Content Marketing Strategy is all the rage these days. Everybody is producing it. You’re being told that it’s important. Essential, even. If you’re not on the content bandwagon, you feel like you’re doing something wrong.
With all this content being produced, the big question is – how is it working for you? Is your content actually producing results? Are they the right results?
These questions are important because most content marketing efforts exist in a commercial void. That is, they are driven by a loosely defined ambition to “produce some content”. Very rarely is the ROI of these efforts scrutinised against meaningful commercial goals. Even less common is a content marketing strategies that go beyond and its effectiveness is measured.
Define A Commercially Meaningful Goal
Everything starts here. You must define a smart goal for your content strategy. To be clear, a number of likes are very, very rarely a good goal. Same goes for the number of shares, emojis and upvotes.
Those goals are, in 95% of cases, vanity metrics; they’re mostly useful for making dad (who has never approved of you) proud, for keeping your ego together, for making your ex-girlfriend jealous – and so on.
At best, they’re proxy indicators to good commercial goals. “Brand presence” is also a silly goal if your business has less than 10 people and/or $2 million in revenue.
Examples of good goals:
- Number of legitimate enquiries that the content campaign is driving
- Revenue attributed to the campaign
- Bums on seats at an event
Generally speaking, a good goal should reference money coming in, a product going out of the door or people – who match your target persona – walking into the door.
Measure Your Gap
How well are your current content efforts measuring up against your newly defined commercial goals?
If not well, that’s great. At least you know where you are. You’re already ahead of most other content marketers who are lost in the woods but don’t realise that they are.
(You’re also lost, but you have a map with your current location and the destination marked. Your chances of survival are way higher).
Now that you know where you are and where you want to be, let’s help you bridge the gap.
Create Your Content Mix
Most content marketers produce the same type of content, every single time. For example, some stick with “Top 10” style listicles. Others love the controversial, neurotic op-eds.
An effective content marketing strategy, however, contains a strategically designed and deployed mix of different content types.
One of the best roadmaps for creating a content mix is called Hero, Hygiene and Hub.
Originally developed by Google for YouTube publishers, the model offers a holistic framework that enables you – the content marketer – to grab the attention of users with the right type of content, at the right time.
This is also called helping content, this is the ‘functional’ content that draws audiences into your sphere of influence. Think landing pages, social media posts, how-to videos, long-form articles, infographics, etc.
Frequently the audience’s first point of contact with a brand, hygiene content has the potential to deliver the biggest ROI on content marketing – if done right. Hygiene is critical to ensuring brand visibility via organic search and providing consumers with information to continue on the purchasing journey.
Where hygiene content ‘pulls’ audiences in, hub content ‘pushes’ out, building brand loyalty and audience engagement.
Taking the form of op-eds, competitions, short-form articles, lists, quizzes and polls, hub content is topical, taps into the audience’s interests and is made to be shared.
It allows marketers to engage with consumers in new, innovative ways, whilst providing value.
Hero content usually takes the form of high impact, one-off campaigns, typically requiring investment across on and offline channels.
Unlike hygiene and hub content, whose goal is to build engagement over time, the goal of a hero campaign is to be seen by the right people in the right places and the right time, building brand reputation and credibility.
Examples include viral content, experiential advertising, events, high production videos, branded content, influencer engagement and native advertising.
Weld Your Content Marketing Strategy To Solid SEO Principles
SEO isn’t just for techno-geeks or bearded hipster agency types.
If you want to be a content publisher who achieves ROI, you must understand how the fundamentals of SEO play out in a content marketing strategy.
SEO is not limited to optimising meta tags on your website. It’s not just a matter of “getting some links”, either.
When done right, it’s a symphony that masterfully assembles dozens of variables in a way that makes sense for your business.
The best resource that I’ve ever seen on this topic, bar none, is Tom Soulo’s Blogging For Business YouTube Series. Watch it. Read it to your children at night. Recite it as part of your Sunday church service. Do whatever it takes to commit its concepts to your memory. I don’t care. It will be worth it, I promise.
Create Superior Content
Notice that we’ve been talking about content marketing for about a page now – and we’re only just getting to the actual step of content creation.
This is how it should be. Strategy first, execution second.
What does it mean to create superior content?
Don’t fall into the trap of creating ‘content for the sake of content’.
In other words, your efforts must stand head and shoulders above the content that’s already out there in your niche.
A lot of new content marketers fill their blogs with content that resembles generic listicle pieces that you often see on websites like Forbes or Lifehacker. If it’s good enough for the big publishers, it’s good enough for me – right?
Well, not exactly.
Incumbent publishers have the luxury of momentum, SEO firepower and brand strength, so they can afford to – and they often do – let their publishing standards decline.
Large, established publishers can get away with churning out relatively mediocre pieces ad nauseam and continue to thrive. In fact, they strategically trade-off quality for volume.
You, my dear aspiring publisher, don’t have the same firepower, so you can’t view those big guys as your benchmark of quality. In order to achieve cut-through, you need to do better on the quality front. Way better.
To get into the right mindset, think of every content piece that you publish as an evergreen investment. It will live on the internet for years (possibly decades) and, if done well, continue to drive results (meaningful commercial goals that you set in step 1, remember?) for you without much additional effort. It will also add, or detract from, your own personal brand.
The trick is in ensuring that these assets are able to stand the test of time. This means investing a considerable amount of effort and/or money into them upfront.
Forge An Emotional Connection With Storytelling
It has been shown that ~95% of purchasing decisions are emotionally driven.
What’s the best way to establish an emotional connection with your audience?
Stories are how we make sense of the world. At its core, storytelling turns abstract ideas into narratives we understand.
The best stories in content marketing reflect a strong understanding of the audience. They tap into pain points and aspirations.
To deepen a sense of emotional connection with your audience, pay attention to personality and voice. Content written for an 18-year-old university student must sound very different from the content that’s aimed at a 50-year-old investment banker.
Understand your audience’s communication style and reflect it to them through your content.
A hook infuses your content with character. It lures readers in with a unique concept that inspires the audience to consume, share and re-engage with your brand.
Fundamentally emotionally driven, a hook can tap into the audience’s FOMO, create a sense of belonging, build suspense or solve a problem.
Make Them Laugh
Humour breaks down walls between your content and its consumers by giving it a relatable, human feel.
Consumers are far more likely to buy from brands who communicate in a ‘human-like’ way.
Do you think that humour does not fit your brand? Think again.
Being humorous does not mean being a clown.
It is possible to walk the fine line of being serious, competent and yet light-hearted. Pay attention to how brands like HubSpot, Google and Virgin, for example, blend irreverence with a solid, credible value proposition.
To find out more about content and how it can help you, check out these articles: