Content marketing. It’s a topic we have covered extensively on this blog, and one that I’m sure we’ll continue to write about. Over the last five or so years, I’ve seen content marketing grow in popularity amongst marketers of all backgrounds. More than just a buzzword, it’s become the digital marketing technique that all brands know they need to have as part of their digital marketing mix. And it’s not just content marketers either who can offer this skillset, but specialists in PR, SEO and social media have not just incorporated content marketing into their service offering, but made it a core element of what they do.
However, all too often we see the scenario where a team has come together to formulate an intricate content marketing calendar filled with all sorts of different content types, from hub, to hygiene to hero content, and has engaged with copywriters, video producers, designers and so on to create content that will drive awareness, generate leads, and convert sales. The team is focused on pumping out regular content, but after a few months of producing and publishing blog posts and infographics and GIFs and memes, those leads, that traffic, that awareness simply haven’t materialised how you had hoped. What happened? You planned out your calendar and created your content on time, so why are you not getting the results you need?
Simply put, content marketing is about a lot more than just creating content.
What is content marketing?
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 interaction”.
Similarly, Christopher Ratcliffe defines content marketing as a combination of editorial, marketing, PR, SEO and social media activities that work in unison towards the goal of producing engaging, attention-grabbing, high-quality online content. The content itself could be anything from blog posts, to videos, webinars, in-depth industry whitepapers or infographics.
Both the above definitions mention content creation as being part of content marketing, however distribution and amplification also play a crucial role in driving that awareness and generating the desired results. In essence, the success of a content marketing strategy comes down to three core elements. The content needs to:
- Be good. Quality really does matter.
- Stand out. There is an overwhelming amount of content out there, so as well as being good, it also has to stand out and provide something of value.
- Be found by your target audience. This requires a good distribution and amplification strategy.
An aspect that often gets left out, or left to the last minute in content marketing is the ‘marketing’ itself. Having a marketing strategy or campaign in place before the creation process starts, will not only help you get the results you need, but will actually strengthen the creation process itself, as the content being produced will be more tailored and refined. So how can marketers ensure they meet the criteria above?
Making it good
Quality content matters. After all, there’s no point in getting it found if it’s bad. Whether it’s editorial, video or image based, attention to detail is hugely important. Pay attention to spelling, grammar, readability, quality of imagery, quality of video, sound quality, UX etc. Good quality content will cut through the sheer volume of stuff available on the internet, it’ll attract attention, engage more people and be shared on social media. With so much content to choose from, no one has time to look through poor content.
But to create quality content is easier said than done. Here’s a starting point:
Have a team with a diverse set of skills
Making sure that the team responsible for content marketing has a well-rounded set of skills is a big step towards success. A strong content marketing team will not only include content strategists and copywriters (preferably with a background in journalism), but also SEO experts, social media marketers, designers, UX experts, and video producers. Figure out the best combination of skills for your team, and make sure all members are working together to achieve a common goal.
Workshops work really well for content marketing, as they get people’s creative juices flowing and create an atmosphere of brainstorming and debate. Make sure to set up a process where ideas are discussed in workshops, where everyone feels comfortable and confident enough to bring their ideas to the table and have an amicable discussion. There are many different ways of running a workshop, but I found this guide by Oz Content particularly useful.
Know your audience
You need to know what kind of content your audience prefers, what platforms they are most active on when looking for this kind of content, what their digital behaviour is like and therefore how likely they are to engage with this content and want to share it.
Knowing your audience will also dictate the tone of voice, the style, and the format. Also think about device and how likely it is that this content will be viewed on a desktop vs a mobile vs a tablet.
Creating detailed target audience profiles or personas will really help here, take a look at this guide by Hubspot for more info.
Test your concepts
What might seem like a good idea to you, may be received in a totally opposite way by the public. All you need to do is look at some of the most recently controversial campaigns, to which we tend to ask the question ‘what were they thinking’? The truth is often-times if an idea comes from one isolated team and isn’t vetted or tested with people outside of that group, some very obvious pitfalls can be missed. Particularly for hero content, make sure to test your concepts before bringing them to life to make sure you don’t spend your time working on a piece of content that could damage the brand. This could be as simple as presenting them to another team that isn’t involved in this work before taking it to the client.
Learn from each new piece of content
Whether it does well or it flops, you should always learn something new from every piece of content you put out there. Reporting is crucial, and having a de-brief with the entire team will ensure future success. Be very honest in these sessions and go through what went well, what could have gone better, and what went horribly wrong. Use as many analytical tools as you can to get a well-rounded view of the effect of each piece of content and make sure to apply the learnings to the next one to keep producing higher quality content each time.
Making it stand out
Putting in the time to create quality content is important, but may be time wasted if the content itself doesn’t stand out or provide any value. If there is no value, why would anyone read it or share it? Before embarking on the content creation process it’s important to consider some of the below.
Do your homework
Has this topic been covered before? If so, how often? If the topic has been covered before, can you add something new to it? Is this something that your competitors have covered?
If this is a tired subject, maybe the best option is to look for something else. However, just because a subject has been written about or talked about extensively doesn’t necessarily mean you should dismiss it, however your team will need to consider how you can add your own stamp on it.
Can you add in any original data or research? If so, how will you go about sourcing this? Could you partner with a research company? Interview an influencer? Run a survey? A twitter poll?
Think about how you can add in something unique that users won’t be able to find anywhere else. That way, even if the subject matter itself is not new (which is difficult to achieve these days), then you will still be providing something unique.
Getting it found
So you’ve created some amazing content… now what? Back in February 2016, we wrote an article titled: Your Great Content Sucks Unless you Amplify It, and this is still very true today, although we can update and add to some of the points we made.
Amplification plays a major role in content marketing, because it gets that content found by the target audience. In the article mentioned above we talked about organic social, paid social, paid search, blogger outreach, organic search, content discovery platforms and on-page optimisation. There are probably more that can be added to that list but the number of activities you chose to undertake is indifferent. What it really comes down to is how well those activities work together and this all goes back to the skillset of your team, knowing your target audience, and having a well thought out campaign plan that underpins the content creation part of the strategy.
Your campaign could entail issuing a press release about your new ebook, followed by social media activity, combined with a PPC campaign and several guest blog articles, all with the aim of driving your target audience to your well optimised landing page, with a contact form that would not only allow visitors to download a PDF copy of the ebook, but would add them to your eCRM platform and therefore allow you to hit them with more targeted content as well as drive them through your sales pipeline.
This example above applies mostly to larger piece of hero content, but the same logic can be applied to hygiene and hub content. For all your content you need a process and a methodology for how your target audience will find it, engage with it, and perform the action that you want them to whether that be fill in a form, download, share, or comment.
In essence, content marketing doesn’t work without a thorough marketing plan. And a marketing plan is all about researching your audience to find out the best way to reach them. So, next time you sit down to write your next piece of content, ask yourselves ‘have I forgotten about the marketing?’
Need a hand with your content marketing? Get in touch and let’s create something awesome!