8 Moves To Creating Content Your Market Will Find & Love
Creating great content and distributing it to an audience is not as easy as it sounds, but columnist Arnie Kuenn has an 8-step process to help you get there.
Over the past few years, marketing as we used to know it has changed a great deal. In addition to allocating funds to traditional marketing tactics like television, radio and print, online marketing has become a permanent fixture on most business’ budget – and with good reason.
According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 80 percent of responders said they research a product online before buying. Today, it’s not enough for businesses to have a voice in traditional channels. In addition, brands must be active online in order to influence purchase consideration – with emphasis on the word “active.”
As building a website and creating social media profiles is something almost every business can easily do, competition can be fierce. As a result, being present online through your website is just not enough. To gain audience mindshare and impact the buy cycle, businesses need to educate, entertain and help audiences through compelling content.
However, creating content and distributing it to an audience is not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it can be quite difficult, as companies need to truly understand audience preferences and online habits, as well as content marketing, SEO and social media best practices.
As a result, we at Vertical Measures have created the following eight-step approach that businesses can adopt to begin the quest of creating content their audience will find and love, and see success through content marketing. (In fact, I just published a book that covers these eight steps in detail.)
1. Developing A Strategy
Content marketing can be exciting and fun, and is still considered “shiny and new” by many businesses. Because of that, sometimes marketers want to jump right to the fun stuff – brainstorming, creating content and posting it on their social feeds. However, I suggest taking a step back to consider why you are practicing content marketing and define the end goal.
Think about the big picture and develop a holistic online marketing strategy that includes content marketing, as it is really just one facet of online marketing, focused on successfully reaching your audience online while supporting business goals and objectives.
When developing your strategy, consider your benchmarks. What is your website traffic like? What is your conversion rate? What about cost per lead? With these metrics defined up front, it will be easier to measure success over the long term.
With that, be sure to identify what success metrics you will use – and define what success looks like to your business. Additionally, take some time to thoroughly research your audience. Find out where they are most active online, and where they aren’t.
Now it’s time for the fun part – ideation. Invite both stakeholders and other employees to brainstorm how you can best help your customers through content.
Ask salespeople what questions most often come up in sales calls and in the field. Ask product managers to think of interesting and relatable ways to talk about your products or services. Talk to customer service representatives to find out what the most common issues are, or what areas of the business are confusing to customers.
Go a step further and research what your competitors are and aren’t doing with content marketing. Are there any gaps in coverage that you can fill with your content? Can you create better content around similar topics? Both are questions to ponder during the ideation process.
Additionally, consider what information your audience needs to make a purchase decision. Is it product specs, case studies, vendor comparisons or something else entirely? You’ll want to create content that makes it easy for your audience to gather all of the insight needed to spend their money with you.
3. Content Creation
With ideas in hand, content creation can begin. Depending on the format, content creation can be fairly low-cost. For example, if you have internal resources writing whitepapers and blog posts and your team is armed with Go-Pro cameras, you won’t need to spend money outsourcing creation.
However, don’t confuse low-cost with low-quality. As I mentioned earlier, content marketing can be extremely competitive; only the best content will succeed in the SERPs and with customers. If your content doesn’t meet customers’ needs, they will look elsewhere. Don’t waste your time, money and most importantly, your opportunity to influence by creating sub-par content.
In addition to creating content that is compelling and high-quality, your content must be optimized for certain keywords or phrases. If you skip the optimization process, you run the risk of a decrease in findability.
Search engines rank content for specific search queries based on what the content is about, using keywords or phrases and meta data as clues. By optimizing for a specific term, you ensure search engines associate your content with relevant search queries.
Of course, your content should be created for your audience, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep search engines in mind. Optimizing content can make for a better experience for users as well – as title tags, meta descriptions and headings provide content, alerting the audience to what they are about to read or watch.
5. Content Promotion
After optimizing your content, create a promotion schedule. Your promotion plan will hinge on your industry, as well as your target audience. This is where your audience research will be valuable, as you can promote your content only on networks frequented by your customers.
In addition to social promotion, link building and paid advertising should be considered when developing your promotion plan. Link “earning” can have positive effects on in the SERPs as search engines take links into consideration when ranking sites.
Similarly, in some industries, pay-per-click and native advertising can be sound investments that drive traffic from the SERPs and other relevant websites. It’s all about understanding your audience. If you acquire most of your customers organically, paid advertising may not be fruitful for you. But if you’re a newer business and are looking for visibility, PPC or native may be the way to go.
Content distribution is another important element to creating content your market will find and love. Content distribution is about reaching users through content housed off site rather than directing customers to view content on your website. Sites like SlideShare even LinkedIn can be great places to distribute content, along with industry publications and blogs.
I know what you’re thinking. “I need to create more content to post on other sites?” Not necessarily. Content repurposing is a commonly used tactic for distribution that prolongs your content investment.
For example, if you created a PowerPoint presentation for a webinar, consider adding it to SlideShare. Filmed a short video series? Use the transcript as a post on LinkedIn. Pay attention to guest blog and interview opportunities, too. Being featured on an industry website or in a magazine will allow you to reach your audience in a different way, while earning links and visibility at the same time.
7. Lead Nurture
Depending on your business model, lead nurturing can be essential. Though the first six steps of the process should yield results in terms of conversions and revenue, lead nurturing is a necessary component to guiding users through the buy cycle.
As noted previously, people research products online before making a purchase, and this research is part of the buying process. However, the bigger the purchase, the longer the buy cycle can be. If you’re an online retailer with an average sale of $20, your lead nurture process is going to be a lot different than B2B companies selling services and solutions upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When someone downloads a piece of content from your website, the content type and topic can help pinpoint where they are at in the buy cycle and mold your follow-up process. For example, if a user downloads an “awareness” type of free-guide or whitepaper, you may want to remessage that person with other topically-relevant content through an e-nurture stream.
However, if a user is downloading lots of comparison-type pieces, product-focused information and case studies, your lead nurture process may be focused on setting up a meeting or call rather than remessaging with more content, as this person is clearly interested in your products/services.
Your lead nurture process can be customized and based off of many things – number of actions taken, types of engagements, even company size or role in purchasing. Whether you set up an e-nurture steam for multi-touch leads or remessage based off enterprise, midmarket or small business status – just be sure to have a follow up process in place.
After you’ve worked through the first seven steps, measure against goals and success metrics to analyze your current strategy. Consider the following:
- First and foremost – was your strategy successful?
- How do your metrics compare to previous benchmarks?
- Where are improvements most necessary?
- What is the return on investment?
- What can we change to increase that return?
I believe each step outlined above is extremely important to content marketing success. But, what is even more important than following each step is understanding how to make each step work for your business specifically.
Once you have analyzed your strategy – start the process over again. If you found gaps or areas needing improvement, tweak your strategy going forward. Enhance your brainstorming process and introduce new ways to come up with ideas, or invite more staff to participate.
Update your promotion and distribution processes based on what networks drove the most traffic. Investigate the lead nurture process to determine which e-nurture streams are prompting conversions. Customize this eight-step approach to cater to your business goals, and be on your way to creating content your market will find and love.
What are your thoughts on this 8-step process? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.Image Credit: http://www.SeniorLiving.Org, Fabrizio Cornalba, Sean MacEntee