Words matter. The words you associate with your organization, website, and overall branding strategy matter. One of the biggest elements in successfully managing those words is through an effective Content Marketing strategy.
“I know words, I have the best words.”? - Your Website, probably
Words matter. The words you associate with your organization, website, and overall branding strategy matter.
One of the biggest elements in successfully managing those words is through an effective Content Marketing strategy.
(If you’ve never heard of “Content Marketing” prior to this moment, welcome to 2018! We’re glad you could join us! Now, pause reading this article and check out the Content Marketing 101 guide from the brilliant minds at Content Marketing Institute. When you’re done, come on back.)
TL;DR: Content marketing works as a lead generation strategy because it gives to prospects rather than asking them for something.
The data supports just how much buyers crave helpful content. Dragon Search Marketing reported that 61 percent of consumers are influenced by custom content.
The key takeaway there is “helpful” content over “high volumes” of content. Churning out blog post after blog post of things that don’t directly help your target market isn’t an effective content strategy?—no matter how brilliant the writing.
For example, if you’re a car mechanic looking to attract more customers, don’t feature in-depth blog posts about rebuilding a carburetor. Your target buyers (those who’d rather pay for a mechanic’s services rather than DIY it) don’t care about how to fix a carburetor; they’d rather have you do it.
Don’t blog about how to fix this. Blog about what to look for in a good mechanic.
What happens instead is that your lacking content strategy attracts readers who will never buy your product but who will gladly take your free insights. It might be good content for other mechanics, but your business doesn’t thrive off of other mechanics; it thrives off ordinary people.
This scenario happens all too frequently in fledgling content marketing strategies, but it doesn’t have to.
Here are 9 tips from a digital marketing agency on how to take your content marketing from erratic blog posting to a stellar content strategy:
Step 1: Map your buyers’ journeys.
Not everyone will follow the same funnel toward the ultimate purchase or use of your product. Think about the types of individuals who are involved in the purchase and use of your product. There are a few questions to keep in mind here:
What do they need?
What do they want?
Is the person making the purchasing decision the same as the one who will use your goods/services most often?
After you get a general idea of what will attract your buyers to your product, get a feel for how they’ll get from first hearing about your product to the point of purchase.
Don’t neglect to think about the post-purchase options your buyer has as well. How will you get your consumers to return back to your product or service? What options do they have for sharing their experiences with others?
Step 2: Perfect Your Personas
Now that you have a general idea for where your buyers should go, craft an idea of what type of person would be interested in going through that buyers’ journey. Personas can be developed through three distinct lenses:
- Product Users
- Decision Makers
- Decision Influencers
Give each person an actual name and identity. Think through their thoughts, feelings, desires, apprehensions, and hidden stresses that might affect their day-to-day actions. What pain points does your product or service solve for them? What anxieties could your company alleviate? What other hidden fears or benefits possibly influence how they’d receive your content?
As seemingly realistic as you think you’re making your personas, NEVER CREATE YOUR PERSONAS IN A VACUUM.
Each persona should be based on data rather than assumptions about your industry. This is especially important if you work in a predominantly white or all-male industry. The tendency for startups (particularly tech startups) is to make the default target market white males in their mid-to-late 20s or early 30s for a user and a slightly-older-and-less-tech-savvy white guy for a decision maker’s persona.
Talk to as many people as feasible while working on personas. Don’t know where to start in gathering that data? Here are a few places:
- Sales team
- Customer service team
- Anecdotal data from online surveys
- User reviews
This is where the art of marketing comes into play far more than the science. Find out what you can from customers, lost customers, prospects who opted for another vendor, and even employees.
Beginning marketers often rush through this stage and the research involved. But without this stage, you won’t be able to write effective content that actually helps sell your product to the people who need your help the most.
Step 3: Run a Content Audit
Now that you’ve clearly defined the audiences that you are creating content for, you’ve now got to go through the daunting task of unpacking everything that’s built up over time.
Get real with your content.
It’s most effective to start an Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc and comb through your website’s blog posts, eBooks, white papers, etc. and notate everything.
Key elements of a successful content audit include:
- Title of the piece
- Date it went live to your audience
- URL of where that piece lives
- Keywords of that content
- General summary of the piece
- Intended audience
- Engagement metrics
- Where you’ve shared the content on social media
If your content doesn’t speak to one of your target audiences and has generally performed poorly, then cut the wheat from the chaff and move on. Put a laser focus on making the highest quality content that impacts the audience you’ve just defined. Anything other than just becomes fluff.
Step 4: Brainstorm Everything
By now, you’ve got your audience and a general understanding of what’s working vs what’s not.
Now is the time to fill in the gaps with a brainstorming session.
Helpful questions to ask when brainstorming:
- Where are the challenges in your program?
- Where could your message get lost?
- What type of content isn’t well-received by your target audience?
- What style of content delivery would be the best way to answer your audience’s question? (I.E. video or an infographic? Possibly a podcast?)
- How does your target audience consume your content? Are they more inclined to read your blog post on a desktop or watch a series of videos on their smartphone?
This is a good time for your content team to get together and write down everything. Spend an hour just throwing out ideas, noting everything, and don’t hold anything back. Once ideas have been exhausted, go through and prioritize those content ideas by what best suits your readers’ needs to what might be cool rather than functional for your target audience.
Step 5: Pick a Content Platform
Now that you know WHO you are creating content for, WHY that content is important to them, WHAT that content needs to be and WHERE that content needs to be distributed and HOW it should appear to each user?—it’s finally time to determine the platform that will host your content.
This often boils down to one of two things: a Content Management System (CMS) or a Digital Experience Platform (DXP).
Regardless of your choice, there are a whole host of critical factors you need to weigh out when choosing a CMS or DXP. Some of these include:
- How many people will be using the system
- Whether a platform can handle multiple sites if your brand needs that
- How easy it is to manage and edit content with a quick turnaround
- Support provided for learning the CMS
- How this platform adjusts to your company’s needs 3 or more years down the road
Step 6: Create the Content
Finally, you’re ready to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
When your content team gets going, they really get going…
Write succinctly. Write for humans before writing for the SEO bots. Don’t keyword stuff. Remember the basics of English grammar. Don’t forget to spellcheck.
You know the drill. Get to writing.
Step 7: Content Promotion and Management
You’ve got your content. You know where it fits into the buyer’s journey. You’ve decided your platform and how it will be delivered. Now it’s time to get eyeballs onto your content.
You’ve already decided that only your select ideal type of audience needs this specific content?—?so how do you get it to them?
Look to how your varying personas engage with other content based on their needs and where they are in the buying cycle. Is your target a professional 45 year old male who might be at the earliest stages of his search? Then LinkedIn might be the right venue to promote your solutions based thought leadership.
What if your target is a millennial female consumer? Instagram or SnapChat might be better outlets for you.
Targeting prospects that might be mid-to-bottom funnel prospects? Your webinar might be enough to push them over the edge to move forward with your solution.
Maybe you need to educate users for people who have already purchased your solutions? Then upload your videos and tutorial articles to a user portal on your website.
When you do promote your content, have an end goal in mind. Think about your business goals and the ROI that you’ll obtain. Always track your results, and whenever possible tie those metrics back to an established business goal. Not only can this guide your future content plans, but can also help you prove value to other members of the organization and secure executive buy-in for additional content efforts.
Step 8: Refresh Old Content
You don’t have to exhaust your content creators by making them craft entirely new content. While not all of your old content will be winners, there will definitely be some gems in your old content.
This can be one of the most successful content marketing strategies if done properly.
Your content audit from Step 2 should be a huge help here. By including engagement metrics (e.g. page reads, links clicked, social media performance), you’ll have a better idea of what content your readers enjoyed consuming.
Don’t be afraid of refreshing once-successful content with a more ‘evergreen’ approach. You can also take multiple pieces of mediocre content from your content audit, repackage it and turn it into something worthwhile.
You don’t have to always recreate the wheel, but you may be able to take something that was a good idea, tweak it, and turn it into something better.
Step 9: Process Management
An effective content strategy is never finished.
User needs and behaviors change over time, and you should always be testing and seeking to improve on your content to maximize its effectiveness.
Make sure you’re staying on task and on message by having an agreed upon Editorial Calendar that guides your efforts. Set aside time on a monthly or at minimum a quarterly basis to update and adjust your editorial calendar as needed.
Don’t forget to keep tabs on Google’s algorithm changes as well as those changes on various social media platforms used by your organization. If you suddenly start seeing a decline in readership or engagement, see if there’s been an algorithm change, and tweak your content marketing strategy accordingly.
Final tip: See Content Marketing as a long-term strategy.
Any single content piece is unlikely to be attributable to massive gains in your business. However, a steady stream of relevant, topical, and highly focused content delivered directly to your target personas can have a substantial impact over time. Don’t give up too early, and don’t stop if you fail to see immediate returns.