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Exceptional content marketing doesn’t just happen overnight: It takes time, a high-performing team, and commitment to a few best practices. To create and execute a solid content plan that delivers results, you must be equipped with the right strategy, tools, and tactics. And whether you’re new to the game or you’re an experienced professional looking to grow your effectiveness, these nine practices will help you achieve measurable content marketing success:

1. Know your audience.

Whether you’re creating a single piece of content or outlining your entire strategy, you must begin with a deep understanding of your audience. If you haven’t recently updated (or even created) your buyer personas, this should be your first step. With these personas in mind, you can better tailor your content to meet readers’ needs and provide them with the necessary information to keep them interested in your company — and nurture them through your funnel.

2. Do your research.

Researching existing content in your industry (and collecting compelling pieces) makes your creative process easier by offering you a place to look for ideas and inspiration. Through research, you can clearly identify what kind of content strikes a chord with members of your audience versus content that flops. Research also helps you find what’s missing from the conversations in your industry and see what common problems haven’t been solved yet — which gives you an opportunity to establish thought leadership in those topics more easily.

3. Develop a (documented) plan.

Structure can be helpful in many aspects of life, and content marketing is absolutely one of them. A well-crafted plan that sets realistic goals and illustrates the ways you’ll achieve them will help your team stay on task, meet deadlines, and track measurable progress.

But it’s not enough to just talk about it in your marketing meeting and move on. Content Marketing Institute found that 53 percent of the most effective B2B marketers have documented content strategies. Through attention to detail, equal distribution of responsibility, clear goals, and an organized, accessible copy of the plan, you can develop (and document) a plan that works for you.

4. Embrace authenticity.

In the digital age, it can be hard to remember that you’re writing for humans, not search engines or page-one rankings. Content marketers are learning to bring content and SEO together, but it’s still important to preserve your voice, mission, and goals in your content creation process. By practicing authentic thought leadership, you can connect with your audience on a genuine level with honest content, which builds trust and audience loyalty.

5. Take your time.

While brain dumping as much content as possible onto your company’s blog may be easy and result in more than a few blog posts, it won’t be effective or engaging for your target audience. Take the time to listen to your audience, and create content that focuses on their needs, problems, and interests. Worry less about getting the most content out in the shortest time, and prioritize getting the most out of your content instead — and remember that your content marketing results will take time, too.

6. Contribute content to external publications.

In addition to the obvious networking benefits that come with contributing content to mainstream and niche publications, it’s also a great vehicle for establishing authority and earning credibility. Look at it this way: If the readers of every article you contribute came back to your site to check out more related content, your traffic would increase dramatically, and your follower base would be sure to follow suit.

7. Build relationships and network.

Networking is critical to success in every aspect of business, your content marketing strategy included. By networking with industry influencers, thought leaders, bloggers, clients, and partners, you can increase your reach and grow your network. You can effectively network and build these relationships by advocating for brands you trust, quoting thought leaders in your content, congratulating industry peers on their successes, or mentioning others in your company’s social posts and newsletters.

8. Use the right distribution tools.

Content creation is a huge part of the content marketing process, but if none of it reaches your target audience, what’s the point? To distribute your content across a variety of social platforms efficiently and quickly, social distribution tools are key. At Influence & Co., we use HubSpot, which helps us streamline our inbound marketing efforts overall and schedule and distribute individual pieces of content. (You can check out this article for more of our favorite content distribution tools.)

9. Measure your efforts.

Finally, successful content marketers always track their efforts to objectively measure their success — and it all starts with effectively matching key metrics to content goals. By outlining goals and metrics early in your strategy, you can easily determine the success of your efforts as you go. Depending on your goals, you can track anything from the number of views and social shares to leads generated and sales cycle length — which will help you assess what kind of content performs well, measure what channels are most useful, and determine content marketing ROI.

As content marketing grows in practice, companies will continue allocating larger budgets to its execution, and marketers will be responsible for improving their efforts.It’s time to implement proven practices like these to achieve the success you’re looking for — and to maintain a competitive edge.