How to Create a Winning Content Marketing Strategy – A Complete Guide
It’s a question that haunts every digital marketer’s dreams, and one that marketing managers ponder over text-filled white boards: how do you create a content marketing strategy that works? Well, I’d love to tell you that I have an out-of-the-box solution, but it’s really not that simple. What I can do is tell you what traits to analyse in your business that will help you decide on the fundamental content streams you need to take advantage of to create a successful content marketing campaign.
So settle in, because when I say this is a complete guide I mean it. I’ll be going over:
- Analysing your business for important marketing signposting
- Data you need to collect
- Different content types and how they’re used
- Email Direct Marketing
- White Papers
- Social Media
- And more…
- What role content types play for different business’s marketing campaigns
- The role ROI (return on investment) plays in content marketing
How we approach content marketing
As a full-suite digital marketing agency, the team at WME have created content strategies for Australian businesses big and small, and the first thing we do is analyse who our client is and how they’re positioned in the market. When you’re doing this for your own business, there are a few pieces of data you need to collect, as well as tagging key traits of your business to find the right content strategies for your marketing goals.
B2B or B2C?
This is a hugely important question and the very first thing our team will ask when discussing a content marketing strategy. The answer to this question affects how you can make use of multiple content streams (we’ll get into specifics later), what social media you should be on, what content you should be creating and how you should interact with your clients. Some businesses straddle both B2B and B2C marketing areas, and while this offers more opportunity to sell products, it requires careful segmentation of your clients to ensure the messages are framed correctly.
While many of the basic content marketing strategies are suitable for both B2B and B2C businesses, they will need to be tailored to your exact customer relationship. In general, B2B relationships need more nurturing and longer content sales pathways, while a B2C content marketing strategy can be fairly simple and fast. That being said, this will be very dependent on the nature of your business.
Service-based business, e-commerce or offline products?
This question may seem like an obvious one, but it’s essential to clearly define what your business and digital presence is offering clients. If you’re a service-based business that relies on getting a phone call from potential clients, the way you pitch yourself and interact digitally with clients will be completely different to an e-commerce business. This not only affects the type of content you use, but also whether you’re looking for a hard and fast sell, or whether you want to slowly push clients towards a sale (think buying a new toaster versus buying a new home).
Consider the needs of your clients/customers when they’re buying from or hiring you. Content marketing is often about creating the necessary content for a customer to feel comfortable making a purchase – whether that’s a detailed white paper, product brochure or a client case study, find the piece of content they need, deliver it to them, and watch your sales grow.
Is your business well-known?
There are a variety of benefits to being a big-name brand with strong market recognition and they’re fairly obvious, so there’s no need to spell them out. However, there are also quite a few benefits for a business that’s just creating its brand. How you approach content marketing needs to be informed by your marketing position, and the freedom available to unknown brands can’t be overlooked. The ability to create your brand story from scratch gives your content marketing strategy a lot of power and allows you to make the best use of all possible content streams.
Analyse where your business sits in the marketplace (for example, pricing), what people say about you (for example, Google reviews) and, importantly, what your marketing material says about you. This will help in determining not only what you need to fix through a content strategy, but what you can build on.
Depending on how you’re positioned in the market, your content will have more or less ability to influence customers. This is basically just a matter of brand awareness, but it can also be influenced by negative press or an unfavourable market view. If you’re viewed as a budget option, it’ll be difficult to market yourself as a premium service, but, with a long-term content plan, you can demonstrate a change in your company setup and establish yourself as a market leader.
Solve your weaknesses and leverage your strengths to create a complete content marketing strategy that delivers a high ROI.
Who are your customers?
Ignore the digital marketing aspect for a second: YOU NEED TO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS. This is a key pillar in any business’s success. If you don’t know your customers inside and out, there’s no way you can meet their needs completely, which means eventually they’ll go somewhere else.
Back to the digital marketing side of things, how you position your content completely depends on your customers and target audiences. From the social media channels to use and the type of content to produce, down to the tone of voice and specific language of choice you employ, all this hinges on your customers. So, get to know who you’re selling yourself to well before putting pen to paper.
A significant part – if not all – of a content marketing strategy’s chance of success comes down to engaging with your customers. If you don’t know who they are, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to create engaging content. Many content marketers recommend creating customer avatars, which are stereotypical images of your current customers. They will usually include interests, buying pain points, and bio information. These are very useful tools when deciding on content to produce, and can be super valuable for your writers to observe.
What’s your business aim?
Clearly defining your business goals is something every successful business does, but it’s also important to clearly define what your content marketing goals are as well. Depending on your business, the role of content marketing can be limited, so it’s important to take that into account.
If you’re a leads-based business with a sales team making the final sale, attributing an increase in sales solely to a content marketing campaign may be unattainable. Instead, your aim would be to increase leads (which should naturally boost sales as well). Compare this to an e-commerce site, and you can see that with the sales team removed, you can directly link your digital campaign to an increase in sales.
Attune your content marketing campaign goals (and metrics) to your business goals and the nature of your business to set realistic targets. Setting the right goals will also mean you’re choosing the right content types to achieve your aims rather than wasting resources on a content stream that may not deliver the results you’re looking for.
Data and digital presence
Now that you’ve had a look at who your business is, it’s time to look at some of the data types you have access to, as well as the nature of your online presence.
How many client emails does your business have access to? These current, past or potential customers are a content marketer’s dream, and they are what can lead your company’s growth going forward. Smart content marketing strategies make use of the data you have access to in order to deliver relevant content to the right people. As a result, this increases client interaction with your brand, builds brand voice and authority, and has been shown to increase sales, retention and rebuy rate.
Analysing the current data/customer details you have is an important step when designing your content marketing campaign. Certain content types will be unusable without access to a section of customer emails, and marketing tools such as social media advertising may become too expensive to deliver a good ROI without access to a strong Facebook following.
If you identify a lack of data in your business, don’t worry – content marketing campaigns can be specifically designed to capture this data. By utilising one of these campaigns, you not only grow your mailing list, but also increase leads and potential business.
For business growth and targeted marketing, a properly managed CRM (customer relationship management) system is almost essential. Some of the big businesses I’ve worked with have gone without this vital tool, and it’s been almost like working blind. The knowledge and data – like client industry segment, their regular spend with you, product interest areas, etc. – that a properly curated CRM gives a content marketer is better than gold, and it’s an important step in identifying customer types and potential upsell opportunities.
Segmentation is the art of identifying customer segments for targeted marketing. Regular segments that customers can be broken into include everything from payment brackets, to location, industry, product/service purchases and time since last contact.
Made far simpler with an audited CRM (but still possible without), segmentation can drastically increase the effectiveness of certain marketing techniques. Particularly useful for email direct marketing, the proper use of segmentation is an important thing to consider in your content strategy planning, helping to bring a comprehensive customer understanding to the business.
CRMs and segmentation go hand-in-hand, and while the implementation of a modern and adaptable CRM into your business can be expensive, the positive effects can extend far past the marketing sphere. A CRM, when properly operated, speeds up customer interaction and can greatly improve the way you manage the sales and post-sales process. If you haven’t already got a CRM in place, look into the available options on the market.
Website/social media positioning
The strength of your digital presence – from SEO rankings and monthly traffic to social media followers – all needs to be considered when creating your content marketing campaign. Closely looking at this data not only allows you to identify the digital strengths you can leverage for a strong campaign, it also highlights the areas where your digital presence struggles. Identifying these weaknesses is important as parts of the campaign may be targeted to improve a weakness, or the content types you use will be limited by the weaknesses identified.
An example of a strength would be having an already heavily visited blog. Having this resource as part of your content marketing campaign would enable you to effectively render the blog to reach your content marketing goals faster, whether through targeted blogging, lead capture, or direct selling.
At the extreme other end, you could not have a blog at all. This means you need to either make building and growing the blog part of your campaign, or not make use of blogging in your content strategy.
There are a range of affects your social media and website positioning can have on all of your content marketing strategies, not just blogging. The likely effectiveness of other content strategies, both overall and according to ROI, will heavily depend on your entire digital reputation. While website domain strength can have a large effect on your blogging and lead capture efforts, your ability to deliver targeted marketing content, whatever form it is in, will be limited by the digital reach of your website and social media.
Correctly analysing all the above data will put you in the position to start making smart content marketing decisions. Not only that, but it’s like a digital health check, allowing you to see areas for improvement across the whole business, from SEO or PPC campaigns, to in-house CRMs and data-gathering techniques.
Types of content you need to consider
Using the information you’ve collected about your business, you should now have a fair idea of who you are (digitally speaking) and how you’re positioned in the market, online and in respect to data on hand. Below I’ve broken down content marketing into its key content types and described how each can be used depending on your business type.
Note that the below information is by no means all encompassing; it’s more of a guide to how different businesses can use content types. Your business, being unique as most businesses are, will probably not neatly slide into any of the categories below. Instead, you should pick and choose the advice that best serves your goals.
Blogs – The backbone of online content
Blogs have been around since the inception of the internet, and from the humble beginnings of terribly designed fanfic blogs, they are now the driving force behind online content. No matter what topic you’re searching for, there’s probably a dozen or so blogs giving you answers. Blogs have now become a central source of information for every internet user. This potential reach offers businesses the chance to build their brand voice, demonstrate IP (Intellectual Property), establish market authority and engage with new and old customers. In general, blogs can be an effective part of any content marketing strategy and are well worth considering in yours.
The tone of business-to-business communication (B2B) is very different than that of business-to-consumer (B2C), and blogs can sometimes be overlooked when companies are looking for tools to deliver their message. While blogs are well-suited for the general public, it can be short-sighted of businesses to think that CEOs, purchasing managers and other key decision-makers don’t read them as well.
While blogs are unlikely to directly result in a sale for a B2B company, they do allow you to position yourself as an authority figure and build a brand voice. Raising the awareness of your IP via blogging will make your company more memorable. And don’t forget, a thick blogging component to your site will boost your SEO.
When you’re using blogs for B2B purposes, it’s important to be highly factual (while still entertaining). Business blogs need to provide real information/data that makes potential clients think about what you can do for them. This means that, unlike a B2C blog, you can’t be “click-baity”: you need to bring real value to the table, whether that’s through IP or industry analysis. Use these blogs to position your business as an industry leader and as someone other businesses want to work with.
Blogs are a driving force of B2C communication. With the potential to upsell, cross-sell, and, well, simply sell anything, blogs have become one of the major components of successful B2C content marketing strategies. With flexibility and ease of production, blogs are the Swiss Army Knife of B2C content marketers. Perfect for advertising products or sales as well as driving traffic to your website, you can achieve a lot with a smart blogging campaign.
One thing B2C and B2B bloggers need to be aware of is the need for amplification. Unless your company already has a successful blog that’s getting hundreds of clicks a day, you probably need to ensure your blogs are actually seen, because if no one sees them, they’re not that useful (SEO benefits excluded).
While we go into amplification in-depth later, the basic principle is to deliver the content to people who might be interested in it. Social media is perhaps the best platform for this for B2C companies, as their blogs tend to be more consumable, while EDMs are also a useful way to deliver the blog to potential readers. Herein, certain social platforms will suit different businesses and the exact nature of amplification used should be matched to your industry, your social media platform and the blog content.
Service-based businesses can perhaps make the most out of blogging. This is because clients will generally want to see a lot of information from you before signing on for a long period.
While I could break down the segment of service-based businesses into the particular blog benefits for trades, financial or commercial services, I’ll keep this as a general overview – you could write a whole book on blogging if you went industry by industry.
In general, service-based businesses should be looking to generate interest in their IP or technique through service spotlights or industry analysis. By creating a significant amount of information that works to position the business as an authority, you develop trust from the client.
Blogs are also a great piece of content to deliver to current clients in the form of a nurture program. People often take the approach of “what have you done for me lately?” with businesses, so by presenting articles showing the extent of your knowledge, or highlighting potential “upselling” to more in-depth services, you give the client something to think about (as opposed to having them wonder what you spend their money on every month).
Blogs can also be used as inspiration pieces. Show potential or existing customers what you’ve done for other people (a bathroom renovation, improved efficiency, cut transport overheads, etc.) so they can start thinking about what you can do for them. Not only does this highlight your skills to the reader, it also encourages their interest in the business.
Sell, sell, sell. That’s what e-commerce is all about, and with the world of low prices and hot deals we live in, your business needs an edge. The ability to sell online, while affected by price, can often come down to product brand name and trust in the site.
If you’re a branded e-commerce site (selling your own brand products exclusively), your blogging (and entire content marketing campaign, for that matter) will need to be about building interest in the brand. You can’t discount your way to the top because someone overseas will always be able to undercut your prices. You need to build brand loyalty and show prospects why they should want to choose your business. The content you produce has a strong effect on this.
Writing blogs around influencers can have a huge boost to your bottom line here (for instance, consider the make-up industry’s use of Instagram stars to promote products). This ability to draw interest from people who are possibly completely unaware of your brand is one of the best things to take advantage of when it comes to e-commerce. Using blogs to not only create a brand voice, but to drive sales, is one of the strongest content marketing strategies available for e-commerce businesses and, as such, should be a pillar of your plans going forward.
E-commerce blogging is also a great chance to use other mediums to drive interest. Make use of video and social interaction, infographics and images to make content more engaging and to drive people to your site.
Offline products business
Offline product sales is a pretty broad category to tackle as a whole since it includes everything from brick and mortar stores, house and vehicle sales to custom furniture or tech equipment. Not to mention that there can be significant crossover with businesses making use of some e-commerce, but also selling in-store. As far as content strategies go, it’s important to consider your goals when it comes to blogging. If you’re trying to drive people to come into your store or attend an open house, your blogging focus will be a lot different to that of a business trying to get a sale online – but you may be trying to do both. There’s nothing wrong with having a two-prong blogging strategy – but it is important to remember which customer group your blogs are written for.
When you’re trying to encourage a high cost purchase, there will naturally be a lot more work involved than if someone’s looking for a book or cheap hairbrush online. This means the content you provide needs to change. In a lot of ways, you need to combine the entertainment-driven blogs of e-commerce with the more in-depth articles written for service-based businesses. Writing about the industry can be a great way to drive people to your site – i.e. a furniture business writing about interior design trends – and if you include a few plugs on products you sell or some links to see more information on your business, well…no harm, no foul.
The content strategy behind Coca-Cola is going to be a hell of a lot different to your local plumber. Your brand name recognition matters. It may be your goal to create that recognition, and blogs are a great way to do that. On the other hand, if you’re already well-known and have managed to establish a brand voice your customers understand, it’s essential that your blogging strategy matches that voice.
If you’re known as the cheap brand in the market, you can’t suddenly start writing blogs about offering high-end, quality products – it won’t resonate with your customers. But if you are that cheap brand, there are plenty of ways to play into that. You can write blogs that include tips on saving money in your industry, compare cheaper products with the more expensive and talk about value.
There are plenty of ways to leverage your company’s perception into interesting reading. Focus on producing blogs that match your brand voice and highlight the strengths of your market perception.
Being an unknown company has plenty of drawbacks, but it also means you can create the narrative around who you are. Obviously, who you are comes from the business itself, but with a clean slate of relative obscurity, you can frame your strengths and weaknesses in a good light.
Just like a well-known company, though, you will be limited by the concept of a cohesive brand voice. You can’t start producing blogs that are at odds with each other. The tone and language of the content you produce, blogs or otherwise, needs to match. This means as you sit down to plan your content strategy, you also need to create this brand voice.
Creating a brand voice isn’t always easy, but the general process is simple enough. Identify the key traits that you associate with your business – like if you were describing a person. Your business could be honest, quirky, irreverent – whatever it is, write that down. From these initial traits, describe how your business is that trait, and then what that means for content, i.e. what your business would or wouldn’t say. From there it’s about creating engaging content that matches your brand.
As I’ve already said, knowing who your customers are is essential, and that applies doubly for blogs. You need to produce content that your customers will actually read. This should be really quite simple if you’ve correctly identified your customer types.
Consider the type of customers you have, their available free time, their typical literacy level, and what devices they’ll likely read blogs on.
Create blogs that match not only the interests and demographics of your customers, but their likely content choices. Do you customers read short or long blogs? Do they like videos in their blogs? Work this out and you’ve got content that will genuinely resonate with the people who might spend money with you.
Email direct marketing – Driving profits through massive ROI
As far as marketing strategies go, a properly constructed EDM campaign wins hands down when it comes to ROI. Used on its own, in the sales process for automation, or as an amplification technique, marketing emails can generate a huge response from your clients.
With the ability to deliver personalised marketing content you’re actually talking directly to each and every person you have in your database, and that’s not something to sneeze at.
There are a range of different EDM campaign types that your business should be making use of, including:
Blast – The sending out of mass emails, usually for a sale or content delivery (blog amplification). Showing great short-term and directly measurable ROI, especially when used for e-commerce sales, these are perhaps the easiest EDM type to create and a good area for any business to begin their EDM journey with.
Nurture – This involves the intricate planning and creation of long term email campaigns. There will often be multiple streams of emails based on how each client reacts and will require some level of segmentation to ensure the right emails get delivered to the right client types. Great for both past and current clients, these emails have been shown to increase the frequency of purchases, retention rates and return customer rates.
Sales automation – For those businesses with a longer sales process, sales automation is a fantastic tool to ensure a constant flow of communication. This EDM campaign delivers content appropriate to the sales journey and will help increase the percentage of leads turning into opportunities and sales, as well as drive up overall per-sale value. These emails do the work of a salesperson!
Purchase follow up – This EDM campaign can take the form of a welcome email for a service business, or in the case of e-commerce, a “your order has been received” email chain. E-commerce stores will naturally already have some basic version of this email set-up, it’s the one that informs customers when their order’s arriving. But did you know that these emails have one of the highest open rates of all? They’re the perfect opportunity to upsell, cross sell and introduce a client to your brand voice.
Site triggers – Site triggers track the way your web visitors use your site (if you already have their email details). By tracking how someone is interacting with your website, you can send them a tailored marketing campaign based on what they are looking at. For example, someone who has already bought something from your e-commerce store could return to your site and look at a different category of products without making a purchase. By sending an automated follow up email, you can entice them to come back to your site and buy. This is a very effective marketing tool because you’re targeting a client when they are already thinking about making a purchase. These emails are also a great way to slip in discount codes to tip a potential buyer over the edge.
Abandoned cart – Did you know that on average 67% of shopping carts are abandoned? Just imagine how much your bottom line income would increase if you could lower that number? This is where the abandoned cart email campaign comes in. There are a lot of ways to turn that 67% back into cash money, and you can create a tailored set of EDMs based on what type of products are in the cart. As far as e-commerce goes, this isn’t a choice, you NEED an abandoned cart email campaign, whether it’s a basic follow up or a more complicated campaign that makes use of dynamic content and discount offers.
Creating an EDM campaign will require some kind of database of emails – hopefully in a CRM with plenty of data for segmentation – if you don’t currently have any of that, you can look at gathering a mailing list through blogging, social media or lead capture techniques.
A smart and interwoven EDM campaign is essential for B2B success. Client relationships are the building blocks of a strong business, especially for B2B companies. EDMs aren’t just about sales, they’re about nurturing your relationship with current, past and future clients. I recommend that every B2B company invests in an in-depth EDM nurture program for their clients. Not only does this let you show clients what you have to offer them, but it lets you deliver a stream of content that indoctrinates them into why they should be using you.
Almost every single segment of the B2B business community can make some use of email nurture campaigns, even if it’s just as content amplification. A key part of any content marketing campaign is delivering your content to clients, and emails are a great way to do that. When you have content showing off your IP, whether it’s a blog, white paper or e-book, you need the right people to see it. By sending this content to decision makers you maximise your chance of garnering their interest. Not only that, but once they have downloaded or clicked through to your content, you can create an automated email follow up to keep their interest going.
EDMs can not only let a business automate their sales process, but increase repeat business and retention rates, all with no person-to-person interaction. There’s no better way to efficiently manage a large number of clients.
From the smallest business to the largest, emails can still make a difference. Even your average domestic plumber can increase customer retention and grow brand awareness with a targeted email campaign. Combining the best of both worlds, EDMs for B2C businesses can yield immediate sales results as well as nurture clients. While not an essential strategy for some B2C businesses, EDMs still play a key role in a complete content marketing strategy.
Perhaps most commonly used as a sales blast email (ROI speaking), EDMs have become a staple for many B2C companies. As a tool for B2C companies, I’ve found almost any of the email types I listed previously can deliver great results, but making use of more than one in an interwoven campaign will always work better. In some cases, businesses are run on the driving force of email marketing, especially when it comes to e-commerce.
From my experience at WME, it’s become obvious that B2C companies that commit to creating a strong EDM campaign succeed and grow much faster than those who ignore it.
The way service-based businesses use EDMs will vary wildly depending on the industry they operate in, but almost all can make some use of this marketing technique. From basic automated follow ups on service experience, to complex nurture and sales email automation, EDMs can do a lot for a service-based business.
Perhaps overlooked in the awe-inspiring ROI of the sales email, is the pure efficiency of automated emails. Unless someone you employ is actually an EDM specialist, you probably want them doing more than just writing emails. And the fantastic thing about setting up an automated email system, whatever the purpose, is that most of the work is done initially. Once the system is operational, the only real work is monitoring performance and making tweaks to perfect the system. This makes email automation the perfect investment for a range of service-based businesses.
Usually seen in professional and white collar industries, the nurture programs and automated email systems are slowly progressing over into the blue-collar world. Almost all businesses grab an email during the sales process, even your plumber will probably have asked for it so they could send an invoice to you, and more businesses are seeing the true value this data represents. Start taking advantage of the power of EDMs and look into how they can help your business grow.
E-commerce businesses run on the power of email marketing. From blast sales emails, site triggers to abandon carts and nurture programs, almost every email in the content marketing arsenal can be deployed to deliver results on e-commerce platforms.
Compared to other businesses types, e-commerce is particularly suited for email marketing. The very nature of the business requires the exchange of email information for clients, and the fast-paced nature of the sales means you can quickly see ROI from sales emails. A central technique for major and minor brands alike, emails are widely recognised as the go-to marketing strategy for e-commerce businesses.
One of the rarely mentioned strengths of emails is their visual impact on the consumer. This is nowhere more obvious than in e-commerce sales emails. Delivering a consumer a stunning picture of your product with a great sales price underneath can push so many people to buy something they weren’t planning on – I bought a TV from JB Hi-Fi because they sent me an email with a great deal, and I’m no newbie to marketing tactics.
Offline products business
Offline products are perhaps the hardest sell for EDM campaigns. Client nurture and content amplification is still a very useful technique, but the ROI is much harder to measure.
For seasonal businesses (fashion), or those rapidly changing their offerings (think latest house listings), sending regular updates with what’s currently available is a great marketing tactic. This is no better shown than by EDM campaigns being run by domain.com. Not only do they deliver regular content they think will interest potential customers (segmented by what you’ve searched for), but they’ll also send you recently listed properties for rent or sale based on how they’ve segmented you…and how have they been doing lately?
There’s plenty of areas for offline product businesses to make use of email marketing as a tactic, but due to the lack of e-commerce functionality, the tracking of direct ROI will be limited. While this can put some businesses off, I go into why ROI isn’t the only stick to measure things by shortly.
Email marketing is an every man’s type marketing technique, it works for the big and small businesses alike. While a trusted and known brand name may attract higher open rates, the nature of EDMs (someone actually having given you their email address) means that they’ve said they want to hear more from you. This is one of the things that makes email marketing such a useful tool.
***Beware the buying of email lists, that’s the real unknown. From my experience, working with clients who buy lists, it’s a disaster. If you’re desperate to grow your number of email contacts, invest in a sound lead capture, social or blogging strategy.
Your brand recognition won’t so much affect the choices of emails you send, but the tone you use when sending. As I mentioned about blogs you need to match your tone to your brand, and the same applies for all content you send, including email text.
The only customers who shouldn’t be targeted by email marketing are those without emails, everyone else who’s a potential customer is fair game.
Like blogging, the nature of your email content needs to be written with clients in mind. Things like send date/time, sale offer types and content can be adjusted by seeing what your clients respond to, and that testing phase is an essential part of creating a EDM campaign that works.
White papers/e-books – Establishing authority in a crowded market
When you want to impress a potential or current client, there’s no better piece of content than a white paper or e-book.
A white paper is something you might commonly hear mentioned in politics, think tanks and government agencies, but all it really is, is a position paper outlining your business’s response to an issue. There’s literally no better piece of content for a business looking to highlight their IP, and when it comes to selling your business as a market leader, it’s a piece of content the gets real traction.
ebooks, while similar to white papers in their informative and factual nature, open a whole different range of self-promotional options. Consider the fact that a good e-book can actually make your business money through sales of itself and you can start to see the potential behind it. The implied authority behind selling an e-book adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the mystique of your brand, especially if it becomes popular. Even just as a lead capture device, e-books can have a very positive affect on the marketing for your business.
When it comes to enticing decision makers to consider what your business offers them, white papers are one of most powerful tools in the content marketing toolbox. By creating a common industry question or problem and going into detail about how and why you solve the problem the way you do, you can directly engage with potential clients’ need and show them your solution.
White papers also make good discussion pieces, where you can engage in an important industry issue in detail, outlining your response and thought process.
As an example, you can consider the financial industry and the recent discussions around capital gains and negative gearing reform. If you run a financial advice or real estate company, you could create a position white paper, outlining what you believe the likely affects are and why and how that should affect your investment priorities. This would show potential clients your thought leadership and highlight how your services could benefit them, while addressing a newsworthy issue.
White papers or e-books aren’t something you should just jump into, they need to be carefully thought through. You can’t fill them with entertaining fluff like blogs, they genuinely need an informative and engaging basis. So, when you’re thinking about creating a white paper for your business, make sure you have a topic that’s interesting to your clients and one that you can actually add something to. White papers that work are ones that help businesses solve a problem.
In general, white papers will not be suitable for a B2C business, they simply aren’t required in most content marketing strategies. While they or something similar (like a product focus/comparison document) may make appearances in certain industries, they’ll make this appearance rarely, because customers just don’t need this kind of detailed information.
Service based businesses are perhaps in the best position to make use of white papers and e-books as a part of their content marketing strategy. While more suited to white collar industries with complex financial, legal, tech or other high level discussions between businesses, there are plenty of services that can make use of white papers and e-books in their marketing.
Consider luxury home builders who sell to both developers and first home buyers. If the business was to create an e-book or white paper that approached the needs of both when choosing a development site/a builder/architect etc., and discussed the different needs in detail with recommendations, you have an interesting piece of content that many potential clients might read. By placing this on your webpage and gating it (restricting access by requesting an email) you’ll not only have a lead capture device, but a jumping off point for potential customers. You could also send the document to business owners in your industry with LinkedIn InMail (an expensive, but effective marketing option).
While white papers are great pieces of content, they rely on targeted amplification to get strong results, I’ll go into amplification techniques shortly.
Unless what you’re actually selling is an e-book, you really don’t need to consider these as a marketing tool for your e-commerce business. E-commerce is about fast transactions and white paper or e-books will not speed up that sales process. For e-commerce sales, it’s about sharp, snappy content that sells, so stick to blogs and EDMs for it.
Offline products business
Offline products businesses will never be able to use white papers to the full extent of some service-based businesses, but they are not completely unusable like in the case of e-commerce businesses. In most cases, you can draw a line on white paper usefulness by the price tag attached to your products. If you have a higher end, more expensive product range, you may be able to make use of white papers as a sales tool. In most cases, we’re talking very expensive items, like machinery, homes, high-end tech, etc., these products will generally have a longer sales process and more questions asked about them, and a white paper is a useful tool to answer these questions. Some good questions could include “Why John Deer tractors are the best in Australia”, “Why buying in Melbourne’s outer suburbs is a smart investment”, “Why this computer is better than that one”…you can see where I’m going here.
White papers can be useful, just make sure they add value to your business before doing all the work behind them. Part of creating a successful content marketing strategy is avoiding putting resources into techniques that don’t work, so consider what content suits your business carefully.
Being a well-known brand has a few positive effects when it comes to white papers, mainly around amplification and the implied trustworthiness of your conclusions in the white paper or e-book.
Naturally, an already trusted brand will have more believability than a relatively unknown one, and this means that your white papers can often take on a life of their own. This gives them a lot more reach and the potential to deliver huge benefits to the business with little additional amplification. You can also see a benefit with amplification open rate. If you receive a social media message or email from a trusted brand, you’re far more likely to open it than from some business you don’t really now. Basically, this gives you more bang for that proverbial advertising buck.
That all being said, white papers have a great potential upside for those unknown brands. When your business is languishing in relative obscurity the potential branding opportunity of white papers is very powerful. There’s nothing like smart, researched position papers to get big businesses to take notice, and when you have IP that deserves to be heard about, white papers and matching amplification can make sure that happens. The reverse of what I just mentioned about open rates is also true, as an unknown brand you may experience lower open rates across a lot of amplification methods, though this won’t make white papers anything but a great marketing option.
Like all content, white papers need to be aimed at certain customer types. Given their often data heavy focus and the extensive amount of text involved, this content will only suit clients and potential clients with a high literacy level.
Consider what question you’re answering with your white paper and who would be interested in reading it when you send this content out. If your e-book or white paper isn’t aimed at one of your identified customer types, maybe rethink it as a content strategy. Remember not to waste resources on content that won’t deliver results.
Social media – Changing how businesses engage with customers
Social media is still a relatively new platform for many businesses, and it’s one that’s constantly evolving. From Myspace we’ve quickly moved to Facebook, LinkedIn and now image/video sharing platforms like Snapchat and Instagram as completely valid marketing tools for your businesses. Whether you’re simply using these platforms as advertising locations, or you’re using them as a way to grow your brand voice and increase the quality of client interaction, social media needs to be discussed as not only part of your content marketing strategy, but as a linchpin of your digital strategy.
Before I jump into what each business type needs to consider, I want to quickly summarise a few of the popular social media platforms and their key strengths.
Facebook – Really the trendsetter of our social revolution, Facebook advertising has become the fastest growing advertising medium, outpacing both YouTube and Google AdWords in 2016. With a huge reach and a range of benefits, Facebook allows businesses to engage with customers, share content and grow a brand voice.
LinkedIn – Basically a professional version of Facebook, LinkedIn has quickly become a popular tool for young professionals. Always teeming with original content, there’s no better place to try and get traction for professional service blogs. While more expensive than Facebook advertising, LinkedIn’s InMail option is a great amplification tool for those looking to get content read by business owners and key decision makers.
Instagram – The world’s largest image sharing app has grown in leaps and bounds since its initial founding. It’s now one of the leading online advertising and marketing platforms, with companies investing heavily in tools like influencer marketing. Perfect for businesses with good visuals, Instagram is a great way to attract loyal audiences.
Snapchat – Who knew a social media platform made famous for risqué photo sharing could become the new advertising platform for those targeting Gen Y and “millennials” for their business. Still in its infancy as an advertising platform, many big brands are creating video rich content to attract the younger generations to their products.
While there are other social media platforms like Twitter out there, and many that may fit your business’s strategies, the above four are the big names and the ones you should be thinking about when content strategies are planned.
Social media isn’t traditionally a B2B communication strategy, but that’s because sometimes we tend to forget businesses are run by people. While some platforms are more suited to B2B communication (LinkedIn), Facebook and Instagram still have their place for the right B2B business.
Consider a wholesale business that sells a makeup brand to stores like Chemist Warehouse or Priceline. These large-scale businesses will only stock products that get bought. So, in fact, these brands need to act like B2C businesses. This means they need to create brand interest through strategies like influencer marketing and blogs on Facebook or Instagram.
And while that is a rather specific example, even if you don’t make a major use of a platform like Facebook, it’s still important to have a presence, even if it doesn’t garner much of a reaction.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a whole different beast. Smart content marketing for B2B companies can use social media (especially LinkedIn) as the driving force for garnering interest and spreading content. These smart campaigns can lead to huge sales that all started with a CEO opening an InMail or blog link from a company. So, if you’re a B2B company and you’re not making use of social media, think again and invest in a modern marketing platform that works.
Social media has a pretty well documented track recording of affecting B2C business’s success. Whether it’s reviews, client interaction or advertising, good and bad of any of these have lifted or sunk many an Aussie business.
Using social media as a content amplification tool, advertising platform, or as a simple point of customer interaction is a great way to enhance your brand’s image. Used right, any of the four social media platforms I’ve discussed can grow a B2C business, but sometimes it can be hard to determine the best one to focus your resources in. This really comes down to two things: your business aim and who your clients are.
Facebook is almost a necessity these days for any B2C business. From a simple café to high end retail brands, all business can make use of Facebook to communicate with customers and advertise their brand. This is opposed to LinkedIn, which has been shown to have very limited use for most B2C businesses – that doesn’t mean it’s completely useless. Find the one that most of your clients use and tailor your social strategy around that platform and the content types your clients prefer.
There’s a lot of things you need to know to run a successful social campaign, but one thing that should never be forgotten is that it’s essential to carefully curate your social pages, because a poor response to a bad review or ill-considered post could quickly damage any brand.
It’s difficult to break social media advice into a simple business types discussion. Service, e-commerce and offline products can all make use of social media in a million different ways. With social media needing to closely resemble a reflection of the business, it’s easier to align content and customer types to determine what your social media strategy should entail.
As mentioned before, focus on using social media to build positive relationships with your customers and deliver content that engages them and carries your brand message clearly.
The way you use social media will change heavily depending on just where your business sits in the market. There will be the two extremes: businesses trying to create a brand with social media, and those leveraging that brand to sell. While there’s plenty of points along that road, those are the two distinctive strategies that businesses will need to create.
While both strategies will include delivering content, for those brands trying to create a following, social campaigns will often revolve around building up the number of followers. The biggest reason for this is it enables your business to lower its social marketing costs and make lead capture and sales more affordable. At the other end, businesses that are marketing to their following can use a combination of paid advertising, content delivery and influencer marketing to turn their audience into sales.
Like I keep saying, knowing your customers is essential, and that stays true for your social campaign. If all your potential clients are on Instagram, then that’s exactly where you need to be and if they’re all following an Insta-star, that’s who you need marketing your products. Know your customer’s social habits, that’s how you make sure they’re buying from you.
Amplification – Ensuring good content gets read
I’ve mentioned amplification quite a few times here without going into too much detail, well I’ll rectify that now.
Amplification as a concept is very simple. All it is, is getting content seen by your current or potential clients. While this sounds fairly simple, it really isn’t. It’s quite difficult to properly construct an amplification campaign that delivers good ROI. That’s why a key part of amplification is segmenting your audiences so the right people see the right pieces of content.
I’ve gone over the need for segmentation many times now, and it really is important when it comes to ensuring your content actually gets results.
Consider an accountant who does both business activity statements as well as personal tax returns. He writes two blogs, one on how to get the most back on your income tax, and another on what to watch out for come BAS prep time. His business clients are only interested in one of those blogs, as are his individual clients. To save money on amplification and to get the best results, he wants to deliver these blogs separately. That’s where segmentation of a database comes in.
Moral of the story? Invest in a CRM or other segmentation.
There’s a range of amplification techniques available to Australian businesses and we’ve already touched on a couple, but I’ll go over the main techniques in a bit more detail.
Email direct marketing – Possibly the best form of amplification, EDMs let you deliver personalised content right to someone’s email address. While you will require an email list, most businesses do naturally collect these and, when managed properly, you can not only amplify your content but use it to drive current and potential customers through the sales process. Often quite a cheap strategy (comparatively), a well-designed email marketing campaign can deliver as much as 38 x ROI.
Social media – As just discussed, social media is a great tool for content delivery, or amplification. While natural social sharing is all but dead thanks to new Facebook algorithms, paid advertising can still deliver very strong results. And, due to the branded nature of any social post, even if you don’t get clicks you’re spreading your brand image. As opposed to email marketing, social media amplification lets you deliver content to people who don’t know your brand, which is a fantastic lead capture strategy and well worth the investment.
Third party platforms – Often refereed to as outreach or native advertising, third party platforms often operate similar to Google Display Advert campaigns and, in fact, you can use that type of ad to amplify your content – though it can be pricey. Some of the platforms I have used include Outbrain and Medianet. Both are suited to different forms of content and operate slightly different. If you want to use one of these platforms or another third-party option, I highly recommend researching them in detail as they are not always as reliable as they promise.
Additional content types and their value
No, these content types haven’t been listed above, but don’t take that as a slight towards them in any way. Each element below has huge potential value for different content marketing strategies, but in general, will work better as supporting elements, not core components of a content marketing strategy (this does not mean that in some cases they can’t be).
Every business in the world loves good press, it can turn a small business into an international success overnight. Now, I can’t guarantee press releases are going to do that for your business, but they’re a step in the right direction.
A well-constructed press release is used to draw the attention of the media to newsworthy aspects of your business – notice how I used the word newsworthy. It’s this word and the meaning behind it that will determine whether your business should be making use of regular press releases.
While press releases (when amplified) have some great SEO benefits, for your press release to really have the desired effect, it needs to be picked up by news publications. For publications to pick it up, journalists need to be interested in what you’re writing about. The basic principles of newsworthiness are:
Timeliness – Is your story relevant to current events, this could be something to do with a local sporting event like the AFL Grand Final, or a major street festival.
Proximity – Location, location, location! Like in property, location matters in news. If you’re a local business involved in an interesting local project, it may be something a local newspaper or metro publication is interested in. But if it’s a hyper local issue, don’t expect the story to go national.
Conflict – Everyone loves reading about a fight, but conflict isn’t always a good look for businesses, unless you’re fighting for a good cause.
Possible future impact (progress or consequence) – From warnings of future trouble to optimistic pictures of a tech filled future, people like reading about future predictions. This area is particularly useful for commentary on future change or developments in the tech industry.
Prominence – There’s nothing wrong with riding another’s coat tails to glory, and when your business has a connection to a prominent figure, event or project it is well worth cashing in on that for the PR.
Human interest – Used by many senior business leaders and successful companies, human interest pieces, like charity donations and foundation foundings, are used to establish a positive brand image in the public’s awareness.
Shock/Bizarre value – A “what the?” story can become viral in a matter of hours, and while this particular content type won’t suit or even be possible for most businesses to create, it’s worth taking advantage of if the opportunity appears.
These seven components of newsworthiness are drummed into the heads of all journos from the beginning of their training and any press release you send out should have at least some of the above elements in it. If you come up with an idea for a press release and find that it doesn’t meet any of the above components, then maybe reconsider if you need to send a press release out.
You may be looking at the above list and think that your business will never have something newsworthy enough to send out, however you need to look at the press as a lot of separate entities with a range of different interpretations of the above components.
There’s a publication out there for every industry on the planet, and what each considers as newsworthy will be different. Remember to always produce content that appeals to people interested in your business and the same goes for press releases. Write them for media publications that service your industry – that’s how you get the best results.
Press releases can be a highly effective content type for your business, as long as you use them when you genuinely have something newsworthy to say.
Videos probably deserve their own e-book, well they do have one if you go looking. The art of using videos in content marketing isn’t new, with TV having perfected video advertising in its old form. But things are changing, not only is ad revenue behind TV dropping, but those watching videos are steadily trending towards mobile and tablet devices, leaving desktops and TVs to play second fiddle.
What does this mean for those using video in their content marketing strategies? Go mobile.
But that’s not all I have to say on video.
Because your business needs to be using video, from webinars to YouTube advertising, there’s a hell of a lot of engagement happening around video content. Almost any company can use videos as lead capture devices, customer journey aides, or as branding pieces.
Whether you’re including video content in your blogs, or using it as a major component of your content marketing strategy on Instagram or Snapchat, you need to carefully plan out the message you deliver with this medium. Videos offer a great way to engage with customers, especially those of younger generations, but when creating videos, you need to ensure your message and branding is clear. Bad videos go viral faster than good ones, so ensure your content is always up to scratch.
Possibly one of business’s favourite graphics, infographics are an industry-leading way to quickly summarise content and deliver your message. Powerful as both part of blogging campaigns and EDMs, these graphics have become widely used in almost every industry.
Infographics can have some success as standalone pieces of content, but will often show the best result when used in larger pieces of content. I highly recommend utilising these throughout your content marketing campaign across all the channels you use. Their best use is for summarising complicated parts of your business into an easy to read image – these help customers visualise your process.
Downloadable data sheets
Who doesn’t love a bit of data? Especially useful when customers are making their final purchasing decisions, these documents make a great tool to close a sale.
Consider working ways to deliver product/service fact and data sheets to potential customers just as they’re ready to buy. This allows them to see exactly what they’re getting for their money and makes comparisons with your competition easier.
A lesser used piece of content, but one that’s steadily growing in popularity, podcasts are an overlooked content marketing strategy. Very useful for businesses who have a lot of interesting IP to discuss, well-constructed podcasts can deliver a captive audience who want to hear what your business leaders want to say. These can be amplified through blogs or emails and, when successful, can help establish a brand as a market leader.
A discussion on content marketing ROI
I’ve talked about ROI a lot already, and honestly, as a content marketer, it’s a great thing to be able to show a client. My job’s pretty easy when I can say look, you spent X dollars and made 20 times that. But, unfortunately, we can all get a little ROI star struck and constantly demand that magic number.
While a lot of content marketing strategies can directly show ROI, whether that’s through purchases from emails, tracking purchases or calls from a blog or direct enquires from social media, there’s a lot the team and I do that is harder to quantify with hard numbers.
There’s more than just ROI
Look, all your marketing needs to, in the end, make you money. You’re running a business and the job of marketing is to make that business more successful. In other words, “Money, Money, Money!” But, and it’s a big but, depending on your content goals, you may need to look past a straight ROI figure. Whether you’re running an internal marketing team or dealing with an agency, you need to approach your targets with caution.
This is particularly true for those running businesses that sell larger ticket items. Items or services that take a lot of thought before purchase usually mean a long sales process, and that means a client or customer may view 10 pieces of content from you before pulling the trigger. They could have even called and enquired, changed their mind and come back again, all thanks to content. In this type of situation, it’ll be hard to attribute direct monetary success to any one blog post or email, instead you need to look at customer behaviour and overall business figures. Things that you can look at here include page visits by customers, website journeys, and blog visit times.
To truly measure content marketing success, you need to be a bit of a data wiz.
Don’t throw away all the data
While ROI may not always be a figure you can create, there are plenty of industry data sets that you can measure the performance of your campaign by. For email marketing, you can look at open rates, click through rates and unsubscribe rates to see if you’re delivering good quality content to the right people.
Remember to always be analysing, testing and improving your content marketing campaign, that’s the only way to ensure it becomes as successful as possible.
If you approach your content marketing strategy with the above in mind, you’ll be well-positioned to create a successful campaign that can drastically increase the performance of your business. While the information contained here will be a useful guide, it won’t replace the experience of a content marketing expert. Feel free to get in touch with myself or a member of our content marketing team for more information on how we help businesses grow through smart content marketing strategies.