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How Content Marketing Helps Your Enter Other Markets: A Step-by-Step Guide
Wondering how to hook customers in other countries and make corporate news and articles a valuable, independent product using content marketing? Evgeny Grudanov, the co-founder of the marketing agency Kraftblick, shares his promotion experience in the English-speaking space. NinjaPromo team finds his ideas really helpful!
Competition for the hearts of customers is increasing every year. One of the ways to succeed and get more potential customers (leads) is to set up a content marketing mechanism. We'll show why and how to do it in a series of two articles.

Our experience is based on working with IT companies and creating English-language content for an American audience, but these tips are applicable to any other business. Try them!

Content Marketing Stages

Even though the term "content marketing" has become trite in recent years, it isn't superfluous to clarify what it is. Content marketing is not just posting articles to your blog. It is a comprehensive promotion program that usually includes three main stages.

The first stage is strategy creation. Without a clearly defined strategy, we will wallow in a sea of the same type of content. The strategy includes the following:

  • Analysis of competitors
  • Development of the buyer persona
  • Creation of catchy topics that are of interest to the potential audience
  • Creation of a content plan

The second stage is content creation. During this stage, we create interesting and useful materials while thinking about how to reach potential customers. In addition to blog posts, content can also be the following:

  • Cases
  • Commercial pages (description of services)
  • Articles posted not only on your blog (guest posts) but also in other publications

The third stage is content promotion. It is foolish to expect a landslide of leads after writing a couple of articles and posting them on an unpopular corporate website. All materials have to be promoted by doing the following:

  • Distributing them to relevant social media groups
  • Adding them to content aggregators
  • Sending links individually

We will talk more about these processes later.

Why Companies Need Content Marketing

Many companies sell directly — sales specialists reach potential customers through cold calls, letters, or LinkedIn and offer services. Why do they need content marketing? There are several reasons.

1. Diversify channels. It is dangerous to depend entirely on one or two channels of customer acquisition. Content marketing can be an additional source of customer flow and support in difficult times.

2. Improve the impact of other channels. It is rare when a potential client, even one from other sources, such as meeting at a conference, doesn't check the company website. Content quality will directly influence whether the customer wants to communicate with you further or contact another partner.

3. Build a strong image. Good content helps to build an image of expertness that influences the cost of products.

Let's imagine that a customer from a logistics company needs an unconventional CRM system. He is looking for a contractor to develop this system and has two companies in mind.

The website for Company A has a modest mention on the Services page: "we develop unique CRM systems".
Company B has a separate page, "CRM Systems for Logistics Companies", with a bunch of details, links to specific cases based on project results, and blog posts about
development features for logistics companies.
Which company is the client more likely to contact?

Even if Company B is more expensive, the customer may well choose it — it is obvious that Company B knows what it's doing and has experience.

It is necessary to understand that content marketing is an effective way to attract traffic and leads, but it is far from a silver bullet. For this tool to work, you need to put a lot of effort, money, and knowledge into it. It is almost impossible to achieve serious success in a few months. For example, it once took six months for our blog to yield us the desired results. Now, this marketing channel is number one for Kraftblick, and the results are more than satisfying, but the price was very high (both financially and morally).

We do not recommend companies use the agile approach in the spirit of "let's try this for a month, and then we will see." Unfortunately, nothing good will be seen in a month.

Content Creation: A Step-by-Step Guide

You decided to try content marketing and start with publishing catchy articles on a corporate blog. What's next?

Step 1

Select the target audience and make a portrait of the buyer persona. Why do you need a buyer persona? It is needed for writing content not just for an abstract audience but also for people who can become real customers.

Many companies still have blogs with a mash-up of articles such as "How Our Friendly Team Celebrated the 8th March" or "How to Code an Airplane on Java and Fly Away to Distant Lands." Such articles are unlikely to bring in customers because they were written for another audience. From a practical point of view, the buyer portrait is needed to develop good topics later and not lose course during the subsequent writing of the article.

How do you make a portrait of a buyer? There are many instructions on the internet, from simple checklists to automatic generators. These guidelines suggest creating portraits with the entire background of the average reader, from family and social status to favorite books and TV shows. And, of course, do not forget to find a photograph of a particular person that the buyer persona should be associated with.

In theory, this method seems reasonable because we can get into the role of the customer and produce fascinating articles. However, after making up a couple of dozen buyer portraits in the standard way, we concluded that these methods do not work well in real life.

We came up with a dozen topics which were, in our opinion, supposed to be very interesting to our potential customers. Then we sent them to our customers with a request for honest comments on how interesting these topics are. The answer was, "Not very." As a result, we decided on the following method of creating a portrait of a buyer (and it worked):

1. Estimate the basic demographics: age, country, position. For example, a CTO, 45 years old, living in the USA (CTO, 45, US).

2. Look for specific problems and challenges that potential customers face. There is a good hack here: instead of trying to extort the hypothetical problems of a person who is probably thousands of miles away in a country with different cultures and customs, find job offerings and determine the solutions the employer expects to see from our customers. To do so, go to job websites (we used Indeed) and fill in the search bar with the desired position.
After that, thoroughly scan the content of the vacancies. Here are the problems and challenges we found for a chief technology officer (CTO) job posting:

  • Establish a technical vision for the company
  • Help external and internal interested parties determine technical requirements
  • Manage IT productivity

Looking ahead, these challenges are largely ready-made topics for articles; for example,

  • How CTOs Can Establish a Technical Vision for a Company
  • IT Performance Management: A Complete Guide for CTOs

3. Look for specific websites that our future readers visit.
Of course, the ideal option is to ask customers to send their browser history. However, in practice, this request is infeasible, so it's better to ask what sites they visit.
browser meme
One interesting point is that it is necessary to take into account that even people with high-position jobs can embellish their habits of consuming content. For example, a CTO may tell you that he reads the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, but in fact, he is so busy that there is only enough time to look through the latest threads on Reddit, and all the articles on professional topics are Googled or read by clicking on links from colleagues.

4. Visit websites of professional conferences. The topics of reports at good conferences are just a storehouse of useful information. For example, let's have a look at the schedule for the Chief Technology Officer Summit conference held in San Francisco.
Despite several trite themes, the overall picture of the interests of our audience is clearly visible.

5. Read the articles that typical customers share. It is best to use LinkedIn for this task. For Western people, Facebook is often a place only for family, friends, and cats.

6. Read the content in the Facebook and LinkedIn groups that potential customers join. Find groups that people with interesting positions subscribe to. Look at the content published there and what discussions cause heated debate.

7. Look for quality blogs of competitors and see what they post. All the work we described above may have already been done by competitors. Therefore, you can look through their blogs and write out the most interesting and relevant topics.

As a result of all this work, we will get a generalized portrait of the buyer persona, which will be our guide when preparing topics and writing materials.

Step 2

Choose the types of content. There may be several:

Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is articles that will not lose their relevance for a long time; for example,

  • How to develop an app like Uber
  • How to hire the best Salesforce consultants

The distinguishing feature is that people google questions that are answered in such articles. For example, here is the average number of people per month that search "how to develop an application like Uber":
Thus, with the right selection of keywords and good quality content, evergreen content can bring a decent amount of traffic and leads.

In this series, we will pay the most attention to evergreen content.

Content for Likes

These articles are designed in a way that prompts interested people to share them on social media, send to one another, comment on, etc. This type of content takes a big bet on emotions.

At the same time, readers are unlikely to intentionally search for such content. For instance, not many people are searching, "Why I hate Agile."

Because such content is emotional, it is more likely to "shoot," but it is necessary to know how to promote such articles perfectly; otherwise, they will go unnoticed. Plus, their lifecycle is usually short.
As soon as promotion activities end, the traffic to such articles dramatically decreases. After all, as we have already said, people most likely will not reach such materials by means of search engines because they simply do not enter the necessary queries.

Internal Content

These materials are those that the reader will stumble upon by already being on the site. It could include descriptions of services, cases, an About Us page, and so on. Such content is very important for converting a visitor into a lead, but it doesn't work alone.

Step 3

Select keywords. Let's suppose we have decided to write evergreen content. Its basis is well-chosen keywords that our potential customers may enter in Google. How do we find those words or "keys"? There are several methods to do so.

Method 1

Do you remember how we looked for problems, articles, topics of conferences, and so on when making our buyer portrait? Why not see what keywords people enter in the search form to find such content?

For this matter, we need some kind of keyword analysis service, such as Ahrefs. We can copy the link to an article and paste it into the Site Explorer section. Then we can see the keywords used for the article to be shown.
If we find something that suits us well, then we select such keys.

It's better to choose keywords that have a high number of queries, but the competition for getting to the first page is fierce. Both the number of queries and the number of pages using that keyword can be viewed on Ahrefs. Of course, these numbers are just approximate figures, and they are not always correct, but they can still provide an overview.

If we want to find keywords for a list of problems, we add a preliminary step: we enter the text of the problem into Google and select the most suitable articles. Then we enter these links into Ahrefs.

Method 2

For this method, we first need to collect the bases. Bases are broad keywords related to a topic. For example, if a company's developing language is Java, the basis could be "Java development." This key itself is a bit short, but it carries a bunch of features: extensions.

There are several ways to find the extensions:

1. Enter the basis into Google and check keywords at the bottom of the page. The system will select the keywords our basis is included in.
2. Use the free-of-charge Keyword Tool service. Paste the basis in there, and the service will select a set of extensions
After that, we can look through the keywords and figure out which of them are suitable for our topics.

Step 4

Choose a genre. It is important to decide which genre to use in the article so that it won't get lost in an ocean of the same type of content. In our experience, the following genres work best for companies.

  • Cases. In cases, you can tell what kind of problem the customer has faced and how heroically it was solved. If a case happens to showcase a person who has the same issue as the reader, and the solution is described in the material, then the reader will have a very powerful incentive to ask for details.

  • Stories. Since the birth of Homer and the Odyssey, this genre has been powerful. However, using it for marketing is not an easy task. The stories that usually work from a marketing point of view are the same cases but just well packaged and served through the prism of personal experience; for example, "How I Defeated the Dragon and Achieved a Positive ROI from the Enterprise Resources Planning System." Here's another example: How I Used Deep Learning to Train a Chatbot to Talk Like Me.

  • How-to articles. This type of content works great if it is properly prepared. Unfortunately, many companies make a typical mistake: they write instructions for people from their field (for example, IT companies write for programmers, "How to Patch X for Y"). However, potential customers usually don't get into such nuances because they're solving global business and management issues rather than configuring servers. Here is an example of a good how-to article: How to Manage Software Development in Slack.

  • Opinions. This type of article is one if we have sources for promotion. People still seldom look for opinions in search systems; therefore, Google will not flood you with traffic. However, there is a chance that it will blow up on social media and kick up a storm of discussions. An example of such content is I Hate Kanban.

  • Articles based on company data. At the base of such materials are research and analysis. It is extremely laborious to prepare these articles, but the result can be cool. This option is top of the line, and if you also choose good keywords, you can get traffic for a long time. An example of such article is A Data Driven Guide to Anchor Text.

If the blog isn't visited frequently, it is better to focus on articles that will help you gain a core of the audience: stories and opinions. How-tos can be used as well, but remember to choose your keywords properly.

If you already have traffic but aren't converting leads well, then you need to prepare more cases and articles based on data. These materials will confirm your expertise.

Step 5

Develop topics. It is a challenge to draw up a good quality topic, but there are a few ways that will help you out.

  • Use the information received from creating the buyer persona. Do you remember how we looked for problems, the names of reports at conferences, and so on? If you twist and refine that information a little, you can get ready-made catchy themes. It's also useful to ask existing customers about their KPIs, tasks, and problems. No top manager would refuse to read an article on how to achieve the goals set for the company (and therefore, get a bonus).

  • Use BuzzSumo. Popular content for your keywords can be found through this service. The topics of the popular material found on the website can be used to write even more high-quality content.
  • Use Quora. The Quora service of questions and answers is a repository of ideas for useful content. Enter the keywords and find out what questions have been asked on these topics. We can select the good questions and respond to them with the long version of the answers, which will be published on the blog later.
  • Use Ahrefs. We have already used the Ahrefs service to search for keywords, but it also allows us to look for popular articles by keywords. Go at the Content Explorer section f, enter the keywords, and read what other authors have written.
Having combined all these methods, develop 15–20 topics. Then, they need to be validated. You can ask yourself four questions for each topic to decide whether it is necessary to write an article for each of them or not:

1. Will the topic be of interest to the target audience?

2. Can we find interesting information on the topic?

3. Will the article be shared and liked on social media?

4. Will opinion leaders in the industry want to refer to it?

There are usually only three to five real pearls from the 20 topics after proper validation. Write articles on these topics.
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