With content marketing being all the buzz, the Content Marketing Institute recently reported that it’s now the fastest growing investment by brands everywhere.
And as the momentum suggests, interest and attention to this marketing discipline is not going to ebb any time soon. The universal goal for all of this interest and activity is to be invited into people’s search, sharing and discussion stream online.
If it’s not abundantly clear, people are dismissing the interruptive and annoying online ads that so many brands still rely on to reach customers and prospects.
So how do you get invited into the conversation?
More than ever, brands need to think and act like publishers. Success with content marketing requires developing capabilities and applying resources to each of the critical activities in the chart shown on the right.
But before you jump on the bandwagon, be forewarned. Content Marketing is not a silver bullet or a one time event. Be prepared for a significant investment that is commensurate with some very measurable long term benefits. For those seeking a 30 day ROI with content marketing, it’s not going to happen.
Align your expectations with reality.
If you’re serious about replacing the tired old advertising model for building awareness and attracting prospects to a brand or solution, a more realistic goal for considering content marketing should be to evaluate your results in 9 to 12 months. With a consistent investment and following best practices, you should see a lift in your inbound marketing results. It’s a fact that sites with 100 to 200 pages of quality and optimized content generate 2.5x more leads than those with just a few static pages.
What’s more, as inbound authority HubSpot reports, the more frequently you publish, the better inbound lead performance you can expect. For example, websites that publish 15x or more a month on average see a 5X increase in the number of inbound leads they receive.
Content quality drives success.
It’s important to remember that content marketing is about the content. With the increase in content publishing, 100 word posts with little substance or unresearched content just won’t cut it any more. To deliver the high SERPs (search engine results position) you’re looking for, there’s a growing content trend to more comprehensive posts (up to 2000 words) that are properly search optimized with targeted keywords.
No results unless you get found.
As Arnie Kuenn, President of Vertical Measures in Phoenix adds, “Social Media has all the buzz with marketers and brands. But the real value is in Search”. His realistic perspective is supported by Google data that discloses less than 5% of search users click on paid search results. So it’s reasonable to ask, if you’re spending money on paid search, like Google Adwords, does that really make sense?
Because people start any buying process online in the search box, there’s a growing trend by search users to make queries with longer tail phrases—or even completely structured questions. Google has confirmed that 7-8 words search is increasing. And the reason this is important to consider is that the more words a prospect types in the search box, the closer they are to buying. So you want to ensure that you do everything you can to enable your content to appear high in the search results.
A poster child of content marketing done right.
Content marketing measurement is not about the number of social shares or blog post comments. Marcus Sheridan, president of River Pools, has become the poster child for the dramatic effects content marketing can have on the success of a business.
His company eliminated a $250K annual spend on traditional media and advertising. By focusing all of his resources and effort on creating content that his prospects would be searching for, he helped them think about and address many of the key questions they would ask before pulling the trigger on purchasing a pool. His 3 posts about “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” have generated thousands and thousands of page views and more importantly, $1.7 million in sales.
Although each of these posts doesn’t directly answer the question of price, they created the opportunity to start a dialogue with a prospect in a way that was disarming, educational and not just about the “sale” of a pool.
Essential components of a content marketing strategy.
There are no “silver bullets” or one-size-fits-all content marketing plans that apply to every organization. However, there are some core, common elements across many successful content marketing programs.
The list below outlines the essential practical steps companies can take to create, organize, and optimize their content marketing program.
Make the business case of why you want to publish content. Or at a minimum, develop a mission statement that defines the core objective that you want to accomplish in a new role as publisher.
2 | Audience
Define and be clear about who you are trying to reach with your content. Are they internal stakeholders? Or prospects that might be interested in your value? For each audience, develop a persona that defines the unique attributes and characteristics of this group.
3 | Story
Like never before, there is an essential requirement that a brand’s online presence and activities need to be supported by an authentic and differentiated brand positioning. This brand positioning and story should provide a clear understanding of what you stand for, how you’re different, and why prospects should consider what you offer over others.
It should provide the lens through which you and your audience align and filter all the content that you will create and that they will see.
4 | Channels
Once you have the above essentials in place and you actually start the content creation process, you need to consider the context in which your content will be seen or shared. This is not a fixed process and will evolve as you guide your audience along a journey to converting to your goals.
Whether it be a sale, support, acknowledgement, or sharing, your content should be distributed in the channels where your target is likely to see or consume it. And it should help nurture them along with a clear and measurable conversion goal.
5 | Process
Plans are great but they’ll never deliver any value unless you have a structured and repeatable process in place to implement the plan. In essence, you need a playbook that guides and defines roles, actions and responsibilities for each participant in your content marketing program. Without this vital element in place, chaos will reign.
6 | Conversation
Content marketing planning, strategy, story and context are all great but without a conversation their value is silent. Establishing “listening posts” where your audience lives and hangs out is essential to get a pulse on what they are thinking and talking about.
By investing the significant amount of effort and time to absorb these conversations, you’ll be prepared and sensitize on how to engage and respond to the conversations in your audience’s community. Forego this important process and you could look out of place, be dismissed or worse, be unwelcome.
7 | Measurement
Because you can measure just about anything online these days, it doesn’t mean that you should. Determine a few baseline fundamentals before you begin that are important to the content marketing participants and sponsors in your organization. Then you can establish a system and integrate the right tools to monitor and report on the results of all of your activities so that they make sense to you and your team.
These strategic issues must be considered before you can expect any success with content marketing. Without adequately addressing them, you might be better off sticking with Yellow Page ads and direct mail flyers.
How have you approached your content marketing planning and implementation? Is it working out?