What does content marketing mean in 2020? How do you build and run a successful content marketing strategy to grow reach and conversions?
While the concept of content marketing is generally well recognised and understood, effective implementation still eludes many businesses, leaving content performance and impact lacking.
Today, high performance content lies at the intersection of data insights, market and product knowledge and creativity.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the strategic approach to creating and sharing information of value and relevance to target audiences.
It gives you the ability to engage, influence and interact with potential and existing customers through digital channels with the aim of driving profitable action by your target audiences.
The role of content marketing in 2020
Content is, without doubt, the lifeblood of successful online marketing, sustaining activities across platforms and offering the return and impact that traditional ‘interrupt’ marketing activities have failed to deliver for many years.
It is a critical success factor in helping your business:
- Reach & connect with your target audiences
- Build reputation & relationships
- Educate about your products and services and the problems you can solve
- Generate leads
- Convert leads into customers
Content marketing is an investment, and businesses are right to expect a return.
But the reality is that gaining online traction, outperforming your competitors and achieving your content objectives demands excellence in content strategy, production and distribution. This requires sustained effort, skills and knowledge of the technologies and platforms you are using, your market sector and your customers’ expectations and needs.
It pays to plan
Developing a content marketing strategy is essential for businesses to understand what they are doing, what they need to do, why they are doing it and to ensure they stay on track in terms of message, impact, spend and return.
Importantly, content marketing also has to be integrated with your wider digital activities. With a plan in place, you can ensure your content marketing aligns to and supports all other ares of promotional activity.
When planning, you will want to at the types of content to produce, how you will use the content and put a strategy together to optimise performance and return.
Types of content
There are many different formats of content to consider.
Assessing and identifying which to incorporate into your content marketing plan will mean giving consideration to budget constraints, skills and capability, objectives, as well as the online platforms you are using.
Content types include:
– text-based content can be used to publish on your own website blog or to be placed on other sites as digital coverage. Articles can come in short, medium or long-form.
– photographs, vector graphics and even memes can be used (usually with a brief caption) to paint a thousand words! Brand personality and platform will largely dictate how images are best used.
– presenting data in graphical form with brief explanatory copy can be extremely effective in sharing informative and educational content in a visually appealing way.
– using audio recordings is considered while some love podcasts and the convenience they offer, others just don’t ‘get’ them, but what is certain is that if you are committing to making audio recordings, you will need to be aiming for regular, outstanding quality to stand out on the library shelf.
– posting on social should be seen more as conversing than broadcasting. The challenge is to be brief, on-brand and in-keeping with the relevant channel, which could mean using more creative tools such as emojis and gifs.
– whether live or pre-recorded, live action or graphical, video is a way of informing, educating and building your brand while being super creative.
Types of content marketing
How can you stand out and make your content marketing a success?
It helps to consider different types and examples of content marketing when putting your plan together. It also helps to look at examples of content marketing not just from your competitors in your sector, but beyond to inspire and see what is working and what is not.
The battle for search rankings is relentless. With constantly shifting algorithms, changes in user behaviour and intent and competitors adjusting their strategies, there is never a static position.
If you want to achieve visibility for your website for target search terms, you have to commit to the task.
To get the organic search engine results you want, you need website content that is optimised both for ranking factors and end user experience. This means writing both for Google and the user.
Sites that feature regular blog posts have on average 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links than other websites. This means such sites are likely to rank higher in SERPs and appear more credible as a result, but it also means they offer their audience more resources and more convincing reasons for choosing them over a competitor.
Thought leadership has long been used in traditional, offline communications to promote corporate and individual brands.
It is used to build authority and to position your business as a go-to commentator and spokesperson on a particular issue where you can add value and provide professional assistance.
With online marketing, there is now an abundance of opportunities to showcase expertise, innovation and ideas across multiple platforms.
Online PR is a way to work with digital publishers and authoritative websites to publish content you have created. The benefits are twofold you gain digital coverage and online exposure and if credited with a link back to your website. Such quality backlinks help to build your website’s own domain authority, which is itself a ranking factor in organic search.
Finding suitable authority websites – which website doe your target audiences read? You will need to be offering the publication content that is of relevance an interest to their readership.
Get the positioning right, and to focus on the right opportunities that align with your brand, your objectives and put you in front of the audiences you want to engage and do business with.
Content marketing can be used in a number of ways to drive thought leadership agenda, from whitepapers, ebooks and case studies to infographics, blogs and videos.
Remember, to have impact, thought leadership has to stand out for its quality and expertise – this means providing new or different solutions, ways of thinking, data, insights or analysis.
There are now more than 3.8 billion active social media users, and this number continues to grow.
Platforms are numerous, from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, with new contenders such as TikTok proving there is still space for new platforms to emerge with impact and relevance.
The variety of platforms also mirrors the variety of media you can use to share such as images, stories, live and pre-recorded videos.
The sheer variety of social channels makes it a challenge for brands to focus their efforts, attention and investment. Relevance really is the critical measure. Be clear who your target audiences are and which social channels they are actively using.
It’s also important to remember that, while joining social networks is generally free, keeping all the channels updated requires an investment of time, resources and effort. It’s not easy constantly coming up with ideas for quality content that will engage readers and compel them to buy or share information, but publishing such content regularly is an investment worth making. It’s another reason why it’s important to be clear and decisive when deciding which channels you will become active on.
Brands also need to be mindful that social media is just that – it is a space that thrives on conversation and exchanges. Social media engagement only comes from contributing to the conversation in a meaningful way. Your social media activity has to be responsive and community-minded. Listen as well as post.
Content marketing strategy
Follow these outline steps to build your own content marketing strategy.
Step 1. Where are you now?
How does your content currently perform? Assess the performance of your current activity and benchmark current against competitors to help identify opportunities and areas for improvement.
Step 2. Where do you want to be?
Now you know where you are now, consider where you want to be.
Set goals for your content. These should be quantifiable and measurable such as, daily revenue sales, site traffic, conversion rate, shopping cart abandonment rate, likes, shares, follows, mentions, backlinks.
Step 3. How are you going to get there?
The next step looks at strategy and how you will close the gap between the current situation (step 1) and achieving your goals (step 2). How are you going to leverage the power and potential of content to meet your goals?
Consider your target audience and buyer personas:
- What is the need that you can satisfy?
- How can you help them?
- What are the potential barriers to sale you need to overcome?
How can you use content to address these points? Will you inform? Educate? Entertain?
Step 4. How exactly are you going to get there?
Build your plan by adding the detail. Look at the channels you plan to use and the type of content you will create and the resources you’ll need to achieve all of this. Bring the information together into a schedule of content.
Step 5. Implementation & evaluation
Time to put the plan into action – create, distribute and monitor your content.
Have the tools and processes in place to evaluate the content’s performance against the KPIs you set in the objectives. You should be able to see what is working, and what isn’t. Make adjustments, and put them into action. This is a continuous, cyclical process of testing and refining activity to improve results against a constantly shifting and competitive digital environment.