The balance of power has shifted. We live in a digital era. And no longer can companies shove branded messages down the pipes of traditional passive media. The customer is in control. And if your message isn’t attractive, your competitor’s is just a click or a tap away.

The age before this one—a world of newspaper ads and billboards and, for a deep-pocketed few, TV commercials—seems truly ancient. And the remnants of that world, a world where marketing’s role is to force-feed company messages to a monolithic, undiscriminating audience is long, long gone. In the new world, marketers that seek to provide content that’s useful, informative, entertaining, and, above all, devoid of the traditional gimmicks of the sales pitch is generating more and more attention.

Which is how we come to you. You’re looking to content marketing to help get the word out about your business, your blog, your products—whatever you offer, you need to reach potential prospects. But the traditional scattershot methods aren’t delivering the results you want. Today, platforms like Infolinks let you get the word out about your business using online advertising, for example, that’s seamlessly woven into the browsing habits of the people you’re trying to reach.
The truth is that content marketing has always been around. From “soap” operas (produced in partnership with Procter & Gamble) to Furrow Magazine (produced by the John Deere Company since 1893) to IBM’s recent “Smarter Planet” campaign, companies have created content. At its most basic, content marketing is the creation and distribution of valuable material (blogs, videos, infographics, eBooks, and much, much more) that’s relevant for a clearly defined audience. The key word is valuable.

A good way to think about the difference between content marketing and traditional marketing is the difference between selling and educating. Content marketing educate people about their area of expertise, their knowledge of a marketplace, or their insights about an emerging trend. Content marketers aren’t selling anything. They’re sharing what they know. And that can be very valuable, without smacking of the sales-y gimmicks.

So what are the five essential steps you need to create a content marketing program?
– Identify your strengths
– Narrow your focus
– Create your content
– Spread the word, see how you do
– Make your content even better

Let’s look at each one of the essentials a little closer.

1. Identify your strengths
Your business has a core focus. Whether you’re a blogger or an entrepreneur or the marketing lead of a small business, you offer unique value. What is it? What are the two or three things your organization does better than anyone else you know?
To create successful content marketing, start with what you know. Then discover how that knowledge extends into the world.
The people that are dying to learn more about your business might not know the name of your business. But they know they’re interested in the thing your business does well. What do you know more about than nearly anyone else you know? That’s the starting point for your content marketing program.

2. Narrow your focus
Do you have those things in mind right now? Now, take a few moments to note two themes that arise out of your strengths that you know could help your audience. Here are some examples:
– An accountant focuses on the tax benefits of homeownership
– A visual artist cares deeply about the intersection of art and education
– A caterer who’s a passionate advocate of locally sourced food
Then, once you have a list of topics that you could create content about, narrow that list to something you can start with. If your budget is small, don’t worry. Think about beginning with, for example, an eBook. And then pulling the book’s content apart to create additional pieces: an infographic, an email, a shorter blog post on the same topic.
The great thing about content marketing is that as you narrow your focus there’s always the opportunity to divide your assets to get more life out of each one.

3. Create your content
It’s time. You know what you’re going to focus on. You’ve made a list and narrowed it. Now, create your content. But who’s going to do it?
If you’re not comfortable with this step, you might need to identify someone else in your company who can document your story well—whether they’re a writer, designer, filmmaker or an excellent content creator in some other way.
Here’s another useful tip related to creating the content that will help maintain your peace of mind: Develop an editorial calendar following these three steps:
– Make a list of your content
– Identify who is going to create the content
– Calendar the dates you’re going to share it with the world (more on this next)

4. Get the word out about your content
The great thing about our digitally connected world is that there are so many ways you can connect with potential customers.
– Social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn are perfect for targeting an interested audience
Native advertising solutions let you advertise your content where people are looking at content relevant to your business
– Email marketing gets your story in your audience’s Inbox

5. Make your content even better
When you begin marketing, keep track of how your content marketing campaigns are performing. Platforms like Facebook offer detailed reports of how well your advertising efforts are doing.
Once you know what’s resonating with customers and what’s not, you’ll have a roadmap for the next steps in your content marketing program. Here are a couple steps that’ll help get the most out of your content marketing efforts:
– Revisit your list of topics and assess their effectiveness
– Zero in on the platforms—Infolinks, LinkedIn—that are the best at getting people to your content
– See how you can augment the best-performing content with new insights, trends or other relevant information about the topic

Final thoughts on the essence of content marketing

Content marketing works because businesses like yours have solutions for people—your potential customers—looking to solve problems. Remember: The difference between content marketing and traditional marketing is that you’re not trying to sell anything. You’re just talking about what you know.
Put your expertise to work creating a content marketing program.
Above all, remember that the best content is valuable and relevant to your customers. Stay authentic. Educate—don’t sell. There’s no pressure. If you have something to say, you’ll be on your way to creating a successful content marketing program.

Author’s bio

Nitzan Gursky is the Marketing Team Leader at Infolinks.com, one of the largest monetization networks worldwide. Infolinks enables more than 200,000 publishers in 128 countries to create additional revenue stream from their sites’ unused ad space, with a suite of advanced ad units powered by real-time intent targeting.