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The 3 Elements of Effective Content Marketing

Any marketing initiative needs to deliver a strong message to the right audience. Whether you are develop a social media campaign, blogging, direct email, a new web site, you need content that will appeal to potential customers. The best way to create killer content is to go back to basics: share ideas that appeal to your audience, talk to them in their language, and invite them to give you feedback. Remember that content marketing is all about promoting conversation, and good conversation is driven by good content.

Creating good content is like good storytelling - your objective is to tell your story in a way that engages your audience; that builds trust so they follow you and listen to what you have to say, and give you feedback. Building online trust is at the heart of online marketing, and it's what motivates followers to do business with you.

There are three essential elements needed to create an awesome content marketing campaign that speaks to your prospects:

1. Listen. The biggest mistake online marketers make is launching a content marketing program without listening to the market first. The inexperienced marketer starts flooding online channels with crude messages that basically say, "Hey, we're online and we're cool. Come buy our stuff." It doesn't work for obvious reasons. No one is interested in following you to hear your sales pitch.

When creating content, your goal is to provide information that is both valuable and promotes your value to build trust. You want to be seen as an expert and have something interesting to share. That means you have to understand what your audience wants to hear before you post. Here's a good way to start:

  • Identify the influencers in your market. Those are the people to listen to? Read what they are sharing on their blog, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn. The kinds of topics they are discussing are what the market wants to talk about.
  • Listen to your peers? Visit the competition's web sites. Read their blogs. Check out LinkedIn groups in your market. Conduct a news search. See what topics are hot in your market and what others are saying about those topics.
  • Hang out with your target audience online. If you want to reach consumers, use Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to follow your target audience. If you have a B2B strategy and are selling to professionals, find an online forum or follow them on LinkedIn and through LinkedIn Groups. Find relevant conversations and follow the thread. And remember to use those same online locations to share your own content.

2. Empathize. Any good writer makes an emotional connection with his or her audience. To build trust through your content you have to show empathy for your reader. Think like your target audience; project yourself into his or her situation and anticipate their needs. What information do they want from you? What helps them do their job? What obstacles prevent them from engaging with you?

You need to align your value proposition, your brand promise, with your target market through your content. To do that effectively, you have to understand how to fulfill their needs and desires, and reflect that understanding in your content.

A proven marketing tool to help you empathize your audience is a marketing profile or "persona." Create a comprehensive portrait of your ideal customer and use that persona to test assumptions about your product or service. How do they fill a need? What will appeal to your target customer? Talk to your online followers and ask them what they want and what they think. Ask them what they want to learn from you.

3. Engage. Once you have a better understanding of your target audience and what motivates them you are ready to engage. Create a blog to be information resource. Offer advice through comments online and answer questions about topics relevant to your expertise. Post articles form sources you trust about topics of interest to your audience. Become a trusted voice and source of informative content.

Informative content is the tool that will help you build your online audience. Once your readers become followers and look to you for advice, and they will seek you out when they need your products or services. That's how you use content to build your business.