How to Create a Winning Content Marketing Strategy
It’s a question that haunts every digital marketer’s dreams, and one that marketing managers ponder over text-filled white boards: how do you create a content marketing strategy that works? I’d love to tell you that I have an out-of-the-box solution, but it’s really not that simple. What I can do is tell you the traits of your business to analyse to distinguish the fundamental content streams your business needs to create a successful content marketing campaign.
Complete Guide to Strategic Content Marketing
As a full-suite digital marketing agency, the team at Webcentral have created content marketing strategies for Australian businesses big and small, and the first thing we do is analyse who our client is and how they’re positioned in the market. When you’re doing this for your own business, there are a few pieces of data you need to collect. You’ll also need to tag key traits of your business to find the right content strategies for your marketing goals.
Step 1: Know your business function
Knowing your function is paramount to your content marketing strategy and it’s often the first thing you need to address. Start with simply identifying if your business sells to other businesses (B2B) or to individual consumers (B2C). This will affect the social media channels you should be on, the types of content you should be creating and how you use that content to interact with your audience.
Some businesses fit into both the B2B and B2C category and, while this offers more opportunity to sell your products and services, it requires careful customer segmentation to ensure your marketing messages are framed for the right audience.
While the basics of content marketing are suitable for use across both B2B and B2C businesses, tailoring your content marketing to suit individual customer relationships will heighten your success. In general, B2B relationships will require nurturing, making the content sales pathway (or sales funnel) much longer; while a B2C content marketing strategy is likely to take place over a much shorter period, depending on the nature of your business.
Step 2: Establish your business format
What are you going to sell – is it a service or a product? And how are you going to sell it – will you use an eCommerce platform, or will you direct your customers through to a sales representative? These questions may seem trivial and obvious, but it’s essential to clearly define what your business and digital presence is offering clients. If you’re a service-based business that relies on inbound phone calls from potential clients, your digital pitch and your content touchpoints will be completely different to an eCommerce business. From there, the type of content you use is also affected by whether you’re looking for a hard and fast sell, or whether you’d rather slowly lead clients toward a purchase (think buying a new toaster versus buying a new home).
Consider the needs of your customers. Content marketing is often about telling a brand story that makes the customer to feel comfortable making a purchase – whether that takes form as a detailed white paper, product brochure or a client case study. Find the piece of content they need, deliver it to them, and watch your sales grow.
Step 3: Identify where your business sits in the market
Your approach to content marketing should be informed by your position in the market. There are a variety of benefits to being a big-name brand with strong market recognition. However, there are also benefits for businesses just starting out. The freedom afforded to unknown businesses allows you to build your brand from the ground up and create a brand story with a really strong and well-thought-out content marketing strategy.
Analyse where your business sits in the marketplace. How do your prices compare to your competitors? What do people say about you? But, most importantly, is your existing marketing materials telling the right story. By investigating your current brand presence against your competitors you can determine not only what you need to fix through a content strategy, but the foundation you already have to build on.
Depending on how you’re positioned in the market, your content will have a differing influence on consumers. This is usually just a matter of brand awareness and authority but can also be influenced by negative press or an unfavourable market view. If you’re viewed as a budget option, it’ll be difficult to market yourself as a premium service; however, with a long-term content plan, you can demonstrate a change in your company setup and establish yourself as a market leader.
Solve your weaknesses and leverage your strengths to create a complete content marketing strategy that delivers a high ROI.
Step 4: Understand your audience
Ignore the digital marketing aspect for a second: YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS. This is a key pillar in any business’s success. If you don’t know your customers inside and out, there’s no way you can meet their needs completely, which means eventually they’ll go somewhere else.
How you position your content completely depends on your customers and target audiences. From the social media channels you use and the type of content you produce, right down to the tone of voice and specific language you use, it all hinges on your customers. So, get to know who you’re selling to before putting pen to paper.
The success of your content marketing strategy comes down to engaging with your customers. If you don’t know who they are, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to create appealing content. Many content marketers recommend creating customer avatars. These are customer architypes that you can develop to represent your stereotypical customers. A customer avatar will usually include interests, buying pain points and biographical information. These are very useful tools when deciding on content to produce and can be super valuable for your writers to write to.
Step 5: Set your business goals
Clearly defining your business goals is something every successful business must do, but it’s also important to clearly define your content marketing goals as well. Some businesses will use content marketing to drive sales more than others, so it’s important to clearly delineate in your strategy exactly the role content will play to reach your broader goals.
If you’re a leads-based business with a sales team to make the final sale, expecting an increase in sales solely via a content marketing campaign may be unrealistic. Instead, your aim should be to increase leads (which should naturally boost sales as well). Comparing this to an eCommerce site without a dedicated sales team, you can directly link your digital campaign to an increase in sales.
Attune your content marketing campaign goals (and the metrics you choose to measure) to your business goals to make the most of your content marketing efforts. Aligning your content to your business goals will also mean you’re investing time in the right form of content to achieve your aims, rather than wasting resources on a content stream that may not deliver the results you’re looking for.
MEASURING YOUR DIGITAL CONTENT
Now that you’ve had a look at who your business is, it’s time to look at how you can use data to measure and improve your content marketing strategy.
Build up your email subscribers and Facebook followers
How many client emails does your business have access to? These current, past or potential customers are a content marketer’s dream, and they are what can drive your company’s growth. Smart content marketing strategies make use of the data you have access to delivering relevant content to the right people. As a result, this increases client interaction with your brand, builds brand voice and authority, and has been shown to increase sales, retention and repurchase rate.
Analysing the current data you have is an important step when designing your content marketing campaign. Certain content types will be impractical without a cultivated audience. For example, email marketing is a great content marketing platform to reach your consumers but if your database isn’t large enough, you’d be better to divert your efforts elsewhere. Likewise, social media content is great for generating credibility; however, when it comes to advertising, the costs may outweigh the return without a strong following.
If you identify a lack of data in your business, don’t worry – content marketing campaigns can be specifically designed to capture this data. By utilising one of these campaigns, you not only grow your mailing list, but also increase leads and potential business.
CRM and segmentation
For business growth and targeted marketing, a properly managed CRM (customer relationship management) system is essential. Without it, you’re driving blind. The insights a system like this retains are golden. Providing information on client industry, purchase history, regular spend, and product interest areas, properly curated client data allows you to identify customer types and potential upsell opportunities and guides you when building a customer journey within your content marketing strategy.
Segmentation is the art of identifying customer segments for targeted marketing. Regular segments that customers can be broken into include everything from payment brackets, to location, industry, purchase history and time since last online interaction.
Made simpler with an audited CRM (but still possible without), segmentation can drastically increase the effectiveness of certain marketing techniques. Particularly useful for email direct marketing (EDM), segmentation should be considered in your content strategy planning, helping to bring a comprehensive customer understanding to the business.
CRMs and segmentation go hand-in-hand and, while the implementation of a modern and adaptable CRM into your business can be expensive, the positive effects extend far beyond the marketing sphere. A CRM, when properly operated, speeds up customer interaction and can greatly improve the way you manage the sales and post-sales process. If you don’t already have a CRM in place, look into the available options on the market.
Website ranking and social media positioning
The strength of your digital presence – from SEO rankings and monthly traffic to social media followers – needs to be considered when creating your content marketing campaign. Closely monitoring this data not only allows you to identify the digital strengths you can leverage for a strong campaign, it also highlights the areas where your digital presence struggles. Identifying these weaknesses is arguably more important than celebrating strengths, as it provides more scope to improve future messaging and breadth of content.
One of your strengths may be having a high-traffic blog. This resource enables you to effectively purpose the blog to reach your content marketing goals faster, whether through targeted blogging, lead capture or direct selling.
At the other end, you may not have a blog at all. This means you need to either build blogging into your content marketing strategy from scratch or opt for the use of a different content stream.
By looking at things like your website rankings and social media engagement you can measure your current digital reputation. Your current standpoint gives clear parameters in terms of possible reach and these limits will ultimately affect your success (and ROI) in other areas of content marketing.
Analysing your data will allow you to start making smart content marketing decisions by identifying areas for improvement across the board, from SEO or PPC campaigns, to in-house CRMs and data-gathering techniques.
Using the information you’ve collected about your business, you should now have a fair idea of who you are (digitally speaking) and how you’re positioned in the market. Below, I’ve broken down content marketing into its key content types and have described how each can be used, depending on your business type.
Blogs: the backbone of online content
Blogs have been around since the inception of the internet and are now the driving force behind online content. No matter the topic, there are probably upwards of a dozen blogs online to provide you with the answers you seek. Blogs have now become a central source of information for every internet user. The potential reach that blogging offers allows businesses to build their brand voice, demonstrate IP (Intellectual Property), establish market authority and engage with customers, new and old. In general, blogs are an effective part of any content marketing strategy and are well worth considering in yours.
If you run a business-to-business (B2B) brand, it’s important to remember that your customers, although technically businesses, are represented by regular consumers. While it may not seem important to be blogging as a B2B business, you can actually capture the attention of CEOs, purchasing managers and other key decision makers searching online.
While blogs are unlikely to directly result in a sale for a B2B company, they do allow you to position yourself as an authority figure and build a brand voice. Raising the awareness of your IP via blogging will make your company more memorable. All the while, a thick blogging component to your site will boost your SEO.
When you’re using blogs for B2B purposes, it’s important to focus on the facts, rather than opinions. Business blogs need to provide real information to get potential clients thinking about what you can do for them. This means that, the style and tone of your blog should be reflective of your business and speak to respectfully business representatives. In that regard, rather than cheap “click-bait” content, you should aim to bring real value to the table, whether through IP or industry analysis, positioning your business as an industry leader.
Blogs are a driving force of B2C communication. With the potential to upsell and cross-sell, blogs have become one of the major components of successful B2C content marketing strategies. With flexibility and ease of production, blogs are the Swiss Army Knife of B2C content marketing. Perfect for advertising products or sales and driving traffic to your website, you can achieve a lot with a smart blogging campaign.
One thing B2C and B2B bloggers need to be aware of is the need for amplification. Unless your company already has a successful blog that’s getting hundreds of clicks a day, you probably need to find a way to make sure your blogs are actually seen. If no one sees them, they’re not particularly useful to you or any potential customers.
While we go into amplification in-depth later, the basic principle is to deliver the content to those interested in it. Social media is perhaps the best platform for this for B2C companies, as their blogs tend to be more consumable, while EDMs are also a useful way to deliver the blog to potential readers. Certain social platforms will suit different businesses and the exact nature of amplification used should be matched to your industry, your social media platform and the content of each blog.
Service-based businesses can perhaps make the most out of blogging. This is because clients will generally want to see lots of information from you before signing on for an extended contract.
In general, service-based businesses should be looking to generate interest in their IP or techniques through service spotlights or industry analysis. By providing a significant amount of information that works to position the business as an authority, you develop trust from the client.
Blogs are also a great piece of content to deliver to current clients to nurture them through their customer journey. By continuously providing knowledge and expertise to your existing clients, your clients are better placed to see the value in your service, rather than wondering what you spend their money on each month.
Blogs can also be used as inspiration pieces. Show potential or existing customers what you’ve done for other people (a bathroom renovation, improved efficiency, cut transport overheads, etc.) so they can start thinking about what you can do for them. Not only does this highlight your skills to the reader, it also encourages their interest in your business.
Sell, sell, sell. That’s what eCommerce is all about, and with the world of low prices and hot deals we live in, your business needs an edge. The ability to sell online, while affected by price, can often come down to product, brand name and trust in the site.
If you run a branded eCommerce site (exclusively selling your own products), your blogging (and entire content marketing campaign, for that matter) will need to be focussed on building interest in the brand. You can’t rely on discounting your way to the top because someone overseas will always be able to undercut your prices. You need to build brand loyalty and show prospects why they should choose your business. The content you produce strongly affects this.
Writing blogs around influencers can have a huge boost to your bottom line here (for instance, consider the make-up industry’s use of Instagram stars to promote products). This ability to draw interest from people who are possibly completely unaware of your brand is one of the best things to take advantage of when it comes to eCommerce. Using blogs to not only create a brand voice, but to drive sales, is one of the strongest content marketing strategies available for eCommerce businesses and, as such, should be a pillar of your plans going forward.
ECommerce blogging is also a great chance to use other mediums to drive interest. Make use of video, social interaction, infographics and images to make content more engaging and drive people to your site.
Offline products business
‘Offline product sales’ is a pretty broad category to tackle, as it includes everything from brick and mortar stores, house and vehicle sales to custom furniture or tech equipment. Not to mention that there can be significant crossover with businesses making use of eCommerce in conjunction with in-store sales. As far as content marketing strategies go, it’s important to consider your goals when it comes to blogging. If you’re trying to drive people to come into your store or attend an open house, your blog focus will be different to that of a business trying to secure sales online. You may even be trying to do both. There’s nothing wrong with having a two-prong blogging strategy but it is important to identify which customer group each blog is written for.
When you’re trying to encourage a high cost purchase, there will naturally be a lot more work involved than if someone’s looking for a book or cheap hairbrush online. This means the content you provide needs to change. You need to combine entertainment-driven blogs with more in-depth articles written for service-based businesses. Writing about the industry can be a great way to drive people to your site and, if you include a plug for your products accompanied by a link to see more information on your business, you can maximise your chances of getting your products found.
The content marketing strategy behind Coca-Cola is going to be vastly different to your local plumber’s content strategy. Brand recognition matters. Your goal may be to build that recognition, and blogs are a great way to do that. On the other hand, if you’re already well-known and have managed to establish a brand voice your customers understand, it’s essential that your blogging strategy matches that voice.
If you’re known as a cheap brand in the market, you can’t suddenly start writing blogs about high-end, quality products as it won’t resonate with your customers. However, if you are that more affordable brand, there are plenty of ways to play into that. You can write blogs that include tips on saving money in your industry, compare cheaper products with the more expensive and talk about value.
There are plenty of ways to leverage your company’s perception into interesting reading. Focus on producing blogs that match your brand voice and highlight the strengths of your market perception.
Being an unknown company has its drawbacks, but it also means you can create your own brand narrative. Obviously, who you are comes from the business itself but, with a clean slate, you can frame your strengths and weaknesses in a way that benefits the brand.
The tone and language of the content you produce, blogs or otherwise, must match. Despite your business infancy, you should still treat your brand as a well-known company by building yourself a cohesive brand voice. This gives you parameters to ensure your blogs are consistent with your marketing messages.
Creating a brand voice isn’t always easy, but the general process is simple enough. Identify the key traits that you associate with your business – just as if you were describing a person. Your business could be honest, quirky, irreverent – whatever it is, write it down. From these initial traits, describe how your business embodies that trait. From there, you’ll have a better idea of how that manifests in your content allowing you to identify what your business would or wouldn’t say.
Knowing who your customers are is essential, and that applies doubly for blogs. You need to produce content that your customers will actually read. This should be quite simple if you’ve correctly identified your customer types.
Consider the stereotypical customers you have. Do they have much free time? Are they avid readers, or prefer simple language? Are they likely to use a mobile device or desktop computer to read your blogs?
Once you understand your readership, create blogs that match not only the interests and demographics of your customers, but their likely content preferences. Do your customers read short or long blogs? Do they like videos in their blogs? Work this out and you’ve got content that will genuinely resonate with the people who might spend money with you.
Email direct marketing – Driving profits through massive ROI
As far as marketing strategies go, a properly constructed EDM campaign wins hands down when it comes to ROI. Used independently, in the sales process for automation or as an amplification technique, marketing emails can generate a huge response from your clients.
With the ability to deliver personalised marketing content, you’re actually talking directly to each and every customer you have on your database, and that’s not something to sneeze at.
There are a range of different EDM campaign types that your business should be making use of, including:
Blast – The sending out of mass emails, usually for a sale or content delivery (blog amplification). Showing great short-term and directly measurable ROI, especially when used for eCommerce sales, blast emails are perhaps the easiest EDM type to create and a good starting point for businesses just starting out with email marketing.
Nurture – This involves the intricate planning and creation of long term email campaigns. There will often be multiple streams of emails triggered based on how each client reacts to the previous email. This type of email will require segmentation to ensure the right emails get delivered to the right client types. Great for both past and current clients, these emails have been shown to increase purchase frequency, retention rates and repeat customer rates.
Sales automation – For businesses with a longer sales process, sales automation is a fantastic tool to ensure a constant flow of communication. This EDM campaign delivers content at each stage of the sales journey and will help increase the percentage of leads that become more qualified and ultimately result in sales. This email type will also increase overall value per sale. These emails are built to automate the work of a salesperson!
Purchase follow up – This EDM campaign can take the form of a welcome email for a service business, or in the case of eCommerce, an order receipt email chain. eCommerce stores will naturally already have a basic version of this email set-up that informs customers when their order is expected to arrive. But, did you know that these emails have one of the highest open rates of all? They’re the perfect opportunity to upsell, cross sell and introduce a client to your brand voice.
Site triggers – Site triggers track the way your web visitors use your site (if you already have their email details). You can then send them a tailored marketing campaign based on what they are looking at. For example, someone who has already bought something from your eCommerce store could return to your site and look at a different category of products without making a purchase. By sending an automated follow up email, you can entice them to come back to your site and buy. This is a very effective marketing tool because you’re targeting a client when they are already thinking about making a purchase. These emails are also a great way to slip in discount codes to give the potential buyer that final nudge.
Abandoned cart – Did you know that on average 67% of shopping carts are abandoned? Just imagine how much your bottom line income would increase if you could lower that number? This is where the abandoned cart email campaign comes in. There are many ways to turn that 67% back into cash, but a tailored set of EDMs based on what type of products are in the cart is generally a good start. As far as eCommerce goes, this isn’t a choice, you need to set up abandoned cart email campaigns. Whether it’s a basic follow up or a more complicated campaign that makes use of dynamic content and discount offers, abandoned cart automations hold the key to capitalising on known buyer interest.
Creating an EDM campaign requires a database of emails. Hopefully you’ll find yours safe and sound in your CRM with plenty of additional data for segmentation. If you don’t currently have an email list, you can gather data using blogs, social media or lead capture techniques.
A smart, interwoven EDM campaign is essential for B2B success. Client relationships are the building blocks of a strong business, especially for B2B companies. EDMs aren’t just about sales, they’re about nurturing your relationship with current, past and future clients. Every B2B company can benefit from investing in an in-depth EDM nurture program for their clients. Not only does this allow you to show clients what you have to offer, it also enables you to deliver a stream of content that shows exactly why they should be using you.
Almost every single segment of the B2B business community can make use of email nurture campaigns, even if it’s just for content amplification. A key part of any content marketing campaign is content delivery, and emails are a great way to do that. Whether it’s a blog, white paper or eBook, when you have content that shows off your IP, you need the right people to see it. By sending this content to key decision makers, you maximise your chance of garnering their interest. Not only that, but once they have downloaded or clicked through to your content, you can create an automated email follow up to keep their interest alive.
EDMs can not only let a business automate their sales process, but increase repeat business and retention rates, without person-to-person interaction. There’s no better way to efficiently manage a large number of clients.
From the smallest business to the largest, emails make a difference. Even your average domestic plumber can increase customer retention and grow brand awareness with a targeted email marketing campaign. Combining the best of both worlds, EDMs for B2C businesses can yield immediate sales results as well as nurture clients. While not a pivotal element for some B2C businesses, EDMs still play a key role in the complete content marketing strategy for most successful businesses.
Perhaps most commonly used for sales blasts, EDMs have become a staple for many B2C companies. Making use of more than one type of email in an integrated campaign will always work best. In some cases, businesses are run on the driving force of email marketing, especially when it comes to eCommerce. B2C companies committed to creating strong EDM campaigns succeed and grow much faster than those who ignore the content stream altogether.
The way service-based businesses use EDMs will vary widely depending on their industry, but almost all can make use of email marketing. From basic automated follow ups on service experience, to complex nurture and sales email automation, EDMs can do a lot for a service-based business.
Perhaps overlooked due to the awe-inspiring ROI of the sales email, the pure efficiency of automated emails can streamline your marketing efforts. The fantastic thing about setting up an automated email system, whatever the purpose, is that most of the work is done up front. Once the system is operational, the only real work is monitoring performance and making tweaks to perfect the system. This makes email automation the perfect investment for a range of service-based businesses.
Usually seen in professional and white-collar industries, nurture programs and automated email systems are slowly progressing over into the blue-collar world. Almost all businesses take an email from customers during the sales process. Even your plumber will probably ask for it, so they can send their invoice to you, and more businesses are seeing the business value in this data. Start taking advantage of the power of EDMs and look into how they can help your business grow.
eCommerce businesses run on the power of email marketing. From blast sales emails, site triggers to abandoned carts and nurture programs, almost every email in the content marketing arsenal can be deployed to deliver results for eCommerce businesses.
Compared to other business types, email marketing is particularly suited to eCommerce. The very nature of the business requires the exchange of email information, and the fast-paced sales turnover means you can see immediate ROI from sales emails. A central technique for major and minor brands alike, emails are widely recognised as the go-to marketing strategy for eCommerce businesses.
One of the rarely mentioned strengths of emails is their visual impact on the consumer. This is nowhere more obvious than in eCommerce sales emails. Delivering a consumer a stunning picture of your product with a great sales price underneath can encourage people to buy something they weren’t initially planning on.
Offline products business
Offline products are perhaps the hardest sell for EDM campaigns. Client nurture and content amplification is still a very useful technique, but the ROI is much harder to measure.
For seasonal businesses (fashion), or those rapidly changing their offerings (real estate), sending regular updates with what’s currently available is a great marketing tactic. This is demonstrated impeccably by EDM campaigns run by domain.com. Not only do they deliver regular content that they think will interest potential customers (segmented by what you’ve searched for), they also send recently listed properties for rent or sale based on how they’ve segmented you. For someone who is actively searching the real estate market, this is a huge drawcard.
There are plenty of areas for offline product businesses to make use of email marketing as a tactic but, due to the lack of eCommerce functionality, the tracking of direct ROI is limited. While this can put some businesses off, ROI isn’t the only stick by which to measure your content.
Well-known & unknown
Email marketing is an every-man type of marketing technique and it works for businesses, large and small. While a trusted and known brand name may attract higher open rates, the fact that you have been previously trusted with their email address means that your contact already has an interest in your brand. This prior interest is one of the things that makes email marketing such a useful tool.
***Beware the purchase of email lists. Bought lists often end in disaster. If you’re desperate to grow your number of email contacts, invest in a sound lead capture, social or blogging strategy and collect contacts that are actually interested in your business.
Brand recognition won’t so much affect the choices of emails you send, but the tone you use when sending. Again, you should match the tone of your content to your brand.
You can’t target a customer with email marketing if you don’t have their email address. It’s as simple as that. If you do have their email, they can and should be contacted with personalised brand messages.
Like blogging, email content must be written with your target audience in mind. Things like send date & time, sale offer types and content can be adjusted by seeing what your clients respond best to. This testing phase is an essential part of creating an EDM campaign that works.
White papers & eBooks – Establishing authority in a crowded market
When you want to impress a potential or current client, there’s no better piece of content than a white paper or eBook.
A white paper is something you might commonly hear mentioned in politics, think tanks and government agencies, but all it really is, is a position paper outlining your business’s response to an issue. There’s no better piece of content for a business looking to highlight their IP and, when it comes to selling your business as a market leader, it’s likely to get real traction.
Similar to white papers in their informative and factual nature, eBooks open a whole different range of self-promotional options. A good eBook can actually make your business money through sales. The implied authority of an eBook for sale adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the mystique of your brand, especially if it becomes popular, but even when simply used as a lead capture device, eBooks can positively affect your business marketing.
When it comes to enticing decision makers to consider your business offering, white papers are one of most powerful tools in the content marketing toolbox. By answering a common industry question in detail, you can directly appeal to potential clients’ needs and provide them with your solution.
White papers also make good discussion pieces. You can engage in an important industry issue in detail, outlining your response and thought process.
For example, consider the financial industry and discussions around capital gains and negative gearing reform. If you run a financial advice or real estate company, you could write a white paper that illuminates your position, outlining what you believe the likely affects are and why and how that should affect your investment priorities. This shows potential clients thought leadership and highlights how your services could benefit them, while simultaneously addressing a newsworthy issue.
White papers or eBooks aren’t something you should just jump into, they need to be carefully thought through. They need to be genuinely informative and engaging to the specific target audience. So, when you’re thinking about creating a white paper for your business, make sure you start with a topic that’s interesting to your clients. It should be a topic that you can actually add something to. White papers that work help businesses solve a problem.
In general, white papers will not be suitable for a B2C business, they simply aren’t required in most B2C content marketing strategies. While white papers – or something similar, like a product focus or comparison document – may make appearances in certain industries, it’s rare because customers just don’t need this kind of detailed information.
Service based businesses are perhaps in the best position to make use of white papers and eBooks as a part of their content marketing strategy. While more suited to white collar industries with complex financial, legal, tech or other high-level discussions between businesses, many services can make use of white papers and eBooks in their marketing.
Consider luxury home builders who sell to both developers and first home buyers. This business could create an eBook or white paper that fulfilled the needs of both audiences when choosing a development site, a builder or an architect and discuss the different needs in detail with recommendations. By placing this on your website and gating it (restricting access by requesting an email) you’ll not only have a lead capture device but something useful that engages audiences with your brand. You could also send the document to business owners in your industry with LinkedIn InMail (an expensive, but effective marketing option).
While white papers make for great content, they rely on targeted amplification to get strong results. We’ll cover amplification techniques shortly.
Unless what you’re actually selling is an eBook, you really don’t need to consider these as a marketing tool for your eCommerce business. eCommerce is about fast transactions and white papers or eBooks will not speed up that sales process. For eCommerce sales, it’s about sharp, snappy content that sells, so stick to blogs and EDMs.
Offline products business
Generally, offline product businesses will never be able to use white papers to the full extent of service-based businesses but, in some circumstances, they can be useful. In most cases, you can draw a line on white paper usefulness by the price tag attached to your products. If you have a higher end, more expensive product range, you may be able to make use of white papers as a sales tool. These products will generally have a longer sales process and the consumer is likely to want more questions answered before making a purchase. A white paper is a useful tool to answer these questions.
White papers can be useful, just make sure they add value to your business before doing all the work behind them. Part of creating a successful content marketing strategy is avoiding wasting your resources on avenues not suited to your business, so consider your content carefully.
Well-known & unknown
Being a well-known brand has a few positive effects when it comes to white papers, mainly around amplification and the implied credibility of your conclusions.
Naturally, an already trusted brand will have more believability than a relatively unknown one. This means that your white papers can often take on a life of their own, giving them greater reach and higher potential to deliver huge benefits to the business with minimal additional amplification. If you receive content from a trusted brand, you’re far more likely to open it than from some business you don’t really know. Basically, your reputation gives you more bang for your advertising buck.
That said, white papers have a great potential upside for those unknown brands. When your business is languishing in relative obscurity the branding opportunity that white papers provide is very powerful. There’s nothing like smart, researched position papers to get big businesses to take notice, and when you have IP that deserves to be noticed, white papers (and an amplification strategy to match) can get eyes on your brand.
Like all content, white papers should be targeted at certain customer types. Given their heavy focus on data and the extensive amount of text involved, this content will only suit clients and potential clients with a high level of literacy.
Consider the question you’re answering in your white paper and who might be interested in reading it when you send this content out. If your eBook or white paper isn’t aimed at one of your identified customer types, maybe rethink your content strategy. Remember not to waste resources on content that won’t deliver results.
Social media – Changing how businesses engage with customers
Social media is still a relatively new platform for many businesses, and it’s constantly evolving. From MySpace, we’ve quickly moved to Facebook, LinkedIn and now image and video sharing platforms like Snapchat and Instagram as valid marketing tools for your businesses. Whether you’re simply using these platforms as advertising sites, or as a way to grow your brand voice and increase the quality of client interaction, social media needs to be discussed not only as part of your content marketing strategy, but as a linchpin in your digital strategy.
Before I jump into what each business type needs to consider, I want to quickly summarise a few of the popular social media platforms and their key strengths.
Facebook – Really, the trendsetter of our social revolution, Facebook advertising has become the fastest growing advertising medium, outpacing both YouTube and Google AdWords in 2016. With a huge reach and a range of benefits, Facebook allows businesses to engage with customers, share content and grow a brand voice.
LinkedIn – Basically a professional version of Facebook, LinkedIn has quickly become a popular tool for professionals. Always teeming with original content, there’s no better place to get traction for professional service blogs. While more expensive than Facebook advertising, LinkedIn’s InMail option is a great amplification tool for those looking to get content read by business owners and key decision makers.
Instagram – The world’s largest image sharing app has grown in leaps and bounds since its initial founding. It’s now one of the leading online advertising and marketing platforms, with companies investing heavily in tools like influencer marketing. Perfect for businesses with good visuals, Instagram is a great way to attract loyal audiences.
Snapchat – Who knew a social media platform made famous for risqué photo sharing could become an advertising platform for businesses targeting Gen Y and Millennials. Still in its infancy as an advertising platform, many big brands are creating video rich content to attract younger generations to their products.
There are other social media platforms like Twitter out there, and while many may fit your business’s strategy, the four listed above are the big names in social advertising.
Social media hasn’t traditionally been seen as a B2B communication strategy, but sometimes we tend to forget that businesses are run by people. While some platforms are more suited to B2B communication (like LinkedIn), Facebook and Instagram still have their place for the right B2B business.
As an example, consider a wholesale business that sells a makeup brand to stores like Chemist Warehouse or Priceline. These large-scale businesses will only stock products that sell. So, in fact, these brands need to act like B2C businesses. This means they need to create brand interest through strategies like influencer marketing and blogs on Facebook or Instagram.
As consumers, we’ve progressed from using the Yellow Pages to find businesses to fulfil our needs to online search engines, and now we’re progressing to social media. If your business can’t be found on social media, you lose credibility. Even if you don’t have the budget to engage in paid advertising on a platform like Facebook, it’s still important to have a presence.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. Smart content marketing for B2B companies can use social media (especially LinkedIn) as the driving force for garnering interest and spreading content. These smart campaigns can lead to huge sales that all started with a CEO opening an InMail or blog link from a company. So, if you’re a B2B company and you’re not making use of social media, think again and invest in a modern marketing platform that works.
Social media has a pretty well-documented track record affecting B2C business’s success. Whether through reviews, personal client interaction or advertising, activity on both sides of the spectrum (both good and bad) have proven to lift or sink many Aussie businesses.
Using social media as a content amplification tool, advertising platform, or a simple point of customer interaction is a great way to enhance your brand’s image. Used well, any of the four social media platforms above can grow a B2C business. However, sometimes it can be hard to determine the best area to focus your resources on. This really comes down to two things: your business aim and your clients base.
Facebook is a necessity these days for B2C businesses. From a simple café to high end retail brands, all businesses can (and should!) make use of Facebook to communicate with customers and advertise their brand. This is opposed to LinkedIn, which has been shown to have limited use for most B2C businesses – that doesn’t mean it’s completely useless. Find the platform that most of your clients use and tailor your social strategy to the social network and the content types that your clients prefer.
There’s a lot to manage when running a successful social campaign, but one thing that should never be forgotten is that it’s essential to carefully monitor your social pages. A poor response to a bad review or ill-considered post could quickly damage your brand.
It’s difficult to break social media advice into a simple business types discussion. Service, eCommerce and offline products can all make use of social media in hundreds of different ways. Social media should closely reflect the business. To inform your social media strategy, take a look at your typical customers and ensure your content aligns with their interests and preferences. Focus on using social media to build positive relationships with your customers and deliver content that engages them and carries your brand message clearly.
Well-known & unknown
The way you use social media will change drastically depending on where your business sits in the market. There are two extremes: businesses trying to create a brand with social media and those leveraging that brand to sell. While there’s plenty of points along that scale, we can identify and compare these extremes.
While both strategies will include delivering quality content, for those brands trying to create a following, social campaigns will often revolve around building up the number of followers. This enables your business to lower its social marketing costs and make lead capture and sales more affordable. At the other end of the scale, businesses marketing to their existing following can use a combination of paid advertising, content delivery and influencer marketing to turn their audience into sales.
Knowing your customers is essential. If all your potential clients are on Instagram, then that’s exactly where you need to be and if they’re all following an Insta-star, that’s who you need marketing your products for you. Once you understand your customer’s social habits, you can better manipulate that environment to influence consumers to make a purchase.
Amplification – Ensuring good content gets read
Amplification as a concept is very simple. All it is, is getting content seen by your current or potential clients by using various means of distribution. It can be quite difficult to properly construct an amplification campaign that delivers ROI. That’s why a key part of amplification is the segmentation of your audience, so that the right people see the right pieces of content.
Consider an accountant who does both business activity statements and personal tax returns. He writes two blogs, one on how to get the most back on your income tax, and another on what to watch out for come BAS prep time. His business clients are only interested in one of those blogs, as are his individual clients. To save money on amplification and to get the best results, he wants to deliver these blogs separately. That’s where segmentation of a database comes in.
Moral of the story? Invest in a CRM or other segmentation.
There are a range of amplification techniques available to Australian businesses and we’ve already touched on a couple.
Email direct marketing – Possibly the most fruitful form of amplification, EDMs let you deliver personalised content right to someone’s personal inbox. While you will require an email list, most businesses naturally collect contact data. When managed properly, you can not only amplify your content but use it to drive current and potential customers through the sales process. Often quite a cheap strategy in comparison to other mediums, a well-designed and cleverly executed email marketing campaign can deliver high ROI.
Social media – Social media is a great tool for content delivery or amplification. While natural social sharing as an advertising stream is all but dead thanks to new Facebook algorithms, paid advertising can still deliver very strong results. Due to the branded nature of any given social post, even if you don’t get clicks you’re spreading your brand image and gaining recognition and credibility. As opposed to email marketing, social media amplification lets you deliver content to people who don’t know your brand, which is a fantastic lead capture strategy and well worth the investment.
Third party platforms – Often referred to as outreach or native advertising, third party platforms operate like Google Display Network campaigns. In fact, although it can be pricey, you can use that type of ad to amplify your content. Some popular platforms include Outbrain and Medianet, both of which are suited to different forms of content and operate slightly different. If you want to use one of these platforms or another third-party option, ensure you research in detail as they are not always as reliable as they promise.
Additional content types and their value
These content types haven’t been listed above, but each has its own value depending on the industry you’re operating in. Each element below has huge potential value for different content marketing strategies but, in many cases, will work better as a supporting piece rather than a core component of a content marketing strategy.
Every business in the world loves good press, it can turn a small business into an international success overnight. Press releases aren’t guaranteed to do that for your business but they’re a step in the right direction.
A well-constructed press release is used to draw the attention of the media to newsworthy aspects of your business – notice how I used the word newsworthy. It’s this word and the meaning behind it that will determine whether your business should be making use of regular press releases.
While press releases (when amplified) have some great SEO benefits, for it to have the desired effect, it needs to be picked up by large news publications. For publications to pick it up, journalists need to be interested in what you’re writing about. The basic principles of newsworthiness are:
Timeliness – Is your story relevant to current events, this could be something to do with a local sporting event like the AFL Grand Final or a major street festival.
Proximity – Location, location, location! Like in property, location matters in news. If you’re a local business involved in an interesting local project, it may be something a local newspaper or metro publication is interested in. But if it’s a hyper local issue, don’t expect the story to go national.
Conflict – Everyone loves reading about a fight, but conflict isn’t always a good look for businesses, unless you’re fighting for a good cause.
Possible future impact (progress or consequence) – From warnings of future trouble to optimistic pictures of a tech filled future, people like reading about future predictions. This area is particularly useful for commentary on future change or developments in the tech industry.
Prominence – There’s nothing wrong with riding another’s coat tails to glory, and when your business has a connection to a prominent figure, event or project it is well worth cashing in on that for the PR.
Human interest – Used by many senior business leaders and successful companies, human interest pieces, like charity founding and donations, are used to establish a positive brand image in the public eye.
Shock/bizarre value – A “what the?” story can become viral in a matter of hours and, while this particular content type won’t suit or even be possible for many businesses to create, it’s worth taking advantage of the opportunity if it appears.
These seven components of newsworthiness are drummed into the heads of all journos from the beginning of their training and any press release you send out should include at least some of the above elements. If you come up with an idea for a press release and find that it doesn’t meet any of the above components, it might be time to reconsider whether a press release is the best format.
You may be looking at the above list thinking that your business will never have something newsworthy enough to send out; however, you need to look at the press as separate entities with a range of different interpretations of the above components.
There’s a publication out there for every industry on the planet and considered newsworthiness will be different for each. Remember the aim is to produce content that appeals to people interested in your business. The same goes for press releases. Write them for media publications that service your industry – that’s how you get the best results.
Press releases can be a highly effective content type for your business, as long as you use them when you genuinely have something worthwhile to say.
Videos, as a content medium, probably deserve their own eBook. The art of video marketing isn’t new, with TV having perfected video advertising in its old form. But things are changing. Not only is ad revenue behind TV dropping, but those watching videos are steadily trending towards mobile and tablet devices, leaving desktops and TVs to play second fiddle.
What does this mean for those using video in their content marketing strategies? Go mobile.
Businesses have the opportunity to use video in a number of different ways to achieve all sorts of outcomes. From webinars to YouTube advertising, the engagement statistics say it all – video is hot! Almost any company can use videos as a lead capture device, customer journey aid or branding piece.
Whether you’re including video content in your blogs or using it as a major component of your content marketing strategy on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, you need to carefully plan out the message you deliver with this medium. Videos offer a great way to engage with customers, especially those of younger generations but, when creating videos, you need to ensure your message and branding is clear. Bad videos go viral faster than good ones, so ensure your content is always up to scratch.
Infographics are an industry-leading way to quickly summarise content and deliver a clear message. Powerful as both part of your blogging and email marketing campaigns, these graphics have become widely used in almost every industry.
Infographics can have some success as standalone pieces of content but will often garner the best results when used in larger pieces of content. I highly recommend utilising these throughout your content marketing campaign across each of the channels you use in your strategy. Best practice says infographics should be used to visually summarise complicated business ideas into an easy to digest image.
Downloadable data sheets
Who doesn’t love a bit of data? Especially useful when customers are making final purchase decisions, these documents make a great tool to close a sale.
Consider working ways to deliver product or service fact and data sheets to potential customers just as they’re ready to buy. This allows them to see exactly what they’re getting for their money and makes fair comparisons with your competition easier.
Lesser used as a content marketing tool but steadily growing in popularity, podcasts are often overlooked when it comes to content marketing strategy. Effective for businesses who have interesting IP to discuss, well-constructed podcasts can deliver a captive audience who want to hear what your business leaders have to say. These can be amplified through blogs or emails and, when successful, can help establish a brand as a market leader.
A discussion on content marketing ROI
I’ve talked about ROI a lot already, and honestly, as a content marketer, it’s a great thing to be able to show a client. My job’s pretty easy when I can say look, you spent ‘X’ dollars and made 20 times that. Unfortunately, however, we can all get a little star struck with ROI and constantly demand that magic number, when there are other valid ways to measure success.
While many content marketing strategies can demonstrate direct ROI, whether through tracking purchases from emails, calls, blogs or social media, content can play many roles in the journey to purchase that are harder to quantify with hard numbers.
There’s more than just ROI
In the end, all your marketing needs to do is make you money. You’re running a business and the job of marketing is to make that business more successful. In other words, “money, money, money!” BUT – and it’s a big but – depending on your content goals, you may need to look past a single ROI figure. Whether you’re running an internal marketing team or dealing with an agency, you need to approach your targets and your metrics with caution.
This is particularly true for those running businesses that sell larger ticket items. Items or services that take a lot of thought before purchase usually mean a long sales process. That means a client or customer may view 10 pieces of content from you before pulling the trigger. They could have even called and enquired, changed their mind and come back again later, all thanks to content. In this type of situation, it’ll be hard to attribute direct monetary success to any one blog post or email. Instead, you need to look at customer behaviour and overall business figures. Things that you can look at here include page visits by customers, website journeys and blog session times.
To truly measure content marketing success, you need to be a bit of a data wiz.
Don’t throw away all the data
While may not always be able to measure in ROI, there are plenty of industry data sets that you can use to measure the performance of your campaign. For email marketing, you can look at open rates, click through rates and unsubscribe rates to see if you’re delivering quality content to the right people.
Remember to always be analysing, testing and improving your content marketing campaign using the data that your digital campaigns return. That’s the only way to ensure you’re continuing to grow towards success.
If you approach your content marketing strategy with the above in mind, you’ll be well-positioned to create a campaign that can drastically increase the performance of your business. While the information contained here will be a useful guide, it can never truly replace the experience and expertise of a content marketing specialist. Feel free to get in touch with our in-house content marketing team for more information on how we help businesses grow through smart content marketing strategies.