If you ask 100 PR and marketing pros the best way to develop your strategy about the most effective ways that they conceive and launch successful PR and content marketing strategies, you’d likely receive 100 or more different responses. The fact that there are so many successful strategies for bringing your content marketing ideas to life means you’re likely to find a good bit of success for your efforts once you choose to take some efforts to bring your messaging to the market you serve, create organizational thought leaders and build your brand.

A plethora of ideas will likely lead you to a plethora of success because of your efforts. Of course, you’ll have to determine what “success” looks like, but at least there’s no shortage of intriguing strategies for building and fleshing out a program that will help build a community. First, though, let’s start by defining a few things.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing, by the dictionary definition of the term, 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.” So says the Content Marketing Institute.

That means that instead of pitching your products or services blindingly as if shot from a shotgun, you’re providing truly relevant and useful content (information) to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues. Content marketing is used by the world’s leading brands, and by the vast majority of marketers. You can find content messaging from the likes of P&G, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, John Deere and thousands of other companies.

We’ve been content marketing professionals for more than 10 years. As part of our work in PR, content marketing is one of our favorite parts. Through it we get to tell client’s stories, educate people and create valuable, informative pieces that let us relive some of our glory days as credentialed journalists. Ultimately, though, we use content marketing in millerrupp’s client’s campaigns because it works.

Why “content market”

There are three primary reasons to use content marketing in your marketing efforts:

–Increased sales

–Cost savings

–Better customers who have more loyalty

Content marketing materials tend to be much less “junky” than other historical outreach efforts. And, in many cases, such content is actually published by sector-leading publications (trade magazines and sites) that supply the news and messaging individuals need and want to stay at the top of their game in their respective fields. For example, if we work with and care about tractors, we will probably read websites and publications where John Deere has some share of voice. Thus, we’re likely already reading messaging from the company’s content marketing team, even if the piece is bylined by the company’s CEO or other members of the leadership team. For those in software and IT, the same holds true of the publications you read – CIO.com, Inc., Wired, etc. — they all contain content marketing messaging from “thought leaders.”

How to content market

What are some of the best ways to launch content marketing programs? How do you start such a program if you have no previous experience doing so? What are some of the metrics you should consider? What do these programs look like before they are rolled out?

To answer some of these questions and more, we’ve asked some content marketing experts for their insights. Here is their guidance:

Lazhar Ichir, founder, topicseed

Organic reach, through content marketing and search engine optimization is a cost-effective, yet evergreen, lead generation strategy for software companies. Google’s ranking algorithms have recently shifted from a very literal keyword matching to a more comprehensive approach — topical authority. The idea is to give more weight in search results for websites that cover a particular domain or problematic thoroughly. This has allowed small software companies to boost their rankings for very niched down search queries that, back then, they would have never ranked for. Focus on writing content people want to read, shuffling up your style of writing: long form, short Q&A, listicles, etc. Within months, you will see a jump for your focus topics.

Freyja Spaven, marketing specialist, Raygun

It’s no secret that great content marketing is the best way to market your business. But if you’re new to content marketing, it can be hard to know where to start. The first step is to know how much you can afford to spend to acquire a customer (CAC), and your Cost per Lead (CPL). From there, you can understand how much budget to allocate to your content marketing efforts. Good content marketing costs money, and it can take time to see results. That doesn’t mean you should give up early, though. The next step is to hire a content manager that is a great fit for your company culture and who understands your audience. They will be able to apply their knowledge to build a blog growth strategy that works for you. A good content manager will be data-driven, highly organized and an excellent writer. Outsourcing all your content marketing can be an option, too.

Josh Brown, content and community manager, Sales & Orders

Prior to working at Sales & Orders (SaaS company providing Google Shopping management), I worked as the content marketing manager at Fieldboom (lead capture & survey software).

A few metrics to consider:

— Goal completions – newsletter signups, contact form completion, signups, etc. help to measure how contact directly helps get leads into your pipeline.

— Assisted conversions –Typically, software has a longer sales cycle, so users may not convert on the first touch point. By setting up assisted conversions, you can see the role that content helped in contributing to the final conversion.

— Scroll depth, time-on-site, bounce rate are all metrics that I like to look at to help determine how engaging the content that we’re creating is.

— Backlinks and social shares to determine whether the quality of content being created is strong and contributing to SEO efforts (looking at backlinks in this case).

To determine ROI, you need to consider how much is being invested to both create content and distribute it, which will give you an idea of what it costs to produce your content. Then figure out how your content is contributing. Looking at direct conversions (from content to signup), assisted conversions and email address acquisitions, and then tracking whether people from your list sign up. These factors can give you an idea of how much your content is contributing. It gets a bit trickier when you try to account for soft metrics like brand awareness, but some of the metrics listed above should give you an idea of how well your content is helping with your overall goals.

Homegrown versus outsourced content really depends on your resources and timelines. If you’re just starting out and are looking to invest in content marketing, it might make sense to outsource its creation as it’s more likely that the resources you have in-house are dedicated to other aspects of the business. As your marketing initiatives grow and your budget increases, you may find that it then makes more sense to have a dedicated homegrown team.

Ben Roberts, head of marketing, Talkative

It’s really important to consider content re-purposing from an early stage. This will allow you to scale up your content efforts quicker, and prevent burnout. Think about how you can turn a blog post into an infographic or create bite-size shareable images.

It’s also a good idea to look at creating some video content, from which you can then extract the audio to make a podcast, write a transcript to make a blog post and extract quotes in the form of shareable image. By creating one video, you have the potential of four different types of content. This helps you to save you time, and allow you to create more.

Faith Kubicki, content marketing manager, IntelliChief

We launched our content marketing campaign three months ago, and we’ve already seen a 28 percent increase in organic traffic since Q1. We’ve done this all internally, with no paid tools (although we did use a free trial of Moz Pro to review our link profile and find out what keywords our competitors have successfully ranked on.)

One thing that I find especially important in the software and IT realm – toning down the technical jargon. I see a lot of subject matter experts write content for their site, and it’s excellent quality material, but it tends to be a) too technical to convert, or b) not optimized for SEO. Of course it’s important to include some details, but if you’re looking to attract leads, you have to make your value proposition front and center. Does your software help save time? Money? Whatever pain point you solve, make that front and center, not the nitty-gritty details that are less engaging to the reader.

A few other tips I’d recommend to software companies that are just getting started or have no previous experience in the realm:

— A Yoast plugin for SEO (for sites that are built on WordPress). This free tool gives easy-to-understand recommendations for SEO newbies.

— Spending one to two hours using Google Webmaster Tools and Search Console to collect a list of the terms that your site already ranks on (then creating pages that are specifically optimized for these terms)

— Taking note of vanity metrics (like how many users you’re getting to your site and what percentage of those are organic traffic), but focusing primarily on what really matters: conversions (Google Analytics makes it easy to track goals, like contact form fill-outs and webinar downloads)

— Realistically, expect to see results start to pick up around the six to 12 month mark. Content marketing and SEO centers around quality – and it can’t be rushed. It takes several months to build a solid foundation. From there, things start to pick up slowly and steadily in terms of leads and ROI.

If you do take the outsourcing route, be cautious of what companies you choose. Outsourcing can help you scale your project, but again, it all comes down to quality. Working with US-based agency; confirming that all content is unique and well-researched; and ensuring that backlinks are built naturally and not paid for is crucial.

Great advice here from great leaders in the world of content marketing. If you have any questions, let us know in the comment box. If there’s something you’d like to add, post it there, too.

Happy contenting!