How to Make Sure Your Content Marketing Does the Job | Katonah NY Real Estate

Earlier today Darren talked about content marketing as a traffic generation strategy, and he mentioned the content marketing we did for the launch of Blog Wise.

The table he showed in that post, which breaks down the different sites we guest posted at, and the key messages we presented, points to an important fact about content marketing: planning really counts.

Where you’re used to writing for your own blog and readership, when it comes to writing for someone else’s (as in guest posting), planning is critical if you’re to make the most of that opportunity.

But even if you’re simply trying to use an email series or whitepaper to convert more of your site’s current, lurking readers into subscribers, you’ll want to plan the content to meet your needs, and those of the audience you’re targeting with it.

So I wanted to follow up Darren’s post with an explanation of how you can create a content outline that does both those things.

What is an outline?

An outline is not a headline. It’s not a rough explanation of what your post will cover (although this is what I’m usually sent as pitches for guest posts at ProBlogger).

An outline is a clear roadmap for the content that shows how that content will meet the needs of your blog business, and those of the target readers or users of that content.

Why write an outline? Because once you have that, you won’t have to worry about these strategic issues when it comes to creating the content. Instead of writing, freeform, until you’re done and then hoping that the content does what you want it to, this process lets you sit down and think strategically about what you’re doing, then sit down again, separately and in a different headspace, to write productively to meet that strategy.

Also, if you’re offering the content through some offsite location—say, as a guest post on someone else’s blog—once you have a good outline, it’ll be easy to chip off the relevant bits to send to the host blogger so that they can see that your content will meet the needs of their readers.

Creating your outline

Ready? Let’s get to it. First, we’re thinking strategically. So stop thinking like a writer, and start thinking like a marketer.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to look at the guest post I wrote for Goinswriter to promote Blog Wise, and show you how that developed.

Look at your needs

What do you need the content you’re using as a marketing tool to do?

With Blog Wise, we wanted our guest posts to:

  • promote the ebook
  • encourage clickthroughs to the sales page.

Pretty basic, right? Right.

Look at your audience’s needs

What does your audience need the content to do?

To answer this, you need to get to know your audience. In our case, that was pretty easy—we could look at Jeff’s blog and comments, and his social media interactions on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and get a feel for what his readers felt, needed, and wanted.

If you’re creating content—say a whitepaper—that you’ll distribute through someone else’s site, you’ll need to do similar research. Don’t hesitate to ask the site owner for information on their audience, though, as this can be a great help to you.

What did I feel Jeff’s audience needed the content to do? Here were my thoughts:

  • inspire their passion
  • help them write, whether they were bloggers, fiction writers, copywriters, or whatever
  • provide them with something candid and new.

Meet those needs with a concept

By “concept” I mean an idea that you want to communicate. I wanted to talk about Blog Wise in a way that:

  • inspired Jeff’s readers’ passion: so I decided to use Jeff himself (and the interview he did with us for Blog Wise) as the hook
  • helped them write: so I thought about a technique that helped me as a writer, regardless of what I’m writing
  • provided them with something new: the technique I thought about—having a “writer’s mindset”—wasn’t something I’d heard talked about before. I gave it a catchy name, “constant writing,” to give the article more obvious value, a title hook, and some serious punch.

Using this information, I decided I’d write a guest post that showed readers how to become constant writers. This met my needs and those of my readers—easily checked against the bullet points I made above.

Aspects of “concept” you might want to consider here include:

  • catchwords or phrases
  • content format
  • hooks and angles
  • titles.

Extend that concept into a content plan

Obviously your content plan will depend entirely on your concept and the format you’re using. A guest post outline is not an ebook outline, nor is it an email series outline, a video plan, or an infographic storyboard.

But whatever your format, your outline needs to be based around the key messages that communicates your concept to your audience. So you need to develop it with your target readers in mind.

By now, the needs you’re trying to meet should be ingrained and inherent in your thinking, so you can focus entirely on the readers and creating content that meets their needs.

Write down the key points you want to communicate to them, as sentences, subheadings, questions—whatever feels right. For my guest post, those key points were:

  • Jeff’s philosophy: just get started
  • Problem: how do you “just get started”?
  • Identify technique: pro writers are constant writers
  • What is constant writing? (explain the concept)
  • How does it work? (explain how it works in practice)
  • Conclusion.

That’s a good start, but it’s not really detailed enough for me to write the article yet, particularly in those latter sections. So I built it out.

  1. Intro
    • Explain Jeff’s philosophy: just get started.
    • Mention interview, and expand on what Jeff said.
    • Detail the problem: how do you “just get started”?.
    • Identify technique: pro writers are constant writers.
  2. What is constant writing? (explain the concept)
    • Mention writing “addiction” and the importance of loving expression.
    • Explain what constant writing isn’t: writing, completion, skills, becoming a “serious” writer or taking writing “seriously”.
    • Explain the point of constant writing: playing with words.
  3. How does it work? (explain how it works in practice)
    • Pay attention to your expression (with examples: email, text, etc.).
    • Read (examples: signs, t-shirts, books and magazines).
    • Listen (conversations, announcements, songs).
  4. Conclusion: Show readers how they’ll change if they put this philosophy into practice, to become constant, addicted, writers.

Houston, we have an outline

Yes! We have an outline! As you can see, some of those bullet points from my concept have become section subheads. Where I’ve needed to clarify my own thinking, I’ve expanded on those points.

Now I can objectively sit back, read this outline, and make sure that I honestly feel it will meet Jeff’s readers’ needs, as I listed them at the outset.

Next? The pitch.

Pitching your content

I could have sent Jeff this outline, but I expected he probably didn’t need to see the inner machinations of my mind. Instead, I summed it up in an email…

“I wanted to ask if we’d be able to write a guest post for your blog to help promote your inclusion in the ebook. The post I had in mind would take your “just get started” philosophy of productivity and present one idea for making that happen. The idea is creative practice, rather than creative production. So, rather than sitting down to write an article, this post argues, sit down to play with words and ideas.

“Write without a goal; write to experiment; write to get practice working with words—this would be the thrust of this article, which provides practical tips for getting started, and argues that an experimental approach takes the pressure off, allowing the writer the freedom to sit down and write a five-line lyric if they want, or 500 words of prose. The post would advocate this as a good way not just to build the creative muscle, but also, to give yourself the potential to discover new aspects of your writing which could be useful, or easily translate, into better, more resonant professional writing/blogging.

“I expect this piece would come in at around 1000 words, and it would of course include a link back to the productivity ebook on ProBlogger. Let me know if you’d be interested in this post for your blog, because I’m really keen to write it and see how your audience feels about the idea 🙂 Of course, if you don’t feel it’s appropriate, that’s no problem at all.”

As you can see, this summation is a digestible, sensitive version of the nuts-and-bolts outline. I’m trying to tell Jeff what I’ll communicate and why it’s of benefit to his readers, rather than give him a laundry list of subheadings. That said, sometimes, a laundy list of subheadings is a great thing to send through, especially with posts that seem nebulous or unusual. I guess the most important thing to note here is that I didn’t write to Jeff and say something like this:

“I have an idea for a guest post on your site about writing productivity. The article is “Constant Writing: the productivity secret of pro writers”. Do you think it would be of interest?”

This is no way to either build rapport with the person who’s hosting your marketing effort, or inform them of the value of your piece. The outline I sent Jeff explains specifically:

  • what his readers will get out of the content,
  • through what discussions, and
  • how the content will benefit the host blogger himself.

If your content marketing pitch does this, you’re on a winner. From here, it’s likely you’ll be able to navigate any hurdles the host blogger throws up and, when it comes to write your piece, you’ll basically know on a subconscious level what you’re doing and why—which will show clearly in your writing.

Do you plan your content marketing efforts?

if you think having an outline like this would be handy in giving your guest posts the greatest impact, imagine what it can do for your email subscription series, your free ebook, or your whitepaper.

Outlines make content marketing easier. Do you use them? Will you try? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.

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