The world produces a shocking amount of digital content. Every second, 8,413 tweets are posted, 903 photos are uploaded to Instagram, and 2,780,575 emails (legitimate messages and spam) are sent. In one day, over 2.1 million blog posts are published. It seems everyone and their brother, sister, parents, and cat produce content. With so much to see, most adults now spend almost half their day interacting with media.
Content marketing is one way businesses harness all that attention to get in front of customers. Some business leaders swear by content marketing. Others feel it’s a waste of resources. So which is it?
That depends on the company. Companies that find ways to stand out from the sea of so-so content — and monetize that attention — find success, while others struggle to find eyes and ears for their creations.
The best way to ensure you’re in the first group is to make sure your content marketing strategy is on point. This article gives tips and insights into how to do exactly that.
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
In short, it’s creating content your customers are excited to consume, that positions you as their go-to source for more of the same. Great content educates and drives the sales funnel.
Content marketing strategy, then, is how you get there.
Top-performing content marketers have a lot in common: For one, they agree that content marketing is a long-term strategy. Of the most successful B2B content marketing leaders:
It takes time to produce quality, targeted content and build an audience. Furthermore, assessing metrics and showing the ROI of this marketing effort, which doesn’t necessarily have a money-based conversion rate, is difficult.
That means content marketing isn’t a one-off project. It’s not simply posting to a blog or having a lot of social media followers. You have to be committed to it, and you have to be good at it. Because true content marketing requires such a serious investment, your efforts have to really pay off in a way not necessarily tied to your profit margin.
What you need is a content marketing strategy to focus your efforts — and your budget — on what’s most effective for your business.
It’s easy to get lost in creating content for your audience. With so many platforms at your disposal and millions of internet users to connect with, you could create anything for anyone. Strategy is how you reel it all in and focus your efforts on what’s appealing to your audience, their needs, and your bottom line.
Effective content marketing strategy starts with two whys: yours and your customers’.
First, ask why you’re using this strategy in the first place. Look at your long-term goals, such as shaping a more educated customer base, building brand authority, ranking in search results, and steering the conversation about your industry and brand.
But more importantly, uncover your customers’ whys. Do they read blog posts, watch videos, and cruise your social media pages to solve problems, understand your products better, or improve their own businesses?
Knowing what your customers’ goals are when they interact with your brand is key to content strategy. If you’re not satisfying a reader’s need, they’ll go elsewhere.
To understand customer whys, marketers must understand their customers. They choose an audience to create content for, and that means understanding who they’re not creating content for.
If you sell running shoes wholesale in Houston, for example, your audience is likely local shoe stores, department stores, and sporting goods stores. That’s who you’ll build content for. Your audience isn’t shoe stores in San Francisco, health food stores in Houston, or even people who run, so don’t cater to them. If people who don’t buy wholesale running shoes in Houston enjoy your content, that’s wonderful. But they aren’t your customers, so their interests and needs aren’t your priority.
Focus on reaching the people who matter most to your business: your customers. This will help you decide where to invest your content marketing bandwidth.
The answer to this question depends on who your audience is, what content they consume, and what you’re capable of creating. You’ll find the answer with experimentation, A/B testing, and analytics. Perhaps you’ll find that your B2C customers like shorter content that quickly solves a problem or answers a question in a fun or interesting way. B2B marketers, however, may see better results with pieces that are more in-depth, long-form content that gets to the point quickly and provides value all the way through.
A good B2B content marketing strategy grows the relationship you have with your customers, leads them through the funnel, and speaks directly to their needs. It might involve ebooks on the benefits of your proprietary features, articles on the latest industry news, and artfully designed pitch decks.
The content that’s right for your business will satisfy two needs.
Let’s say your audience prefers video content and long-form articles, which you know after analyzing your metrics.
If you have a writing background and can tackle the articles yourself, but upgrading your video content would require you to hire a specialist, start with the articles. Make them the centerpiece of your content marketing strategy. Then add in video after your initial content marketing efforts start paying off and you can increase your budget.
In house or outsourced: that is the question. If Hamlet had been a content strategist, this question might have been the topic of his monologue. It’s certainly caused plenty of debate among business leaders.
Like deciding what to create, the answer to how you’ll create it depends on what you’re capable of.
You’re an expert at your business, whether that’s running shoes, copy machines, or forklifts. But if you’re not an expert at copywriting, photography, or videography, and you don’t have anyone on your team who is, you might consider outsourcing your content marketing.
There is lots of passable, but low-performing content out there. The key to capturing more attention than your competitors is creating better, more valuable content.
No content strategy is complete without a content calendar. This tool allows you to time content creation and publication to maximize its impact. Base your content calendar on several factors.
No content strategy is perfect because there’s no surefire way to know exactly what you’ll need in the future. Create a calendar that stretches several months or a year ahead, but don’t be afraid to tweak or update it regularly.
For example, does your audience seem less interested in blog posts these days, with lower engagement and fewer conversions, but has a growing appetite for ebooks? Switch it up. Or you may discover a single 20-minute deep-dive converts better than a series of quick 2-minute videos. Be ready to investigate and pivot toward creating more of what’s working.
Some types of content are a natural fit for certain platforms: photos on Instagram, videos on YouTube, podcasts on Spotify. No matter where your content seems to fit best, consider whether your audience uses that platform. Snapchat is primarily targeting young people and younger generations, but if your audience is business professionals, LinkedIn or another channel is probably a better bet.
Don’t try to be everywhere. If your customers don’t use a channel, don’t invest resources there. On the other hand, it’s wise to diversify. You may have had an incredible presence on Yik Yak, but its demise in 2017 means your company needed to have active accounts elsewhere, too. When there are issues with a channel, you’ll be thankful it wasn’t your only way to reach your audience.
Whatever you do, metrics are important. Use social media, email, SEO, and other content marketing efforts to drive traffic to your website. Measure your efforts, analyze results, and make data-backed decisions.
Content marketing is a powerful tool that, when used strategically, can drastically shape your customer journey, positively impact multiple departments, and help turn customers into advocates.
To be most effective, you must create a strategy that addresses the why, who, what, how, when, and where of your content marketing efforts. And in many companies, a solid strategy is the key to buy-in from the C-suite team, too. So start creating your strategy today.