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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you have probably heard a lot of talk about the idea of content marketing.

While content marketing is not necessarily a new marketing concept, large and small businesses alike are beefing up their content marketing budgets in an effort to attract new customers and increase market share. But why all the recent focus on content marketing when it is a concept that has actually been around for years?

Part of the reason is because we have understandably grown tired of being bombarded with online advertisements and sales pitches. What makes it even worse is that they often come from companies that we have no prior relationship with. It’s like going in for a kiss before your date even finishes opening the door.

It’s About Gaining Trust Slowly Over Time

Consumers don’t want to be sold in a single pitch. They want to establish relationships with companies that gradually gain their trust and loyalty by consistently delivering the content and information they want. Content that entertains, answers their questions and resolves their concerns. Content that informs, educates, and inspires. This is what consumers really want, and this is why the whole content marketing concept has taken center stage in online marketing today.

Before you go out and start your new content marketing campaign though, you need to keep some things in mind and go about it the right way. Below I’ve outlined 10 essential elements to any successful content marketing campaign to help get you started.

1. Bring The Passion

If you’re not passionate about your product or service, you either need to find a different product or service to offer or find someone that is passionate about it to work for you. You simply will not be successful in any content marketing strategy unless you’re passionate about what you have to offer. Your passion will show in the content you produce, and it is that passion that will connect and engage your targeted audience.

2. Focus on Your Niche

The Internet provides a big enough market that you can afford to specialize in one specific niche these days, and the niche you choose should be one that you’re an expert in. You don’t have to be the old General Store in the Wild West that provided everything the town residents needed. In fact, online consumers don’t want you to provide everything they need. They want you to specialize in one thing and know everything there is to know about that product or service. And why do you know everything there is to know about your product or service? Because you’re passionate about it for crying out loud!

3. Understand Your Audience

Before you can create great content for your specific niche, you have to understand who your target audience is. Who are you talking to? Who is it that is most likely to buy your product or service or religiously read your blog? If your target audience is a group of electrical engineers, the content you create and the tone you use is going to be much different than a target audience of high school seniors trying to decide on a college to attend.
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In times past, our target audiences were much larger and broader. I may have considered myself a savvy marketer before if I was able to focus my marketing efforts on a group of say men ages 28-50. Well, that’s great if I’m selling life insurance, but what if I’m selling something much more unique that doesn’t fit into any particular age group or demographic? Suppose, for example, that I’m selling a high end backpack specifically designed for ice climbing. Will my content marketing be more effective if it’s directed towards all men ages 28-50 or just towards those that are into ice climbing? With new marketing opportunities such as Facebook Ads, you can now direct your content to very targeted audiences, so figure out who your targeted audience is before you start to create great content.

4. Be The Right Person

One of the most important parts of content marketing is connecting and engaging with your online audience. How well are you going to connect with your audience if you’re a 50 year old man that wants to start an online bridal shop? Probably not too well unless you happen to be George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Assuming you’re neither of these guys, but your lifelong dream is to still own an online bridal shop, by all means do it. However, remember that if you want your content marketing efforts to be effective, you better get a nice, recently married, or soon to be married, young lady to be the face of your content marketing campaign and truly interact and engage with your audience.

5. Take Time to Listen

Don’t assume you know what content your audience wants. Take the time to listen to your targeted audiences’ questions, comments, suggestions, and reactions. Reading the blog comments on your blog can be a great way to understand your audience better. Studying your Google Analytics traffic can also help you see which topics your audience is reading and engaging with most. Use the information you gather to develop ideas for your content strategy.

6. Use Stories

Nothing resonates with your targeted audience better than stories, especially happy and inspiring ones. Personal stories and experiences as well as the stories and experiences of clients can be key to engaging your audience and having them just pace the floor waiting for your next update. People relate to stories and share in the emotions and experiences of others through stories. This doesn’t mean you should just tell a story to tell one though. Make sure it’s interesting and entertaining and that it is also in line with the overall message you want your audience to hear.

7. Use Employees and Customers

Don’t feel like you have to be the sole source of content for your campaign. Rely on your employees and customers to provide insight, stories, testimonials, and other helpful information to add to and improve your content marketing message. You might be surprised by how much content is available right at your fingertips if you just reach out and ask the people around you and your happy customers for help with your content.

8. Have a Plan

Putting together a good editorial calendar is essential to any good content marketing plan. Strategically plan out the order and timing for each new piece of content and understand what it is you want to accomplish with each post.

You should also create a marketing mission statement to help guide the direction and overall plan for your editorial calendar. Ask yourself why you publish the content you publish. What is your end goal? How do you want your followers to respond? What action do you want them to take? And how will your content motivate and entice them to do this? To help better organize your content goals and properly map out a great editorial calendar, please download our free content roadmap calendar.

9. Don’t Focus on You

The content you create should focus on your audience and not on you or your company. Even if you run the greatest company in the world and get daily recognition for your accomplishments, your audience doesn’t want to hear about how great you are everyday. Sure, drop in a real brief mention of something your company was recognized for here and there to build more credibility, but don’t let it get in the way of the content your audience really wants to receive.

Your content marketing should engage them, educate them, inspire them, and have them begging for more, and delivering that type of content should be your focus day in and day out. It’s awfully hard to inspire and educate someone when all you talk about is how great you are, even if you are pretty great (which I’m sure you are my friend).

10. Update, Update, Update

Don’t just get half way through a story and leave everyone hanging in cyberspace wondering how it ends, or write a great piece of content on a subject that you never update as things change over time. Always revisit your published content and make sure it’s complete and up to date.

This is especially critical if you work in an industry that is constantly changing such as SEO. Suppose I publish a great resource about effective link building strategies, and it’s a big hit. It generates a lot of natural links and is shared through various social networks. What if I never go back and update that post though? A year later when the latest Penguin, Panda, or Polar Bear (just kidding) update completely changes effective link building strategies, I’m not going to look real smart with links to my now very outdated link building guide all over the Internet.

I hope you enjoyed my 10 keys to a successful content marketing campaign guide, and I look forward to reading all the great content you’ll now deliver to the world. Are you still hungry for more? Download our free ebook 11 Types Of Content You Should Be Creating For SEO Right Now.