Content marketing is now a necessity. If you’re not doing it already, start now.

People have grown weary and suspicious of traditional marketing. PVRs allow us to skip TV ads, which is in fact one of the main reasons we have them. Far fewer people read print media than once did (I can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper or print magazine). Nobody is looking up at billboards – they’re all looking down at their phones. And the ads that do appear on our mobile devices or computers, we largely ignore. Who clicks on ads? Who even sees them?

And when it comes to Adwords, I don’t know about you but whenever I search something, I automatically skip the paid results and just start reading the search page at the organic results. I, like you, skip YouTube ads, unless it’s a compelling video that sucks me in in the first three seconds. You get the idea.

Content marketing is the key to staying competitive in today’s market.

This can mean a wide variety of things, depending on what best suits your brand: blogs, articles, guest posts, magazines – on and offline – social media, white papers, videos, podcasts, infographics, quizzes, contests, email…

Whatever forms – and there should be more than one – of content marketing you choose, there are certain basic best practices that make it work.

Here are six of them.

Have a strategy: This is imperative. According to research by the Content Marketing Institute, while half of marketers say they have a verbal content marketing strategy, only 27% of B2C marketers have put their strategy in writing but of those 27%, 43% say they are successful at tracking ROI compared with 23% for the total sample. Marketers with a written strategy are more successful than those without. You need a goal, and to know who you want to reach and how. You wouldn’t launch an outbound marketing campaign without first writing it down. Treat your content marketing just as seriously.

Create quality: Creating “good” content means different things depending on the industry but creating quality means the same thing across industries. Some companies think they can create subpar content and just game the SEO system. Those days are long gone.

Be original: Don’t just do what someone else is doing to try to copy something because someone else is successful.

Listen to your audience: This means knowing your target market and creating fitting content on the right platform for that market. It also means paying attention and figuring out what people want to see.

Be generous: Be generous with information, with data, with tips, tricks and advice. Give. Don’t take. Lately there’s been a surge of companies trying too hard with the push. As soon as you land on the webpage they’re demanding you take a survey or sign up for a newsletter. That behaviour is offputting to a lot of people, like me, who will just go somewhere else.

Let the conversation happen: Don’t try to control it. Content marketing is a two-way conversation. You can’t just take down negative comments on blogs or social media, or ignore people. You have be responsive and responsible to your audience and customers. That’s how trust and brand awareness grows.

(I got the picture here but I don’t know who created it. I thought it was fitting)

Originally published on LinkedIn