This month, Constant Contact is hosting a series of live marketing Q&As on the video streaming app Periscope.

The Q&As have been an incredible opportunity to engage with our small business audience — getting to hear your questions and offer tips to help you overcome your marketing challenges.

In our first event, Constant Contact Senior Manager of Content and Social Media Marketing, Dave Charest, joined us to discuss content marketing and offer helpful advice for creating impactful marketing content.

If you weren’t able to attend the event, don’t worry. Here’s a roundup of some of the frequently asked questions from our first Periscope Q&A.

What does content marketing mean to you?

At its core, content marketing is about trying to create customers that stay longer and spend more money with you. If you want a more textbook definition, I think we’d look at something like say, it’s the creation and promotion of content in all its forms — whether that’s text, video, audio — that’s designed to resonate and provide value to a well-defined audience with the ultimate goal of creating a profitable small business.

At its essence it’s really about creating customers that stay with you longer and spend more, and providing value to them.

Do you think there’s one form of content that works best or does it depend on your audience?

It really does depend on your audience. Ask yourself — how does your specific audience like to consume content?

I’m a reader — I enjoy reading. I don’t really like to watch video so if I’m in your target audience, I’m going to want to read something. It really boils down to what your audience is doing; it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with other forms of content.

From a content creation standpoint, you really want to look at what’s the most natural for you. Are you a writer? Are you more comfortable sitting down and talking about something? You can take whatever that form is and repackage it into something else. Something that was audio first can be transcribed and turned it into a blog post or guide.

What has worked best for Constant Contact?

I think it’s a combination of all of that. Since we have such a large audience, we try to hit all of those things so that people can use their preferences to choose what they like.

How can you best go about delivering content? Does it make sense give away knowledge for free?

I definitely think it makes sense for people to give away their knowledge, primarily for someone working with another business where you need to grow your authority. Giving away that knowledge and showing people that you know what you’re talking about really gives you an advantage over the competition.

If you think of all things being equal, if you’re looking for somebody that does X, Y, and Z — if company A has the thing that they offer and company B has the thing that they offer plus all this stuff that shows that they know what they’re talking about and demonstrates what they’re doing, most people will be more likely to choose the business that can show they know their stuff. It’s a great way for people to know, like, and trust you ahead of time, so it helps take that first interaction and start at a place that’s further down the line.

How can you improve email open rates with content marketing?

In terms of open rates, it’s really important to create stuff that’s relevant and valuable to the audience that you are speaking to. Any of your success with these mechanisms boils down to how well you know your audience.

Take the time to listen to them, speak to them, and when you do that you’re creating content from the customer’s point of view.

There are the things that you want to say and then there are the things that your customers want to hear. If you focus on that point of view, your subject lines and headlines on your posts are going to speak to somebody and resonate with them and that will help boost those open rates.

How can content marketing help you find new customers?

Content is what fuels the internet today. It’s what people search for, it’s what they consume and it’s what they share. When you have content that speaks to the things that they’re searching for, you’re the person that’s going to be found. If people are consuming that information and they want to share something with somebody else, you’ve got things that they can share.

It’s a big opportunity for you to have things that work into the natural way that people use the internet and social channels. If you focus on existing customers first, the people that they’re connected with make great prospects for your business in the future.

In your experience was there ever a moment where you saw content marketing really works?

It’s what we see as a trend. Think about your own experience. You’re looking for things that offer value to you, that help you solve a problem, and help you make a case to someone else. I used to do some work with a nonprofit theater company in New York and traditionally when you think about a theatre’s marketing, it’s usually to promote a show image and get people to buy tickets. Content marketing is more of this journey where you’re sharing things that are of interest to your audience and taking them along this path over time.

We changed it up and we started to look at how we could share a bit of the experience developing this theatre piece and what we were doing. How can we have something from the executive director, why did we choose these shows, why did this seem like the right choice here and interviews with the actors?

We wanted to bring people along for the development of the piece. That’s the stuff that they’re interested in because it’s exposing the show to them. And that’s the stuff that they can share and it’s stuff that the people in the show can easily share. It’s getting people to that point where when you say ‘hey buy tickets’ — they’re excited about it.You’re warming people up.

Are there any things that you think people should avoid when it comes to content marketing?

Stay away from just pitching your product and services.

All good things come from focusing on the audience that you’re trying to reach and helping them become more successful.

How can you provide content that does that for them? Definitely let people know that you have products and services that people can buy. Look for ways that you can do this that are relevant to the audience you are trying to reach, don’t be pitchy about it.

How can content marketing help email click-through rates?

Click-through rates again, if you’re starting with the audience, it’s really understanding their needs. Copywriting really comes into play there, you need to think of ways that when you’re building up or building a short piece of text towards the link that you want them to click.

Think of the value that they’re going to get from that click. Focus on what that action is — get this guide, read this post. That stuff can really help with those click-through rates. At the very basic level of this, it’s really about knowing your audience. The more you know about them and the more you know about how your content is going to resonate with them, the more you can get them to take those actions that you want people to take.

What’s the best way to get started with content marketing?

The best way to really get started with content marketing is to really understand who it is you’re trying to reach. Who is it that you’re talking to? What are the types of people that you’re trying to get to?

If you’re going to share a story with your mom, your best friend, and your spouse, the way that you share that story is probably going to be very different depending on whom that audience is. It’s the same thing with content marketing, when you’re thinking about what you need to share, what you need to say, or how you get started.

What are the questions that they always ask? What are the needs that they have? How can you come in with valuable content that will help them answer those questions and overcome those challenges?

It really starts with this intense focus on who you are trying to reach and speaking to them directly and specifically rather than keeping things general and vanilla.

Start to use their words and really understand what’s going on with them, that’s the stuff that’s really going to make a difference.  Once you find those things, pick the channel or what’s most comfortable for you to get started and just do it.

With the creation process, the next time you do it will be better. Don’t be afraid to move forward with it and make it better the next time. It’s all about that journey and there’s not much of a journey if you’re not producing anything and moving forward with that stuff.

Watch the recording of our first Periscope Q&A below

Can’t see the video. View it here