It’s fun to look back sometimes at how certain things that happened in your life led you to where you are now. For example, when I decided to give full-time freelance writing a shot 13 years ago, things were very different than they are today.
Some marketers had just started using the term “content marketing” to describe using different kinds of content to raise brand awareness and drive traffic to their websites. I had spent most of my career writing print and digital newsletter articles, which is basically what content marketing was before somebody came up with this term.
Blogging Drives Content Explosion
At the time, I had no way of knowing that the demand for content was about to go to go through the roof. This was driven largely by the blogging revolution, which started within a year or two of me going full-time freelance. The internet allows anyone to be a publisher so all of a sudden everyone wanted to publish a blog — and most businesses wanted to hire someone to write it for them.
This was especially true in the financial services industry where I specialize. Banks, credit unions, insurance companies, financial and investment advisors — they all needed writers to crank out copy on a consistent basis. Before long I had as much blog and article writing as I could handle.
Over the past decade I have written just about every kind of content imaginable for hundreds of clients, mostly in the financial services industry. One common question I get from businesses and professionals is what type of content should they be creating?
Here are the main types of content used by marketers today, along with my thoughts on how to best use them.
Blogs and Articles
These are the foundation of most content marketing programs today. There are lots of benefits to publishing blogs and articles.
For starters, they help position you as an expert in your field. By pointing customers and prospects to your blog, you can show them that you know what you’re talking about when it comes to managing an investment portfolio, devising retirement planning strategies or whatever service you deliver.
Blogging is also critical to driving more traffic to your website by ranking high in the search engines — a strategy referred to as search engine optimization, or SEO. One of the factors search engines consider when ranking sites is how often content is updated. Blogging is a great way to update your site’s content on a regular basis.
Whitepapers and E-books
Also sometimes referred to as long-form writing, these offer an opportunity to take a deeper dive and dig into into a subject in more detail. For example, while most blogs and articles are in the 500-1,000 word range, whitepapers and e-books are usually 2,000-3,000 words or longer.
These usually work best as lead generation tools. For example, you can offer a free download of a whitepaper or e-book on your website in exchange for a visitor’s email address and/or phone number you can use to follow up with them.
Another strategy is to combine a series of blogs or articles about a particular topic into a long-form piece of content. You can also take the opposite approach by breaking up a whitepaper or e-book into several shorter blogs.
I’ve written hundreds of case studies over the years, mostly for business-to-business (or B2B) content marketing programs. These allow businesses to demonstrate specifically how they helped customers solve problems or take advantage of opportunities.
Case studies are especially effective in high-tech industries where it’s often easier to show how a product or service is used than try to explain it. You’ll usually need to work with a satisfied client who’s willing to let you tell their story. Sometimes clients prefer to remain anonymous, which is usually fine — this doesn’t lessen the impact of their story.
Slideshows and Infographics
These are growing more popular among marketers as ways to take reams of data and present it in a visually attractive, easy-to-understand way. They tend to be highly shareable when done well, which can make them effective content marketing tools.
You can easily convert a PowerPoint presentation, PDF or Word document into a marketing slideshow or infographic using the Slideshare website and app. If you want to do something a little more sophisticated, you’ll probably be better off hiring a graphic designer.
Podcasts and Videos
These are also becoming more common as the production costs go down, lowering the barriers to entry. People can watch and listen to podcasts and videos practically anywhere now with their smart devices. Like blogs, they’re a great way to position yourself as an expert in your field and your business as a leading authority in your industry.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
One of the biggest keys to content marketing success is not spreading yourself too thin. Focus on two or maybe three types of content first and make sure it’s high quality. Then you can expand as your comfort level and resources allow.