Consider these four concepts as you attempt to cultivate a custom content marketing strategy that can yield a compelling campaign with a high propensity for consumer engagement.

Content Takeover Content Marketing

aol-lauri-baker-headshotGuest column by Lauri Baker, AOL Inc.

Yesterday, advertising was such an easy game to play.

And I do still believe in yesterday. In fact, when someone asks me about the best time to develop a custom content strategy for their brand, "yesterday" is my first response.

The reality is, many brands are off to the races when it comes to creating unique, compelling content. But for those who haven't reached the starting block, hope is not lost. In fact, there's still time to get caught up - but you must be prepared move fast.

With that in mind, here are four things to remember when kicking off your content marketing initiatives:

1. Developing a Content Marketing Strategy Is a Commitment

While some strategies may include Vines, that doesn't mean all good content happens in seven seconds or less. Rather, you should think of creating content as a long-term relationship. It is not a one-off 30-second commercial, or even a short-lived campaign. When done right, it will become an enduring facet of your brand. Even more importantly, when done properly, content will help your brand endure.

From the very inception of your content marketing strategy, you must acknowledge that you need a holistic, integrated, and constantly-evolving approach. As in all things, there is a balance. While your strategy should reflect the consistency and maturity of your brand, it should also be flexible enough to adapt to changes in your brand's vision, as well as the changing interests of your target audience.

2. Investing in Content Is a Choice... for Now

At some point in ancient history, typing class used to be an elective. (Read more...) could choose to learn to type if you thought it might come in handy someday, but it wasn't required for graduation. Clearly, knowing how to type is no longer a nice-to-have skill. If you want to get anywhere in this world, it is simply a requirement.

We're still in a period where custom content is a nice option to have, but this is changing very soon, and it doesn't take a genius to notice it. The once unassailable commercial has become - to the horror of marketers everywhere - skippable. Viewers have more control than ever over what they want to watch, and it is clear that they want to watch what's interesting, funny, inspiring, and cool. Consumer patience has never been lower, and the bar for good content continues to get higher.

Very soon, a solid content strategy will no longer be a choice, and brands that are scrambling to put one together - or who never bothered to consider it in the first place - will be increasingly irrelevant (and a few classes short of graduating into consumer favor). Do you want to be one of those brands?

3. Experimenting Early and Often Is Key, but Stay Informed

There has never been more ways to create and distribute content, which means there has never been more ways to experiment with the content you are creating and how you are distributing it. The possibilities are endless and the payoff is high, as customers reward innovation with loyalty. Now is the time to prioritize novel approaches, and offer viewers something that makes them think.

However, this experimentation cannot and should not result in a blindfolded swing of the bat. An unprecedented era of rich consumer data is upon us, and that data should inform and guide all of your brand's choices in innovation. But the guidance that this data provides should not lead you blindly to a formulaic strategy. Rather, your creativity and confidence in taking risks informed by this detailed data is the true recipe for success.

4. Building Relationships with Consumers Will Take Time

Content marketing builds a relationship with the consumer in a way that isn't possible with regular advertising. Providing readers with quality content that is not advertorial means that the consumer will perceive your brand in a completely different way. Instead of being pegged as "the annoying brand trying to sell me stuff," you'll become "the relevant brand sharing great content with me." This differentiation is priceless.

Of course, this change doesn't happen overnight. Building a unique, credible voice for your brand, in addition to consistently producing quality custom content, takes planning, creativity, patience, and skill. Most of all - it takes time.

Yesterday may be behind us, but the future has yet to be written. By seizing the reins of your content marketing today, you can ensure that your brand sees many promising tomorrows.

Lauri Baker is a pioneer for the development and launch of Partner Studio by AOL.

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