In this age of information overload, standing out from the competition is critical. As all organisations need to produce effective, cost-efficient marketing campaigns, knowing how to craft engaging content that yields leads and conversions literally provides a lifeline for survival and growth.
Join us on Thursday, 9 April, for the second in a series of webinars designed to help participants with every stage of the content production process.
The most important thing to remember about content marketing? It really isn’t about you at all.
OK, you might have lots to say about how cool your company is and how great your products and services are, but there’s not much of an audience for that.
Save the foghorn for your advertising.
Then, what’s content marketing about?
It’s actually about the consumers. More specifically, it’s about looking at things through their eyes to make absolutely sure they get something they want. As James O’Brien of Contently put it a few years ago in a much-cited quote: “The idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return.”
This means using what you have of value and sharing it with the world.
The “it” is understanding and experience. You might deliver something as simple as how-to content. Could be delivered in a blog post or short video. It’s good old-fashioned education and if it’s useful, your customers will thank you for it.
And they’ll share.
Harness the power of thought
Be more ambitious and you can aim for thought leadership. If you have comprehensive knowledge of your sector and you’re able to convey it, then sharing your insight can make you a go-to when consumers are seeking more understanding.
Take The Garage, IT giant HP’s website, which serves up life tips for reducing gadget screen time, together with content on the arts and lifestyle, all aimed at helping visitors do just that.
The upside is that as an authority you earn status. Your customers may well trust you enough to make you the first stop when they’re looking for guidance.
And another thing: Rooting your content in the latest industry trends might feel like the thing to do. But they can be very short-lived and will age your posts quickly. Rather, think timeless:
Base your content on audience interests, not Google News
Identify problems, be helpful
Share your insights – wisdom has a long shelf life
Stay with the flow
Getting good results requires a strong dose of commitment. That can be a big issue. It’s easy for everyone to get all fired up with a brand new content marketing strategy. But it’s even easier for enthusiasm to wane a few months later when the ideas stop flowing.
Audiences are quick to notice when gaps between posts get longer. Credibility gets shot to pieces. The go-to brand becomes the forgotten one.
How do you make content king?
This might sound run-of-the-mill, but it’s about resources and planning. First, you need to assign people to the programme and define clearly and carefully their duties.
Second: Yes, you really do need an editorial calendar to bring rigour to the process. A tool such as Trello will do the job.
This means knowing the three w’s: What you need to do, when you need to do it and whose job it is.
So, now you know whom you’re posting for, what your content is about, and when you’re producing it. Get ready to slot it on the company blog, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on YouTube, on Instagram — in fact, anywhere you can think of to get it out there.
Go ahead and call that scatter-gun marketing, if you like. It works.
Be on target
If you want to own an effective strategy, be picky. Do some research and find out where your customers go to consume their content. Profile your audience and target accordingly. If you’re providing a professional service, LinkedIn is definitely a good channel. But TikTok’s a better bet when you’re chasing youth with your products.
Now, like many people, your ambition might simply be to blog away and rack up those regular posts. But you could be missing a trick or two if you do.
Before you hit the keyboard with your latest notion, stop and ask these questions:
It’s still hugely popular with online audiences and increasingly so with content marketers who have found that the format is the top engager of online audiences, HubSpot research finds.
It might well be the optimum way for you to get your message across. And with all the animation tools available, it’s not that difficult to do – two-thirds of marketers create their own videos, according to a Promo small-business study.
All you need to do is storyboard it, which can actually be quicker and easier than crafting a fully-fledged piece of writing.
Also, make sure you exploit what it is you’ve come up with. Write a blog post and riff on it by making a video, then screenshot the video and post it on Instagram, grab that same image and put it on Facebook as well, along with a summary of the blog post.
Now you’ve gone to the trouble of creating your content. You’ve posted it. Your messaging is out there. It must be time to move on and think about your next post, right?
Not so fast. You’ve done everything you should to this point and you might be feeling pretty happy with what you’ve produced. But what about your audience? You need to find what it is people are looking at.
It’s all about measurement, and there are key content marketing metrics and KPIs you must keep an eye on:
Pages per session
Time spent per page
Social follower growth
Know your audience – find out what interests them
Aim to produce timeless content rather following fashion
Ensure your content marketing strategy has all the resources it needs
Choose your channels
Repurpose your content
Analyse the analytics
Discover the most important tips and tricks that will help you create effective and engaging content marketing:
We’ve learned over nearly a decade in business that the right content will have a huge impact on your success — boosting sales, generating leads, promoting your brand, showcasing your expertise and helping guide your clients and prospects into the right decisions. It differentiates you from your competitors and ensures your customers know exactly what you want them to know.
As a home for that content, though, it’s also clear that in a B2B context, LinkedIn has become the most important tool in your content marketing toolbox.
While Facebook and Twitter have their place in social media marketing, LinkedIn is firmly established as the platform for business. An educated and affluent user base, built on curated networks, it’s growing quicker than other social media platforms and now claims a staggering 600 million users, two-fifths of whom log in every day.
We know that users approach LinkedIn with business specifically in mind, visiting the site to:
forge connections that can help their careers;
amass knowledge that can improve their performance (two-thirds of LinkedIn users consider themselves ‘news junkies’);
find new leads (and cultivate existing ones).
As a tool for business, it’s a far more compelling proposition than other social media networks. With 80% of B2B leads from social media coming direct via LinkedIn, the platform yields at least three times as many conversions than its biggest rivals.
And then you have to consider who is spending time on the platform: it is the most used public social network by CEOs, with 20% of LinkedIn’s userbase being senior-level influencers and decision-makers.
Now ask yourself this: Is the content you post on LinkedIn hitting its target? You need to answer or you risk squandering opportunities. Buyers now consume, on average, thirteen pieces of content before making a purchase (up from five pieces several years ago), and differentiating your content marketing is tough.
With this in mind, there are rules to follow when writing articles for LinkedIn and publishing or sharing on the platform:
Know the difference between views and results
It’s relatively straightforward to write sensationalist, deeply personal or highly controversial content and get plenty of “likes”. That’s not the same as generating customers, revenues and leads. The difference between what is for you and what is for your audience is a critical distinction.
Sharing success or pain is about you and likely to distract your audience for a moment. To achieve real results, you need to offer something for them – busy people who may visit LinkedIn for a few precious moments each day (CEOs and decision-makers).
Who are ‘they’?
This is a key question. You can be indiscriminate about who joins your network but you cannot be casual regarding your content. Do you want to reach potential buyers and generate sales? Or showcase your expertise on specific subjects so people will come to you for advice?
Appealing to the wrong crowd may generate likes but it won’t generate business. The “right” people should follow you because they trust they’re going to find helpful content.
Understand what your audience wants. Look at the type of content your intended audience has engaged with in the past: what has generated likes, comments, follow-up? Look at their network and organisations: which type of content has hit the spot?
Creating content marketing for LinkedIn audiences is a delicate balance between understanding what people want to take in while saying exactly what you want to say.
Get it right, though, and you will succeed on what is hands down the most effective social network for B2B lead generation: LinkedIn makes up more than half of all social traffic to B2B websites & blogs.
How do busy people find your content?
There are two main ways that people find your content. Either someone in their network engages with it or they’re scrolling down their feed and find it.
Either way, you haven’t got long to get them to stop and pay attention. Social media expert Tim Queen says that most people will only see the first three lines of your content before deciding whether to engage. That’s about the length of a Tweet. As such, it needs to tease, be seductive and simple, and carry a clear message.
For some, that could be an open-ended question that piques curiosity, for others it could be showcasing eye-catching data that will entice somebody to read or engage with your content.
What are you trying to say?
Your LinkedIn posts need to offer a payoff for the reader. That sounds self-evident, but it’s often the case that posts reflect what a company wants to say about itself, rather than what a reader wants to hear.
Simply writing an article or filming a video and then posting it on LinkedIn is a waste of time and resources. For your content marketing to drive sales, you need to create highly engaging and visual material of value to your target audience, not simply post any content you’ve produced on LinkedIn.
When to post?
Social media is constantly evolving and so the right time to post may change over time. Equally, you need to bear in mind that others will have access to the same data.
In theory, 10-11am, Monday through Wednesday, is the best time to post on LinkedIn, but if everyone posts at the same time your content may get lost in a mass of other posts. While conventional wisdom dictates that the best time to send out emails is first thing in the morning, that can leave organisations vulnerable to the increasingly prevalent habit of members deleting all posts before their real work begins.
Sprout Social has done extensive research on the right time to post on LinkedIn for different types of content. However, you should experiment posting at various times to measure when you get the best engagement. Don’t lose sight, though, of Tim Queen’s warning that posting regularly should be central in any social content marketing strategy.
What’s the secret sauce?
There’s no substitute for a consistent output of relevant content that demonstrates your expertise and that your target audience will like and share. Easy to say, but harder in practice.
Here’s some of the content we’ve created for our clients (and prospects) that we believe hits the mark. With that kind of specific content in hand, it is then possible to leverage hashtagging (#) and tagging (@) functions on the platform to help build a stronger network and maximise viewership (and therefor engagement) on your posts.
IBM has been one of LinkedIn’s big success stories. It’s grown its followers from 779,000 in 2012 to 3.2 million today by sharing articles from a wide variety of contributors on cutting-edge subjects such as artificial intelligence (AI).
Used right, this platform is a powerful tool. Forget the scatter-gun approach, to be focused and targeted in your LinkedIn content marketing strategy, remember:
generating likes and followers is not the same as generating results;
consider your audience and what they want to learn, not just what you want to say;
ask how people will find your content and remember you have barely a few lines to force them to stop scrolling past you;
create high-quality, targeted content that your audience will appreciate. It doesn’t happen by accident so do your research ahead of time.
Discover the most important tips and tricks that will help you create effective and engaging content marketing:
Does your business need to create content? More importantly, do you know how to produce effective, engaging and high-impact material?
Welcome to the club. Content marketing is now must-have as companies across all industries accept that high-value content is the most effective way to attract clients and prospects.
As proud content geeks (i.e. content marketing specialists), we love seeing this sector rocket to the forefront of digital marketing. However, few organisations give much, if any, thought to the exact type of content they need.
We know because we talk to them all the time when discussing VitalBriefing’s content marketing services. While they acknowledge their need for content, they’re lost at sea, lacking the means to define, much less produce, quality content.
Even when they decide they should…well, frankly, they get it wrong. They go straight to the last step — create the content — rather than following the process that guarantees an effective content marketing funnel.
We’re going to walk you through that process so that you’ll know where to start, how to proceed and how to finish with the exact content that will bring you clients, prospects and new opportunities.
Here’s our first piece of advice: Don’t create content for content’s sake.
To help you avoid the trap that snares many companies, we need to start with a trip.
Introducing the buyer’s journey
There are three basic legs of the voyage your prospects take on their way to becoming your clients:
First understand the concept and use of a buyer’s journey (AKA the customer journey) in your content production and we promise that your content will be successful. Want to draw more visitors to your website? Generate more qualified leads? Educate your customers so that they’ll appreciate your expertise?
Whatever the goal, the journey should serve as the framework for the steps your audience takes on the way to a purchase: First, they identify the problem (awareness). Next, they do their research (considerations). And finally, they commit to buy the product or service that will solve their problem.
“When the buyer’s journey works in your favor, from the marketer’s perspective it’s helpful to view the buyer as progressing through the stages of knowing, then liking, then trusting your brand,” says Barry Feldman, writing for the Taboola blog.
Why is the buyer’s journey so important?
Almost every element of a digital marketing campaign reduces to a piece of content — text, graphic, sound, video, social media — you name it. Brands and companies are producing and publishing more than ever, while digital audiences are lapping it up as fast as it hits them.
Indeed, more than four of every five buyers conduct online research before making a purchase, according to data from eCommerce merchandising company MineWhat.
Moreover, 82% of B2B buyers view a minimum of five pieces of content before buying from a vendor, while more than half view at least eight during their purchase process, according to market research firm Forrester.
Think about it. One individual stumbles on your website, article or video during an initial web search related to a need you can help fulfil. Another is farther on the customer journey and almost ready to buy, edging toward a decision between you or your competitors.
Brands should have content tailored for each of the specific stages of that journey.
Now it’s time to plan accordingly.
Glue your content plan to the buyer’s journey
You apply strategy to every other aspect of your business. It’s no different here: Start with a clear and dynamic content marketing strategy to ensure that what you produce lands at the right audience at the right time — and is appropriate specifically for them.
Here’s why: If people don’t relate to your content, they won’t consume it. You have literally seconds to grab them.
Before choosing the subjects to cover in that content, answer these questions:
Who’s your target?
Where are they in the buyer’s journey?
What do you want them to do when they’re done?
Got answers to all three? You’re ready to get started. If not, we’ve got some work to do together first.
There’s an arc to the customer journey. “By looking at how people develop a relationship with your brand over time (commonly called the buyer’s journey), and determining what kinds of content are most helpful for people in each stage of their journey, you can anticipate what type of material you’ll need,” writes Ben Kulakofsky.
By linking a content strategy to pre-defined stages of your company’s buyer’s journey, you’ll develop the various types of content marketing that will connect with your desired audience at the most appropriate point in their customer journey, inspiring them to become customers.
Targeting the ‘Awareness’ stage
Ok, this stage is the easiest. It’s the top of the sales funnel. At this point in their journey, prospects:
realise they have a problem – or opportunity;
have initiated their research, searching for answers and solutions;
prowling for resources, education, data, opinions and insight
At this stage, your content should focus on the buyer’s pain points, not on your company or offering. “They are still formulating the vocabulary around the issue that will help them search for a solution,” explains Kulakofsky.
Your single goal at this stage is brand awareness. To get there, you should prioritise keyword and search query targeting that your company’s prospects might use so that your company ranks at the top of those searches. It makes sense to improve your SERPs rankings: 70% of buyers use Google during the research phase, according to a study by Pardot.
Think about the best format and kind of content to reach your prospects in this stage. Could be a blog post. Or a white paper. Maybe an eBook and eGuide. Or images such as videos and infographics.
If you’re following the steps we’ve outlined so far, the answer will be apparent. Bottom line is that the content should create trust by being objective and educational, clearly articulating the problem or opportunity, contextualising it and outlining solutions.
Ensure the content is high quality, easy to consume, original, well-researched and featuring credible references;
Determine the best channels and platforms for its promotion — social media content marketing can be a game-changer in this stage;
Bake in the next step for the prospect after consuming the content. Present a clear Call to Action (CTA). Have you made it obvious, logical and easy to perform? (Like? Subscribe? Call? Email? Buy?);
Grab attention with content that’s seductive, visual and shareable.
Targeting the ‘Consideration’ stage
What happens once your prospects reach the middle of the funnel, closer to buying? Now you can call them leads. They’ve reached the ‘consideration’ or ‘evaluation’ stage, with a stronger understanding of their problem, deeper into the effort to solve their problem, researching potential solutions and evaluating their options.
Your task is to keep them moving on their journey.
This is arguably the most crucial moment of the three stages in the buyer’s journey. While not there yet, the lead is moving towards a decision regarding appropriate solutions. You need to nurture her or him.
“People in the middle of your sales funnel are likely to be looking to you for content showing that you’re the experts in your industry,” Hubspot points out in its blog. “That’s why the most effective types of content in the evaluation stage…compare your features and benefits with that of your competitor.”
The prospect has you squarely in mind now. While your content should maintain a level of objectivity, it should highlight the merits of your solution, team and brand.
Companies that get this stage right will vastly increase their chances for payoff at the end of the journey. Deliver refined and dynamic content now and you’ll generate middle-of-the-funnel engagement and lead management experience at a response rate four to ten times higher than generic e-mail blasts and outreach.
Here’s your list when planning content for the consideration stage:
Make it easy via this content to collect contact details;
Research the best keywords and long-tail search phrases for you to target at this stage. We recommend targeting long-tail phrases that have words such as service, product, tool, supplier, reviews, solutions, and pros and cons.
Consider investing in ‘retargetting‘ with this content (for example, paying to get it delivered to specific prospects and groups).
Create CTAs that clearly benefit the prospect, such as requesting a product demo, downloading solution-oriented material (white papers, eBooks, webinars), or offering a free trial.
Targeting the ‘Decision’ stage
You’ve brought the prospects to the end. Now they’ll make their choice and commit to buy.
“A lot of the hard work was done in the previous two stages,” says Isaac Justesen. “If you have done a good job of educating a prospect and presenting them with potential solutions in an engaging and respectful way, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to strongly consider your company when it comes time to vote with their wallet.”
Your prospects are looking for any reason not to buy from you, so don’t give them one. Your content now should be focused on converting leads into sales. You need one more push to get them over the line. It’s time for a compelling CTA that convinces and/or inspires them to choose you.
A strong offer, together with the right type of content at this stage can substantially improve conversions. The content should be direct, with important information about your offering. It shows why you’re better than your competitors and showcases your value proposition.
That content can feature:
Product literature and demonstrations;
Estimate request buttons;
Pricing tier information;
Calls-to-action for trial offers and free product demos.
“By itself, a bottom-of-the-funnel offer isn’t likely to close a lot of leads into customers,” Hubspot argues. “However, when you have it mapped appropriately to the buyer journey, you’re combining the compelling nature of that final offer with all the engagement you’ve created leading up to that point.”
You’re nearly there. Get these factors in order, and you’re good to go:
Optimise your website’s navigation, UX (user experience) and CTAs. These elements should drive prospects and leads to your bottom-of-the-funnel content.
Ensure customer support is easy to reach from this content — this is crucial to closing the deal.
Content here should resolve any lingering questions, concerns or reservations that could stand in the way of the decision you want.
Now you’re ready to create the right content marketing at the right time for the right audience. Go forth and grow your business.
In just a few short decades, the internet has exploded into an expanding universe of content – and content marketing.
Run a web search and prepare to spiral into a black hole of possibly interesting but often false and distracting material that risks sending you spinning across a galaxy of irrelevance.
Information consumers — all of us — in this dense and fast-moving medium are challenged to know which sources to believe, especially when the term “fake news” is tossed around like confetti by our most powerful leaders.
“What’s gone from the internet isn’t ‘truth’, but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be,” writes Max Read in New York Magazine.
It may sound counterintuitive – using more content to battle the content overload we are now experiencing – but high-value content marketing is critical for any business looking to separate itself from its competitors and effectively engage their target consumers.
In fact, a robust content strategy has fast become a key element of many business sales processes.
Standing out from the crowd
Amid this tide of dishonesty, it’s imperative for your business to open up an authentic channel of communication rich with real and valuable content.
But if it’s never been more important for businesses to generate quality content to stay competitive, how do you deliver high-quality, targeted information to current and future clients without getting lost yourself in the endless forests of information?
And more importantly, why do so many of us find it so hard to produce effective content marketing?
According to Doug Kessler, creative director at Velocity Partners, the answer to succeed with inbound marketing is to build a great content brand:
Aim high and strike your target.
Become known for producing top-notch content.
Deliver on your promises.
Hit these three goals and you’ll attract quality producers who can power your upward spiral.
By providing reliable, engaging branded content and thought leadership that your customers opt in to read and share, you build trust – far more effectively than by throwing advertising at them – and can set your business apart from the competition, improve your brand recognition and reputation while highlighting your expertise in your industry.
According to DemandGen, 95% of B2B buyersconsider content to be a trustworthy means of evaluating a company and its offerings, while Hubspot finds that prospective customers consume at least five pieces of content before buying – both points offering clear indications of content’s importance.
Your own content also can serve as a forum to develop your brand’s voice, a place where you can present a more personal face of your business.
Marketing expert Michael Brenner notes that forcing the brand name on the customer’s attention can be counter-productive, so try to mention it as little as possible. This restraint could also help you to decide whether to host your content on your main branded website, or on a separate domain.
With trust and a relationship established, your content can educate your audience with the information they need to take the next steps in the conversion process, whether making an actual purchase, getting in touch for more information or engaging with you online.
The key is to provide highly readable content that enriches the reader with new insights and ideas. The Content Marketing Institute says that after reading recommendations on a blog, 61% of American online consumers made a purchase.
A personal favorite: A few years ago, consulting company Capgemini suffered from poor brand awareness and was falling behind the competition. Vetoing a proposal to buy display advertising in golfing magazines — and even to sponsor a professional golfer — its brand manager opted in 2013 for a content marketing strategy based around Content Loop, a storytelling website integrated with LinkedIn featuring topics such as big data and the cloud, stories aimed at putting the company “at the heart of business and IT conversations”.
Crucially, the strategy generated nearly $1 million in sales the first year and has been growing since.
Other examples range from luggage company Away, which created Away Here, a high-end, magazine-style blog focusing on travel and lifestyle topics to enterprise chat provider Slack’s blog, “Several People Are Typing”, with tips on productivity and collaboration and Home Depot’s Garden Club portal, which is packed with how-to guides.
How to quantify your content marketing efforts
Quantifying the efforts you put into content marketing is difficult. Don’t fall into the mistake of identifying financial gain as the immediate goal. Rather, you’re in a marathon, not a sprint.
Nevertheless, return on investment can be maximized by creating a strategy that focuses on select topics for your target market rather than simply churning out content for its own sake.
Media and competitor monitoring for current trends are key. Same for harnessing data on the customer experience on your site that’s useful for future content planning, such as journey maps, user feedback and customer profiles.
Improved search engine optimization for your business provides consistent and relevant content, including a variety of topics and keywords. Indeed, Tech Client provides this heartening statistic: Websites that post consistent blog content boast on average 434% more pages indexed by search engines than those that don’t publish at all.
Believe this: Content costs about 62% less than traditional marketing techniques — and generates three times as many leads, according to DemandMetric. Obviously, that’s a highly efficient and effective way to maximise your budget.
While it’s cheaper than straight-up advertising, dedicating budgets to this effort is important. Data from the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs shows that B2B marketers allocate 29% of their total marketing budget, on average, to content marketing (26% for B2C). The most effective allocate 42%, and the most sophisticated and mature allocate 46%.
• Know your audience. Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes, be aware of their challenges, needs, interests, desires and concerns – and tailor your content accordingly.
• Choose the right tools and software to produce and show off your content.
• Unless you have an in-house team, outsource to content-creation professionals.
• Decide on, then develop your brand’s voice: serious, funny or whatever. Just have a voice.
• Post consistently and regularly across content types and platforms.
For much of our eight-year history, our COO has loved to repeat that “we should eat our own dog food.”
It’s a standing joke between us – he knows I’ll smack him (half-)playfully every time he repeats it. But after years of rolling my eyes, I’ve finally admitted that there’s meaning in his cliche.
Which brings me to the point: After barely touching it for eight years, we’ve just overhauled our website and now that I survived the process, I have to say that you should probably take a look at yours and at least consider doing the same, if you haven’t recently.
The reason I held off for so long, given my experience with websites, was because I knew what kind of a project we would be taking on: Days, weeks and months of distraction, negotiations, back-and-forth, development, design, time, money…and arguments. Endless arguments.
If I’ve learned anything over 20 years spent in digital media, it’s this: Everybody and his or her mother know how to design a website. They know that this color should be changed, that quote should be dropped, this photo should be moved, that font should be altered, this text should be rewritten, that graphic killed…on and on and on.
Creating or relaunching a website is like living in an extended family argument: The fight is never really about the subject of the fight. Rather, it’s about lots of other things going on under the surface (and on the surface, too). Underlying tensions and issues have a way of bubbling over during the debates. Things can get heated. Ugly, even.
Yet, here’s the bottom line: That’s all healthy and all to the good of the organisation. It forces everyone to look hard at, and focus on, the strategy, goals, operations and products or output. Because the website is a window on your collective organisational soul.
In our case, our previous website was a thing of beauty, design-wise, but it wasn’t specifically intended to “sell” our services or products. So we decided it was time – go ahead and smack me – to eat our own dog food. And while it was painful in the preparation, it was a necessary meal and I couldn’t be happier we ate together.
Because in a world where trustworthy, accurate and engaging content is ever more important, effective storytelling is really about “story selling.” In this context and in our case, that means creating thought leadership content that showcases expertise, authority and trustworthiness – EAT – which mightily helps you get top-of-Google-search-results. That’s what our clients rightfully expect from us.
The process forced us to look hard at ourselves. We surveyed our customers and gathered new testimonials in order to better understand the value we offer them, and presumably our prospects. We added a revolving, regularly-refreshed carousel of examples of the content we produce for them across 25+ different industries including finance, technology, HR, Space and content marketing.
And maybe the most important outcome: We revised our own core message from “the cure for information overload” (still true) to a message more relevant in today’s confusing world: “content you can trust,” because we consider ourselves one small antidote for a world beset by fake news.
So take a look at www.vitalbriefing.com. Then I invite you to ask yourself whether it’s time to join us at the table.
The digital world has become ever more content focused. Companies across every industry are realising that producing original content — from blogs to articles to videos to social media posts — not only helps their marketing efforts, but also provides clients and prospects with what they want most: easy-to-consume, engaging stories and information.
Consider this: 90% of all marketers now use content marketing. As a result of the growing consumer demand for insightful, high-value content, experts forecast the entire industry will more than double from less than $200 billion in 2016 to $500 billion in 2021.
Consumer data is now the undisputed linchpin of digital marketing, with experts declaring it the “new currency” among businesses. From personalisation to consumer targeting to improving campaign reach and engagement, consumer data is fast evolving into the foundation of the most effective marketing efforts.
Enter customer data platforms (CDPs). This technology, as VitalBriefing Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Yves Lanneau writes, is “fast becoming [a] key brick in any robust stack.” These systems manage the data of a company’s customers and produce actionable insights for marketers.
As the CDP sector continues its rise, many marketing teams are looking into integrating such tools. They just don’t know where to start.
VitalBriefing’s Ethan Schrieberg interviewed Derek Slager, co-founder and CTO at Amperity, a Seattle-based customer data management company that recently attracted $50 million in investment, for insights on finding the right customer data platform for your specific needs.
Content marketing pre-dates the printing press, but in this age of information overload and endless product pitches, it’s never been as important – or as effective – as now. That said, the question on marketers’ minds as they consider their annual budgets is as old as the printing press: What’s the ROI?
At the strategic level, content marketing focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain well-defined audiences – and to drive them to a specific action. In practice, it means creating and effectively telling a story to illustrate a product or service, but not as intrusive, distracting or irritating advertising.
In other words, as we define it at VitalBriefing, bringing valuable information that helps guide your clients and customers into the decisions they need to make even if it’s not your product or service they eventually buy.
Sound counter-intuitive? It’s not. The point of the content, as Heidi Cohen, author of the Actionable Marketing Guide puts it, is to give customers and prospects “useful information” before, during or after a purchase. The narrative, in turn, should and will drive business if the customers find it truly useful. (A mistake we see marketers often make: placing their product pitch at the center of the content –reinforcing the notion that the source of the content only wants to ‘sell them, not help them.’). If the content is valuable, showing off your thought leadership, they’ll hold you and your service in high esteem.
I love this pre-Internet example (remember those prehistoric days?): In 1982, Hasbro and Marvel teamed up to create a comic book series called “G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero!” with the goal of selling more action toys. As consultant and tech company co-founder Neil Patel points out, seven years later two of every three American boys from ages 5-12 owned at least one G.I. Joe.
Tough to argue with that ROI.
The digital age has brought content marketing to the fore as a marketer’s principal weapon, as savvy professionals increasingly acknowledge. In 2013, a survey of marketers by Adobe and Econsultancy, cited by Emarketer.com, found nearly 40% naming content marketing as a top priority – up 10 points from the year before. As of 2016, the Content Marketing Institute found a full 93% are using content marketing – the “most effective” among them allocating 42% of their budgets to it. This uptick in its use means content marketing will be a $300 billion industry in 2019, more than doubling in value in under four years.
So how do marketers measure the value? Three ways:
– Higher conversion rates
– Lead generation
Reviewing available literature and studies, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) points out that “content marketing ROI is higher than the average marketing ROI in every place” they looked. At the Content Marketing World, Kraft’s former senior director for data, content and media said that content marketing ROI was four times greater than their most targeted advertising.
Think about it and it makes sense.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
With more than 27 million pieces of content shared every day, according to AOL/Nielsen, people are hungry for good content that helps them understand their world, and make solid decisions. In a 2016 Demand Gen content survey of B2B buyers, 95% said they considered content as trustworthy when evaluating a company and its offerings. Similarly, the Content Marketing Institute says that 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles as opposed to advertisements.
Meanwhile, key performance indicators regarding the efficacy of content marketing are overwhelming:
YoY growth in unique site traffic is some eight times higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (source: Aberdeen)
Costing roughly 60% less than traditional marketing, content marketing also generates about three times as many leads (source: DemandMetric)
Conversion rates are almost six times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (source: Aberdeen)
These are good metrics to set when thinking about ROI as you craft your content marketing strategy. “Shares” are another one – how often your content is passed along via social media. Time spent on your site is also useful.
Calculators such as this one and other statistical measuring tools track ROI through “increased organic rankings as a direct result of earning a diverse, high-quality link portfolio,” according to SEO consultants Moz. But some experts argue – and I agree with them – that the best ROI metric of all is engagement – how and to what extent your audience is involved with the content you create and promote to them.
To develop those metrics, you need to have a clear call-to-action that lets you track the performance. These include conversion, scrolling and comments on the piece.
Effective content marketers by far use blogs, case studies, e-newsletters and articles placed on websites as their preferred formats. Their four favorite distribution channels, unsurprisingly, are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Once you set the metrics and goals, you can start measuring how well your content is performing. If you get it right, you’ll be able to determine the real ROI on the content, as effective content marketers have mastered.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
In the 2017 U.K. Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, CMI found 65% of marketers could demonstrate how content marketing had increased the number of their leads, 61% could show how it increased audience engagement, 54% could demonstrate increased sales and one-third said it had decreased their cost of customer acquisition.
So…what are you waiting for? Build it into your thinking and your budget. And start measuring the results.