To engage customers in the digital age, brands need a content strategy.
Most online businesses already have some kind of content marketing strategy. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends survey, 72 percent of respondents credit strategy as a factor in their overall success with content marketing.
But according to the same report, 38 percent admit they have no documented content marketing strategy. That implies they’re not properly managing the content they have produced, or they’re not ensuring they have a streamlined process for content ideation and creation or leveraging their content so it can achieve their goals to the fullest.
Respondents with a documented strategy have also reported higher levels of success in their content marketing compared to those with no strategy at all.
To reach those higher levels, brands need a content strategy that ties together multiple content channels with a range of content types that achieve defined business goals. That’s the goal of this post: To illuminate best practices, tactics, and actionable advice that brands new and old can take to heart. Let’s begin.
But first: What is a Content Strategy?
It’s a clear set of goals and actions that determine the ideation of content, creation of content, scheduling and publishing of content, and management of a variety of content types aimed towards different buyer personas. It’s making sure every piece of content, from video blogs to website articles, reaches its fullest potential. And it’s analyzing why some content succeeds or fails and learning from each outcome.
What Makes a Documented Content Strategy Important?
It’s simple: People are tired of traditional advertising. Millennials, who spend $200 billion annually, hate and don’t trust ads. But they love the Internet and social media, where they spend 7 hours per day.
And because a documented content strategy gives brands the visibility into how much they should spend on their content creation efforts. Plus, content, as you might guess, is the core of content marketing. Without a central website where you regularly publish content you won’t organically drive traffic, which means it’ll be difficult to generate leads or sales from online channels (which is increasingly important with Millennials moving into more procurement roles). Content strategy that focuses on online publishing is not just necessary—it’s vital for the long-term success of a brand in the 21st century.
OK! Let’s get into it.
What do I need to keep in mind?
1. Content Marketing Objectives
To get started with a content strategy, you need to answer these questions: What do you want to accomplish with your content marketing? How can you align your marketing objectives with your business goals? And, what are your own internal pain points and brand challenges?
Here are some objectives your content can help solve:
- Brand awareness
- Brand authority
- Customer loyalty
- Market share
- Social engagement
- Site ranking on Google
- Share of voice
- Organic traffic
- Better leads (85 percent of brands say it’s their most important goal.)
- Organic traffic
The above are the usual reasons for creating content. Of course, goals could change occasionally, while your overarching goal (to increase revenue) remains steadfast. Figure out “what” you want to do before you can focus on the “how”.
2. Buyer Personas
Next, define your target audience. Who are you talking to? Who are you trying to reach? Keep your business objectives in mind – if you’re in the beginning of a funding round, obviously you’ll to want to attract investors. If you want to create content for them, you need to know all there is to know about them.
That involves researching:
- Demographic information such as age, gender, goal, location
- Where they hang out online (ex: Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Other websites and online publications they frequently visit
- Their cares, concerns, problems, and questions (pain points)
Create buyer personas that clearly describe who you’re trying to reach. Once you do that, you can create gripping content targeted specifically to those people. And if you’re a seasoned marketer, it’s important to revisit these questions occasionally. Audience concerns could change, or you may want to attract other audiences based on changing trends.
3. Keyword Research
With goals and persona research out of the way, it’s time to focus on researching the keywords your targeted audience members are using.
Google’s constantly shifting algorithm seems to have finally settled on something actually equivalent to human speech. That’s good. That means you can create content based on common questions and phrases people type into search engines or ask voice assistants like Alexa or Siri.
To find out which keywords to use in the first place, rely on your preferred keyword research tool. In Google Analytics, you can plug in a question your personas might ask – “How can I resolve data integrity issues?” for example– and you’ll be presented with a list of possible keywords along with search volume and competition level. Choose what’s relevant and use a mix of single keywords and long-tail phrases in engaging, high-quality content about that subject to ensure Google will rank your content on its search results pages. This can also serve as additional research into your target customer’s pain points. Oftentimes, you’ll find keyword phrases and questions that are highly searched for by your target markets that weren’t necessarily on your radar.
4. Types of Content
Finally, the content part of the content strategy. There are various content formats that you can leverage to hit your business and marketing goals.
What you’re reading right now is a blog post located on our central website. They should be updated regularly and provide valuable content to your target audience. Depending on the subject, blog articles typically range anywhere from 500 to 2,000 words long. Sometimes more, depending on the depth of the subject. Experiment with blog post length to see how long your readers (see Analytics below) stay on a page. Don’t worry—writing a good blog post isn’t too difficult.
And don’t assume that shorter content is always better. Depending on your target audience, sometimes longer content (upwards of 1,000 words) has higher conversion rates. So do your audience research and plan accordingly.
A type of testimonial that tells the in-depth story of how one of your products or services solved a customer’s problem. It can be shared with future clients as proof of your value and effectiveness. Though most case studies are quick 1 or 2-page pdf documents that are sent to leads and prospects as part of overall sales collateral Though case studies are typically released as ebooks, they can also be repurposed into visual content types such as infographics, video, or social media posts, broken up into a series of blog posts, or even produced as a podcast. They’re great for lead generation.
In-depth subjects call for longer content. An ebook, usually exported in a PDF file format and hosted on a landing page, provides more information than the usual blog post. Of course, an ebook’s topic should be something you’re familiar with. A well-designed ebook full of valuable data, interviews, and knowledge sourced from internal or external Subject Matter Experts can demonstrate expertise to prospects and dramatically boost your reputation. Like case studies, they’re great for cultivating and educating leads, leading them down the sales funnel.
Reading thousands of words isn’t for everyone. For time-strapped audiences (or for content that can be better explained through visual representation) there’s the infographic, which visually organizes data points and other tidbits of info in a colorful, easily understandable way. They usually involve charts, line graphs, bar graphs, and other visual representations of information. Don’t just make static ones, either—animated and interactive infographics are all the rage now.
A growing number of brands are turning to audio to deliver informative content. It makes sense. Busy multitaskers can pop in some earbuds, listen to an interview or story for 15 minutes, and learn a lot about a prominent influencer or industry problem. Plus, 64 percent of B2B buyers prefer to listen to podcasts at the start of the buying process. If you have any silver tongues in the office give them a microphone, a list of talking points, and a recording schedule.
Perhaps the most engaging content format there is, videos are perfect for educating and entertaining leads, driving sales, and increasing conversion rates. They’re also easy to share on social channels, and not all that expensive to make. Though they do require some effort and vision. You have many format options, too: interviews, how-to videos, tutorials, product or factory walkthroughs—you name it. The payoff is worth it, as well—social video generates 1,200 percent more shares than text or images.
This is a specific content format that educates buyers and professional readers about a technical issue. Like the ebook or case study, you’re talking about a specific issue or industry problem and how it can be solved. The difference here is that you’re writing in a less personal, more academic voice. It’s a subtle needle to thread, but you should be explaining a solution while subtly promoting your own best practice or service without coming off as a sales brochure. Pull it off with these killer steps and you’ll generate more credibility, leads, and even media exposure if another publication picks it up.
White papers are great for generating leads, raising brand awareness, and building authority and reputation.
There are many, many more content types to consider, including charts, FAQs, press releases, webinars, newsletters, slide shows, and social media posts. There’s a lot of different types of content format out there. Experiment and find out what your audience reacts to best.
5. Editorial Calendar and Collaboration Software
Once you have content ideas and formats down, you need to organize everything. An editorial calendar, complete with draft deadlines, publish dates, authors, and a little notes column for any updates, will give you the visibility necessary to ensure everything’s going smoothly. It could be something as simple (and free) as a spreadsheet on Google Drive or a full-blown collaboration project management solution like Airtable or Trello.
Whatever option you choose, ensure your team members have the right to access everything they need and keep the appropriate files, lists, and timelines updated. Keeping tabs on when content is going to get published, and who’s responsible for specific tasks will keep your content strategy seamless and help minimize bottlenecks.
6. Distribution Channels
If you’ve followed the above guidelines, you’re publishing and managing your content without minimal friction (Good job!) But now you need to distribute your content if anyone’s going to see it. Just so happens we’ve got a nice big list of the best distribution channels brands can use to extend their content’s reach.
But if you want a quick recommendation, companies can always benefit from sharing blog posts, infographics, and longer-form content like ebooks and white papers on LinkedIn. It’s where most B2B buyers hang out and do initial research. In fact, it’s where 80 percent of B2B leads come from, and where 94 percent of B2B marketers distribute their content. So, you’ll be in good company.
Analytics, or metrics, can tell you a lot about how your content is performing with your audiences. It’s vastly important to pay attention to them or else you’re flying in the dark. Here are some of the major Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you’ll want to measure to see how effective your content is and how well you’re reaching your business objectives:
- Bounce Rates – The percentage of visitors who leave your website after spending time on only one page. This can give you a high level overview of whether or not your content is resonating with your audience and if you need to add more calls-to-action to increase stickiness.
- Organic Traffic – Site visits will tell you if your pages and content are correctly optimized for search and driving organic traffic from search terms.
- Social Media Shares – Social analytics on Facebook,Twitter, and other platforms can give you insight into how far your content reaches and clue you into audience engagement rates.
- Views – Video metrics on Twitter, YouTube, and other video-heavy platforms will tell you how many clicks, impressions, and views you’re getting.
Of course, there are hundreds of KPIs that cover everything from leads generated to email signups to media share of voice. You’ll want to review your business objectives and content strategy to decide which KPIs matter most to your business.
8. Testing, Fine-tuning, Experimenting
That’s it, you got the basics down for a solid content strategy. But that’s not the end of it.
Remember, these things take time. As such, you should never stop analyzing and never forget your vision. If you’re not confident in the content you’re putting out there, take a look at what the analytics say. Numbers never lie.
Maybe your audience is jazzed about your blog topics because they stay a while, but they’re not coming back because you’re not updating enough. Or maybe your podcast is in need of editing because people quit listening halfway through.
Content is all about experimentation and fine-tuning until you nail that sweet spot that will net you engagements, leads, or views. Whatever your company goal is, be authentic, have a story worth telling, and don’t forget these best practices.