Content marketing is one of those vague terms that can mean a lot of different things, or it can mean nothing at all. It’s a subset of digital marketing, and it’s essential to marketing yourself online. So what is content marketing? At its core, content marketing is a system that helps you attract and retain customers by creating and distributing valuable content.
- What is content marketing?
- Tier 1: Owned content
- Tier 2: Video-focused content marketing platforms
- Tier 3: Text-focused content marketing platforms
- What can content marketing do for your business?
- How to build a content marketing strategy for your business
- All good content marketing strategies include repurposing and repackaging
- In summary: solopreneurs can and should be implementing content marketing
What is content marketing?
Content marketing fits into the digital marketing arena as anything you’ve created that people don’t have to pay for.
This article will focus primarily on free content, whereas opt-ins and emails, and paid offers fall under digital marketing, which of course, we’ll get into in the future.
The way I see it, there are three distinct tiers of free content.
Tier one is owned content, meaning content you put on your website and send to your email list. It’s the only content you own, the only content that won’t vanish if an algorithm changes something, and the only content that has staying power.
Tier two is where I’m putting video-focused platforms, such as YouTube and TikTok. Video is the hot new thing, and it doesn’t seem to be one of those passing fads you can simply write off as “not for you” anymore.
Tier three is where I’m putting platforms that are still primarily text-based, like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. It’s true that these platforms accommodate video content, but unlike YouTube and TikTok, you can communicate on these platforms without ever turning on your camera and still do just fine.
Tier 1: Owned content
This is where most businesses should spend the majority of their time. I feel like I say this in conversations and online at least once, if not multiple times per week, so it absolutely bears repeating here.
Why start with owned content?
A couple of reasons, but let me give you a visual.
See that top line? That’s organic search, meaning 49% of amplifiedNOW’s web traffic over the past 28 days comes from people searching on Google.
So, by starting with web content, I am able to harness the power of search and save energy at the same time.
I could stop there and say, “See, Google is indexing, which means I’m set,” but that line, plus that chart, above, isn’t a good enough reason for most people to start with owned content.
How about this: it’s easier to write a blog post than it is to come up with witty/funny/insightful things to say on every platform.
I wrote about this process in the piece about content calendars, but it bears repeating.
I write a post. Then Emma edits it and publishes it. Then it gets edited/modified for email.
Then, and only then, does it go to tiers two and three.
Now that big newsletters are a ‘thing’ it’s much more normal to send blog posts as emails.
Think of this as an email marketing “hack” intended to save you time and energy. Copy and paste your entire blog post into your email client. If you have a client like ConvertKit, you can set this up automatically. Just make sure you set it up as a draft, not to automatically go out. Add something in the headline that will encourage people to open it (evidently, emojis increase open rates), eliminate the parts where you encourage people to join your email list (because they’re already on it!), and add a signature to the end.
Now, you’re in more frequent communication with the people who want to hear from you.
All without having to stress out about what you should say to the people who downloaded something.
Important reminder about your email list
You want the people on your list to do one of two things:
- Buy something from you (eventually), OR
That’s it. Don’t overthink it.
I sometimes look to see who has unsubscribed from my emails and it’s very often people who have already paid me.
That’s fine. They don’t want to hear from me because they’ve already gotten what they set out to accomplish when we communicated.
And I’m interested in high engagement, high open rates, and keeping my costs down.
All of which is helped by people unsubscribing.
Tier 2: Video-focused content marketing platforms
This is your regular reminder to incorporate video into your marketing mix.
So many reasons.
One, there’s a preference for video content across all platforms. So much so that even non-video forward platforms are changing their minds and also giving more value to videos. Meaning: if you create videos, more people will see them than they would see something written.
Two, videos help you scale your expertise and authority in ways written content can’t do. I’ve seen great results with clients who use video in all kinds of interesting ways, from sales pages and thank-you pages to robust blog content and even frequently asked questions.
Three, outlining and recording a video helps you create a draft of a written piece of content faster and better than simply staring at a blinking cursor on a blank document.
The point of having a presence on any social media platform is to amplify your message, increase your authority, and stay top-of-mind for your colleagues, friends, referral sources, and audience.
So if you can make it easy on yourself to get more attention on the various video-focused platforms, you should do so.
One random benefit of doing a lot of video is that I’ve forced myself to be camera-ready most of the time, which means dressing for work while working from home. It’s a very big mood adjuster for me, one that has far-reaching benefits.
Tier 3: Text-focused content marketing platforms
These social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) have a way to add videos, but they’re not as video-focused as the platforms in tier two (at least for now).
Twitter, especially, feels like the platform that will always allow you to create written content.
And pulling from your web content is a really great way to start scheduling pieces of content for these text-forward platforms.
You can set up a spreadsheet, or you can go right into your social media scheduler of choice (I love and highly recommend HypeFury, which is Twitter-forward, and connects out to LinkedIn and Facebook) and pull lines directly from your blog post into social media.
What can content marketing do for your business?
It’s important to pull back a level and ask this broader question about the role content marketing can play in your business.
A comprehensive content marketing strategy is one that asks this question:
What are your business goals, and how can content help you reach them?
Start there, and then you’ll see how content marketing can fit into your plans.
Most of the people we work with are solopreneurs with service-based businesses, so I’ll use them as examples.
Let’s say your goal is to fill your calendar for the year. That means:
- More customers, and as such
- More email subscribers
If you don’t have a solid lead flow, you won’t have more customers.
And sure, you could double down on the social media platform you love the most (the one you’d be scrolling through even if you didn’t have a business account!) but if you do that and exclude your website and email list, you’ve done a lot of work that very few people will see.
So really, if you double/triple down on Instagram, for example, and you post reels and stories and regular posts multiple times per day, that’s great, but it’s not content marketing.
It’s social media marketing. And it works. But it’s sort of like a treadmill versus running on a trail. Both will wear you out. But only one will get you from where you are to another place entirely.
Example 1: A graphic designer needs help getting more leads
Let’s say this person already has a great opt-in, so when people do visit their site, their chances of conversion are pretty high.
But how does this person get more attention to their opt-ins in the first place?
They can put out blog posts like:
- Teardowns of public-facing companies (“If Nike hired me to redesign their site, here’s what I’d do first”)
- Their most recent projects (before and after content works across industries)
- Guides to trends
- Rules of thumb about how frequently a brand needs to be updated
Designers don’t have to write thousands of words. There’s an idiomatic phrase about the power of visuals, and it’s there for good reason. But talking about intent, talking about their process, and talking about the why behind different decisions helps set them apart from the competition.
Example 2: A course creator needs more conversions
For many solopreneurs, creating online courses is a great way to add a revenue stream. So let’s use the example of someone who has created one and has seen it turn into a viable revenue stream.
How do they turn more of their existing subscribers into paid customers?
Here, the format is simple: a transformation story.
A lot of people get caught here, thinking, “oh gosh, I don’t have a great process for gathering testimonials, maybe I need to figure out how to incorporate case studies into my content” and start the process of disengagement. Stop. Friends don’t let friends get caught in analysis paralysis.
And if you’ve read this far, chances are pretty high that we could be friends.
So, yes, testimonials. Yes, case studies. But I’d tell this course creator to hold off and let your future self do those.
I’d tell them, “think about someone who, unprompted, sent you a note about how much going through your program changed their life. Set up a time to chat, and ask them some questions.”
- What was going on in their life before they decided to buy
- How long they’d been following you before they pulled the trigger
- What finally pushed them to buy
- And what life is like now
What’s conspicuously missing from this conversation are any details about the course itself. Save it. No one buys courses anyway. They buy outcomes.
So if you helped someone create some level of freedom in their lives that wasn’t there before they became a customer…
Tell that story.
Again and again.
Make the details rich, and if you have enough of these stories, you can paint vibrant pictures for your prospects.
“I too am a suburban mom with two kids at home,” you’ll get them to think, once you’ve talked to someone who resembles them. “If it can work for her…”
Example 3: A copywriter wants to offer something higher-end
Let’s say in this example that a copywriter wants to sell a higher-priced product than they’ve sold in the past.
This often means pivoting who they serve.
This happens across all industries. When you increase your prices you have to find a different market to serve.
This is where so many providers get absolutely stuck. Who you serve is so essential to how you market yourself that it’s really common to get stuck here.
But do you know how you can get unstuck?
Through content marketing.
Think deeply about who it is you’ve served in the past. Chances are, your best past client is a great template for who you want to serve in the future.
And a good-enough client avatar is “just like the person two projects ago, but with a bigger budget.”
So, with that person in mind, the freelancer can start creating content about a higher-ticket offer.
They’ll use slightly different language than they would for the market they currently serve. And they’ll attract people with bigger budgets.
How to build a content marketing strategy for your business
Make sure you can easily define:
- Your target audience
- The goals you have for content in general (don’t have to map those out for each piece of content at this level)
- Your brand voice. The way you speak to your audience is what we call your brand voice. If you haven’t defined that for your brand yet, think about what words and phrases you would not say. Creating a list of forbidden words is a great way to start, and gives any writer on your team a chance to get their first draft right, the first time.
Once you have those in place, you can decide on things like:
- Posting cadence
- Distribution strategy
- The overall structure of your pieces of content
- How each piece of content connects to a particular business goal (what’s this piece of content’s job?)
- How you want a piece of content to be structured/outlined
- And what the call to action should be
After you’ve figured out all this stuff at a high level, you’ll want to start getting granular.
Let’s say you’ve decided to post one new blog post per week (a great start).
Which 52 posts will you write this year?
Who will be responsible for writing them?
And, most importantly, what is your distribution strategy?
All good content marketing strategies include repurposing and repackaging
The most effective content marketing methods include distribution because if you only rely on search engines, you’ll be waiting a long time.
For every post we publish, we also:
- Send an email to our list with the same general points
- Create a Twitter thread
- Create about a dozen standalone quotes to be distributed
- On Twitter
- On Facebook
- On LinkedIn
- On Instagram
- Use it as inspiration for the quick videos that work really well on Instagram reels and TikTok and YouTube shorts
Then, depending on the piece of content, and how much time we spent on it, we might also make it:
- A slide deck that can be shared on SlideShare (now owned by Scribd)
- A video with the main points shared over stock video
- A PDF download to use as an opt-in for the post itself
In summary: solopreneurs can and should be implementing content marketing
And the implementation process doesn’t have to be painful.
In fact, you’re doing your future self a favor each and every time you publish a piece of high-quality content.
To sum up:
- Focus on owned content first
- Then, experiment with video
- Commit to a publishing schedule you can adhere to
- And repurpose and remix the HECK out of every single post you publish
Keep these in mind and you’ll be implementing your own content marketing in no time.