Maximising content: How to get more from your content marketing
In October 2014, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) released its fifth annual B2B content marketing study, which revealed that 62% of companies felt their content marketing efforts were ineffective.
Producing great content to match the likes of Red Bull and Nike is one challenge, but how do you ensure that just before clicking the ‘publish’ button, you’ve ticked all the necessary boxes so your hard work doesn’t disappear into the ether?
If you’ve built a content marketing strategy, this will undoubtedly lay the foundations. But as Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach outline in their book, Content Strategy for the Web, individual content pieces require a strategy too, and there are a number of additional components your organisation must adhere to in order to make your material truly sweat – starting with returning to the bare bones of what you’re planning to publish.
Back to the future
“First and foremost, it’s essential you create content that is shareable; making your content fun, and truly valuable is one of the best ways to encourage people to share it with their friends,” says Sarah Gavin, director of marketing, Europe at Outbrain.
“So reconsider your headlines – often they are the only thing a reader will see so remember to keep them interesting and thought-provoking to instantly grab your readers’ attention. However, it’s important that your headlines are accurate and honest, and not just designed as click-bait to get lots of clicks but ultimately disappoint readers.”
In this respect, Amanda McGuckin Hager, an experienced B2B technology marketing advisor, suggests marketers return to their original goal prior to distributing content, and assess whether the material truly covers two key criteria: that it offers something of value to the target audience, and delivers a call to action.
“The first goal is to attract your target audience with what I call a ‘shiny object’,” Hager says. “In other words, something of value that people want, like a white paper, a piece of collateral, or how-to document.
“[The call to action is] the gateway that you want everyone to come to you through. It’s how they’ll connect with you first. So you have to put it in everything. In your emails, your press release boiler plates, and every piece of collateral.”
While McGuckin Hager’s recommendations are pertinent, content can be limited by how adaptable it is to audiences across channels. Research from Smart Insights states there are 100+ channels marketers can now promote to on and offline, with over 40 of them appropriate for content marketing – and this number is only rising. Being able to take a piece of content and modify it for as many of these channels as possible is one of the key components in ensuring it gets maximum coverage, once it’s published.
“Producing a resonant blog post, article, brochure, podcast, or campaign site can be a fantastic way of connecting with audiences, but this content can be undervalued if it’s used for just a single channel,” Ingrid Froelich, a marketing expert who has worked on campaigns for SDL and Payvision, explains.
“Given today's customers' one-web experience (PC/smartphone/tablet), you can give content a new lease of life by considering multiple distributions and formats from the beginning. Yes, this entails employing a strategic content view, which considers all the different paths and formats possible. But after an initial strategy is in place, consider the ways in which you can create multi-purposed, adaptive content.
“The ideal scenario is that content must be created with the intent of adaptability for different use. This process should then be managed within a web content management system that renders this content for multiple devices and channels.”
And of course, with mobile devices now attributed to 30% of all global web traffic, and 50% of all people using social media also using mobile apps, it stands to reason that all content is made mobile-adaptable. As Tom Wood, director of onebite, so succinctly explains, “with social media being a key platform for content marketing, mobile is the doorway”.
The buyer persona
A caveat to deciding the channels to adapt and distribute to is the concept of creating ‘buyer personas’ for each content piece, argues HubSpot’s managing editor, Corey Eridon.
Buyer personas are designed to define who the people are that you are trying to reach, what is important to them and what action you want to inspire in them by creating target ‘personas’. Eridon suggests marketers consider asking the following nine questions about your target audience, prior to establishing the channels of distribution:
- What is their demographic information?
- What is their job and level of seniority?
- What does a day in their life look like?
- What are their pain points?
- What do they value most? What are their goals?
- Where do they go for information?
- What experience are they looking for when shopping for your products and services?
- What are their most common objections to your product or service?
- How do I identify this persona?
While this may seem like a laborious task, the likelihood is that your overall content marketing strategy already incorporates buyer personas; in which case, Adam Vowles, head of content and outreach at SUSO Digital suggests this process is more about sense-checking the priorities of a target audience:
“The research and buying personas should give you an indication of how receptive your target audience will be to different forms of contact. This is completely dependent on your audience and your service. Some customers may find you organically through a search engine, others may click on your ads, and others may be better suited to a phone call.”
SEO and the measuring process
Once you’ve established the channels of engagement and are confident in the target audience, the next step is to publish and distribute your content. However, if the channels are strictly digital, Tim Jenkins, director at e-Spirit suggests marketers consider the content’s relevancy to organisational SEO:
“The quicker your content is found, the better the impact for your brand, so checking you SEO strategy is key: Are you using the key words that you want to be connected with? Time is vital for success across all channels: for example, making sure that the website responds quickly and that you’re able to get content, products or campaigns online fast.”
And then, of course, once your content is published online, it’s vital to set-up a system of measurement, to establish the success of the material you’ve produced and guide the material you plan to deliver in the future.
Heidi Cohen, author of the Actionable Marketing Guide suggests there are as many as 28 metrics marketers can measure content on, from inception through delivery and reporting. However, in the post-distribution phase, Cohen suggests simply asking the following questions:
- How many times was the content viewed and/or downloaded?
- How much time was spent viewing the content? What portion of it was read and/or viewed?
- Did readers take another action towards engagement with your firm? This includes email registration, signing up for RSS feeds, etc.
- Did readers share content with their colleagues via social sharing including Facebook and Twitter? If so, how many?
- Did readers go further into your content or website by following links to related articles and/or products? Did they put products in a shopping cart or contact you?
- Did content viewing translate into earned media, additional views generated by readers sharing your content as opposed to paid impressions? This can be a measure of the interest level generated by your content.
With all of these points, ensuring your digital channels can be tracked with analytics tools is essential, especially for content being viewed via your organisation’s own websites. As Tom Wood adds: “With this, it is important that you set up an analytics service, such as Google Analytics, to understand more about the users accessing your content and their behaviour."
The final factor in maximising content is potentially the most rewarding. Marketing automation tools may have prospered, regressed and prospered again over a number of years, but in recent times automating content has become more of an exact science and is en vogue once again; so much so that Sliverpop claims that automated email campaigns are now pushing email open rates nearly 15% higher, while Salesforce states automation users have a 53% higher conversion rate from content delivery to qualified marketing lead.
“2015 is the year of the automation system,” says Fernando Labastida, the founder and CEO of Content Propulsion. “Marketing automation tools such as HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Infusionsoft, and Eloqua have enabled you to create “if/then” sequences to guide your prospects to content that’s appropriate for where they are in your sales funnel."
The downside, Labastida adds, is that marketing automation tools can be prohibitively expensive, and while other email marketing tools can be more affordable, he recommends an assessment of the capabilities of a variety of tools, prior to purchase.
“Email marketing tools such as AWeber, MailChimp, Doppler, and many others have added automation capabilities to their traditional enewsletter capabilities in the lower end of the price spectrum, but they lack the sophistication of the traditional players.”
However, with a carefully-selected automation tool thrown into the mix, marketers have the potential to pull all of their content pieces together, tie them into specific campaigns, distribute them to the right people at the right time and effectively analyse the results.
Which, for content marketers, means improving the chances of that next great masterpiece getting seen.
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Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.