Back to the Future: Insights & Tips for Content Strategy, Planning and Measurement
How to Future-Proof Your Growth with Content Marketing Fundamentals
Content Marketing Has Come a Long Way
A decade ago, content marketing was an emerging discipline awkwardly wedged under the umbrella of corporate marketing. In the years since, digital transformation has elevated content marketing from a tactical experiment to a strategic role in B2B demand generation, nurturing, and retention efforts. In a phrase, content marketing grew up.
We went from publishing standalone ideas and messages that looked a lot like ads to planning educational and informational narratives for the purposes of persuading readers to align with our brand and compelling them to purchase our products and services.
What’s the Business Impact of Good Content?
The B2B Content Marketing Report: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends (North America), published jointly by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, found 89% of B2B companies use content marketing. Of the 11% non-users, 52% plan to start content marketing programs in 2018. That’s a lot of brands using content as a strategic asset.
As the field has matured, the C-Suite has taken notice. Executives have assigned higher expectations to content performance, in exchange for 29% of total marketing budget. But the higher expectations for content generally aren’t aligned with detailed, thoughtful content strategies tied to business objectives. The report revealed 59% of B2B marketers lack clarity around what successful content marketing looks like.
Where does that leave us? Businesses want content marketing to work smarter, and they’re willing to pay for performance. But many of those businesses lack the supporting strategies essential to informing, directing, and assessing these programs.
A Content Marketing Strategy You Can Work With
Sixty percent of marketers produce at least one piece of content per day. That means there’s tremendous opportunity for executives and teams to understand what’s required to craft better, more effective content. Your work can become the signal that stands out from the noise.
The Fundamentals of a Content Marketing Strategy
Audiences are caught in an avalanche of content each day. Does the volume of new material accomplish its mission? For most brands, the answer is no.
73% of marketers reported stagnant or only slightly improved success with content in the past year, notes the aforementioned report. High volumes of moderate to low-performing content lead us to one conclusion: to be effective, content marketing has to originate from a sound strategy. And that strategy must support both business objectives and the information needs and interests of the reader.
Let’s look at the fundamentals of a content marketing strategy. How does your current approach compare?
- Brand guidelines: Multiple people crafting content on behalf of a brand need clear direction on tone, voice, terminology, and personality. A brand guideline manual will provide a common roadmap to all contributors.
- Business objectives: What purpose or problem does the business need content marketing to address? Once determined, define metrics that will measure how well content achieves them. Then set key performance indicators to assign specific value to each content piece. Ideally, the business objectives will include a mix of short and long-term benchmarks the brand would like to reach, and cover both demand generation and awareness-building content initiatives.
- Buyer personas: Content suitable for everyone won’t be useful to anyone. With the help of a cross-functional group, map out who your ideal buyers are to create a recipe for others to follow. Designers, writers, and account executives alike will benefit from knowing which buyer type represents the greatest opportunity for the company. Personas should include demographic information, psychographic details, and any relevant findings from a CRM database or marketing automation software.
- Customer journey: The path buyers take to purchase may vary, but over time patterns emerge. With knowledge of those patterns, along with customer survey or customer service feedback, content marketers can run gap analysis to determine where there are information voids, or aging or weak content assets. Buyers need information to support their decision-making, from awareness to retention phases.
- Resources and processes: With all of the above locked down, it’s important to invest time in planning for execution. What internal resources does your team have for content editorial, design, writing, and promotion? What kind of workflow matches well with the staff and organizational requirements? Resources need to be right-sized with the content volume and cadence the team is expected to maintain; if not, expectations won’t be met. Workflow should take into account realistic time blocks allowing for content to be reviewed, edited, and approved.
- Content calendar: A central editorial calendar informs the daily work of a team. Perhaps more importantly, it offers a broader look at the total body of work produced over a time period. How are assets working across initiatives or campaigns? A well-planned content calendar ties content types, topics, and channels back to the business objectives determined earlier.
- Content promotion: Great content has legs, but “publish and forget it” isn’t a strategy. It takes advance planning to properly promote the work your team creates. Variables including timing, channels, A/B testing, and thoughtful social messaging all play a role to maximizing the business impact of content.
- Analysis and iteration: After publishing and promoting content, performance tracking becomes the focus of attention. Synthesize and assess the data within your analytics platform and CMS. What insights can be drawn? How might the findings influence existing content plans, or future work? Set your sights on incremental improvement.
There’s no single best strategy for every brand. Consider your team; depending on its sophistication and bandwidth, you may adjust these fundamentals or adapt to the latest content marketing trends to suit the way you approach your work.
Find Your Cadence for Content Publishing and Amplification
Manic content. We’ve all seen it. Brands that push out blog posts, eNewsletters, and more in rapid succession, only to follow the excitement with long periods of silence. What happened? Where did those brands go?
Consistent behavior is key to building trust with your audience. A steady stream of content reaffirms buyer perception about your brand. The stream needn’t be wide or swift to have a positive impact with those you aim to influence.
Hold a Runner’s Pace. Or a Walker’s.
A content marketing strategy will help you land on a publishing cadence that’s comfortable for your team to sustain. The right cadence is important; it should match with how often your audience would like to hear from you (which relates to the quality and originality of your material).
If your brand aims to develop thought leadership in a niche or be top of mind in a more competitive industry, it will take time to thoughtfully develop topics, create custom elements, and craft a unique narrative. Keep the entire research, development, design, and creation phase in mind when planning the editorial and establishing a workflow.
Shout, Shout, Let it All Out
The most interesting, well-written content will only meet modest success (at best) if steps aren’t taken to market it. Content amplification should be more pronounced than a single scheduled tweet or brand page status post. What channels are your ideal buyers most active in? How can employee advocacy help cast a wider net so content gains greater organic exposure?
Content amplification is a proactive promotion tactic, not a reactive task. Consider the myriad of variables that can be mixed and matched to optimize how well your content will take hold: channel, time of day, hashtags, handle or account tags, and A/B testing of the social copy, just to name a few.
Which Content Works? More, Please
You’ve heard it before. Measurement is essential to the success of your content marketing strategy. Only by learning what resonates with your audience will you be able to gain momentum.
What metrics should you pay attention to? The answer will vary by brand, but some are universal, including consumption metrics (users, page views, unique page views, source/medium), engagement metrics (average time on page, pages per session, new vs returning, and referral traffic), and conversion metrics (goal completions, goal conversion rates, transactions, and time to purchase.
As part of your content amplification efforts, you’ll also want to evaluate content performance via social media. Track metrics including shares, comments, and audience growth.
Your findings will lead you to take some actions to shape future content. But don’t overlook the opportunities the newfound knowledge can create for your existing content, too. For instance, high-traffic, low-conversion posts previously published can be optimized to produce stronger results moving ahead.
As you can tell, the crew at DivvyHQ thinks about content a lot. We bet you do, too. Though probably not for the same reasons. But panic no longer!
DivvyHQ can help you adopt content marketing best practices and put an end to content calamities.