The 11 Golden Rules of Content Marketing (Break Any and Fail Woefully!)

It may be no news to you that big brands like Motorola, Apple, and Microsoft have used – and are still using – content marketing to generate more leads and boost sales.

Also, the fact that content marketing helps businesses increase their conversion rates significantly may have become a cliché to you.

But wait, did you know that content marketing (yes, the same strategy that worked for the likes of Apple and Microsoft) isn’t working for many other businesses and brands, despite the huge funds they’re spending on their campaigns?

You ask why? Well, I’ll tell you the reason…

You see, no strategy – no matter how brilliant it is – will work if the rules guiding it are not followed. It’s the same for content marketing.

So, whether you’re aiming for lead generation, increased brand awareness, increased sales, or some other goal with your content marketing campaign, you must play by the rules – if you really want to achieve your desired goals.

In this post, I’ll be sharing with you 11 golden rules of content marketing. For you to succeed like Apple and Microsoft, you must follow these rules strictly. If you break any of them, well…

rules of content marketing

Now, let’s discuss the rules one by one:

1. Offer value

If your content is of no relevance to your readers or prospects, then your campaign will yield no results.

In a brief sentence, content marketing can be defined as “the exchange of valuable content for prospects’ trust and loyalty.” What this means is that the only currency you have in hand (to trade with) is value. And when you don’t have this currency, you simply can’t exchange it for something else (trust in this case).

So, your content must be valuable. It must answer provocative questions your prospects have been asking, and it must solve common problems they’ve been battling with.

If your content falls short of these, you won’t get your desired results.

2. Do not sell

With content marketing, you’re trying to build a level of trust among customers. You’re trying to prove to them that you’re the expert in your line of business. Only by offering relevant content – free – can you quickly achieve these.

You’ll be shooting yourself in the foot by sounding overly promotional. If you do, your prospects will activate their “scam detectors” and flee – into the waiting hands of your anxious competitors. (I’m sure you hate that.)

Promotional content abound all over the internet. You’ll find so many glorifying adjectives on the “about us” and “our services” pages of most websites. And attractive ads are sprinkled everywhere.

Well, before now, all these promotional tactics used to attract customers. But because most customers have been burned after falling for these tactics, they’re now more careful than ever. So, the moment they see anything like ads, sales pitches, seemingly-fake testimonials, or promotional pieces, they hit the “close” button immediately.

Now, let me tell you something. You may find it hard to believe, but it’s true:

When you offer relevant content that answers your prospects’ questions and solves their problems, they’ll buy whatever products and services you offer.

Now, running a content marketing campaign doesn’t mean you shouldn’t promote your products or services at all. You should, but minimally.

Content marketing experts recommend a 9:1 value-to-promotion ratio. Stick with that, and your prospects will respond positively to the promotional part.

3. Your content must be well written

The magnitude of the results of your content marketing campaign hinges largely on how well structured your content pieces are. So, you must ensure that your content is well-crafted, detailed, and free of grammatical errors.

Readers will get pissed if your blog posts are laden with unpardonable typos and obvious punctuation blunders. Your subscribers will never read past the first three pages of your free ebook if its structure and formatting looks amateurish.

To get the most from your content, you must create stellar pieces. In fact, companies like Microsoft and Apple have in-house copywriters whose job is to craft content that gets read and shared. You may not be able to afford that for now, but you can hire a freelance writer to help you if you’re not a good writer yourself or you don’t have time to write.

Remember, content marketing isn’t about text alone. It includes videos, podcasts, etc. So, just as your text must be well written, your videos or podcasts must be well packaged. If necessary, hire the right professionals to help you.

4. You must be factual

Nobody likes to be fooled. So, avoid offering misleading information – whether deliberately or mistakenly. You must always offer factual content.

Always conduct research to confirm your facts and statistics before sharing them. This will help you avoid an error that can ruin your business or brand quickly.

Always be honest with your facts, even when you think disclosing some of them won’t help your business. The truth is, prospects will respect you for your honesty, and they’ll reward you by doing business with you.

5. Offer content that is related to your business

For instance, being a freelance writer and content marketing strategist, I run this blog, on which I share content marketing strategies and tactics. You can see that the content I publish is closely related to the services I offer.

Similarly, for a dentist, offering blog posts, videos, podcasts, free ebooks, and presentations on dental health would be the most appropriate content marketing strategy. With that, he can easily position himself as an expert and attract more patients.

It simply won’t work if you’re a website developer and you’re running a blog on freelance writing or making money online – with the sole aim of attracting clients. How would you pass word across that you’re an expert web developer when you’re offering content about freelance writing? You’ll surely be mistaken for a freelance writer.

So, always offer content that is about your line of business. This way, you can easily prove your expertise to prospects and convince them to do business with you.

6. Show proof and results

Now, most prospects are no longer impressed with theory-only content. What they want are practical guides to solving their problems.

Even, merely offering practical guides won’t suffice. You must show them proof that your methods are really working. This is where case studies come into the whole picture.

So, you must publish case studies, presentations, and videos that show how your business has helped customers in the past. This will prove to your prospects that you’ve really mastered your business.

7. Be organized

Having an editorial calendar is very important, but sticking with it is even more important.

You must have a regular schedule for publishing your content. It may be once, twice, thrice, or more frequently on a weekly or monthly basis. But stick with it – strictly.

When your campaign operates by a fixed schedule, your prospects and customers will know when to expect new stuff from you. And in anticipation, they’ll set aside some time to really digest your content. (But this will only happen if they know you publish only at certain times.)

If you publish content haphazardly, you’ll retain less prospects and customers.

8. Don’t choke your prospects

Even your best food will trouble you if you take it in excess amounts. It’s the same for quality content. Though your content may perfectly suit the taste of your prospects, bombarding them with lots of it may be counterproductive.

Personally, I hate it when emails from a blogger start to get too frequent. And for this reason, I’ve unsubscribed from many mailing lists in the past. I don’t like it when someone tries to stuff my throat with more than I can swallow. I’m sure you don’t. And I’m sure your prospects don’t, too.

That your subscribers or prospects are always engaging with your content and giving you encouraging feedback shouldn’t incite you to start bombarding them with content. If you do, you’ll get them pissed, and they’ll stop following you. So, don’t ever mess with their loyalty to you.

9. Always allow for 2-way communication

One of the advantages of content marketing is that it creates an avenue for effective correspondence between you and your prospects. (Of course, no one can engage with ads or pieces of blatantly promotional content.)

So, you must maximize this advantage by actually opening communication channels with your prospects.

Encourage comments on your blog posts, conduct polls, use social media effectively, and welcome suggestions, recommendations, and ideas from your prospects. This way, you’re telling them that they matter a lot to your business and that you’ll like keep a long-term relationship with them.

10. Always add CTAs

Content marketing, of itself, isn’t an end. Rather, it’s a means to an end. It is the most important part of your lead generation machine because it attracts and convinces prospects. But, remember that your goal is beyond attracting or convincing prospects; your goal is to convert them.

Now, the truth is, content marketing won’t help you achieve that goal. (Conversion, I mean.) A clear and concise call-to-action (CTA) will make that happen – or almost happen.

After prospects have been successfully attracted and convinced, they need to be told what to do next. This is where the CTA comes in. You use it to prompt your prospects to take a particular action (subscribe, download, etc.).

CTAs help to push prospects further down the sales funnel. Without them, you’ll lose your prospects – even after successfully attracting and getting them convinced. (Painful isn’t it?)

So, add CTAs at strategic points within your content, to prevent your prospects from “evaporating.”

11. Always analyze

After rolling out your content marketing campaign, you must keep quantifying your individual strategies as well as the results you’re getting from each. This way, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.

Are your videos attracting more prospects than your free ebooks? Is your blog more effective in attracting clients? Or are you getting most of your customers through social media?

Only by analyzing your campaign can you find answers to crucial questions like these. Plus, you’ll know which strategies to ditch and which ones to focus more on.

Now, obey…

To get the desired results from your content marketing campaign, follow these 11 rules strictly. Don’t disobey even just one, as this may turn things against you. I wish you all the best.

Do you disagree with any part of this post? Or do you know of any additional rules? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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