How to Create Great Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Content Marketing That Delivers Real Results

How to Create Content: The Ultimate Guide to Content Creation

If you’re like most marketers today, then you know that consistent, high-quality content creation is essential to the success of your efforts. But did you know that creating amazing content doesn’t just benefit your isolated content marketing program — it can make a difference across your entire organization?

In fact, the average company that blogs generates 55 percent more site visitors; B2B marketers who blog generate 67 percent more leads per month than those who don’t; and o rganizations that align content marketing and sales enjoy 38 percent higher sales win rates and 36 percent higher customer retention rates.

Maybe that’s why, according to research from Content Marketing Institute, 56 percent of B2B marketers increased their spending on content creation in the last year — because consistently creating great content can help companies achieve their goals.

But that content doesn’t just appear out of thin air; it’s the result of lots and lots of planning, collaboration, writing, editing, and more. In this guide, Influence & Co. will walk you through what you need to know about content creation and how to develop a process that works for you.

Documenting a Content Strategy

Content can help your company achieve a number of different marketing goals. The thing is, not all content works the same way for all goals. It needs to be created with your end goal in mind. That way, you can ensure that every blog post, every guest-contributed article, every video, and every whitepaper your team produces will work together to work for you.

So before you start writing anything, narrow down your primary goal. Most companies’ goals fit into one of three general buckets: lead generation, thought leadership, and SEO. If you’re like most marketers, using content marketing for lead generation is going to be priority No. 1 — but every company is different.

A strategy that you actually take the time to document is essential to your content marketing. Sixty-five percent of the most successful marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, compared to only 14 percent of the least successful marketers.

Your strategy is going to be valuable for everyone in your company, from your C-suite to your sales team to the individual people on your marketing team. It’s a centralized document that should answer just about every question someone might have about why you’re using content and how your operation works.

• Buyer Personas

The goal of creating these personas is to help you better understand individual members of your audience so that you’re better equipped to reach, engage, and support them with the right content throughout their journey with your company.

• Topic Research

Knowing what you know about your audience members, spend some time researching what broad topics resonate with them, what they’re searching for, and what they’re telling your sales reps.

Leave the specific, individual article topics for later in your content creation process. For now, focus on general topics of interest to your audience. Look to your website analytics for insights into what your audience engages with already, and do a little keyword research to discover what other related topics you can expand your content to address.

And, as always, stay in communication with your sales team. Your s ale reps speak directly with your audience every single day — who better to ask about your prospective customers’ biggest questions, challenges, and priorities?

Again, you don’t need to list out specific ideas, but getting a feel for what kinds of content your audience is looking for and what your team is prepared to deliver is important to a well-rounded content strategy.

• Editorial Workflow

Your editorial workflow is the process your team agrees to use for nurturing a content project from its conception to its final form and getting it in front of your audience. It creates consistency in the production process, eliminates inefficiencies, and allows all the people on your team to focus their time and talent on the parts of the process they’re best at.

Start by outlining the journey your content will go through from beginning to end. What steps does your team need to take to produce content? Who’s responsible for what? What’s your standard of quality, and when is each step considered “done”? Your answers to these questions will help you create a process for consistently and efficiently creating great content.

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Define Your Content Marketing Goal

All content marketing starts with a goal. How are you going to measure the success of your campaign? Is it with traffic? New subscribers? App downloads? Conversions? Social shares and engagement? Video views? Podcast downloads? Sales?

Understanding your goal early on will guide other important decisions as you develop your content marketing strategy. Such as, what are we making? And where are we going to distribute our content? As Godin explains, your strategy is like building a ship. You need to know where it’s going to sail before you can start nailing planks of wood together.

As Godin emphasizes, “Matching what you build to where you put it is more important than what you build in the first place. That’s why we need to start by understanding what is this for?”

When I’m brought on to build out a content marketing strategy for one of my clients, whether it’s a freelance gig or through my side project, Pro Content Marketer, we always start in the exact same place–with first getting a freelance contract in place, then defining an ultimate goal and backing into smaller mini-wins that ladder up to the bigger picture achievement.

Essentially, attracting new readers to your blog (content), then converting them into email subscribers who can later be warmed into paying customers as the rest of the marketing team works to build relationships with subscribers.

Once you have this larger goal in place, it’s easier to determine–based on your average conversion rates–how many readers or listeners, viewers, users, you need to attract to the content you’re publishing, in order to hit your signup goal.

And in order to bring in enough of the right traffic to hit your conversion rates, you’ll need to promote your content–landing syndications to publications, getting mentions in major industry blogs, having influencers share with their followers, and so on down the line.

It’s not an exact science per say, but the more you execute, build a portfolio of content and promote it, the more you’ll see what your baseline returns on content marketing are and you can make tweaks & experiment moving forward.

Content planning

The first step in planning your piece of content is to decide what form you want it to take. Some ideas will be stronger if they are represented visually, and could warrant an infographic or video. Other pieces of content may be best suited for plaintext. For those, a blog post, article, or eBook might be the best form.

You can gain a lot of insight by investigating which types of content have already been created around your topic. For example, type your topic idea (or keyword) into Google and see what kind of content comes up on page one. Are there videos? Do the URLs link back to infographics? Do images appear in the SERP? Knowing which types of content already exist around your topic should help inform your decision about what type of content to make.

In addition, during the planning stages you’ll want to make sure you’re doing appropriate keyword research around your topic. When creating web content you’ll need to select a keyword to target so that you can integrate the keyword appropriately into your content as you write, not after the fact.

The next step is to decide on the scale of your content project. If your content idea is specific and limited, you may only need one blog post, video, or article to properly address the topic.

But if you’re approaching a large topic, especially something central to your business’s value proposition or area of expertise, you may need to create multiple pieces of content around this one idea. Successful content creators will decide exactly what their finished project will look like before they even start writing or creating.

Here are a few other questions we recommend asking yourself during the planning stage:

Creating content

But, as you write, film, design, or produce, keep in mind that content creation is a living, breathing process. If you notice something is wrong with the angle you decided to take or the content format you decided on, don’t be afraid to take a step back. This process should be fluid and may need adjustment as you gain new information about your customers and audience.

Once publish day finally arrives and you’ve released your content out into the wide, wide world, take a long deep breath. But don’t forget that the content creation journey, from ideation to publish, is ongoing. A good content strategy has a solid creation process in place, as well as a promotion plan for both pre- and post-release. Your job as a content marketer is to see every piece of content along its full journey. So don’t let the creation process distract from your post-publish distribution and promotion strategy, which are equally important.

And, as always, learn from your successes and your mistakes. Each piece of content you create is an experiment. Through proper monitoring and measurement of its performance, you will be able to tell what works for you and your organization. Use that knowledge to inform your efforts when you start the creation process anew for your next piece of content. And by establishing a set list of KPIs and measuring your content ROI, you’ll be able to prove the value of your content efforts and gain additional buy-in for future initiatives.