Back in 2016, I blogged a lot, but the only distribution strategy (content promotion strategy) I had–like the majority of B2B companies–was posting links on social media. My traffic sucked.
It was shameful. I was trying to sell content marketing to B2B companies, and I hadn’t made it work for myself. I felt like a liar and a fraud.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2017. I revamped my blog, deleted all the posts and started researching and learning. I even hired consultants to help me figure out what was wrong.
And I discovered something: I was doing content marketing the wrong way. Yeah, I admit it.
I finally realized that if I wanted to make this thing work, I had to bite the bullet and start over. Again.
In November 2017, I wrote a detailed article targeting one clear audience: marketing managers in B2B SaaS startups who make over $1M in ARR in the Middle East. The article did well– better than the entire content of my blog in 2016.
In March 2018, I published the second article. This one was a beast and did very well. Suddenly, I had dozens of companies contacting me, asking if I could help them with their content marketing. I worked with some awesome clients, learned a lot, and things began to run more smoothly.
That’s the power of understanding your audience, writing customer-fit content, and putting that content in front of the right audience.
In October 2018, I posted the third article, which outranked the other two combined. It’s the one that inspired the article you’re reading right now. Here’s what that article achieved:
- Over 4,000 visitors in the first 4 days after hitting publish
- Almost 500 new email subscribers
- About to hit the first page of Google on a highly competitive term that gets 23k monthly searches
After all, that’s the end goal of doing content marketing.
In today’s article; I’ll share with you everything I did to achieve this. Let’s dive in!
The Big Secret: Pre-Promotion For My Article
My biggest content promotion mistake: I wasn’t targeting a clear audience, and I wasn’t promoting my content enough. I just didn’t like it when people told me to niche down and serve one audience. I wanted every blog post to appeal to everyone. Unfortunately, I was spinning my wheels.
I also learned not to focus on the quantity of content. Instead, I made every new piece count. I published one article every two to four months and I spent the rest of my time promoting the content I had.
I started thinking more about content promotion. Then an idea popped into my head; how about pre-promoting the article before even putting pen to paper?
Nothing too fancy, but focusing on the right things can make a huge impact.
The theory was that if my target influencers were interested in reading the article, I’d write it.
I had an idea in mind about the problem I was trying to solve with this article, of course, but I wanted to test a new approach.
Here’s what I did:
- Chose an audience-fit idea based on the insights I have on Hotjar
- Cherry-picked and narrowed down my influencers to 25 who’d be interested in the topic and might Tweet it
After seeing this success, I developed a new process for blogging that has worked perfectly. And I’ve distilled that process down for you here.
Step 1: Choose An Audience-fit Idea
Here’s something I wish someone had told me earlier: When you write a blog, you’re serving your market, not your brain.
Never assume that the ideas popping up in your brain are mind-blowing and interesting to your audience without verifying them first.
Brian Clark said in his Book, The “5 P” Approach to Copy that Crushes It: “Put me against the best writer in the world, and if I know the audience better, I’ll kick her or his ass, every time.”
Brian sums it all up. I’ve never seen a successful content marketing operation that succeeds by making assumptions about their audience.
“I think our audience will love this piece,” you say. “This blog is going to generate craploads of leads.”
Why? Why will your audience benefit from it? Why will it be popular? Why will influencers share it?
For example, I can assume that writing about how to promote affiliate offers in your company’s blog is a good idea. Why? Because it gives you another way to make money.
That’s great in an ideal world. But in the real world, my target audience was marketing managers at mid-sized companies who are wearing a lot of hats (social, content, marketing…) so an article about affiliate marketing was far too basic. Instead, I needed to get to the root of what they cared about. They wanted to build awareness.
They want to build awareness around their product. They want to drive qualified leads. They want to build a community. They’re not interested in my amazing article idea.
Unfortunately, finding topics that your audience is definitely interested in doesn’t come easy. Here’s the method I use to find them:
- Create a survey using a tool like Hotjar.com where you ask your audience about their struggles, their frustrations and their problems. The goal is to start with your audience’s pain points and then see if there are some low-competition keywords related to these problems. Put a link to your survey in your subscriber welcome email and publish the link on social media.
- Go through your customer support data, sort out of the most commonly asked questions related to your core service/product, and turn them into topics.
- Analyze your competitors’ content. What topics do they cover? And what keywords are they ranking for? It doesn’t hurt to spy on your peers and see what’s working for them.
Go ahead and install a survey tool and start researching your audience. Hotjar is a good tool for this and they have a free plan.
For example, my audience was made up almost entirely of e-commerce store owners. When I analyzed what topics they wanted me to cover based on the insights I had in Hotjar.com (see screenshot below), the majority had a budget but were struggling to market their business:
So, I sat down and wrote an article that offered four marketing strategies they could use to promote their business.
And I discovered that when you provide immense value, people will thank you for it. Some will apply the strategies by themselves and others will hire you to do it.
Or As Nathan Collier, B2B Content Marketer, says:
“To find ideas that convert directly to leads, you have to go beyond just writing content that’s ‘helpful.’ You have to deeply know the problems faced every day by your ideal customers. To do this, get on the phone or a conference call with someone from your target audience and ask them to talk about their biggest frustrations. If you do one, one-hour call a month with someone like this, I predict you’ll never run out of content ideas that speak directly to your customer’s main pain points.”
Yes, this takes time–but it’s worth it. What’s the point of writing content based on your own assumptions? Unless you’ve been dealing with your customers day in and day out, you should work backwards.
Now, let’s build our influencer’s targeted list.
Step 2: Build an Initial List of Your Targeted Influencers
The second step now is to build a list of highly targeted influencers that make sense for your topic of choice.
Essentially what I did was using two tools:
- Buzzsumo to find active influencers on Twitter, and
- Google sheets to organize my findings
First, sign up on Buzzsumo; they’ve got a free 30-day trial that’s more than enough to test this.
Second, you can play with Buzzsumo settings to find the best results possible:
You can search for people who use your targeted keyword (e.g: marketing) in their Twitter’s bio or have just shared an article recently about the same keyword. I recommend using both options.
Now, Buzzsumo will turn up a list of influencers:
Save the search and analyze it. I’d recommend you spend 2-4 hours on every list and dig deeper to build an initial list of the best influencers based on your preferences and their relevance to your content topic idea.
You can then turn your findings for better organization into a spreadsheet like this:
So basically what I mean by this is the following:
- Influencer’s Name: The name of the influencer on Twitter
- Twitter’s Handle: Their username or handle
- Their Email: Use a tool like Hunter.io to find their email addresses.
- Your Unique Personalization Angle: To stand out, you have to do some research to find something unique about your influencers to use in your email opening line. Read this article for more information on how to nail this.
The goal here is to build an initial list of the best results you found. Narrowing the list is what we will discuss now.
Step 3: Narrow Your Influencers To A Handful Of The Right Ones
A content marketer is aware of the benefits Facebook ads offer but may not be interested in them for now. Maybe someone on his team handles it.
A sales rep knows the importance of SEO but has more important things to do.
The point is: don’t reach out to an SEO guy thinking that he’s interested in your piece about marketing because SEO is related. Check his Twitter bio and the content he publishes. Spend just three minutes on research and you’ll know if he’s a good fit or not.
Never just go out there and assume. Always research and analyze and, only then, make your decision.
This is really easy stuff. You don’t need software or anything to narrow down your influencer list. And I always prefer to do the important things manually, anyway, for better results.
Influencer Outreach is still one of the best ways to promote your content. According to a recent study by Orbit Media, 43% of bloggers report “strong results” from it:
When I thought about the influencers on my list, I had over 85 names. I checked each influencer’s Twitter profile and narrowed that down to the 25 that were a perfect fit.
I was pretty sure that some of the 25 would not even reply to my email. But they were a good fit, which was better than emailing 85 influencers out of laziness.
Now that my list was set, how could I rope them in?
The “ask for a quote” strategy has been beaten to death and most influencers are sufficiently aware of it that they’ll probably ignore you.
I used a different approach.
I knew that the topic I told you about above–how to promote my ecommerce store–is a question these influencers hear every day. So, instead of asking for a quote, I adjusted the angle and made it about them, not me.
I told them I was sure they get asked this question all the time, and that instead of responding to everyone individually, they could reference my article.
See, I’d help them save lots of time answering emails and they wouldn’t even have to write the article. I had turned their help for me into a win for them as well. This way, they wouldn’t mind giving a quote and Tweeting a link.
Once again, I didn’t assume that they got the question frequently. When you spend enough time in your industry, you start to notice what people ask your influencers without having to ask them about it.
This is the email pitch I used:
And when I sent it, people were ready to participate in the article.
Here’s an example of a response I got. This one came from the head of global marketing at SEMrush:
Mazen AlDarrab, an expert e-commerce marketer:
And many more.
When I published the article, all the influencers tweeted it and people loved it.
For example, Mazen AlDarrab tweeted it and it got over 2k likes:
That’s the power of creating epic content and putting it in front of the right audience.
That’s it for today. But understand this: don’t go out there and follow my exact steps. Your business is different and so is your situation. Apply my approach, adjust it to your circumstances, and you’ll make it.
Here’s the summary of what I’ve discussed in this article:
- Put a system in place to tap into topic ideas from your target audience, be it a survey tool or a list of responses from email subscribers. The goal is to never rely on assumptions.
- Help key influencers/players in your industry by providing them with the type of content they can use and will be happy to share.
- Narrow your list of influencers to the right ones. Get this right: not every influencer in your niche is a perfect fit.
That is the crux of this article.
Over to you: how do you find topic ideas that convert and promote your content when it’s published? I’d love to hear from you.