At a recent conference, the top 5 content marketing goals for small and medium businesses were:
- lead generation.
- brand awareness.
- customer acquisition.
- thought leadership and.
Yet, even as content marketing gains traction as a cheaper and more effective method of getting across to your customers, many businesses still fail to do it right.
Their mistakes range from not having a detailed content strategy to focusing on only using one kind of content. Writing a post that people visit your site to consume once is okay and has its’ place in a content marketing strategy. However, you can go one step further and create a much better resource.
I’m not talking about 140 character ‘epic’ tweets, 300 word blurbs or even 600 word posts. I’m talking about a resource that leaves your prospects’ minds blown, their note pads chock full of actionable ideas and a slight dizziness from all the awesomeness you just handed them.
As a small business owner, you may wonder what you can create an all-in-one guide about. Every market has small groups of users with distinct characteristics. The purpose of your ultimate guide is to help this specific group of people as much as possible.
Here are a few examples of companies using Ultimate Guides:
- Travel Agent: Create a guide to visiting a particular destination (Hint – Use trends to keep up with current events. World Cup in Brazil?)
- RV and Caravan Rentals: Create an ultimate guide buying one, like these folks did.
- Bespoke Baker: an all in one guide to making cupcakes, using only organic, Fairtrade ingredients.
Note that depending on your industry, you may need to write 50, 000 words or only 2, 000 words. Creating an ultimate guide demands originality (which consumers appreciate) and a dose of personality. It is a ton of work, but the rewards are epic.
The strategy outlined below led to 700 monthly page views to a single post, even seven months after the post went live. This was in a really narrow niche (bead making).
1. First, you need to identify your target CUSTOMER. Yes, that is singular. With an ultimate guide, you want to speak to one person. Your guide should run DEEP, explaining all that, that one person wants to know; and not run wide, to encompass every possible user.
We’ll use a fictional store in Manchester that sells organic food ingredients, as a hypothetical case study. Let’s call our store, Happy Foods. If Happy Foods were to create a guide showing people how to make strawberry cheesecake, we won’t target everyone in Manchester.
The 400 Mancunians who like to bake cheesecakes using only organic flour and Fairtrade sugar, are our ideal consumer.
What do they want to know about your product/industry? What keeps them up at night? What do they worry about? An in-depth guide covers all this and more.
2. Market Research using:
- Your Google Analytics account to find the keywords people are using to find your site
- Quora and Yahoo Answers to see what questions they are asking
- Visit niche forums to see what problems people are discussing in the niche.
Why this works: You can suss out your core audience; and craft your guide in a manner that they really connect with.
3. More Research: Find the lingo of the niche. People in your industry may describe procedures, products and ingredients differently. Following on with the baking theme, I discovered there are over 15 types of flour, ranging in fineness and rising qualities. Don’t take it for granted that everyone knows this. Tell them.
How to do this:
- Use tools like Wordstream and Google Keyword Planner to see variations of the terms in the market.
- You can also use trade magazines and interview industry experts. Happy Foods can carry out a survey amongst commercial bakers to find out which baked goods they specialise in, why they only use certain products etc.
Why this works – You may be an expert in a narrow segment of your market, but digging deeper will expose you to other possible uses of your product. Covering multiple angles will help your customer make an informed decision and you can also learn a thing or two.
4. What Format? – Decide on how you want to present the guide. Popular methods are a long form all-in-one guide, a 9-part series, a resource list or a really large infographic. Choose what works for your budget, industry and skill level (if you are doing it in-house).
If you do a fabulous job with the research, you will cover the content thoroughly. Great content receives organic shares, attracts natural traffic and increases leads.
5. Creating the Guide – For this example, we will use a long form post as the guide.
- Aim to cover every aspect of what your ideal prospect needs to know, from nuts to soup. Remember to focus on the persona from Step 1.
- For Happy Foods, we can talk about about the best places to shop for organic flour, butter. Talk about why you recommend them.
- Recommend great resources i.e. books, videos, podcasts, other blogs in the niche and give a short review. Your content must not be dry or academic; inject your personality in there.
- To increase retention, use images and working links to all your recommendations. Visitors will click off to those pages, but will return to your site as you have done the work of collating all the info in one place.
- Forget 400 word posts. An in-depth resource should contain a minimum of 4, 000 words.
6. Get It Out There – Use all platforms where your primary audience hangs out. Remember the forums from Step 2? Create accounts and direct people to your post. If you have created a stellar resource, they will visit your site. They can become fans and help share your content.
This exact blueprint caused readership to double readership on one blog, in two weeks. The plan can also be re-purposed and multiple all-in-one guides created for other demographics. This can position you as the go-to firm in your industry, as you constantly reach out and educate your customers.