Content marketing can feel like a never-ending ordeal.
At the same time, we know content marketing is good for business.
Which is why we find the courage to approach that unnerving blank page week after week, always wondering what we can possibly write to convince our reader to become a customer.
Sometimes it feels like writing a sales page every day!
If you’re daunted by content marketing, today’s article should relieve some of your stress. You see, every piece of content doesn’t have to seal the deal and make the sale.
There’s a continuum to content marketing and no single article needs to span the entire spectrum.
Individual pieces of content don’t have to help your customer travel the entire journey from knowing nothing about your business to liking and trusting your business, to buying from your business, to eventually recommending your business (whew!).
Instead, break down the journey into smaller milestones and create content that meets them every step of the way.
Think about how individual pieces of content will take individual readers on one leg of their customer journeys.
Read on to discover how to take pressure off yourself (and your content) and think about your readers’ state of awareness before you write.
Pinpoint where they are by what they know
We’ve used the concept I’m about to share to think about and plan our content on Copyblogger this past year. And I’m exploring it in depth in my upcoming book on content marketing (read the first draft here).
Rather than expecting a single piece of content to do all the work for you, I want to encourage you to think about your content marketing as a body of work that your readers will search, discover, and consume on an as-needed basis.
Their needs will vary depending on how much they already know about your topic when they read a piece of content.
Let’s look at the main stopping points in your customer’s journey and go over the type of content that will meet her needs at each one.
Here are the three stopping points in the customer journey we’ll talk about below:
Beginner content: What is ___?
Your content will talk about a topic or set of topics. It will inform, entertain, and educate your readers. It will build trust and establish your authority.
Many visitors to your site will come in search of understanding and won’t be familiar with your topic at all. Your beginner content will explain it and define it for them.
The basic question beginner content answers is:
What is ___?
Smart content marketers ensure that their beginner content defines the topic in a way that positions their own website as an authoritative resource. Remember, at this stage you get to set the context, so use this content to benefit both your reader and your own business.
Use your beginner content to define your topic in a way that will serve your business goals.
Is this all too esoteric to understand? Let’s look at some concrete examples of beginner content.
If you write about organic gardening, for instance, your beginner content might sound like this:
- Why Organic Gardening Is Better for Your Health
- What Makes a Garden Organic?
- Why Is Organic Gardening More Expensive than Traditional Gardening?
Beginner content explains, defines, and sets context for your topic.
Here are examples from our own Copyblogger archives:
- What’s the Difference Between Content Marketing and Copywriting?
- What Is a Content Marketer?
- 4 Reasons Natural Authority Rocks and 4 Ways to Build It
Intermediate content: How do I do ___?
Intermediate readers already understand your topic. There may be fewer of them than there are beginners, but they’re enthusiastic, and that makes them excellent prospects.
The basic question intermediate content answers is:
How do I do ___?
They want to know how to use what they’re learning about your topic.
Use your intermediate content to help readers apply what you’re sharing to improve their lives.
Let’s see what intermediate content looks like in practice on our organic gardening website:
- 3 Simple Changes to Help You Go Organic in Your Garden This Year
- Organic Gardening Practices: Plan Your Kitchen Garden Today
- Organic Weed Control: Easy (and Cheap) Fixes to a Growing Problem
Intermediate content takes the topic you write about and helps readers apply it to their own lives.
Here are examples of intermediate content from the Copyblogger archives:
- 7 Fun and Easy Warm Ups to Start Your Writing Day
- How to Be a Copywriting Genius: The Brilliantly Sneaky Trick You Must Learn
- 10 Rules for Creating Content People Can Trust [SlideShare]
Advanced content: How do I get better at ___?
Advanced readers understand the topic you write about and they’ve applied that understanding to their own lives. They’re still enthusiastic — so enthusiastic that they’re craving mastery.
They want to get really good at what you teach. This makes them the best prospects of all!
The basic question advanced content answers is:
How do I get better at ___?
Advanced readers are ready to push forward and become experts.
And again, this content may be for a smaller group of people, so you’ll have fewer advanced posts. But these articles have an important job.
Use your advanced content to help readers achieve mastery.
What does advanced content look like in the wild?
Here are examples of advanced content for our organic gardening site:
- How to Increase Yields in Your Organic Vegetable Garden
- Maximize Efficiency (and Minimize Weeds) in Your Small-Space Kitchen Garden
- How to Plan and Plant an Award-Winning Organic Flower Garden
Advanced content shares insider tips and techniques used by experts. It helps advanced readers achieve mastery and gives beginner and intermediate readers something to aspire to.
Here are examples of advanced content from our Copyblogger archives:
- How to Use the ‘Rule of Three’ to Create Engaging Content
- How to Consistently Create Remarkable Content
- 5 Blissful Lessons These Nightmare Headlines Can Teach You
Think about the content continuum as you plan your editorial calendar
When you’re planning your content, think about a mix of information that will serve beginner, intermediate, and advanced readers.
When you think about your topic, ask yourself: “When beginners land on my site, how can I define my topic so they have a solid grasp of it — from my point of view?”
Use your beginner content to establish authority in your field of knowledge and set it in a context that benefits your business.
When you think about your intermediate readers, ask yourself: “What can I teach them to do that will help them apply what they’re learning and see results?”
Intermediate content helps them make a palpable change. And that how-to information keeps their enthusiasm high.
When you think about your advanced readers, ask yourself: “What can I teach them that will help them achieve mastery?”
Advanced content — although its audience won’t be as large as beginner content — shows readers you are knowledgeable and trustworthy. Even beginners can read it and think, “I will need this someday and now I know where I’ll find it.”
Advanced content establishes your business as a long-term resource that will grow with your reader every step of her journey.
This might be the cure for content marketing writer’s block
The first step to creating any piece of content is identifying what you’ll write about. Some of us are struck by writer’s block at this point, unsure of what to serve up to our audience of readers.
Just stepping back from your topic of choice and seeing it from the point of view of a beginner, intermediate, or advanced reader should give you more content ideas than you can handle.
You will serve your readers well, and your writer’s block days might be over.