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7 Steps to Finally Master Content Promotion in 2016 It's time to take your content-marketing efforts to the next level.

By Sujan Patel Edited by Dan Bova

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Nailing your content-promotion strategy can dramatically increase your leads, improve conversions and rapidly spike your brand awareness. And the good news here is that content promotion is usually cost-effective in relation to the results it provides.

Related: Let These 5 Trends Guide Your 2016 Content-Marketing Resolutions

The bad news is that too many marketers and business owners think that producing content, distributing it and not spending a lot for it means it's easy. It's not.

Content promotion can feel elusive, especially for entrepreneurs and business owners new to the tactic. But even seasoned professionals can get lost in the sea of ever-changing content promotion tactics and marketing speak. Customers' needs and expectations are constantly evolving, and getting their attention requires a savvy plan that goes beyond bombarding them with Facebook posts and tweets.

Make it your New Year's resolution to finally master content promotion once and for all in 2016. Here are your 7 steps to success.

1. Create a content-promotion plan.

Your content-promotion plan needs to be more than just "write great stuff and publish it everywhere I can." Without highly-defined goals and a plan of action, your content promotion efforts will fizzle, as you focus on all the wrong things. Tweeting and engaging potential customers all day might get some people listening to what you have to say, but then what? What are you actually trying to say and achieve as the end result?

Create a planning template that outlines your marketing goals, and set monthly deadlines and benchmarks for success. Figure out what your goals are -- for example, maybe you'd like a specific number of monthly visits, or a certain number of leads. Next, refine that goal by establishing how many leads you want to convert in any given month or quarter.

2. Craft a compelling story.

What's your brand's story? If you don't have one or don't really understand what it is, your customers likely won't know, either. Don't dismiss the power of nailing your brand's story. The New York Times, for example, reported on research showing that reading detailed descriptions, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters, can stimulate the brain and change how we act in life.

Giving your audience a reason to care about your brand and message is a powerful way to earn loyalty and see an increase in social shares.

Your own brand story should inform your content-promotion strategy and allow for a cohesive conversation anyone can join. No one is going to share your content if your story is a jumbled mess of anecdotes, facts and musings. And even if they do share, that act alone won't turn your audience into brand advocates helping you to spread your unified message.

3. Give away your best content for free.

It's tempting to lure potential customers into your sales funnel or upsell them on premium content, using short samples and teasers. But in reality, giving away your best content for free is an effective way to earn trust and start conversions. Think about it: Giving away epic, choice content that solves your audience's pain points for free speaks volumes about your paid content.

If your potential customers already know the incredible value they get from your free stuff, they'll assume your paid content is going to blow their minds.

Free, amazing content is also an effective way for you to stand out in a competitive marketplace. Positioning yourself as a go-to resource who readily helps your audience will earn you respect and help you rapidly grow a following.

Related: 3 Ways to Track the True Value, Not Just Return on Investment, of Your Content Marketing

4. Choose your channels.

Creating the most powerful content-marketing strategy, and content to go with it, won't do you much good unless you choose the right promotional channels from the start. Too many business owners and marketers create a plan, produce content for it and then start cranking the result out on every social media platform and forum they can find.

That type of spread may reach (and definitely annoy) many people, but it won't result in conversions or repeat customers.

So, choose your promotional channels wisely by figuring out where your ideal clients are already hanging out. Are they on LinkedIn? And if so, what are they doing there? Are they participating in forums, writing blog posts or following your competitors? Or are they guest-posting on business blogs, hoping to get noticed and land more conversions?

Take the time to engage with your customers on the channels they're using, and do some research on their companies and the obstacles they face. In the short term, you'll spend more time doing research and fine-tuning your customers' acquisition strategies. But in the long term, your conversions will increase as you approach potential clients, armed with a complete customer profile that speaks directly to their needs.

5. Cross-promote.

Once you've identified a few channels that speak directly to your target audience, start cross-promoting your content to maximize your results. Drive your LinkedIn followers to a webinar or video stream of an upcoming event. Next, post the video to YouTube and direct viewers back to your LinkedIn page or group and solicit their feedback. The more you can cross-promote your content on multiple platforms, the higher your odds are for lead generation and conversions.

6. Engage your audience.

The big secret in content marketing is that engagement isn't just about engagement. Talking to your audience and provoking thoughtful responses isn't the whole story behind content promotion. According to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), engagement actually starts with objectives.

Your own objectives may differ from your competitors', but you'll generally share similar themes, like increasing leads and page views. How you increase those leads is through engagement tactics like social sharing.

Go back to your content-marketing plan to tweak your current goals and deadlines. Next, determine the best route to meet those goals, while focusing on a highly targeted and motivated audience. This is where your choice of promotional channels and cross-promotion techniques comes into play.

As you forge your path through the content-promotion journey, pay attention to what potential customers are saying and what they really need. Once you've identified what your audience is actually talking about and wants, become a helpful resource and engage with them while gradually showing them why they need your service.

7. Measure results.

Measuring your results to see what's working and what's not is just part of the content-promotion formula. Tools like HubSpot can help you figure out how many page views, followers, or social shares you've earned. But at some point, obsessing over results can actually paralyze your efforts to try anything new.

Robert Rose, the CMI's chief strategy officer, warns that focusing solely on engagement metrics, followers and page views is largely pointless. Instead, he suggests focusing on measurement as a way to improve the process of reaching your content marketing goals.

What are your best techniques for mastering content promotion? Leave a comment below.

Related: You Don't Need Much Cash to Implement These 5 Essential Marketing Strategies

Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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