If you’re trying to establish yourself as an expert or selling content such as a book, one of the best ways to build and nurture a mailing list of fans is to distribute quality content on a regular basis. At this year’s BookExpo America, Fauzia Burke from FSB Associates, showed us how. Here’s her five-step plan, combined with some of my own knowledge of the subject, to help you create your own content marketing magic.
1: Identify Your Foundation
You must know to whom you will be sending your material and what tools you’re going to use. Once you’ve identified your target audience, you could just start adding their email addresses to your list, but it’s considered pretty bad form, and what’s the point of building a list if all your audience members unsubscribe, reporting you as a spammer? Instead, you want an “opt in” list that asks people to sign up. Marketing gurus says the goal isn’t to keep people on your list for the sake of having a large subscriber base…you want quality list members who are eager for your insights.
Once you start building your list, you’ll need to plan on sending messages, announcements, and content (we’ll talk about types in a moment) on a regular and predictable basis. Doing this will help you cultivate interest in your main goal or call to action—that particular action you want your readers to take, such as purchasing a book, registering for a workshop, or signing up for a private consultation. Finally, you must learn the tools that will help you deliver your content. Burke suggested the following as among her favorites:
- WordPress (FYI, this site is built using WordPress)
- Hootsuite (I use this tool to make posts to all my social media accounts from one dashboard)
- MailChimp (a wonderful email service I have used that’s free for lists with fewer than 2,000 addresses, and thus a great place to start)
- Constant Contact
- DropBox (another favorite of mine as well, I use this with my team to share SOPs, client files, and other important documents)
2. Pick the Elements
Content and content delivery avenues come in more flavors than Baskin Robbins ice cream! So you’ll want to spend a little time investigating your options before narrowing down the list to a few key choices. First, what kind of content do you want to share? Popular choices include:
- blog posts
- audio recordings
Second, what platforms will you use to share your content? You could email files directly or send marketing messages with links to download or view material. You could also use any number of social media outlets. Figure out where your audience is and choose tools that will help you reach them.
Probably your campaign will include a mix of content types and distribution venues, but, especially if this is your first content marketing campaign, make things easy on yourself and stick to three or fewer of each at a time.
3. Plan the Timing
Sources vary on how often you need to send to your list in order to keep people engaged. Probably you will offer different content types on a different schedule. For example, if you’re writing an inspirational book, you might offer your audience members a daily inspirational quote delivered to their inbox and also via Facebook and Twitter. But you might additionally offer a more detailed inspirational story via podcast once a month. In between, say weekly or biweekly, you might post new images and quotes to your Pinterest page.
Plan your timeline carefully and map things out at least six months in advance so you can properly promote whatever events or products you have on the horizon. Burke suggested a simple table that tracks the delivery system, the frequency with which you’ll post/send, what content you’re distributing, and what your goals are for each particular avenue. Download an example here.
Goals are crucial in any campaign—you’ll want to be clear, for example, that while your direct emails are intended to drive sales, your posts to Facebook may simply be to gain more Likes and from there encourage people to subscribe to your email list.
4. Keep Track (Metrics)
Speaking of which, you’ll want to institute some system for monitoring your results. If you aren’t using metrics (measurements of things like number of subscribers gained for each advertisement, or how many downloads a particular email earns you) you won’t have any basis for comparing your efforts. Remember what I said about sticking with just a few content and delivery types initially? Maybe you’ve chosen direct email, Facebook, and Twitter to sell your book. Keeping track of the right numbers will tell you if, say, Twitter hasn’t earned you a single sale or subscriber in six months. With that fact in hand, you can make better decisions about which methods to put more energy toward and which to stop.
The point of keeping track of your metrics is so that you can adjust your efforts, constantly fine-tuning to make sure you’re putting your time, energy, and other resources into activities that are actually bringing you results. There are tons of options—keep things simple for your own sanity, and keep things effective for your bottom line.
You must have patience, especially as you first begin experimenting with content marketing. You will learn as you go. So trust the process and let go of your expectations—be open to whatever your audience and your metrics are teaching you, and remain flexible so you can respond to changes in your marketplace. Burke suggests that it can take eighteen months to two years before you start to see significant results from your efforts, so hang in there.
Have you tried content marketing as a way of promoting your book or business? I’d love to know what kind of results you’re getting, or what kind of challenges you have. Let’s discuss in the comments section below!
Founder of The Writer’s Ally, Ally E. Machate is a bestselling book collaborator, award-winning editor, and expert publishing consultant who loves using her insider knowledge and experience with the publishing industry to lead serious authors toward success. She and her team live to help make great books happen, whether that means showing a writer how to improve a manuscript, get an agent, or self-publish; or coaching an author on growing her platform to sell more books. Since 1999, she has supported hundreds of authors on their publishing journey and takes pride in serving as their books’ best ally.