Content marketing is the happening thing these days, the bleeding edge of marketing. But even though content marketing has been around for a long time, many people struggle to come up with content ideas—and designers are no exception.
Content marketing, at its most basic, is the creation of something useful that you give away for free. Now, the definition of “free” can waver a bit, as you might hide some content behind an email capture form, but for the most part, that’s still free, and few people are going to argue about giving you an email address when you’re giving them a free 100-page ebook.
So creating something free, that’s a simple concept to understand, and the basic bits of content marketing—blogging, vlogging, creating ebooks or other downloadables—are pretty straightforward, too.
But coming up with specific pieces of content can be much more difficult.
Content marketing is about getting the right people onto your website—and that requires narrowly targeted content
Remember, your whole goal here is to get people to your website. From there, your website has to do the heavy lifting to turn them into leads.
But if you’re not getting traffic in the first place, it’s going to be pretty hard to generate any leads from your website. That’s why you need the content—it’s the honey that draws in the flies.
The other difficulty, especially for designers, is that you’re going to feel super compelled to just create content that’s about beautiful designs, but that’s probably not what your audience is interested in.
Put yourself in their shoes. Think about who your audience is. They’re business folk, people who have a passion that is not design-oriented (in most cases, anyway).
These are people who may appreciate good design, who may even understand some basic design concepts, but they’re not going to be searching for design info—they’re not going to care much about the latest trends in CSS, for example.
Just as you wouldn’t design your own website to be just for your own use, neither should you design your content to only appeal to other designers.
Your audience cares about other things, and generally speaking, those things are business-oriented.
So, even though your content is about design, make that content business-oriented. Create narrowly targeted content that’s specific to the industry you’d most like to work with. Show your audience how they can use the principles of design to improve their business. This makes your content more likely to come up in a narrow search and more valuable to the people who might actually hire you.
Your content should appeal directly to your audience—the people you want to work with
Now, the specifics of what your readers care about are going to change from audience to audience and industry to industry, so what I’ve included here is a starting point. You’ll need to tweak your strategy to fit your audience and the industry you specialize in.
For example, one idea that I’ve included is a pre-designed email template. If you cater primarily to home builders, it will be fairly simple to tweak this idea. Pre-designed email templates for home builders (or contractors, or whatever word best fits your audience) is more specific, which means it’s more likely to draw in traffic and more specific to the type of person you want on your website.
A pre-designed email template is too general—it might draw in a thousand people, most of whom won’t have use for it. A pre-designed email template for home builders is more likely to draw in a home builder with whom you might do some business.
And that’s the goal, at the end of the day, when it comes to content marketing. To not just generate traffic on your website, but to generate traffic on your website that can turn into leads, drawing in your target audience so your website can market to them.
Content alone isn’t enough—you need to back it up with SEO efforts and social media
I swear I’ll give you the ideas in just a moment, but I want you to keep something else in mind before you start creating all this awesome content: the things you create will not draw in traffic alone. If you don’t spend some time on SEO and promoting the content through social media, your content probably isn’t going to reach your audience in the first place.
So have some sort of marketing strategy to get your content out to the wide world. If you build it, they will not come (unless you give them a little push).
The 9 content marketing ideas
Here are nine content marketing ideas created specifically with a designer’s audience in mind.
- A blog or vlog series about designing a website for conversion within a particular industry
- Pre-designed email templates for a specific industry
- An ebook discussing good and bad print and web design examples within a specific industry
- An ebook filled with print and web design suggestions and ideas for a specific industry
- A webinar series on the importance of design and user experience for websites within a specific industry
- A comparison sheet discussing the pros and cons of buying a custom logo vs buying a crowdsourced logo
- A comparison sheet discussing the pros and cons of buying a custom website vs buying a template website
- A case study on a website in a particular industry that’s well-designed and converts well and a case study on a website in the same industry that’s poorly designed and that doesn’t convert well
- Pre-designed pay-per-click ad templates for a specific industry
The key to success is targeting narrowly
You’ll notice that the words “specific industry” keep showing up in my ideas.
As I discussed above, your content isn’t going to perform well if it’s not targeted narrowly to your audience—the more industry-specific a piece of content is, the better.
The truth is, the internet is overrun by generalized templates, lists, downloadables, and other forms of content marketing. You’re not going to grab that generalized audience because they’ve already been grabbed—you’re just not going to compete well with a lot of the generalized content that’s already out there.
And why would you want to? You don’t want a bunch of randoms on your website who probably aren’t the right audience for you, who probably aren’t going to be interested in actually contacting you or working with you.
Instead, you want people who work within a specific industry, either one you currently specialize in or one you’d like to specialize in. These people are going to get more value out of your content (because it’s made just for them), and they’re going to be more likely to approach you for paid work.
Narrow targeting is the key to effective marketing generally, but if you’re not sure who these people are that you’re targeting, if you have only a vague idea of who they are, or if you’re just targeting by industry, you probably need a customer persona template to help you target even more narrowly.
“The further you can narrow and segment your audience, the better. ” Now get out there and create some content! Good luck, designer.