Whether you’re running a startup or leading an established company, getting your brand noticed in today’s increasingly “noisy” digital environment can be a challenge. Old marketing paradigms – which focus on traditional media buys and banner ads – simply don’t get the traction they used to, emphasizing the need for new promotional strategies.
The numbers don’t lie
Currently, all signs point towards content marketing taking the lead as 2013’s hottest advertising trend. According to research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute:
- 86% of B2C marketers surveyed employ content marketing tactics, with 55% of these professionals planning to increase their content marketing spends throughout 2013.
- 91% of all B2B marketers polled use content marketing techniques, with 54% of survey respondents anticipating an increase in related spending throughout 2013.
Of course, it’s important to remember that trend reports aren’t guarantees of future action. Fortunately, there are plenty of real world case studies available that demonstrate the type of measurable impact a well-planned content marketing campaign can have on a business’s online performance.
As an example, take the case study published on the Vistage blog, which released performance metrics on an “Obama versus Romney” infographic that the company released last August. On the Monday that the infographic was launched, the company earned 2,462 page views – up from an average of 900 views on a usual Monday. Within 24 hours, the infographic became the third most trafficked page on the company’s website, demonstrating the power of great content to drive both visitors and engagement.
But while content marketing can be an incredibly powerful strategy in terms of generating website results, it isn’t an inherently complicated process (though some blogs certainly make it sound that way!). If you want to win big with this promotional method, there’s a simple process to follow: publish great content, for the right people, in the right places.
Content that kills: These aren’t your grandma’s blog posts!
At the end of the day, content marketing relies on people to take action – to find your content, engage with it, pass it on to others and eventually head back to your website. So although some digital marketing techniques can play on the mathematical underpinnings of the search engines, content marketing must proceed with actual users in mind.
And here’s a newsflash – these users aren’t going to go out of their way to interact with sub-par content!
If you want to achieve great results with content marketing, you’ve got to produce content pieces that capture the attention of your followers. You can’t just spit out rehashed, 500-word blog posts or cheaply-produced screencast videos. Of course people still do this because they’re short on both time and budget, but the reality is that web users are incredibly sophisticated and can sniff out content that’s being pushed out to meet some arbitrary publishing calendar.
As an example, take the Advanced Guide to SEO that Neil Patel and I produced. Altogether, the guide took five people more than six months to make. But since it’s been released, it’s been downloaded more than 100,000 times – sending a steady stream of consulting clients our way even though we never made a direct sales pitch in the guide itself.
The best way to determine whether or not your content is great is to use your gut. Before you hit the “Publish” button, ask yourself, “Would I want to share this with others?” If you can’t honestly say that you’d find your content piece so engaging that you’d be compelled to share it, head back to the drawing board.
If you need something more concrete, consider setting up an internal grading scale for your content pieces. As an example, you could set the following requirements for every blog post that makes it to your website:
- At least 1,000 words long
- Contains at least two real world examples to illustrate key points
- Includes at least two external links to reputable sources
- Provides at least three actionable steps for readers to take
- Ends with a persuasive call-to-action that supports your company’s key metrics
Then, if your content doesn’t meet the guidelines you’ve established for yourself, it doesn’t go out – simple as that.
Ideal post frequency – How many is enough?
One great blog post is good, but it won’t get you the same kind of traction that a regular series of strategic posts with coordinated social promotions will achieve. At a minimum, your content marketing calendar should include all of the following elements on a monthly basis:
- At least 1-2 blog posts per week, based on target keywords or other business objectives (for example, supporting a forthcoming infographic release)
- One major item release (as in, infographics, ebooks, downloadable guides, videos, worksheets, whitepapers, etc)
- Daily social promotions on your company’s preferred social channels that draw attention to your content pieces
The key to that last bullet point is the word “preferred.” That brings us to the second part of the content marketing equation – getting your content in front of your target audience members.
Don’t reach all people – reach the right ones!
Your content can’t just be great – it has to be great for the right people. You could bring in Michael Bay to direct your company’s Youtube clips and still miss the mark if the content of your videos doesn’t resonate with your target customers.
To be truly great, your content pieces need to speak to a need that your audience has. It needs to demonstrate that it understands their personalities, the unique challenges they’re facing and how they relate to the world. If your content doesn’t hit this emotional core, the odds that it will go viral go down significantly.
To see an example of great content that resonates with its audience, check out a recent infographic titled “What Influences a Purchase Decision?” published on the BigCommerce blog.
BigCommerce is a leading ecommerce platform that “gets” the challenges facing its customers. It’s blog posts are informative, yet casual in their engaging tone, while its infographics use fun business-related imagery to make a splash. In fact, the infographic pictured at left made such an impression on its target audience that it received:
- Over 800 Facebook “Likes”
- Over 500 Twitter tweets
- Over 32,000 Stumbleupon stumbles
- Embeds on popular sites like Media Bistro, Alltop and Yahoo! Small Business
It’s a perfect example of a company coming up with great content that appeals to its user base and performs highly as a result.
Understanding your audience in the same way that BigCommerce does requires market research – and lots of it! Pay attention to who your social followers are, what types of content they’re sharing and which pages on your website receive the most traffic. All of this information and more can be used to build a target profile that can then inform your content creation choices.
So now it’s your turn… As you’re getting ready to launch your new content marketing campaign, ask yourself the following questions in order to gain a better understanding of the types of people your content should be reaching:
- How old are my target customers?
- Am I targeting a primarily male or female audience?
- What socioeconomic class do my target customers occupy?
- Where on the internet do my ideal clients hang out?
- What interests and activities do my target customers participate in?
- How do my target clients spend their money?
- What are my ideal customers’ biggest concerns?
You might not have a single answer to any of these questions. In fact, your business may target several different types of consumers that ultimately necessitates the creation of multiple sample buyer personas. But by taking the time to compile this information and think through the type of people that your content is targeting, you’ll be able to structure everything about your content – from the topics you cover to the tone you use – to make it as appealing as possible to the people who are most likely to work with your business.
“I want to be, where the people are…”
Finally, all the brilliant content in the world won’t make a difference for your company if your audience members never see it in the first place.
The last piece of the content marketing puzzle is the strategy you’ll use to get your work in front of the customers you identified in Step #2 of this process. Certainly, at least part of your campaign will focus on your blog, where articles, posts and major release items should be published first in order to establish your brand’s authority. But what about social media sites? Should you share your published content pieces on every network you find, or should you be more strategic about your promotional efforts?
To an extent, much of the information needed to do this successfully will come from the demographic research described above. If, for example, you see your audience members engaging more frequently on Twitter than on Facebook, you can use this insight to structure a marketing plan that involves promoting your content more heavily on Twitter.
One brand navigating this question well is Modcloth – a women’s fashion retailer who’s Pinterest profile is followed by more than 2 million shoppers. Given that Pinterest users tend to be largely educated, affluent women (according to the Pew Research Center’s Interent & American Life Project), the social network’s pinnable boards make it the perfect place to connect site users with Modcloth’s retail offerings.
When it comes to choosing your social outlets, be careful of confining yourself to strictly social media websites. There are loads of different places online to distribute content marketing pieces – from industry-specific video sharing sites to infographic directories and more. By monitoring your audiences’ behavior online, you’ll be able to identify those properties that will get your content out to as many of the right people as possible.
The bottom line is this…
Don’t overcomplicate content marketing. By focusing on publishing great content for the right people in the right places, you’ll be able to generate significant website results without wasting time or getting hung up on overly-technical marketing strategies and “expert” recommendations.
Are you currently using content marketing to promote your website? If so, share the tips that have helped you to win big in the comments section below.
About the Author: Sujan Patel is the co-founder of Single Grain, an Digital Marketing Agency that specializes in helping start ups and Fortune 500 companies with their digital marketing strategy. His experiences include:
- More than 10 years of Internet marketing experience, Sujan leads the digital marketing strategy for companies like SalesForce, Yahoo, Intuit and many others
- Writing the popular e-book “The Advanced Guide to SEO” with Neil Patel, that has had over thousands of downloads
- Named 2012 Best of SEJ for his article on How to Teach Yourself SEO and How Your Website’s Structure Affects its SEO