It's quite possible that you have a day job...that's not content marketing. In fact, you may not have a marketing title or even employ someone with one. Yet in the context of today's socially-driven world, it doesn't matter whether content marketing is your first love or a passing fancy, you need to understand how to make it part of your business' marketing mix. The terrific thing about content is that it is already woven into every part of your life, from sitcoms to trade publications and cat GIFs to political news.

Start small and build upon your learnings--all it takes is a few strategic shifts to make it part of your marketing practices.

1. Know your customer. Hopefully, your products or services were conceived of with your customer in mind and your content should be no different. All content arises from understanding what they customer needs and ends with meeting those needs. Highly effective content marketers have a deep, if not intimate, understanding of their customers. It is never about you; it is always about them. If you see the world through your customers' eyes, the right content will naturally follow.

2. Focus on relationships. This is particularly significant in the age of social: You need to be "listening more than you talk" so that you stay attuned to your customers' interests and issues. If you are listening, and you can offer advice or assistance with your content--even a link to a useful article or blog post that you didn't write--share it to show how much you care. Relationship building is not just reactive; it can also be proactive: It is very helpful to identify the influencers in your arena and court them with content. Remember that content has the power to connect you with customers and even transform them into your best brand advocates.

3. Be yourself. Possessing (and sharing) industry expertise is an effective way to be seen as a trusted ally, but don't use an overly formal authoritative or academic voice. The key to creating great content experiences is connecting with customers on a genuine, even emotional, level. It is also essential to be honest, straightforward and authentic, which is rewarded with consumer loyalty, recommendations, company investment and even a desire to work for the company.

4. Have a plan. Like pets and kids, content marketing is one of those things that really benefits from structure. Even if you don't have a marketer on the payroll, make it a goal of someone on your team (or several) to post to social media channels favored by your customers a few set times a day. You can also create a schedule for regular posts to the company or community blog. Having a plan not only ensures that you'll be a reliable fixture in your customers' day, it also makes your life easier. If creating content is an amorphous, abstract goal it becomes almost impossible to achieve. Setting realistic goals helps you stick with them.

5. Don't make it too hard. No one has unlimited time on their hands. And organizations of all sizes are working with a finite amount of time and resources to support their content marketing objectives. Part of this is setting a content creation plan that is something you can live with. There are also tools worth considering that may help ease your content burden, both in allowing you to more easily locate topics of interest to your customers, but also to enable you to better deliver content in a variety of channels, in order to reach your audience at the optimal time and place.

6. Create with (multi-) purpose. Powerful storytelling is not easy. From a tweet that takes off to a blog post that transforms a lead into a paying customer, a great deal of thought and effort goes into quality content. So you'll want to think of ways in which any content you create can be leveraged in a variety of ways. Sure, that means thinking about your optimal social channels but it also means thinking about how any content you create can be leveraged for speaking, white papers, newsletters, your site and on other industry sites as well.

7. Know what success looks like. Content is one of the more flexible and useful marketing tools that can be deployed across the customer life cycle--from lead generation and sales, to brand awareness, lead -nurturing and customer retention and loyalty. If you align your content plans with goals and metrics from the outset, you will be able to see your content work for you see your effort pay off.

Published on: May 6, 2016