From Maker to Marketer: 7 Steps for a Successful Content Marketing Strategy

  •    Professional freelance writer and journalist who focuses on science, technology, marketing, business, politics, education, and technical writing.

You didn't start your business to become a content marketer, we know. But you still need to create great content — for SEO purposes to build organic traffic, get optimal mileage out of your site and generate leads.

Next year in 2019, content marketing will be a $300 billion industry. But don't worry. You can do it even if you're not a content marketer. Here's how:

1. Aim for thought leadership in your niche

Great content provides actionable advice your customers can use. Excellent, niche-specific ideas don't spring from the minds of marketers alone. As a maker, you are unquestionably creative, so use your years of experience to teach your customers through content.

You may not see yourself as a thought leader, but your ideas are unique and valuable. Content is the perfect way to get your expertise and authority out there.

If you want to find thought leaders in your own niche, search for influencers in your area. Do this by finding out which makers have the best followings on social and the most-visited websites using FollowerWonk, Spyfu, Quantcast, Simply Measured, or any other SEO tools that allow you to spy on competitors.

2. Get the ideas out

Speaking of ideas, don't torture yourself crafting every word. Be a perfectionist as a maker, not a writer. Start by getting big ideas onto paper (or the screen). You can fix big errors later.

The idea here is to get moving, rather than stare at an empty screen and worry about how many hundreds of words you need to generate. Start with a list of ideas — or just one, if that's what you've got. Bullet points are fine for getting started. In fact, check out these best infographics from the 2012 Paralympics. They still look amazing years later — and most of them are pretty much just bullet points with images. So don't be intimidated if you like to stay list-y; the world loves listicles.

If you're struggling with content creation, set yourself a goal. At least once a week, make sure you write to a minimum goal, even if it's not epic. Keep on schedule; you can get help from others or rewrite later. Consistency trains your brain to create content regularly. Once you get used to creating a few hundred words per week, it will feel a lot easier.

3. Focus content on your strong points

It's the same as playing to your strengths or teaching what you know. It's fine to focus your content on your well-known areas — in fact, that's what you should do.

Here are some ideas for staying original and adding value:

Use language as a tool. Nurture your own voice as an authority. As a maker, you're an expert; let that come through in every piece of content by using powerful, detailed language.

  • Give an insider picture. Provide some insider information in every piece of content so your readers know they can expect something special if they stay engaged.

  • Provide information that is digestible. Strike that balance between expert knowledge and accessibility. A great way to do this — especially in a complex or saturated field — is with FAQs, product guides and quick summaries of specific issues.

  • New angles. If you're that person who always has a new angle on issues, make content that presents unusual angles on typical topics your specialty.

  • Filling in the gaps. Maybe your specialty is filling knowledge gaps, and smoothing over all of those little potholes in your industry? If so, turn that knowledge into content and a reputation.

4. Do what works for you

You may have seen lots of posts about “The 5 Things Successful People Do" or “The 8 Things All Content Marketers Know." But you know what? You're not a content marketer. When you find a system that helps you generate the authentic content about your product reliably and with as little pain as possible, stick with it.

Are you great at telling a funny story? Do it. Are you that person in your group of friends who can connect with just about anyone? Take content creation as your “in" to connect with new people. Do what works for you.

5. Use the right structure

Stay away from long, unwieldy paragraphs and unbroken pages of text. Use section headers to break things up and give your content some flow. Can someone glance at your headings at get a sense of where you're heading with the piece? (Hint: the right answer is yes!)

Don't be afraid to include images, bullet lists and other tools for holding interest and breaking up text. Research shows that we read differently online, and need short bursts of simple text to stay interested.

6. Identify where your content has failed in the past

Watch your metrics. Which pieces of content do best for you? Sit down and assess what those pieces have in common, and do the same with the content that fails. Be brutal! You need to find out what went wrong — so you don't do it anymore.

Remember, content marketing is essential to all of your SEO strategies. Dollar for dollar, content marketing generates three times as many leads as paid search. That means it's important to make it work for you. You wouldn't keep pouring money into ads that weren't working, and you should focus that same attention on your content.

How can you tell when content is working? Measure your content success across these metrics:

Track overall page views in Google Analytics (GA), Audience Overview, using the default view once a month;
Take a comparative look at month to month page views;
Check which pieces of content are the most successful by tracking page views in GA: select “Behavior," “Site Content," and “All Pages";
Check both which external sites and which internal pages are funneling visitors to your landing pages;
Refine your page views based on unique visitors on your “main audience overview" page;
If you design your content for downloading, track how many downloads you're getting in GA in “track downloads" under “advanced settings" and “event" with “PDFs" selected;
If you're sending emails, track your open rates and treat big drops as important problems to fix.
Some SEO and other site management tools also do many of these tasks.

Remember, let data drive your decisions as your gut is often wrong. If content isn't performing, do something different. Each time you add new content, your level of engagement, site rank, conversion rate and traffic may all fluctuate. If so, you'd better know about it! If your click and open rates are sluggish and no one is sharing your content, you've got a problem to fix.

7. Repurpose and curate content; be creative

Did you listen to a podcast recently that really spoke to you? Share it with a short discussion of why you loved it, and ask for feedback. Or take that blog post that really did well in fall, and turn it into a short 50-second video or infographic in spring. Update a list of tools for other makers for the new year. Repurpose your best stuff and share excellent found content — while adding your own value.

Feeling uninspired? Here are just some of the different kinds of content you can create or curate — or transform existing content into, to get new life from it:

  • animations
  • blog posts
  • articles
  • customer testimonials
  • case studies
  • FAQs
  • ebooks and excerpts from ebooks
  • infographics
  • how-to guides
  • market or niche assessments
  • listicles for your niche
  • podcasts
  • news about your industry
  • reports
  • Q&As with guests
  • videos with transcripts
  • product and tech reviews
  • white papers

Remember one thing: if you're curating great content you found somewhere, don't copy it! That is not just rude; it will get your website penalized and earn you a bad reputation. Here are the basic guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Curated and original content work together. Content curation supplements — but doesn't replace — your original content. Keep it balanced.
  • No cutting and pasting. When you find a great piece of content you want to share, always give credit and show where you found it and always supplement it, at least with an original introduction that showcases your own individual ideas.
  • Pick great content. Remember, when you're curating content, you're linking to sites. Make them awesome, high-quality bits of content posted on high-authority sites. Don't send your customers anywhere you wouldn't love to go.
  • Think museum. Curators work in museums. They are picky and provide a deep yet broad view of every topic. Don't get lazy, posting from the same three sources. Really curate, providing a great selection of high-end content from all over the web.

You can do it!

Creating content that works for your business doesn't require being chained to your computer for days at a stretch. Follow these actionable tips to make your content marketing awesome, even if you're not a content marketer.