What’s Important In Content Marketing?
“Content is king” is one of those meaningless statements that some marketers use to justify content marketing for content marketing’s sake. Content is not king because without a clear purpose and customers who want to read and respond to it with a desired action it is worthless. Just like advertising, you can guarantee that a majority of visitors will not even be interested in what your content has to say. Content has to contain a relevant message and a potential action as otherwise it has no value.
This is why if you don’t have a clear content marketing strategy you may be wasting your time and might be better doing something different to get the results you are looking for. So, what is content marketing?
“Content marketing is 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.”- Content Marketing Institute – What is content marketing?
How do you know if your content marketing is generating a profitable customer action? Like any strategy you need a plan as otherwise you will be pissing in the wind as some people like to say. You will have no hope of succeeding as you will lack direction and agreement on how to implement your strategy.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine De Saint-Exuprey
However, research by the Content Marketing Institute suggests that less than half of B2C marketers (40%) and a similar proportion of B2B marketers (37%) have a documented content marketing strategy. Now, let’s think about that. Would you sign off a marketing budget without seeing a marketing strategy? No, of course not and so if you want to ensure your content marketing delivers a profitable customer action it is essential that you have a plan with goals, strategies and metrics.
Documented Content Marketing Strategy:
Establishing a documented content marketing strategy ensures you agree appropriate goals and gets everyone to consider how they will meet these objectives. When people have a plan they are obliged to review progress at some point and think about how they measure success.
Once you have a measurement of success you can start tracking your conversion rate for leads, sales or whatever the profitable customer action is. This also helps people learn about what doesn’t work and what does work. The next step is to start planning your content marketing strategy and this begins with defining an overall mission. So having a documented content marketing strategy is a big step forward.
Here are six steps to create a documented content marketing strategy. Let’s get started.
1.What is your overall content marketing mission?
Agreeing an overall purpose for your content marketing helps focus attention on what can make a difference to your business and will help you avoid creating content for contents sake. Your mission should create value by resulting in a profitable customer action such as improving the quality of leads, increasing leads, sales, revenues or reducing costs. Remember content marketing needs to result in a profitable outcome as otherwise it’s a pointless exercise.
2.Write a business plan for content marketing:
A business plan does not have to be too detailed. Simply outline your organisation’s objectives and your business goals or targets. Once you have identified how your organisation plans to achieve these objectives you can outline how content marketing will assist the business with achieving its goals.
You can then summarise qualitative deliverables from content marketing. This should include tasks such as raising awareness, simplify the customer on-boarding and promote new features or products. Next outline the success metrics that you will track to determine how successful your content marketing strategy. This will often involve using web analytics to measure engagement and other related metrics. Don’t forget to also review user experience tools as these can provide both qualitative and quantitative measures to monitor how visitors interact with content.
Defining metrics is especially important because if the target measure is not closely aligned with the desired action you may find unexpected and undesirable behaviours due to the cobra effect. This is where people change behaviour to influence the metric rather than the desired outcome.
- Business objectives – e.g. Grow revenues for product A.
- Goals – e.g. Increase revenues from product A by 10%.
- Strategies for content marketing – E.g. Deliver persuasive product information.
- Quantitative metrics to measure success – E.g. Convert 3.5% of website visitors.
3.The Business Case:
Calculating a return on investment (ROI) for content marketing is difficult because it involves so many different areas and people in an organisation and it rarely works in insolation from other marketing activities. However, it should be possible to estimate the cost of content, how much it is used (or not) and track performance metrics.
Take a sample of content to estimate the average cost of content, including copywriting and design fees. Use the average content cost to estimate the total cost of all your content.
Once you know how much content gets produced you should also estimate the usage level. It’s not uncommon for around 50% content that is generated not to be used. Take a sample of content produced and find out what proportion was actually used. This will tell you if you have a significant problem with wastage.
For performance measures it is important to select meaningful metrics that relate to your stated business goals. For raising awareness for instance page views are largely meaningless. Instead you should seek to track engagement metrics such as average time on page, bounce rate and pages per session are more relevant. For lead generation measuring the conversion rate to understand the quality of leads is more relevant than just the volume of leads.
By being specific about your goals for content marketing you can demonstrate how important it is that you succeed and how content marketing supports your business objectives. Now that you have an understanding of the cost, usage and achievements of your content marketing activities you will be able to outline your business plan and begin measuring the return on investment.
4.Who are your customers?
Developing buyer personas is a crucial next step in your content marketing strategy. Personas allow you to segment your customer base according to the behaviour and attitudes of different user groups. Buyer personas allow you to build detailed profiles of each important customer segment to help you better understand their needs, motivations, desires and preferences. They should inform your content marketing strategy and improve internal understanding of the needs and interests of your audience.
Buyer personas can also help improve your conversion rate because they bring context to discussions around all aspects of the user experience. The Buyer Legends approach developed by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg is a great process to use to develop a narrative of the user journey based upon individual buyer personas. Personas form the foundation of discussion here to examine each step of the customer journey. This enables stakeholders to identify specific pain points and concerns that may be preventing users from converting.
To help you create your buyer persona profiles I’ve summarised the top free persona template tools. These persona creators can also assist you in sharing your personas as it’s important that they are explained to people in an organisation who have some responsibility for the digital experience.
Every brand begins with a story of how the founders decided to set up a new business to meet a specific need or for a purpose that they were passionate about. Sometimes it’s because the founder was not happy with existing product or service on the market and felt they could do better. Other times it’s because the founder lost his or her job and had to try something different to pay their bills. Whatever the story behind the brand this can be motivational and inspiring for the people who know work for the organisation.
Your brand story is worth investigating because it can help differentiate your brand from the competition. People like stories because they are memorable and engaging. Research has also found that people are particularly attracted to products that are the result of a mistake. So, if your product or service was created due to some kind of mistake this may actually enhance your brand story.
Now that you have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, who your target audience are and your brand story, you can now consider which channels are most appropriate for your content. This means setting out a rationale for each channel you decide to use and what kind of content you will publish on each platform.
Your channel plan will help you implement your content marketing strategy in the most effective way as you evaluate how relevant each channel is to your buyer personas, how it may influence their perception of the content and what format is best suited to each channel. You can then identify which metrics to measure performance so that you will have the ability to learn from your successes and failures.
Conversion rate optimisation can now help with the process by using data and experiments to inform decision making. This can be from as little as testing different headlines in content to testing different way to monetise content. Further, sometimes it is preferable to increase friction on a landing page to improve the quality of leads. This is best determined through A/B tests which provide for a scientific approach to decision making. If you don’t have the expertise to run A/B tests you can hire a conversion rate optimisation consultant to assist in this process.
Content is definitely not king as unless it has a specific purpose and results in a profitable action it may be a colossal waste of money. Creating a documented content marketing strategy is an important first step in the process of ensuring that you focus on outcomes rather than inputs.
Once you have that clear direction and success metrics defined you will be in a much better position to develop your content creation process and to populate your content marketing calendar. If you don’t have a clear and documented strategy in place the danger is that content creation and your editorial calendar will drive activity rather than your strategy determining your content. This is a recipe for disaster as they should only create and publish content that fits in with your business objective and goals which are outlined in your content marketing plan.
You can view my full Digital Marketing and Optimization Toolbox here.
To browse links to all my posts on one page please click here.
- About the author: Neal provides digital marketing optimisation consultancy services and has worked for brands such as Deezer.com, Foxybingo.com, Very.co.uk, partypoker.com and Bgo.com. He uses a variety of techniques, including web analytics, personas, customer journey analysis and customer feedback to improve a website’s conversion rate.
- Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on CXL and Usabilla.com. As an ex-market research and insight manager he also had posts published on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact us please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter @conversionupl, see Neal’s LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.