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4 tips to make content marketing part of the customer journey

Microsoft for Work Microsoft for Work , 8/26/2015
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More and more businesses are realizing that content marketing is a necessary means of communicating with customers. But it's hard to know what effect content marketing has on the bottom line. To make sure you're posting the most effective content, make sure it serves a purpose for the customers—giving them relevant information that they need—to keep them coming back to your business.

It's a never-ending cycle. Miss a beat, and customers may bail. But Jason Miller—the Senior Manager of Content Marketing at LinkedIn, author of Welcome to the Funnel, and a well known thought leader on content marketing—recently shared his content marketing tips with Microsoft for Work. Every business can apply these four tactics right now to see more results from their efforts.

1. "Don't complicate this stuff." 
Miller says. "The first thing you want to do is create content that answers your customers' questions. As professor and author Ann Handley says, 'Pathologically empathize with your customers.' Put yourself in their shoes. Our job as marketers is to answer tough questions for our prospects and do it better than anyone else."
You know your product or service better than anyone else, which means you should be able to explain the benefits to prospective customers better than anyone else. Always keep in mind their needs and approach your products with that in mind.

2. Make content relevant. 
"We don't need more content," Miller says, "We need more relevant content. Is what we write going to answer a question? Is there a need for the content we're writing? Is it going to drive an action or result? Does it hold the customer's hand on the journey?"

Anyone can write a blog or social media post, but to meet the needs of your customers, that blog or social post needs to give them information they can use. The content of your posts is the key to successful content marketing. Make sure each post is addressing a question your customers have or might have in the future, or helps them overcome a challenge they're experiencing. Content is more important than quantity.

3. Budget for content marketing. 
"If you don't have a budget for content marketing in 2015," Miller says, "you're missing out on opportunities. If you don't have a department dedicated to content marketing, you can reach out to an agency for help."

Content marketing is a powerful tool. So powerful that Miller thinks every company should budget specifically for it. Whether that budget takes the form of someone on the marketing team writing posts on a regular basis or hiring an advertising firm to create content makes no difference, as long as relevant posts are being created and are accessible to customers.

4. Start a blog. 
When asked to identify the one thing a business could do right now to experiment with content marketing, Miller says, "Start with a blog. The original piece of social media. It's not sexy, but if it has good info and answers relevant topics, that's great. Then, as that content is indexed by search engines over the course of time, it starts to pay off as the blog shows up in searches. If you write a blog today, you could make an impact within hours. One blog post, one idea, then keep going."

The blog is the social media rug that ties the room together.

Miller paraphrases The Big Lebowski when he says, "the blog is the social media rug that ties the room together." By which he means that the blog is the primary location for prospects to find content from your company. If the blog serves a purpose for customers, it's very likely they will read it, learn more about your company and, hopefully, take the next step.

What are your experiences with content marketing? What blogs have you found particularly useful? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.