What does content marketing mean for you?
To many small business owners, it doesn’t mean much.
They don’t give credibility to blogs, social media posts, and email marketing.
And, while those elements are all a part of content marketing, there’s more to it than that.
By understanding what it takes to put an effective content marketing strategy in place you begin to appreciate those elements you didn’t understand before.
So let’s talk about them.
Content Marketing Is More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Many small business owners see the parts of content marketing and wonder how it helps their business.
They can’t see beyond a sense of notoriety.
In part, that’s what content marketing does.
However, it goes beyond that.
When done as effectively as possible, content marketing is a way of connecting with your audience.
It spreads your company’s message on a level that they can relate to.
It’s a great way of forming an emotional connection and building loyalty long before they’re your customer.
By using high-quality content to deliver the information your audience looks for, you help them know, like, and trust you.
It’s that connection that builds your business over the long run.
Effective Content Marketing Has 5 Key Areas To Master
Once you’ve moved past effective content creation, you’re ready to master the whole content marketing process.
This process can bring your content marketing results into ranges you’ve never thought possible.
They’re 100% focused on your customer’s journey, and they matter no matter what industry you’re in.
If you’re looking for success with your content, master them.
Content Marketing Direction
If you’re already doing content marketing, you’ve probably got someone in place to manage it.
Maybe you’ve even got a great plan for what comes next and have a writer or two in place.
And you’ve likely got a pretty good idea of what topics it makes sense for your business to cover.
None of that is uncommon for a company that’s already put content marketing to work.
It’s almost impossible not to have them in place, in fact.
What most content managers miss, however, is an understanding of what the different phases of content are, and which phase each piece fits into.
You’ve got to know how your content is going to direct the conversation through different parts of the journey.
In order to do that well, you need to become a master at identifying which content types fit which phase.
While your content will vary which phase it’s associated with depending on the context of the piece, this list is a great general guideline.
- Contact: First contact sources include paid ads, explainer/attention-getter videos, infographics, and landing pages.
- Convert: Content designed to induce conversions to leads include blog posts, case studies, most social media content, and in some cases, quizzes.
- Close: When guiding leads to the sale, you’ll use content that includes emails – especially an email series – product reviews, whitepapers, and lead questionnaires.
- Retain: To keep your customers loyal, use content in the form of email communication, surveys, exclusive offers, and contests.
Remember that every content marketing campaign is made of all these elements.
You’ve got to have them all planned, prepared, and ready before you begin.
It’s also essential to understand the way each phase works best on each platform and with each buyer persona.
Be certain you don’t get stuck on what’s working right now.
Learn to be flexible and adapt to the changes that come from media in the future.
So many marketers would be in trouble if their major platform disappeared this week.
Don’t be one-dimensional.
Planning Content Campaigns
Content calendars are super important for your strategy to succeed.
It’s the beacon that tells you where you need to take your content during the cycle.
By creating a well-rounded calendar, you remove the mystery around what gets published next.
You save time and money.
Most importantly, you end up with a framework that you’ll navigate within.
If you’re flexible enough to fit in relevant surprises (like industry news or trending topics), it can take you a long way.
But a content calendar doesn’t just tell you what and when you’ll publish.
It can also tell you where.
You’ve got to make sure you’re including multiple media outlets in your strategy.
Consider the following additions to your blog and social strategies.
- Video: Take advantage of video’s success on YouTube, live streams through Twitch or Facebook Live, and the ephemeral platforms of Snapchat and Instagram.
- Audio: Podcasts are insanely popular and extremely convenient for your audience.
- Slide Shows: Putting content on SlideShare can help you expand to a much larger audience quickly.
By including formats and outlets on your content calendar, you can improve your strategy’s reach while concentrating its message.
Make sure to spend time determining which outlets fit your company and strategy over the intended timeline.
The Content Sales Funnel
The term “sales funnel” sucks.
When it comes to content marketing, we’re not talking about directly selling.
However, it’s still the most appropriate term.
It’s representative of the buyer’s journey to a decision.
The three phases are the reason for the term.
They are awareness, evaluation, and purchase.
Paying attention to this process tells you why buyers move forward through the funnel.
Content marketing technically sits at the top of the sales funnel.
It’s mostly about earning and developing leads, then giving the sales team (or sales process in ecommerce and retail) a chance to close.
Business owners often have trouble with content marketing because of this.
It seems distant from the sale, making it tougher to see the direct correlation between the marketing and the money.
But content marketing goes beyond that sale.“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” - W. Edwards Deming Click To Tweet
In that light comes the fourth phase of the sales process that we talked about before.
When taken in context – outreach, conversion, closing, and retention – you can start to see how content marketing isn’t that far from the sale.
More importantly, it helps secure repeat sales.
So, at the top of the funnel, the content is trying to cast a wide net and bring in attention.
However, when you can truly master the lead funnel, you realize that content brings them back to the top of the funnel after they’ve been through it.
That means engaging at every phase, including the sale, to help ensure their loyalty.
The only way to do that effectively is to pay attention to what’s working.
You’ve got to learn to talk to your audience the right way.
Gathering Content Data
Both quality and quantity of content are incredibly important to a content strategy.
However, they’re not the whole strategy.
And they’re by far not going to work alone.
They need a guide to make sure they keep improving.
Without some indicator of your content’s success, you’re going to wind up aimlessly making content and hoping the best is happening.
That’s not a strategy, and any success you get from it isn’t duplicable.
You have to connect with your audience every chance you get.
Your content should resonate with the reasons they’re interested in your company.
If you can figure that part out for one phase, you’ll have an easier time taking that information into the next phase.
You’ll have an easier time making the connection with that buyer persona every time.
The only way you’re going to do that well is to learn what works and what doesn’t.
That means collecting data.
Your content manager, strategist, or analyst should be closely following the numbers.
Good data makes it easier to tweak and refine content to convert better.
Learn where your visitors enter at, where they head, and how they convert.
Monitor your site traffic constantly.
That’s going to give you the best clues to what you need to do more of.
Then, as you make educated guesses about what’s working, start making little tweaks.
Test minor changes in formats, styles, and topics to see how your audience reacts.
A/B test your emails to find out what converts better.
At every buyer phase you’ll find areas to test and improve to take more of your audience to the next phase.
Continually ask yourself:
- What tools are working the best?
- Does my content blend seamlessly?
- What recently did better or worse than I expected?
- Which area of improvement deserves the most time?
By constantly refining with the right data and the right mindset, you can get the most for your content.
Repurposing Great Content
Distribution is the only way your content matters.
Content marketing loses its effectiveness when nobody consumes content.
However, you can’t just shuffle a link out to every platform and call it a day.
Every distribution channel speaks a different “language” and takes different content.
Some platforms are better for images and others have more success with long-form text.
Some include a combination of content formats.
Different platforms and formats also have different purposes.
You’re not going to submit a guest blog for the closing phase of the sales funnel, for example.
You’re going to need to determine what combination is going to help you the most while costing you the least time.
One efficient strategy is to use successful content on one platform and convert the information for another.
When you think about it, any information you’re sharing can be repurposed for a different message on a different platform.
That leaves you researching one topic for many content outlets.
Any time you test content, think about the ways you’ll be able to reuse it in another format.
If it’s successful, you can translate it and test in another environment.
Eventually you’ll develop a core set of ideas to build your content on.
Take the multimedia idea to the next level by producing pieces of content in a multimedia format.
“Click to Tweet” buttons are a great example.
If you’re doing something to help yourself and your audience distribute your content further, you’re making the right moves.
Expertise Helps You Make Your Content Marketing Better
You’ve got to get great at these things if you want your content marketing to have great results.
And in the end, that’s all that counts.
You need results that help you grow and get better.
Put the effort in to get excellent at these areas.
If you do, you’ll see the kind of results that make that effort worth it.
You’ll see more traffic, more leads, and more sales.
Most importantly, you’ll cement your company for the long-term.