Once upon a time, there was a company. That company had a story to tell. They told it in such a way that all who read it understood why the company was a good company. And then they lived happily ever after.

Sponsored content is a bit more complex than this little tale, but good storytelling, in fact, works universally. It’s how we learn, how we connect, and how we share what matters. And readers will be drawn to a good story well told whether or not the authors paid to have it published.

But here’s the catch when it comes to sponsored content: the hero of your story should always be your customer. Follow along for a simple step by step guide to success with sponsored content for your brand.

Step 1: Start with your goal

Sponsored content is a powerful tool in your inbound arsenal, but it delivers the best results when mapped to a specific goal. Do you have a launch, announcement, or event? Be sure to publish the article in a timely manner coinciding with these, and support your goal through storytelling.

Remember, sponsored content is not the same as a press release. While the topic can focus on your brand, your product, or another element of your business, the reader should come away knowing, learning, or understanding something new that will answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Build brand awareness
Perhaps your company is a newcomer to the market, or you’ve taken a more passive marketing stance in the past. Shifting your brand to the top-of-mind and into the middle of conversations in your industry takes a concerted effort, and content is an effective way to facilitate that.

Be sure to think long-term — one isolated piece of content is not enough to establish your voice or build deeper engagement. Create a cadence of content, with articles and reports in a thoughtful sequence that build on one another.

Expert tip: Structure the article as though someone outside the company is writing it about your brand. For example, Inman Content Studio can develop the content for you and serve as the bylined writer.

Drive action and generate demand
Content isn’t the ideal channel to drive demand, as it’s not about immediate action as much as about building rapport and establishing credibility. But you can still compel your reader to engage with your brand through well-placed URLs within the article and by wrapping up with a specific call to action that relates to your story.

Expert tip: Run digital ads alongside your article for the overt call to action. On Inman.com, all sponsored content has 100% of the ad units on that page.

Show thought leadership
What is your brand’s point of view? Sometimes it’s better to let a person share that. Spotlight a member of your executive team with an article that showcases his or her take on a current and relevant sue. Highlight a person, connect that person’s voice to your company, and align that mindset with your product or solution.

Expert tip: if your executive is also a sought after speaker, sponsored content can help introduce her voice and perspective, ensuring people want to hear more of what she has to say at events.

Step 2: Choose a reputable publication where you will reach the right audience

It’s one thing to develop a great sponsored article. It’s quite another to publish it where your audience will find it. This begs the question of which is better: publishing on your own site, perhaps on a blog, or paying out of pocket to publish your article elsewhere.

Think like your prospect. They want to know you, like you and trust you. And while they may take the time to read through your blog, there is an innate advantage to publishing branded content in a publication they trust and engage with regularly.

Expert tip: get the Media Kit from the publication you hope to publish in to better understand their full demographic, their digital reach, and their performance. See that it matches your prospective audience and your reach goals. You can get the Inman Media Kit here.

Step 3: Distribute the article in the right, targeted channels

Now that your article is live on a reputable site, it’s easy to send the link out or have it found with organic search, which expands your digital footprint significantly. However, organic traffic does leave a bit to chance, so make sure your sponsored content includes a robust distribution strategy.

For example, sponsored content on Inman is promoted on the homepage for seven days, featured in daily email newsletters, promoted across article pages by topic, and posted on our social channels.

Expert tip: Target the impact of your nationally available content to specific markets that match your brand’s strategy. At Inman, we can target promotions for your content to a geographic area that best suits your overall goal or even to reach particular job functions.

Learn more about sponsored content and other inbound digital marketing opportunities with Inman.

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