What does your approach to content marketing look like?
It’s worth really considering that question – because, although potentially enormously powerful, content marketing is only going to deliver consistent results if it’s done properly. You could be putting out hundreds of pages worth of articles, infographics and downloadables – but if it’s not part of a focused plan, what you’re doing could be akin to printing a box full of fliers and tossing them into the wind; hoping they’ll end up in the hand of an interested customer.
An effective content strategy will be built on a few key considerations, including:
- Who your audience is
- Your audience’s situation
- Which formats you’ll choose
- The channels you’ll output on
Here, we’ll delve into how you can create a solid foundation for your content marketing plan – then make sure it’s implemented in the right way. Special thanks to NeONBRAND for the cover image.
What is content marketing?
Photo by Will Francis
There are a few definitions of content marketing out there – but, when boiled back, essentially it’s the creation and distribution of resources that offer value to your audience. There’s an infinite number of those resources of course – everything from written articles and infographics to podcasts and promo videos – in fact, the ‘content’ part of the equation is as broad as your imagination allows.
The ‘marketing’ part of the term is a bit trickier to quantify. It’s an ever-evolving balance between what’s relevant, where your content should appear, who your audience is and how frequently you should be transmitting. After you’ve put your content out to pasture, you then need to consider how effectively it’s delivering any return on your investment of time and resources.
Before we get down to laying out the framework of what a strategy like that might involve, there’s an important message to drive home:
Effective content marketing is based on value. Create something valuable for your audience and you’re on the way to winning.
Value is hard to create – and the evidence of that is all around us. There’s a lot of garbage marketing that’s dressed up as ‘valuable’ – but it’s not; it’s just noise. Lots of companies think that content marketing is about never shutting up – but that’s exactly the same approach as being the guy at the party who won’t stop speaking (slightly too loudly) about themselves. That’s not an enjoyable party – and you’re certainly not about to take advice from that person…
What do you hope to achieve?
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As with any marketing effort, the goal that’s driving your content marketing efforts should be defined. “We want more sales” or “We’d like more Facebook likes” isn’t going to cut it here – you should be thinking about how many more sales or likes (or any other relevant KPIs) – and who you’d like to be taking that action.
Content marketing can become a dense forest – so it really pays to be able to check back on your original goals and make sure you’re still forging the right path.
What does your audience look like?
What’s valuable to one person might be complete nonsense to another, so, to make sure your value is being delivered to the right people, you should think about who your audience is.
Fortunately, you can backwards-engineer this targeting. With the right analysis tools set up on your website, social channels and email marketing platforms, you should be able to get an idea of which demographics your audiences sit in. It’s also useful to talk to your customers too – feedback about what’s brought them to your brand or how they rate your current marketing can be invaluable.
Photo by rawpixel
When you’ve got this information, you can start to create a picture of the individual:
- What’s their age, gender, location, occupation, income, etc.
- Where do they currently source the product/service you’re selling?
- What kind of values and goals do they have?
- What sort of objections to your marketing should you expect?
- Why haven’t they bought elsewhere already?
That’s just a few points – but, when you’ve worked out who you’re going to be talking to, you can decide on a world of possibilities relating to the approach you take, where you take it, the tone you use, the buttons you should be pressing – and so forth.
Where are you right now?
You’ve probably already done some content marketing – even if you don’t realise it.
Now’s a good time to look at the branded information you’re putting into the world and decide whether or not it’s in line with what you’re hoping to achieve. It’s worth being through here – as everything you’ve created as the ability to impact your marketing performance.
- What have you created?
- Did it have a defined audience?
- Which platform is it on?
- How much did it cost?
- Is it delivering results?
Don’t beat yourself up if the content you’ve already created isn’t performing very well – instead, consider it all data. Look at what you’re currently doing and let it inform your next steps.
Where should you be publishing?
Photo by Hans Vivek
By building a picture of the audience you’re hoping to connect with, you’ll probably already have an idea of where they spend their time online – so these should be your areas of focus. Choose social platforms, third-party sites, and other arenas that house potential customers.
If you already have channels that are working for you, then it’s good idea to continue using these too – expanding your marketing efforts – rather than going back to square one and starting again.
What should you be publishing?
As we noted from the outset, content can really be anything that’s of value to your visitors – including:
- Blog articles
- Social media posts
- Case studies
- White papers
…and much more.
Now, it’s important to twin the content you’re creating to both the platform you’re using – if you’re creating B2B content on LinkedIn, you’re probably going to want to avoid memes – just the same as you’ll want to avoid white papers if you’re targeting young adults on Instagram. Thinking audience and platform first – then find the format(s) that fit.
What are the resources you’ll need?
As someone who creates content for others, I can tell you that a lack of organization around actually making it happen is common in a HUGE number of companies.
From the outset, you should add ‘managing content production’ to someone’s job role. Even if that someone is you – I’d recommend putting time aside each week to manage the process properly. Think about who’s in charge of creating the content, setting out clear expectations with that person, working to timescales, communicating, and so on. Then, think about the resources you and the people’s you’ve got creating content might require – and how you can quickly get them so you can keep on track.
Occasionally, it worth thinking about how you can quickly react to industry news too. It’s great to have a solid content production calendar that’s always delivered – but if you need to get something online pronto, it’s also good to have a quick-fire plan that allows you to stay ahead of the curve.
When will you publish?
Consistency is another important part of content marketing. It’s not uncommon to see social media teams fly out of the starting blocks with tons of enthusiasm – only for that to dwindle after a couple of action-packed weeks.
Photo by Alvaro Reyes
Hopefully, you’ve got your branding and corporate image somewhat together – and, if that’s the case, consistency is the key to unlocking brand-awareness, even if your audiences aren’t clicking or taking action immediately. TV commercials are a prime example of this; you might not jump out of your chair when you see a product you like – but familiarity builds trust, and trust makes you more likely to deal with that company going forward.
At the very least, create a calendar that lays out exactly what you’re going to be publishing and where. Better still (especially if you’re outsourcing some of your content creation) work on a project management tool like Basecamp, Asana, Trello – or one of the many others that are popping up. Most of these platforms will let you create individual projects that you can invite guests to access – and almost all give you a convenient space for you to upload, preview and amend files.
Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia
Now, there are full books that could be filled with how you can go about creating great content – but, for now, I’m going to keep the message simple:
Create something that doesn’t already exist – or, if it does already exist, do it better than anyone else has done.
That seems a tall order, I know – but don’t panic – better doesn’t always mean more in-depth. Better often just means more appealing, or more focused, or more concisely produced. If you’ve got a 25-page annual financial report – why not create an infographic from the main points? Or, if you’re looking to get a quick message over from a huge chunk of text, create a TL;DR version for people to scan while they’re queueing for coffee.
It’s also important to remember that you’re working on content marketing too. The motivation here is to provide value – but there are so many people who can’t help but throw in a wild sales pitch at the end of what they’re doing. If what you’re selling has some genuine value for the people who are engaging with the content – then sure, go for it – but if you’re just trying to ride the crest of a trending wave in an attempt to bag a conversion, then you’re getting into the realms of clickbait – rather than valuable content marketing.
Measuring your results
So, your campaign’s been running for days/weeks/months – but how does it hold up next to those goals you set at the outset?
With any marketing approach, the only way you can decide if your content marketing is effective is by measuring its return on the initial investment of time, money, and other resources. How you actually do this is going to be up to you – if you’ve got an eye for SEO, then you’ll be able to access a world of performance metrics with a tool like SEMRush – but it might be confusing overkill for non-SEO folk.
If the goals you set were around engagement, then your social platforms will offer plenty of statistics – and you can see when your content is being circulated by setting up a Google Alert based on key terms of your company details.
Measuring what you’re doing is absolutely vital to driving the conversions you’re looking for. Don’t expect to get content marketing right from the outset – as there are plenty of variables that you’ll need to keep an eye on – but with some careful (and honest) consideration around what you’re doing and how you can improve it, there’s unlikely to be a more cost-effective way to grow your brand and cement yourself as a trustworthy authority in your industry.