The term “content marketing” has become so overused and misapplied.
In fact, many companies I speak with often believe they have not actually done content marketing unless they have put up a blog or generated an audience in social media.
Then there are those marketers who have pushed forward with creating so much horrible, boring, inconsequential and uninformative content – simply to generate clicks or to sell ads – that they saturated the Internet, abused the concept and turned people off.
So, let’s be clear: Content is critical to marketing.
Search engine results are critical to marketing.
But the biggest challenges facing you as a marketing, communications or public relations professional are:
- Not understanding who your customers are as people
- Cost constraints and
- Risk avoidance.
How do you avoid these pitfalls?
Ask A LOT of questions!
As professionals we need always ask questions such as: What do people like? What keeps them up at night? What makes them laugh, cringe, cry, pick up the phone, share, respond and act.
And we have to ask questions about each piece of content we are going to produce. Why are we doing this? What are our goals? Is this content valuable? If so, to whom? And why?
To me asking questions is the necessary building block to the story you really want to tell.
Content marketing isn’t going away and is not waning. But in when you enter a world that is filled with so many boring articles, deceptive headlines and uninformative insights, you need to work that much harder and force yourself to ask and understand what people want more than ever before.
In short, the only way to make your content marketing as effective as it can be is to have the best possible connection to the people you are trying to reach.
Often when I start a content marketing project or campaign, I am asked to create plans that help build up interest in a new product, service or announcement. Things that the company really cares about.
Yet, for companies that lack a new product, service or announcement, they struggle with considering what a content marketing campaign is for. Should they talk about past successes, find features of old products that could use a social media push or just start a random Instagram push to show that the staff is still alive?
The answer isn’t so obvious, especially to communication teams that have been doing the same things for a long time and comfortable with staying busy with the work they’re doing. That’s why communicators need to look deep into their website statistics to find future inspiration.
As I often tell people, content marketing isn’t about telling people just what your company does, it’s about telling the right people why you’re the expert they should talk to. You’re offering a solution to their challenge, not just a product that you want to sell. And web stats are a treasure trove of activity that helps teams understand what their audience is seeking when they arrive.
Ugh, I know. If you’re a communicator (I’m a former PR person and journalist), stats sounds a bit overwhelming but it isn’t. It’s a way of understanding your audience with the mindset that you’re delivering more of what they want to read.
To set the bar, I recommend looking at least six months of data (multiple years if available). Even if you have a data analyst on your team already, you should work to get access to the raw data (if you’re allowed) that you can parse, build trends, see advantages, discover challenges and the most important thing – what content is your current and future customers reading?
Data, even from free services such as Google Analytics, can help give you an idea of where readers are coming from, where they’re coming from and when they’re leaving. For a site with a great deal of content, the stat for “pages viewed per session” is always one of the most interesting points for content marketers. It gives a basis for how long readers are within your site and getting to the stuff that they want. For a tight site with a focus on one or two pages, a low “pages per session” number can indicate that you’ve done a great job. But for a company with 10 or more products, an average of 1-2 pages per visit clearly indicates that there’s a problem.
This is where doing a deeper analysis on those statistics can show which pages they’re going to, the amount of time they stayed for and how often they left your site. Your goal is to examine your most valuable content, learn why it’s valuable and apply that learning to other parts of your site.
Sadly, there’s no easy button. Analysis takes time. Conclusions take more time. But the return on that investment can significantly increase your content marketing success as well as decrease the amount of time spent creating “just content.”
Regardless of where you are with your content marketing plan, Social Web Tactics’ team of experts offers services to assist in helping you better understand your company, deciphering how customers see you and building content marketing campaigns based on your company’s success.
There’s a great deal of information on the web about how to implement a content marketing plan. But applying that plan can often be difficult for businesses that view it as a cure-all for proving their knowledge.
There are several different levels to a content marketing plan and the first part is to ask yourself how much content do you already have, how much will you need to create, what are your goals and do you have enough to talk about? The best content marketing successes often grow from the successes you’ve already grown.
As in life, there’s no easy button. When I talk to businesses looking to expand their presence or sales, I often ask how many experts do they have? This is the first crucial step in building a plan. If you have teams of experts, advisors and partners, they’re your best resort for not only understanding what your business does well but where it excels (or doesn’t). The greater the volume of experts, the bigger the story your business will be able to tell.
And your best subject matter experts (SME) are those with their noses in the news, eyes on the competition and brain focused on growing the business – salespeople, engineers and others within your business. The role of a content marketer isn’t to recreate the wheel for your business, it’s to improve the wheel you already have and build a marketing vehicle for growth.
Yet, there can bumps in the road. Frequency and consistency are the two biggest factors in determining a successful content marketing plan. Many businesses struggle to find a balance between the two. First and foremost, set realistic goals for your plan. Don’t expect to have a new piece of content every single day. If your current content cadence is every once in a while, start with planning a monthly schedule. If you have a few random updates in a month, consider biweekly.
Content marketers can help create the content but can also offer differing levels of engagement from social media promotion, email marketing, blogs, infographics, ebooks, white papers and for some, even assisting with getting the interest of trade or industry publications that want to hear more about your business.
Finally, can you make content marketing a priority? While initial engagements with a content marketer or a digital marketing service provider will take time to set the goals and parameters for success, allocating time for those experts to speak to the content creators is a priority. The best organizations will create performance goals for these experts to ensure that they help the effort.
So are you ready? If you’re ready to pursue your content marketing plan, please contact us at: 703-362-1586
Content marketing is used to engage prospects and customers with important pieces of knowledge designed to help them and their business. Your goal with content marketing is to inform and engage.
However, many companies do not know how to build an effective strategy. Others struggle with implementing a content marketing plan. And almost everyone has a challenge with quantifying the value of content marketing to upper management.
In an effort to help people with how to create a content marketing strategy for their company, we hosted a webinar and covered a lot of ground, such as:
- What is content marketing and how it is valuable
- How to create a content marketing strategy
- How to implement your plan
- How to measure your results, and
- Examples of successful content marketing strategies
Watch: “How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy For Your Company”
What is content marketing and how it is valuable
First of all, I think a lot of people try to make content marketing into this new trend. Content marketing, as defined in Wikipedia, is any marketing that “involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.” It is information that can be shared or distributed in a variety of ways, including as news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos and more.
Does that sound familiar?
Well, it should. I am willing to bet that 100% of you reading this have engaged in some form of content marketing in your professional career. In fact, the whole point of marketing is to create demand or interest. Therefore, when you think about it, content marketing is just marketing.
So, what is all the fuss?
The truth is – content marketing may be another way to say “marketing,” but the label does add some context to the fact that as marketers we need to produce more information (or content) for our prospects and existing customers. Just remember that when you think of content marketing – its more than writing blog posts or sharing things in social media. The term is really designed to cover the entire scope of your marketing strategy.
Now we come to the value of content marketing. In my view, the value of content marketing is measured by two things: 1) Your content marketing goals. And 2) Your content marketing effectiveness. These two charts, which are in the webinar slide deck and video, help to illustrate what I am talking about. When you start to build out your content marketing strategy or plan, you need to think about what your company’s or organization’s goals are, how you are going to measure those goals, and then how you will identify which tactics are effective.
How to create a content marketing strategy
So, how do you go about creating a content marketing strategy?
Let’s start with a basic checklist:
- Get Stakeholder Support
- Understand Your Audience
- Identify the Right Content Formula
- Create an Editorial Calendar
- Get Maximum Mileage Out of Your Content
- Develop a Process for Measuring and Reporting
I included this basic checklist, because building out a content marketing strategy does take planning and requires a solid process. In fact, when it comes to getting stakeholder support – the first action item – you will most likely have to repeat that one process with each step you go through. What I mean is that when you decide to create a new content marketing program (a blog, a webinar series, etc), you need to share that idea and get approval to proceed to the next step. Then as you build out profiles for your target audience, you will want to go back to your stakeholders and make sure your data and profiles are accurate and receive approval before you move on to identifying the right content formula. Stakeholder support is the most important and repetitive part of creating a content marketing strategy. It also can be the most frustrating, because you may end up getting to know your customers better than your senior managers or executives.
Once you get your preliminary stakeholder approval, the next important step is understanding your audience. This is where you will need to build a customer persona. A customer persona is a representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating personas you should start off by basing them on existing customers, their demographics, behaviors, habits, motivations and needs. Detail is important. Every buyer should meet one of the personas you create.
As you get a clear window into who your customers are, you can then start to establish what they like. What kinds of business challenges do they have? What opportunities are they looking for? What kinds of content do they read, where do they read it and when? All of these questions and more will help you get to the next phase, which is learning what is the right content formula for your audience. You can then go to building an editorial calendar that helps to meet the needs and interests of your prospects and customers.
How to implement your plan
In the implementation section of the webinar, we talk a lot more about the technical side and tactics. Specifically, we are very focused on information architecture and SEO. The reason is that if you do not have your website structured well for content, and you are not optimizing your topics, titles and content for people and search engines, you are not going to give yourself a chance to succeed.
Information Architecture, as defined in Wikipedia, “is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.”
I like this definition, especially the word “findability.” If you think back to what marketing is all about – generating demand / interest – being found is pretty important. Given that most adults (I think it is over 80% of all internet users) will conduct a Google search each day to find information, your ability to be found in those searches should be the most important part of your web and marketing strategy. Think of search engines as question and answer engines. Your prospects and customers are asking questions. What answer are they going to read? Yours? Or your competitors?
At Strayer University, I insisted on changing the URL structure for the website to increase organic traffic. Specifically, I knew from customer research that people were not looking for a “business program.” They were looking for “business degrees.” By changing the URL structure on the website, we almost doubled organic traffic YOY. In a highly competitive market, impacts to your website’s traffic volume could be the difference between gaining an advantage, holding ground or substantially losing ground.
There are other steps you need to take to make sure you implement a content marketing strategy successfully involve the kinds of questions you ask yourself and your team. I am a big believer in asking questions, such as:
- What are the goals of this content (why are we creating it)?
- What are the goals for the business (how do we make money)?
- What does it need to solve for the consumer (what is the audience intent)?
- Who do we have internally or externally that can create this content?
- When do we need to deliver it so it makes an impact?
- How are we going to measure that impact?
If you can answer these questions before you create content or before you create your overall strategy, implementation should be the easiest part of the process.
How to measure your results
Lastly, we come to measuring results.
There is a lot of information about this in the Webinar. To put it simply though, measurement always comes back to the goals you defined at the start. What are you trying to achieve with this content?
I always want to simplify this for my customers. Most of the time, measuring comes down to leads and sales. But that does not always have to be the case. Content can be produced to improve customer support. In that case, you want to measure sentiment – how are your customers feeling about you and what are they saying. Were you able to take negative views and change them back into positive ones? Content also can produced to deliver delight and enjoyment, or engagement. Motivational messaging, sharing a tactic that will help a company improve a business process, or challenging people with a hot topic ALL have a place in content marketing and all could be measured a bit differently.
In the chart below, Marketing Charts has listed the most effective sources of marketing data that marketers use. But do not let that confuse you. Social media data and paid search data, for example, can be very effective sources. The question is – do you have access to the data? Do you know how to access it? Or do you know how to use it? Many people will present data just to present data. But what STORY does the data tell? That is ultimately how you want to explain your success – by a story that shows how you started, what the journey was like and what the next steps in that journey are going to look like.[hr]