Marketing is so important when it comes to building a successful company; the world of business is incredibly cut throat, so no matter what you do or sell, you will be up against competitors. Clever marketing in general gets your name out there to the right customers, and shows them why they should choose your business over other, similar companies. But it’s not easy to do this, a good marketing strategy should be multifaceted and utilise lots of different methods to sell your project. Content marketing is one element of this, which is complex within itself.
What is a content strategy and why do you need one?
Creating great content is one of the best ways to reach out to prospects and generate leads, and content strategy is the planning, development and management of content. This not only includes the words on the page, but also images and multimedia such as infographics, videos and more. The goal of content strategy is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content that people genuinely find useful and want to share. This helps your content to snowball and in some cases, even go viral. Some of the principles to remember when it comes to content marketing include:
- Create quality content to attract customers, engage and build trust.
Don’t be tempted to produce low quality work because it’s quick and easy, tactics like keyword stuffing are banned and easily picked up by Google- this will hinder your progress rather than help. Cheap article writing gigs can be found on any freelancing site these days, but always choose quality over quantity. Either hire writers yourself, or work with freelancers with a proven reputation, who can create the high quality content you need.
- Quality content avoids blockers
Research shows that ad blocking software is used by around 30% of Internet users, meaning a third of people will never see the paid advertising messages that are targeted to them. It goes to show the way we need to market our businesses is evolving, no longer is a flashing banner on the screen enough to grab an audience’s attention or sell a product. We have to be smarter- and good quality and valuable content is one example of this. It’s not simply an ad or an annoyance, content marketing provides value to the reader and promotes a product in a way that isn’t pushy or forceful.
- Pleases search engines as well as the user
To be successful in marketing, you need to please the user (your audience) as well as search engines. Users will expect high quality content that’s informative, and perhaps even humorous and witty. Search engines algorithms use things like proper backlinks and correct keywords to rank your content. By producing high quality content you can appeal to your user as well as rank highly within search engines.
Getting to know your customers
In order to solve your customers problems through your marketing strategy, you firstly need to fully understand them. Modern marketing now relies less on traditional market research methods such as surveys or focus groups, and pays close attention to things like smart online platforms and tools that tell them everything about their customers’ demographics, online behaviors, and conversations. When you understand how users think and speak about a subject it puts you in a powerful position to tailor content towards them. Some of the ways you can go about this are by:
- Developing personas
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your customer, based on market research and real data that you have about your users. This involves gathering insight from different platforms such as website analytics, social media channels, customer reviews as well as actual conversations with prospects and customers. They help you better understand and get closer to customers, as real humans as you understand who your buyer is. Personas help us to understand what customers need, where and when they need it, how you can help and what solutions you can offer to their problems. They can also give you an idea about location (are they local or global customers?) their age (certain age groups respond better to certain marketing methods) and even if they’re likely to be married with a family. All of these things can play into the way you target your content.
- Analysing the market and your competitors
If you want to succeed in business, you need to have expert knowledge into what’s happening in your market which includes how your competitors are doing. It’s important to know what’s working for them and what’s not so you can either emulate their successes or avoid their mistakes. Keep your ears and eyes open for what’s happening in your industry which helps you to identify gaps in the market such as needs that aren’t being fulfilled, common frustrations, or trends. It’s crucial that you stay up-to-date and and remain factual based on what’s going on in the world to avoid putting out outdated information. When new information becomes available, update your content or archive it.
- Determine marketing strategy objectives
Objectives specific measurable outcomes that will be achieved within a particular time frame and they help individuals evaluate the success and effectiveness of a particular marketing strategy. They aid marketers to align expectations and plans, coordinate efforts, and hold teams accountable for achieving results
Types of content marketing and their effectiveness
There are a number of methods of content marketing you can utilise, but there’s no ‘one size fits all’. It will all depend on your business and your audience, and finding the best methods can often be trial and error. Here are some of the things you could consider incorporating into your content strategy, and why they could be effective for you.
- Blog Posts
Blogging allows you to constantly refresh the content on your site, which search engines value. It establishes authority in your given area and builds trust, and a stream of new and fresh regular content gives your audience a reason to visit your site and keep coming back. Blogging is an opportunity to offer more value to your readers and enables you to promote what you do without simply spamming links to products on your social media. For this reason, research shows that you'll generate 3x more leads via blogs than through ads and it’s the perfect opportunity for SEO too, which is why it provides 4x the likelihood of being found in organic search (source). As well as publishing content on your own blog, incorporate guest blogging into your strategy as this can be incredibly beneficial. If you work with bloggers who are well established, the backlink will improve your own domain authority and the content will be seen by the bloggers own network which can help you to expand your own.
Infographics are a mix of design, writing and analysis- they are ideal for an age of big data and when users are wanting fast, snappy and relevant information. People love facts, figures and statistics but in a bite size and easy to understand format which makes infographics perfect. They’re easy to scan, view and process and as a result, they’re more likely to go viral than other forms of content. They show an expert understanding of a subject but without having to go into as much depth as you would with typical written content.
Video is an incredibly important part of your content strategy and is something that most businesses will need to utilise. No longer just one piece of your overall marketing plan, it’s central to your outreach and campaign efforts, particularly your social strategy. Video has absolutely dominated society. According to a research, four of the top six channels on which global consumers watch video are social channels (source). From entertainment to ads, to landing page videos and how-to tutorials for your products, there are plenty of ways this can, and should, be incorporated into your content strategy.
The popularity and perceived value of eBooks has made them a favourite of online marketers; instead of feeling like yet another blog post or video, a downloadable eBook feels far more like a real object of value. Writing an eBook also gives you the ability to showcase your authority on a subject in greater level of depth than a blog post allows. One of the main things that people look for when buying from a brand (especially when buying from them for the first time) is that they’re reliable and genuine, and an eBook can certainly help you to gain that authority. However, eBooks aren’t for every business and audience, so it’s important to know if this is the right direction for you to go in. This is because writing an eBook takes time, you don’t want it to be wasted if it’s simply not a good fit for your audience.
There has been a rise in audio content, it is becoming more and more popular over time. While it’s unlikely to ever overtake video, it’s still an excellent medium to advertise in some cases. It provides an opportunity to engage people- but only if this suits your type of product and audience. One thing to be aware of is the research- it shows that listeners of podcasts tend to be more educated and have a higher income. If your research on personas shows that your audience is likely to be a good fit then this is something you could try. The downsides to using podcasts as a content marketing method are that metrics can be difficult to measure (since you can see downloads but not engagement) and you need to have lots of information to make them work. As with anything you’ll want to be consistent, and consistently releasing podcasts will require a lot of time, effort and information. However, if they’re right for your business they could be an excellent way to engage your audience.
- Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool to engage your audience and turn them into leads or buyers. The key to good social media marketing is to use your platform as a way to be social, and not go for the hard sell. It’s best for building up trust and brand awareness, as research shows it doesn't tend to be people’s favourite platform for buying. 2 billion people per month use social media yet conversion rates remain low which is interesting. This being said, it’s a highly important part of your content strategy as building up a following is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. Use your platform to engage, find out information about your audience that you can then use to target your content. Share blog posts which in turn will hopefully be shared by your followers.
It’s content which fuels online marketing- but if you don’t have a content strategy, you will struggle to generate leads. An effective content strategy requires a well planned editorial calendar which is a schedule of content to be produced and delivered to your prospects through different channels. This includes your blog, social media channels, email newsletters and more, all over a specified timeline. As a brand, it’s important to be consistent, your audience will expect this of you and it also helps you to look more reliable and trustworthy. Following style guides for things like language and design helps people understand and learn what you are trying to communicate, and doing so on a consistent schedule lets them know what to expect. Here’s how you can go about it;
- List the content that should be published based on your content strategy.
This can include everything from yet-to-be developed content to existing content, or content that will be repurposed for your audience. Certain pieces of content you already have can easily be changed up and republished, allowing you to get the most out of it while keeping to your schedule. For example, seasonal content can often be repurposed each year with a few tweaks.
- Content creation and publishing dates
This includes when the content should be created and when it will be published. It can be useful to use an editorial calendar to ensure the right content is being delivered in a timely manner without the hassle of manually going through everything.
- A list of channels for delivering your content
You might for example want to deliver part of an eBook and then distribute other relevant content through social networking sites, newsletters and other channels. Think about the way your audience uses their platforms and how best to grab their attention.
As you can see, developing a content strategy is no mean feat; it’s incredibly complex with lots of room for error if you don’t know what you’re doing. Working with an expert or marketing agency can save you time, effort, stress and money. It’s not something you can just guess at.