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9 Things About Content Marketing You Can't Get Wrong and Succeed Content marketing is a powerful way to grow your business - as long as you understand the fundamentals.

By Tony Messer

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


I'm sure I don't need to tell you that marketing involves a lot of moving parts these days.

SEO, blogging, link building, mobile, social media and paid search are just the basic price of entry. But there's one point where all of these disciplines converge: Content marketing.

As an entrepreneur, it would be difficult to be a master of all of these areas, but you need to have a handle on how all of this stuff fits together. So below are nine important points you really need to understand about content marketing.

1. It's about them, not you.

Content marketing is not about pitching your products or services. Your money pages and landing pages do a great job of that.

First and foremost, content marketing is about your audience. It's about understanding their needs and frustrations and using it as inspiration for the content you create.

In order to succeed you need to step back from your products or services, and look at them in the context in which they are used.

First, you'll need buyer personas and a buyer's journey map to map out the points, where you can engage with prospects and start to move them along in your sales funnel. After all, it's much easier to start a conversation with a prospect than it is to ask them to get their credit card out.

2. It's not free.

Some people will tell you that the beauty of content marketing is that you're getting free traffic and leads.

They'll tell you that you just need to come up with a couple of viral pieces of content, send prospects to a landing page and presto, you've got a bucket full of new leads.

Sorry, that's just not the way it works.

You're going to need to set aside time to create content. That's lost opportunity elsewhere in your business. Or if you're not going to do it yourself then you'll need to work with a writer. You're also going to need graphics, outreach software and possibly someone to run your outreach and help with social media. That all adds up.

The good news is that if you commit to content marketing then you'll reap the rewards for years to come.

3. It's the shape of things to come.

Content marketing is here to stay. The online world is maturing, the dust is starting to settle, and the landscape is becoming clearer. And the most stand out feature of this landscape is content.

Let's face it, the Internet is just a huge collection of data held together by links. That data could be any number of different content formats, whether it's definitive guides, how-to content, expert roundups, white papers, webinars, blogs, videos, infographics, lists, comparisons - whatever.

You need to be a part of it, or you're going to get left behind. You need to commit to content now.

4. You need to own it.

You might hear people tell you that you can just hand it over to a writer. Or maybe you can just outsource it - lock, stock and barrel to a guest blogging specialist.

Or they will tell you that you can get your staff or intern to crank out blog posts endlessly, and you have a content strategy.

This is not true. It needs your voice and your input. You need to own it.

Maybe you're blessed with a team that gets all of this stuff and is willing and able to participate. The reality might actually be that they consider it an irritating extra task that's been added to an already bursting to-do list.

Sure, you're going to need help to get all this stuff done, but ultimately you need to call the shots in terms of the overall direction and the quality of your output.

5. It works for any business.

Don't believe people who tell you that content marketing is only for established brands. This is not true. Anyone can benefit from content marketing.

In fact, being a startup or small business can be a positive advantage. Sure, you don't have the budgets of the big players, but you don't have any of the politics or endless meetings either.

What you do have is buckets of passion, enthusiasm and an understanding of your audience. Three very important attributes.

6. You need to hustle.

Your competitor's average content is going to beat your world class content, hands down, if they have mastered one important skill: influencer outreach.

The simple fact is that you're going to need some help with the heavy lifting of promoting your content, and just one or two committed influencers can make all the difference between success and failure.

That means you're going to have to learn to hustle. You need to create a targetted list of influencers, and you're going to need to cultivate relationships with them.

To some extent, outreach is a numbers' game. You can't just pin your hopes on one or two big names. There are tons of up-and-coming influencers, who you can get onboard with early. So you need to cast a wide net, and keep hustling until the big names turn up.

In fact, you should be looking at an 80-20 split, in terms of content promotion versus content creation.

7. Practice makes perfect.

Ever heard the saying: The more I practice the luckier I get?

It could be referring to content marketing. The first place you need to start is to identify your content marketing goals.

If you're hesitant, or unsure, where to start then focus on being a problem solver on your blog. Just start by addressing the questions that you hear everyday from customers.

Gradually, your thoughts will start to crystallize, as you see what works and what doesn't. And the more you see, the faster you'll create content.

Focus on headlines too so that you start to think creatively about the angle that you look at problems from. Often if you get the headline nailed, the content almost writes itself.

Related: 3 Deadly Sins of Facebook Advertising

8. Content is visual.

Visuals aren't just a bolt-on at the end. The social web is visual, and that's a trend that's only going in one direction.

Nowadays, adding visuals isn't an optional extra. It's a must. There are loads of ways that you can visually enhance content. In fact, repurposing content is a smart way to squeeze every last drop out of your content ideas.

The beauty of repurposing content visually is that you can cover different audience's preferences. Some people love slides while others love videos, and others prefer infographics.

But why stop at visual content? The death of podcasting has been greatly exaggerated. It's no coincidence either that its comeback in recent years coincides with the rise of the mobile web.

Related: 6 Link-Building Tips for Bootstrapped Entrepreneurs

9. Content is mobile.

Don't assume that only your website needs to be responsive and mobile friendly. Your entire online strategy - content included -- needs to be focused on mobile.

We've passed the tipping point. Everyone is spending more and more time on mobile, and they're not about to switch screens just to consume a piece of world class content. They'll just move on to the next one.

So anything you create needs to take mobile into account. Failure to understand this means that your business is going to be increasingly exposed and ultimately, less relevant.

Related: 9 Ways to Save Time and Money With Marketing Automation (Infographic)

Content marketing isn't a passing fad. It's the point where so many online disciplines converge.

As an entrepreneur, you need to approach it with your eyes open and understand how you can leverage this powerful tool for your long-term benefit.

Tony Messer

Co-founder and CEO of Pickaweb

Tony Messer is the co-founder and CEO of UK web hosting company Pickaweb. Having worked with thousands of small businesses, ecommerce retailers and startups, Tony knows what it takes to grow an online business. He is the author of two books on online marketing.

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