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Here’s how the Content Marketing Institute defines the practice:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Ok – that might seem a little woolly for those just starting out. So let me try and extract something a little more useful.
To understand content marketing, the most important thing to get to grips with is what we mean when we refer to the actual “content” itself.
Content is the word content marketers use to describe every single bit of free information that they publish online in association with their brand.
Amongst other things, content is:
Content marketing, therefore, is the process of creating and publishing many forms of content, with the design to raise brand awareness, establish the business as an industry authority, attract visitors to a business’s website, and ultimately increase sales.
Importantly, one of the key theories of content marketing is that it is designed so that users find you, as opposed to you finding them and hitting them with a sales pitch.
For instance, let’s say you’re in the business of selling paint and other DIY goods. What might be a useful piece of content for your potential customers is a blog explaining “How to Gloss the Skirting Boards Without Getting Paint on the Carpet”.
And so you write it – and other similarly valuable posts – and promote the post on social media. What you hope is that people who are about to embark on a bit of DIY home decorating will find this blog, read it, be inspired to check out what other useful tips and tricks you offer, and then consider you for their next purchase.
That’s the theory – and it works, and I’ll show you some stats to prove it as we move on now to reveal some of the great free tools that are available on the web to content marketers the world over.
All content marketing begins with a good, regular blog. Indeed, 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI from their inbound marketing – and I have to say that the remaining 18% simply must be doing it wrong.
So here are a couple of free tools to help you do it right.
Yes, WordPress is the most popular blogging platform and content management system (CMS) for good reason – it’s simple to use, secure, and effective. Other CMSs are available, but often require users to be able to code. Forget about them, is my suggestion. For beginners, it’s WordPress all the way, and, with a huge catalogue of plugins available, you can quickly build your blog site to a point that you are ensuring that all your posts are search engine optimised, your keywords are strong and competitive, and that your site is secure for making sales.
Google Docs is essentially an online word processor. Although it doesn’t quite have all the bells and whistles of the likes of Microsoft Word, it’s still pretty darn close, and for blog-writing purposes it’s got everything you need. The most important feature, however, is that your documents can be shared, viewed and edited with multiple users simultaneously, meaning that everything you write can be collaborated on with your whole team – for free!
As a beginner in content marketing, you’ve arrived at a time where the emphasis on video has never been stronger.
Here are just three stats that prove it:
Thankfully this is also a time where creating videos isn’t a particularly expensive or difficult endeavour. Here are a couple of free resources to get you started.
You don’t even need a camera to start making videos. All you need is Screencast-O-Matic and you will be able to start making how-to-style recordings to help your visitors navigate your site, or walk them through your new app or piece of software. Perhaps not suitable to all businesses, but if you can make use of it for yours, then you should.
Beyond screencasts, you will of course be wanting to experiment with producing some proper action footage. Smartphone cameras are pretty powerful these days, so you might not even need to invest in an expensive camera at first. But what you will need is some editing software to mash all your scenes together. Try out Windows Movie Maker which is completely free to download and start using immediately. If you can’t get on with it, then TechRadar has a list of 19 others you can experiment with.
Infographics are brilliant things to be producing. They help you tell data stories which will convince your audience of the valuable figures that you can promise them.
Here’s a couple of free tools.
Using Canva is as simple as dragging and dropping the pre-created illustrations into your infographic. No design skills necessary, templates available, and it’s as simple as filling in the blanks with the relevant information that you want your audience to be able to digest at a glance.
Another great free infographic creator is Piktochart. The free version has more than enough features for the beginner, and allows you turn all that boring yet essential data into gloriously consumable visuals.
Found this post useful? You’ll surely like this one, too: “How to Write an Effective Content Marketing Strategy” – our easy-to-follow guide in getting you set up to start content marketing with aplomb.