“Content marketing” has recently gained a lot of attention in the online marketing world. But it’s not just a buzzword — it’s one of the most reliable and effective tactics available to digital marketers.
Brands are increasingly recognizing content marketing as a valuable tool for increasing awareness and driving demand — and they are investing accordingly. In fact, according to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute, 60% of B2C marketers expect their content marketing budget to increase in 2014.
As with other digital marketing channels, an ever-changing landscape means that there are few “hard and fast” rules for content marketing. Let’s take a high level strategic overview into content marketing, the details about running it in any company, and measuring success along the way.
1. Building The Right Team Makes All The Difference
Savvy content marketers today know how to craft content for the short-term attention spans of the Internet audience. This isn’t a job for interns or the first person you can find in your organization that can put a few sentences together. The strength of your team will determine the success of your content marketing strategy.
It might sound all simple from the top, but when you get to the nitty-gritty, there is a lot of specialization and focus required in getting the whole system running.
You’ll need content writers, seeders, influencers, data analysts, sales representatives and even customer relationship managers to complete the circle. Obviously, a lot depends on who you are and what the product is, but I’d imagine the following roles to be a must in any good content marketing team.
• Writers. You’ll need a team of excellent writers who can talk the internet language and know the readers’ state of mind. Develop a clear cut concept of your target persona to help them understand the readers’ mind set better. But essentially, these should be folks who can write compelling content that creates the best first interaction/impression with your prospect.
• Seeders. These represent the wheels of your team and they’ll decide how far you will go. Seeders are folks who can penetrate the influential and most relevant niches of social networks, thereby amplifying the reach of your content. They could be influencers themselves but, unlike what is espoused in many mainstream “influencer outreach” programs out there, you’ll find it’s most effective to have your seeder identify the most relevant and meaningful personalities within your niche — cultivating their love of your brand, and engagement with it — without actually formally bringing them on board.
• Editors. This team is involved with planning your content, deciding the topics & themes, finding potential keyword clusters, editing the content for message accuracy, ensuring the right tone of voice, introducing subtle branding opportunities and overseeing the editorial calendar and collaboration process.
• Data Analysts. There are the folks who can look at your analytics dashboard, makes sense of those numbers and come up with insights to help you reach your success metrics. We’re talking about stuff like finding the right topic/theme that’s most popular with your target audience, the topics that give the most downloads or signups, the most hated and loved content, etc.
• Outreach specialists. These are folks who are active catalysts to your content. They take responsibility for taking your content to newer potential clusters within social networks. Similar to what PR folks did earlier, they ensure that no stone is left unturned when it comes to outreach and publicity. That means letting publishing houses, blogging communities and social networking groups know of your awesome content and interacting with them to build relationships.
2. Challenge & Rewrite Marketing Laws As We’ve Known Them
In some ways, Content Marketing is nothing new. Think about bank branches that provide you with the time and temperature as you drive by — that’s old school content. What’s different now? The possible means of distribution and the possibility of interacting with your prospects. In traditional marketing, getting the maximum number of eyeballs with minimal spend is the mantra. With content marketing, things are different. Way different.
Essentially, content marketing is based on pull strategy as opposed to the traditional push strategy, and success is not measured on eyeballs or even page views. That could mean a lot of things, but in essence it means that brands have to find a subtle way to reach prospects, convince them to buy and win them for a lifetime.
Sounds simple, but trust me, convincing a prospect to be a loyal customer with a non-aggressive, subtle approach is alien to the traditional marketing world. Content marketing has to have its own goals, its own KPIs and dimensions set to measure success. If you’re going to wear your traditional marketing hat and count the chickens with content marketing, I can bet that you’re going to fall flat on your face.
3. Define New Goals, KPIs & Dimensions
Content Marketing requires you to have new set of KPIs and success metrics related to your business goals. While it’s okay to have the same KPIs as other marketing channels, they might not be relevant for content. Content is about building a relationship, and relationships aren’t easily measured.
For example, CTRs may be a great metric for measuring the success of PPC ads, and overall site visits may be a great metric for SEO, but in content marketing, a better way to measure success would be introduce customer-centric metrics. Figuring out what content works and what doesn’t from the customer’s perspective makes all the difference.
4. Extend Content Marketing To Building Relationships
An often ignored or skipped part of content marketing is the building of community. Content marketing is an excellent way to build the right kind of community for your brand.
The conversion time period from community-building efforts might be longer compared to other marketing channels, but prospects/leads from content marketing are far more likely to be loyal. Successful brands in content marketing make it a point to extend their funnel higher, as they nurture relationships by creating loyal communities around their brands.
5. Amplify Your Brands’ Online Reputation With Content Marketing
Publishing great content on your site can be a really efficient tool for brands to boost their online reputation. While SEOs try hard to leverage third party online entities (directories, etc.) for managing online reputation, content marketing within your owned entities — like blogs, subdomains and landing pages — can prove to be a far easier solution to managing reputation online.
6. Be Helpful To People First; Selling Comes Second
Like I mentioned in point 2, content marketing offers more efficient ways to pitch your brands to prospects in a very non-aggressive, subtle manner. A good strategy is to focus on being helpful first. Try to address your prospects’ problems first, without being all “salesy.”
You want to help the prospect, educate him, and guide him to possible solutions. To do that well, we got to understand and study his pain points. What are the problems that your content can help resolve? Find these frequently asked questions, research solutions and create a valuable resource to answer them.
If you can solve a problem or answer a question, prospects are more likely to develop a positive opinion of your brand. Pitching people directly to their face without attending to their problems is a recipe for failure.
7. Sync & Speak To Other Marketing Channels
Although content marketing is different from other marketing channels, it is important that the team sync with them, since they all share the same goal — customer acquisition and retention.
I’ve seen instances where content marketing works parallel with other channels and totally losing its sync with business goals. Content marketing may have different techniques, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be working toward the same business goals.
Overall business goals should be the same for every channel, whether it’s display media, TV, search or social. Hence it is important for content marketers to talk and sync up with other demand generation channels and agree on performance metrics well in advance.
8. Quality Vs. Quantity — Find What Works For You
I’ve heard many marketers claim that quality, rather than quantity, is what matters in content marketing.
Well I agree and disagree. Disagree because you should primarily be driven by what works for your business. For instance, if you’re a consumer business, why not create content in quantity? In fact, content marketing can perform really well compared to SEO, PPC or Display when it comes to numbers.
However, if you’re a B2B brand, it makes sense to stick to quality rather than quantity. Here, collecting a few good leads might be more successful than bringing in a ton of inferior leads.
9. Customize Your Message For Each Step In The Funnel — Product Oriented Vs. User Oriented Approach
As every marketer knows, there are many steps or stages to the whole buying process, and they differ depending on the product being considered. Traditional marketing would say you are trying to take a prospect from awareness > interest > evaluation > referral.
But what is more important than identifying the stages is to come up with the right kind of message for each stage. Identifying stages is a product oriented approach, while crafting the most helpful messages for each stage is a user oriented approach, which is what content marketing is all about.
For example, if you’re selling televisions, you might create an “intro to TV technologies” page for those high in the funnel, to educate them about the sector and help them feel more capable of making an informed decision. Later in their process, prospects may be more likely to respond to a chart that outlines the distinctions between particular TV models, including specs, brand names and model numbers — not to mention links to add a particular product to their shopping cart.
Like they say, the art of selling is helping. Not presentations, but conversations.
Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.