirit I thought it might be helpful to break down the incredible complexity of this subject into the anatomy of a content marketing strategy: what the main organs are and the function of each…
The Anatomy Of A Content Marketing Strategy
Your Zone Of Genius AKA The Heart
We associate the heart with passion, lust, love, and a lot of other emotional crap, but in reality the job of the heart is to beat. To pump blood around the body. Without the heart and all that circulating blood, nothing works.
When the heart stops, or misfires, everything else goes wrong.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the heart of a content marketing strategy must surely be…well…content, but actually it isn’t.
The content involved in an effective content marketing plan isn’t any one part of the whole anatomy of the strategy, but rather an aspect of every part.
Every part relates to your content, but not every part is literal content.
The heart of your content marketing is one such part, as it isn’t the content you create but the reason you create it.
It’s what you actually do, and what you’re trying to sell.
The heart of your content marketing is your zone of genius.
Work in your zone of genius, and everything else will fall into place a lot more easily. This was a lesson it took me several years to learn but when I finally got it, everything changed.
Figure out your zone of genius – it will make everything else much easier and infinitely more successful!
Your Ideal Clients AKA The Stomach
Your zone of genius will dictate a few things in your content plan, starting with the type of content you create, but it also affects who you’re creating your content for. The concept of an ideal client is something I encountered very early on in my entrepreneurial journey, yet it wasn’t until I figured out my zone of genius that I finally understood it completely, and effectively put it into practice.
Oddly I’d been helping other business owners for years to identify their own ideal clients. I’d written content tailored to those ideal clients. Yet when it came to my own ideal client, I was fuzzy until I shifted to focus on my zone of genius.
I equate your ideal clients with the stomach because they are the source of the nutrition in your business – your income.
Just as all humans and animals need to eat to live and grow, businesses need clients to flourish and thrive.
And just as it’s important to eat healthy, nutritious food, and not clog up your system with junk, it’s vitally important to work with the right clients, and create content that will attract a tribe of the specific people you want to work with.
The wrong clients will act like fried food, clogging up your arteries and making it really difficult for you heart to pump and your blood to flow.
Your ideal clients, on the other hand, will ensure every aspect of your business is as healthy as possible and your heart is free to do it its thing.
Hint: If you need help identifying and understanding your ideal client, check out my new book, Divine Blogging, it’s all about using psychological archetypes to get inside your ideal clients’ head, learn what makes them tick, and plan the perfect content marketing schedule for them, specifically.
Your Plan AKA The Brain
This is the part most people think of when they hear ‘content marketing strategy’ – the schedule, the plan, the literal outline of what content you will create and when.
You content plan (or schedule if you prefer) is the brains of the outfit.
Without it, all the other aspects will function, but there will be no intelligent life there. Your body (by which I mean your business) will have a heartbeat, blood will pump, organs will work, but it won’t be able to move. It won’t be able to think, or speak, or laugh, or do any of the fabulous and wonderful things it should be doing.
It won’t be dead, but that’s about all you can say for it.
There’s a reason so much of Divine Blogging is taken up determining what you should be writing about, when, and how frequently. Your content needs to have purpose, clear objectives, and an intelligent design at work.
Without a solid plan, you may have content, but it’s not going to achieve much and the return you will get on your investment will be minimal.
The complexity of the plan you need will vary depending on your objectives, the time and resources you have to invest, and whether or not you’re currently launching a new product, service, or SEO campaign.
For example, at the time of posting this I’m in the middle of a launch sequence for my book, and am simultaneously running a new SEO campaign. I’m doing them at the same time because the SEO element is great for supporting the launch, but it means I’m posting every single day. Take a look at my content plan for May:
Later in the year, once the launch period is over, this will calm down considerably and there will be only one post per week most of the time, with the occasional extra one thrown in for special occasions or specific functions:
Authenticity AKA The Pancreas
When it comes to business there are few things more important than authenticity. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you pour into your branding, your services, your client care, or your marketing, the second your audience gets a sniff of a hint that you’re anything less than 100% authentic your name is toast.
If you’re branded fake or, worse still, a liar, it will be very difficult to recover your reputation, and it’s so easy to accidentally give this impression.
Some businesses have famously gone broke after huge scandals destroyed them, but a lack of authenticity can be as simple as giving the impression that you’re putting on a facade.
That the face you show the world is an act.
It may well be a mask you wear because you think it’s what your audience wants or needs, or you feel it’s the only way to properly market yourself and your business. Your intentions may be entirely innocent, and you may not even realise you’re doing it.
Being inauthentic isn’t always a scandal, and it isn’t even always intentional.
It still has the power to ruin your business. At best, coming across as inauthentic will put people off. They’ll stop following you, they won’t buy from you, and if they’re existing clients they may abandon you.
Developing a truly authentic brand and voice is utterly essential and this is particularly the case in content marketing, because your content literally speaks for your business.
Every word, every syllable, is a chance to show who you are, what you’re about, what your values are, and what you can do.
Because of this, authenticity is the pancreas of your content marketing strategy.
If you’re not fully aware of exactly what the pancreas does, it’s responsible for converting the nutrients in the food you eat into the fuel for your body. It helps you digest your food, and it regulates your blood sugar.
The food and nutrients in this analogy are your ideal clients (remember, the stomach?).
Authenticity is what will convert them into nutrients (i.e. cashy money) and ensure you have stable blood sugar (i.e. cash flow).
Evergreen Content AKA The Spleen
Last week I was blogging about the different types of content needed to create an effective blog schedule. Evergreen content is one of those types, and it’s the spleen of your content marketing strategy.
It’s the organ that regulates the blood flow in your business and bolsters your immune system, making sure everything is fighting fit and running smoothly by fulfilling a number of essential functions:
- Driving consistent traffic to your site through SEO
- Establishing your expertise
- Demonstrating you are a thought-leader in your niche
- Demonstrating the need for and value of your products and/or services
Seasonal, Trending and General Content AKA The Kidneys
In addition to evergreen content I also recommend a healthy mix of seasonal, trending, and general content to keep your schedule well balanced. This good mix of content functions much like the kidneys do in your body, which ensure you have the right level of hormones, the right amount of red blood cells, and enough vitamin D to stay healthy.
It’s all about striking a healthy balance.
More than that though, your kidneys function as a waste filtration system, and when done well your seasonal, trending and general content can do exactly the same thing. Write about something contentious occasionally, something that really shows your values and beliefs. This will support your efforts to be authentic, and it will also naturally filter out people who are a bad fit for your business (I go into this in a bit more detail in this post on seasonal winter content, so check that out).
Your Email Marketing System AKA The Liver
You’ll notice there’s been a bit of a common theme with the last few points in that the pancreas, spleen and kidneys are all about balance and converting things into the stuff we need to stay healthy. The liver is another part of this process, responsible for converting the nutrients you take in (i.e. your readers) into substances the body needs to thrive (i.e. paying clients).
Doing this in your content marketing strategy requires an email marketing system. There are loads of great options for businesses, with free choices like MailChimp or MadMimi you can use when you’re first starting out.
Once you get serious about your content marketing strategy and really want to put all the anatomical pieces together, you need a really effective email system, because it needs to do a lot more than simply send emails. It also needs to collect leads and nurture them.
I personally use ActiveCampaign at the moment which is super-simple and comes with a lot of great features. The most important elements to make sure you have, however, are:
- An easy way to integrate optin forms onto your website.
- An effective means of creating nurture sequences and automations.
- A CRM (client relationship manager) that allows you to store details about your subscribers including contact information and notes on their needs and queries, as well as any correspondence.
Lead Magnets & Content Upgrades AKA The Lungs
We’re getting into the technical side of things now and the aspect of content marketing that really freaks people out.
Take a breath.
Feel all that lovely oxygen flooding your system, keeping you steady, calming you down, making sure everything’s working? Well, your business needs oxygen just as much as you do, and for an entrepreneur ‘oxygen’ comes in the form of leads.
Prospects who are interested in you, your business, and what you have to offer, who could potentially buy from you in the future.
It’s super-important to collect these leads in a centralised location that allows you to contact them directly.
This is what you have your email marketing system for, after all, emailing people.
To do that you need email addresses, and you need to make sure they are for the right people – your ideal clients.
That means creating amazing, high-value free offers that your audience can signup for.
They get a freebie, you get a chance to email them in future. You’ll notice I have numerous lead magnets and content upgrades all over this site, from the free chapter of my book, to various resources for:
All the big things I cover in my business have free stuff associated with them to help people out, and encourage them to signup to my list.
Your freebies are the lungs drawing in your nice oxygenated prospects…
Your Nurture Sequence AKA The Intestines
Which finally brings us to the guts of your content marketing strategy, the intestines if you will: your nurture sequence.
Once you have people on your list it’s important to nurture the relationship you have with them. They’re very unlikely to buy from you right away, it takes time to cultivate the kind of trust, interest and understanding needed to convert readers into paying clients.
Just as your intestines are a very long journey taken by the food you eat to ensure your body gets as many nutrients from it as possible, your nurture sequence is there to transform as many of your subscribers as possible into ‘food’ for you business (i.e. money).
Having an effective automation sequence to nurture that relationship by providing extra value, building the know, like and trust factor, and demonstrating the need for and value of your offerings is absolutely essential.
Repurposing Your Content AKA The Uterus
And last but by absolutely no means least, we come to the reproductive element of everything, the womb of your content marketing strategy: repurposing.
The thing about content is that it takes a lot of time to create it.
Seriously, so much time!
Really high-value, unique, useful, authentic, on-brand, targeted, and purposeful content is going to need time, effort, and resources.
There’s no getting around it, and it’s one reason so many people shy away from putting a full content marketing strategy with all the elements covered here into place: resources.
So it makes sense to get the absolute most mileage possible out of every single piece of content you create, right?
Bear with me here because it’s about to get a little graphic…
Imagine your content are eggs in your ovaries, or sperm swimming around your testicles. Once they’re safely ensconced in the womb they’re able to grow into a whole new person.
They create something new from something that already existed.
This is exactly what you need to do with all your lovely content – take pieces of it and use those pieces to create whole new forms of content that can be shared on different platforms, or offered in different forms.
Repurpose your own content for social media, newsletter, books, webinars, and fully blown eCourses.
Also bear in mind that reproduction takes both the eggs and the sperm. You have one, but you need to get the other from someone else!
Which means it’s not just your content you should be repurposing – you can curate other people’s content and share it, invite guests to create content for you, or simply share links to content from other people who are relevant to your ideal client.
If you’re looking for more fabulous advice on content marketing and a detailed breakdown of exactly how to create a balanced and effective schedule tailored to your ideal client, download the FREE first chapter of my book, Divine Blogging, and learn exactly how I do all of this for my own business, and my clients’…