Great content is everywhere: sometimes it is already written, but lacking polish and the right choice of words. Sometimes it is just an idea, an item on your wish list. Either way, what stops it being an effective marketing tool and lead generator is a lack of strategy and planning.

There are 3 key elements in an effective content marketing strategy:

1. Existing content

There may be valuable content already on your website or in other marketing materials that simply needs to be edited, repurposed or improved to make it less about you, and more about the solution your customer is seeking.

For example, if your content is complex or lengthy it’s often helpful to divide it into several shorter pieces, or add a visual element like an infographic to simply the message. This will make your customers more likely to read the whole piece, absorb the most important details and avoid information overload.

2. New content

Fresh content can be created to demonstrate your expertise, understanding of customer needs and ability to solve their problems.

If you’re not sure where to start, look at what your competitors are doing – or more importantly, what they’re NOT doing. Is there a gap in the information available that you could fill and in doing so, provide value to your customers?

Your current customers are also a great source of ideas for new content. It’s just a matter of asking them! People love to share their opinion, so whether it’s an email to your customer database or a quick poll on Facebook – ask them what they want more (or less) of, their challenges, problems and needs.

3. A structured communication plan

Great content is nothing without a plan.

It’s vital that you continually and consistently share your content over time using the channels preferred by your ideal customer. This may include regular posts on social media, email newsletters or a blog.

Content marketing is an essential part of any long term business growth strategy. Driven by information and entertainment rather than traditional sales or advertising methodology, it is viewed far more positively and with less resistance by customers. This allows businesses to earn trust, confidence and more sales – by growing not just a customer base, but a loyal following of brand advocates.