**By Michael Hammond**
***We all like to think of ourselves as master marketers, but the fact of the matter is that it isn’t an easy skill. Further there are a lot of facets to marketing well. For example, in an article that I read recently called “9 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy” by Krista Neher, she talks about the power of words. Let’s face it, brands need to provide value in order for consumers to pay attention to them, and increasingly, that value is found in content. Providing the right content when and where your consumers want it in a format that is easy for them to digest is key to content marketing. Here are nine steps to keep in mind:
****Step 1: What do you want to achieve? The first step to understanding content marketing is to define your goals and objectives. Your broad goal is probably to drive sales and grow your business, but a more specific objective for your content strategy will allow you to create more specific and meaningful content.
****Step 2: Who do you want to reach? Defining your audience as specifically as possible is key to a solid content strategy. Know your specific goals, and define the demographics, psychographics, and behaviors of your audience.
****Step 3: Identify triggers. A trigger is an event that prompts someone to seek out information online. An event or motivation triggers the initiation of a search. Understanding the triggers for your audience will help create a content strategy that gets results.
****Step 4: What is the editorial strategy? This is an area that’s often overlooked or given only a cursory thought to, but is one of the biggest keys to success. Most businesses will describe their tone with a few words, but when bringing their content to life it lacks a clear personality. Consider the tone, values, and voice of your content. What tone could best achieve your marketing objectives and speak to your audience? A clear personality or tone in content makes it more relatable and allows your audience to feel connected.
****Step 5: What content should you create? The content creation plan should include the themes, messages, and topics. To create a good content strategy, it’s helpful to research the landscape and look to discussion forums, Twitter, search, and blogs to understand what your audience is interested in.
****Step 6: What forms should your content take? Should the content be a white paper/e-book/download, a video, photos, infographics, a slideshow, articles, blog posts, webinars, or live chats? Based on your objectives, a landscape analysis, and knowledge of your target audience, determine the most appropriate and achievable forms for your content.
****Step 7: How do you make it better and more creative? This step should be added to any planning process, digital or otherwise. Once you have the basic idea – the content and the form – consider how you can creatively make it into a bigger or better idea. Brainstorm positioning, titles, partners, and execution to make your content really stand out.
****Step 8: How will the content be created? This step is pretty obvious – decide who, what, and when.
****Step 9: How will the content be promoted or syndicated? This final step is also often overlooked. If you build it they probably won’t come. Good content needs a good syndication and promotion plan. Consider paid, earned, and owned media as options. Use social networks to spread the message, and integrate social media sharing into the design of your content, not as an afterthought.
****Now try creating that powerful content today that will help you grow your business tomorrow.
Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.