Correction: A previous version of this post referred to Brian Rotsztein as an independent Internet marketing strategist. He is actually the CEO of Uniseo Inc. and president of the Canadian Internet Marketing Association. We regret the error.

It’s easy to feel content marketing is just another ad wrapped in text and images – inefficient, and for some brands, it’s not much more than a sales pitch. But for content marketing advocates Brian Rotsztein and Natalie Henley, it’s a lot more than that.

“In content marketing, the content is the ad. It’s very important to understand it’s not the content of your ad, the content itself is the ad,” said Rotsztein, CEO of Uniseo Inc. He was speaking in a session at Toronto’s Click Z conference on Thursday.

With content marketing, the goal is to create content an audience will want and will find useful, added Henley, vice-president of marketing at Volume Nine SEO. She argued it’s not enough to just identify who you want to reach, create a blog calendar, write search engine optimized-content, and then share the content on social media, though that’s a common strategy.

Based on their presentations, we’ve rounded up a list of tips and tricks for businesses seeking to build their own content marketing strategies.

1. Figure out who your target audience is.

When you start brainstorming a content marketing strategy, it’s not enough to just write something and hope people will come, Rotsztein said.

He recommended spending time figuring out an audience and then creating personas for that audience – for example, personas might include surgeons, graphic designers, tech startups, and chefs, which are all very disparate groups. These personas will inevitably all have very different needs, and discovering these goes beyond market segmentation, he said.

Marketers looking to help themselves brainstorm their personas can use mindmapping tools like mindmeister.com, mindnode.com, gliffy.com, and Omnigraffle, he added.

“While you’re brainstorming, just throw out your ideas … What do people who will potentially buy your products and services actually need? When they’re searching Google, what is their intent? What information are they really trying to get at?” Rotsztein said.

And to make sure your efforts aren’t wasted, you need to spend time figuring out these audiences’ marketing budgets – and whether they would be interested in content marketing for their businesses, he added.

2. Don’t settle for poor quality, high volume posts (and this includes guest blogging).

It might be tempting to just throw up some posts on something people seem interested in – however, people can always tell when something was written in slap-dash fashion, and when it was done with care and attention.

“Crappy content is not going to sell products,” Rotsztein said. “The biggest problem is crappy content. Every time you make crappy content, a puppy dies. Make sure your content means something.”

3. Outsource your content so it’s scalable.

The mandate to create high-quality content is all well and good – but the one of the biggest challenges is being able to scale what you create. It might be easy to produce one or two really good pieces, but how do you continue to create more?

You have three options, Henley said. The most obvious would be to assign pieces to your own staff – however, bear in mind they have a lot of other work and it’s hard to scale their posts, even if they’re great.

You can go out into the community and look for freelance writers, who might write for you on contract or on a post-by-post basis.

Or you can get third-party help and outsource your work to companies like Textbroker, Writers Access, and Skyward – and these are marketplaces where you’ll find freelancers.

It might not be easy to scale out your content this way, but one especially solid solution for Volume Nine has been Zerys, an online marketplace that combines all three options, Henley said. It provides a portal where marketers can connect with freelancers, but they can also review their content within the portal, either signing off on it, rejecting it, or requesting revisions.

4. Don’t reuse your content – instead, repurpose the information your content contained.

Reposting content in several places is a big no-no, and most people look at that with distaste, Rotsztein said. It should only go on one website, and that website should be carefully chosen. That being said, the information in the content can work in several different mediums, he added.

For example, you can write a post, and then take the data out of it and create an infographic. After that, you can put the main nuggets of information into a Powerpoint presentation for Slideshare. And it doesn’t stop there – there are videos, podcasts…the list goes on.

Ultimately, the biggest piece of advice that Henley had for marketers was to “get back to the roots” of marketing and focus on understanding what people want.

“If you want to have a solid content marketing strategy, you have got to get out of the SEO, paint-by-numbers, blog-by-process box,” she said.

“So what is content marketing? I am not going to say content marketing is the ‘art of storytelling.’ I hate that analogy … It’s the art of knowing your audience, and getting the right content to the right person, at the right time.”

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