This post was updated March 20, 2020. It was originally published Oct. 20, 2013.
Without the well-defined goals and strategy that come from a good understanding of content marketing, content is just noise — noise that neither you nor your customers will be satisfied with.
Whether you’re cooking up a blog post or compiling a guest-contributed article for Forbes, you need to know that piece of content's purpose. What should people do after reading your content? The answer to this can range from finding out more about your company to applying for a job. Just make sure each piece of content is working toward your overarching goal for content marketing.
Businesses’ content marketing goals will vary greatly; however, here are five solid goals that businesses of any type can focus on:
This is one of the most common goals of a content marketing strategy. That’s because high-quality, purposeful content can showcase your company’s expertise, leaving readers asking, “Who wrote this?”
Consistently creating high-quality content that speaks to your target audience's pain points will position you and your company as a helpful, knowledgeable subject matter expert. As a result, you can build trust with your audience members and increase the likelihood that they'll think of you when they need what your company has to offer.
When readers find themselves consistently reading a brand’s content, they start to see that brand in a new light, not only in terms of credibility, but also in terms of likability.
The social media tool Buffer is a great example of this. Buffer invested in an industry blog that features clever posts like “The History of To-Do Lists” and “Common Mistakes Our Brain Makes and How to Fix Them.” With entertaining, informative content that actually provides value outside of its product offering, Buffer has developed a huge following in addition to a loyal customer base. This says a lot when everyone is busy developing “groundbreaking” social media tools.
An educated client makes a happy client. Lucky for you, educating potential customers is one of the most efficient ways to put content marketing to work.
Start off by writing down the questions your sales team hears from clients. I guarantee those questions will spur ideas for articles that would be valuable to your audience. They may even convince a few hesitant leads to turn into customers.
Publishing an article and then responding to comments or questions from current or potential customers is an opportunity to connect. This type of engagement humanizes your company — giving it an opinion, expertise, and (most importantly) a personality. Customers want to buy from people, not a brand.
Use content to showcase your company vision and culture via meaningful, no-B.S. content. Do you really want people who love a good fluff piece working for you? You want employees who appreciate thoughtful, honest content. Decide what your company's core values are, and then create content highlighting those values and illustrating what it's like to work at your company. For example, our core values are:
1. Create an autonomous, yet supportive, environment.
2. Evolve to deliver more value.
3. Treat others with trust and respect.
We try to embody those values in everything we do as a company and portray them in all content we create. You can use content in the same way to recruit the kind of talent you're looking for.
Why Traffic Is Missing From the Mix
You might have noticed that increased web traffic is missing from the list. There’s good reason for that.
If a content strategy leads to an increase in traffic as a byproduct of its great content, that’s wonderful. But a content marketing strategy that’s designed to directly lead to an increase in traffic is shameless self-promotion.
Let me assure you: Promotional links and other lovely tidbits that a company thinks will result directly in increased traffic will come off as spammy, diminish the quality of the content, and severely damage credibility. Readers are smart, so creating an article with the intent of driving traffic will only prevent your audience from drinking the Kool-Aid you’re serving.
Content marketing is meant to educate, entertain, and provoke questions. It’s the next level of advertising, but what’s different is that readers actually want and enjoy this type of marketing — if done right.
If you align your content with the right goals, it can breathe life into your marketing efforts and create genuine connections with your target audience and customers.
This post was adapted from the original version published in Forbes.