How to make content marketing work for your business
By Simon Brooks, 11 February 2015
Content Marketing involves getting your message across to the audience by providing ‘content’ in some form, as opposed to ‘selling’ overtly.
Content can be written, e.g. articles and blogs, designed e.g. infographics, research e.g. surveys or white papers and multimedia e.g. video, audio and/or animations. It can also, where appropriate, be promotional – but only as case studies and press releases.
There is no role in content marketing for marketing or sales copy – as the goals below show.
Decide what you want to achieve
If managed properly, content marketing can help influence sales and in some cases may directly generate sales leads. “Conversion rate optimisation” is covered in a different article, but as for content marketing itself, the main goals that can be achieved are:
By placing articles on your website, there is an SEO benefit in that Google will find the article and rank it if it thinks it relevant. This will drive your website up the search engine ranking positions, thereby attracting visitors who may search on that topic.
By sharing your article on social media channels you will generate visibility for your business, depending on which social media channels you use.
By sharing articles via your company newsletters you will engage your clients and prospects by encouraging them to click on articles and visit your website. As mentioned above, the next step in the relationship will depend on the website page they land on.
In each case, your overriding goal should be to create a perception that you and your company are expert authorities in the field and topics which you intend to write about. People like to buy from experts who know what they are doing. So they may eventually decide to buy from you.
Do the “shareability test”
The key to success with content marketing is getting your content shared – so your content consumers become your content promoters.
People will only share what they think others will value too.
To succeed, consider what aspects of your content people will want to share, and why. It’s OK that not everything you produce goes viral, but it should have some ‘shareability value’ in order for it do its job in your marketing activity mix.
Of course the more options you give to you target audience to share your content, the better your chances of it being shared will be, so be sure to include share buttons on the main social media channels – as well as sign up options to your feed.
Be clear about the purpose of your content
To help with your ‘shareability’ decision, think about the purpose that you want your content to fulfil. Following a few simple principles about what you’re doing with the content will make it more shareable. Our suggestions are to make your content:
People like to be informed about things. But they will definitely not engage with ‘sales’ content. Nobody wants to be sold to, so avoid any form of content that just sets out to sell. Informing people of useful or interesting facts on the other hand has a place.
Your content should have a use. It could advise, educate, help, explain, show or simply inform. Videos are particularly useful for this, as are infographics.
If your audience is made up of football fans, it is unlikely they will be interested in something to do with baking cakes. Obvious perhaps, but consider the interests and motivations of the audience.
There’s nothing wrong with using a bit of humour, so long as it’s not cheesy or facile. It must fit with the profile of the audience and if they are palpably not interested in the softer side of communications in a business context, avoid.
Guides, videos or webinars that explain or show to people how systems, processes or technologies work, or teaching them to use a software application are examples of educational content.
In a B2B context you are looking to engage with clients and prospects by showing that you have something relevant to say. In turn your company will be seen as relevant to them if it fulfils one or more of the conditions above.
Be creative with your titles
It’s worth mapping all of the services that you offer against all of the perceived requirements, problems and issues faced by your target buyers.
The secret is to provide just enough information to people to convince them of your expertise, but not so much that you ‘give away the crown jewels’.
Here are a few examples:
If your target users are decision makers involved in the purchase of certain products and services, it’s worth showing them a way to evaluate providers of these services that lend themselves to what you do.
Example: 5 Questions to Ask Your Current Web Design Company
If there are particular issues that require a lot of learning to master, but that the investment of time and effort, plan a piece of content to make it easier.
Example: How to Master Google Analytics in a Week
If you see that companies in your field often make mistakes when sourcing services or performing certain tasks, offer ways of making sure those mistakes can be avoided:
Example: The 10 Biggest Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
If there are current technical issues in the wider market which your customers struggle with but for which you have an answer, you can offer a perspective on or explanation for it.
Example: Why Google Keeps Changing its Search Engine Algorithms
If you want to share a particular skill or experience with your audience that will help them in their everyday business life, you might want to produce a piece of content that helps them.
Example: 20 Frequently Asked Questions About Social Media
In terms of ‘self-promotion’ it is acceptable to include case studies that demonstrate the business benefits your clients have derived from working with you.
Example: Smith and Jones Indsutries See Web Visitors Treble With New Website
Other sample titles might include:
“The Definitive Guide to…..”
“16 Reasons why…..”
Include news, comment and perspectives
It is common for newsletters and articles to comment on current market news, government legislation, regulations, general trends and big market developments e.g. takeovers, mergers.
Another popular topic is ‘market roundups’ or ‘weekly digests’ although these may require significant research effort.
In a similar way, predictions of future or upcoming ‘hot’ trends or issues offer an ideal way to show that your company is ‘switched on’ to the latest developments and goings on in your industry sector.
Conduct your own original research
For much more in depth content, and for wider opportunities for promotion on the back of it (including generating PR mileage) original research on a popular or contentious topic is a fantastic activity.
The starting point is to conceive of what might be ‘front of mind’ among a large part of your target audience. In marketing terms, it may be the speed with which web technology is evolving, or how many companies that have a website don’t actually think it performs.
The next step is to think ahead to what you believe your research is going to reveal. For instance if you’ve done a straw poll among 5 or 6 contacts about the topic you have in mind, fast forward to your press release about the completed research survey.
Take for example the ‘website performance’ issue. Suppose we’ve talked to a handful of contacts (not our own clients, obviously!) who for whatever reason are not happy with their website. It may not attract enough visitors, or if visitor numbers are high, they may not be getting any leads through it.
Whatever the specifics, it would be an ideal headline grabber to state“75% of Business Executives Unhappy With Corporate Website Performance”.
Next step is to put together your survey question list, go out to a statistically significant number of contacts and run the survey.
Even if the results fall wide of your hypothesis, you’ll still gather some useful information if you structure the questions properly. But assuming your hunch is right and a majority of people are not happy with their website, just write up the report and get it out there.
And if your business is in a position to put all those website problems right for those executives and others like them, so much the better!
Select your distribution channels
So much content is produced each minute of every day that it’s hard to conceive of it getting noticed without direct promotion. But with skilful optimisation and selection of your distribution media it will be found and shared, thus propagating far more widely than you at first imagine.
Here’s what we suggest:
Post original content to your website
Share links to your content via your social media channels
Write teasers and include links to your content within your email newsletters
Promote your content via other non-newsletter campaigns
Promote your content with a link on your email footer
Adverts and Google AdWords
Promote your content via a keyword-focused campaign on AdWords
Webinars and Seminars
You can even build webinars and seminars around a piece of content – though this applies to a weightier piece of content such as a whitepaper based around original research
Write a book
Include your ‘highlight’ content in a digest – such as a ‘free’ book that you can give away as an incentive.
The frequency with which you share content will very much depend on the type of content and your own business goals.
Take blogging for instance. Some experts recommend posting blogs up to 10 times a week. However, producing enough good quality content with that regularity is going to be beyond many organisations.
So start with a frequency that suits you, maybe once or twice a week for a blog, once or twice a month for a more in depth article, and perhaps once a quarter for an original survey piece.
What matters of course is the goals you set at the outset. A quarterly blog will not set your SEO on fire, but it might well be just right for maintaining visibility with your customers.
Plan and integrate content marketing into your ‘regular’ marketing plan
Content marketing has been likened to publishing – you need a good supply of suitable topics, and they all need to be integrated into an editorial plan.
You also need the means to create and share your content, which if you don’t have a person or team dedicated to it may put it beyond your means.
In this case it’s perfectly reasonable to look at outsourcing either some or all of the process to a 3rd party that has the expertise and experience to help.
It will take time for your content marketing programme to gather momentum. Don’t expect it to set the world on fire after your first blog! Keep at it, and assess the response in terms of clicks on your newsletter, likes, shares and comments.
Also consider carefully how you will fit your content marketing in with your other marketing activities. It’s surprising how once you start producing a regular stream of content, it spills over into your existing marketing – because it’s useful and relevant for your target audience.
Eventually, content may become the central pivot of all your marketing.
Content Marketing is not for everyone, and it certainly doesn’t support the marketing goals of every business. But as a modern, inbound marketing method for generating attraction, visibility and engagement, it deserves a place in every modern marketing department’s toolbox.
For more on this talk to us on 01763 877110