Content marketing is a tactic based on creating and distributing high-quality content, such as videos, blog posts, e-books, or research papers. It’s designed to attract, inform, or engage prospective customers, with the goal of building and strengthening brand-audience relationships.
Content marketing outperforms every traditional marketing method out there, delivering 6x the conversion rate overall. Why? Because it focuses on bringing value to the customer, rather than focusing on the hard sell. In this age of marketing overwhelm, that’s something we all appreciate!
Businesses and brands have caught on to the power of content marketing, and it’s now an essential part of every good marketing plan. With that in mind, let’s explore what makes a successful content marketing strategy…
Know your objective
Before you get stuck into a content strategy, you need to have a clear objective in mind. Many brands churn out content just because everybody else is doing it, but without a clear direction, their content fails to bring any real return.
So what is your primary objective? Do you want to increase awareness of your brand? Do you want to win new customers? Do you want to keep existing customers happy and loyal? These are just a few of the objectives content marketing is made for.
But wait — what about increasing website traffic? What about boosting sales? What about getting more email subscribers? Well, you can certainly achieve these things with a great content strategy, but they shouldn’t be your main focus. Content marketing is about the value you can provide to the audience, not the other way round.
Picture your ideal customers
Speaking of your customers, who are they? Before you start creating content, you should have a detailed image of the person you’re creating it for. This is known as a buyer persona. You can have more than one — a typical existing customer and an ideal new customer, or your menswear and your womenswear customers, for example.
Your buyer persona is a general representation of this customer. It tells you their characteristics, likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, needs, challenges, behaviors, values, background…anything that will give you insight into what makes them tick.
You might also develop negative personas, which detail the type of customer you don’t want. These might include customers with disposable income outside of your price brackets, or those with particular political affiliations, for example.
Knowing your customers at such an advanced level allows you to tailor your content for maximum appeal — and effectiveness. How do you create these personas? It’s easier than it sounds…
Asking your current customers is the one of the most effective ways to create a customer persona. Interviews, surveys, and focus groups can help you to find out exactly who they are and what motivated them to become customers. You can then use this information to appeal to others just like them. You may have to incentivize your research and offer rewards for taking part, but it’s worth it!
You can also use analytical information to paint a picture of your typical customer. For example, Facebook offers demographic breakdowns of your followers, and it also provides data on the types of content they respond to.
Your own business data is also a valuable source of information. You can track behavior on your website or within your sales funnel for clues, or you can capture specific information in your forms. You can even ask your sales and marketing teams for insight, since they’re on the front line dealing with your target audience every day.
Let’s explore what your brand persona might look like. These are high-level details, but it’s a good idea to delve as deep as possible and include as much information as you can gather.
You’re selling a course helping corporate professionals to set up a consultancy. Your ideal buyer persona is Emma, 33, a highly educated accountant with a moderate-to-high disposable income. She’s active on social media and is interested in travel, health, and fitness. She regularly reads online accountancy journals and business publications, but she also enjoys light-hearted content.
Emma wants to leave her firm and become an independent practitioner. She’s disillusioned with corporate life and wants a better work-life balance, but she’s scared to take the plunge and leave a secure job. She worries about how she’ll find clients on her own and she’s anxious about how she’ll manage on a lower income.
Understand the buyer journey
So now you know who your customers are and what drives them, it’s time to look at where they are in the buyer journey. This varies from business to business, but there are typically three main stages that make up the buyer journey.
In the Awareness stage, the buyer is aware that they have a desire, need, or problem, and they’re researching solutions.
In the Evaluation stage, the buyer has decided to take action and is actively assessing their options. This might involve comparing your products or services to others, doing research into a product you offer, or asking questions of your sales team.
In the Purchase stage, the buyer is ready to commit and it’s up to you to close the deal. This is where they decide whether or not you’re the right fit for them.
Map your content
The goal of your content is to move your buyer persona through the stages of the buyer journey towards becoming a customer. To do this, you’ll need to create content that appeals to each persona at each stage. For this, you’ll need a content map.
This is a fairly easy process. Simply list the questions each persona typically has at each stage, and design your content to answer them. Let’s use Emma as an example.
Emma is currently in the awareness stage, because she knows she has an objective — to set up her own business — and she’s researching solutions. At this stage, Emma is looking for information, so your content should match her needs.
You might create blog posts on how to overcome your fears and go it alone. You might share e-books on setting up a consultancy from scratch. You might even create a free mini-course on finding your first independent clients.
Once you’ve helped Emma to establish exactly what she needs, she’ll move into the evaluation stage. Emma is now aware of your brand and values your content, and she’s assessing your course. Your next goal is to push her to the purchase stage.
At this stage, Emma wants you to convince her that your course is the solution to her problem. It’s time to engage with her on a deeper level and convince her that you’re the expert. Content like reports, white papers or seminars will lend you credibility, while video testimonials or case studies from previous clients will vouch for your success.
Now Emma’s ready to buy. In the purchase stage, she’s narrowed down her options and it’s up to you to close the deal. Here, you can use your content to overcome objections, such as price or commitment. Content like course demos, free trials, workshops, seminars, or free accompanying materials can reassure Emma of your course’s value and help to push past any last-minute hesitations.
Choose your channels
Now you’ve decided on the most appropriate content, how will you distribute it? There are lots options available for getting your content in front of the desired audience. These include:
- You Company Website
- Your blog
- Your social media channels
- Your email list
- Online communities
- Paid advertising
- Mobile apps
The best way to decide is to look at the buyer persona you created. How does this person typically consume their content? Do they favor apps over websites? Which social platforms do they use? How long do they spend on each one? Why? Where do they get their news? Are they responsive to email marketing?
Meet your customers where they spend their time. If they only use Facebook, it doesn’t make sense to invest energy into populating your Instagram with content. On the other hand, if they’re highly active on various platforms, then you should make sure your content is visible on each.
Measure your success
Finally, it’s essential to know if your content marketing strategy is actually paying off. Depending on your objectives, you can measure success using a number of metrics:
- Customer satisfaction
- Email subscribers
- Website traffic
- Website conversions
- Content downloads or views
- Social shares, views, or followers
To measure improvement, first decide on your metric and decide how you’ll measure it — using an analytics tool? A page view counter? Customer surveys? Then, take a baseline measurement and check your metric against this figure at regular intervals. This gives you the opportunity to see what’s working, make changes to anything that isn’t, and keep your strategy on the right track.
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