Content marketing serves a dual purpose: to drive sales, and to educate.

When we talk about content marketing, a lot of the focus is naturally on how to sell your course. But there’s another component that is just as critical: providing expertise and education that establishes you as an industry leader and maintains your audience’s interest.

One of the great benefits of content marketing is that it allows you to do both these things at once—and test new ideas for course content on your audience while you’re at it. In other words, you shouldn’t think of your content strategy as separate from your course content. Instead, get them to work together, and you’ll have far more success with closing sales, increased learner satisfaction, and improved completion rates.

Ready to get started? Here’s how you can integrate your e-learning content strategy in five steps.

1. Consider your audience.

All good content strategies begin with an audience analysis. Knowing your learners helps you present the right information in the right way. Find out what motivates them to follow your material, what pain points you can solve for them, and how you can encourage and inspire them to succeed.

To some extent, you will have defined your audience yourself by targeting your message to a certain group of people. But it’s never wise to assume you know everything about that group—or that your initial assumptions about them were correct. So listen to the feedback you get from your audience, and respond accordingly. If they tell you what content they want you to create for them, all the better.

2. Choose your platform.

Content comes in many forms: text, audio, video, images, infographics, you name it. You can use any or all of these to reach your audience, but you will probably want to focus on one or two primary platforms to deliver your message.

A blog is the most obvious option, will do the most for your SEO, and is the most likely to bring in sustainable traffic. But if you’re already doing a blog, you can probably take that same content and re-record it as a podcast or YouTube series with minimal extra effort. The advantage here is that now you have a fantastic collection of videos to use in future courses.

3. Balance sales with instruction.

Not every piece of content has to be a hard sell. If it is, your marketing will seem self-serving, and your audience will diminish over time. Instead, use your content to develop relationships. When your learners see that they can engage with your content without navigating constant product pitches, they’ll be more likely to trust what you have to say.

Furthermore, by using your content to instruct, you give your learners a taste of what they came for. When they see that your video content has a certain production quality, or that your writing has a certain style of humor, they’re going to feel more comfortable signing up for your course. Hopefully they’ll even have learned something along the way.

4. Address new, creative, or breaking topics.

Course content, because it’s meant to be sold repeatedly, often has a slight lag. You want it to be relevant, but you probably don’t update it every month. Similarly, it tends to focus on the tried-and-true industry knowledge, rather than indulging in speculation.

Not so the blog. If something new comes out, your marketing content can be the first to share that information with your learners. You stay relevant without having to overcommit to what may be a passing story. And if you have predictions to make about trends in the upcoming years, you engage your learners without tampering with your otherwise grounded course material.

5. Capitalize on what resonates.

Some content will come and go without much notice on the part of your learners. But other content pieces may become unexpected lighting rods of interest. These are the ones you want to pay attention to and elaborate on.

When a piece of marketing content stirs up discussion, it could be because it touches on one of your audience’s top pain points. Or maybe it sparks a lot of ideas among learners, inspiring them to take action. Whatever the cause, take it as a sign that you should delve deeper into this topic. Doing so is likely to retain your audience’s interest, and after a while it may even find yourself with a new course.

Marketing content leads to course content.

To a certain extent, every piece of content you produce is (or should be) its own micro course. High-quality content marketing attracts people because it has value. It’s not just a fluff piece, but rather, it’s something created to benefit learners.

But after a time, that value can build up into something you can charge money for. It may require some re-arranging and editing. It will almost certainly require expanding. In that light, content marketing is something of a rough draft for your final course content.

However, by sharing this content with your audience and learning from their feedback, you can polish your rough draft into something outstanding. And you’ll do so with the assurance that there is a demand for that course material, and that the people most interested have volunteered the input you need to make that content phenomenal.

So, if you haven’t created an e-learning content strategy yet, now’s the time to get started. And if you have, think about giving it a closer look to see how it might work more closely with your course content. You may discover a new opportunity to expand your services, delight your audience, and build your profits.

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