5 Tactics To Stay Ahead Of The Content Marketing Pack
As a marketer your 2017 content resolutions need to focus on a strategically aligned content marketing plan to produce quality content on a consistent basis.
Don’t take my word for it!
Walk down a commercial street near you. You’ll see we live in a world plastered with advertising.
Plugged into our devices, we’re almost oblivious to the world around us. We don’t pay attention to the blur of information and media that flashes by.
We minimize our attention spent on stuff that’s not important to us.
We install ad-blocking software and time shift content to keep our busy schedules on track.
While 2016 was the year of content quality over quantity, your 2017 content marketing resolutions must balance the two.
What must a content marketer do to stand out in 2017?
- Define your content mission and document your related content strategy around a well-defined niche.
- Get the support of your senior executives including budget.
- Create and distribute quality content that attracts audience attention and yields measurable results over time.
2017 Content Marketing Resolutions: 5 Tactics
1. Own your audience: Your strategic business asset for delivering contextually relevant content
Your audience is a strategic business asset. You have their contact information and permission to communicate with them.
Treat your readers with respect. Use every piece of information you create and deliver to build your audience. BUT don’t automatically plop them into your lead generation process.
Your audience is people interested in the laser-focused niche information you produce and distribute. Some care about your products and services and a small proportion will eventually purchase from you.
For simplicity, your audience consists of 3 groups:
- Customers: Buyers, end users, potential buyers, purchase influencers, and others further from the purchase process (like social media followers).
- Employees: People who work for your firm, freelancers, contractors and consultants, suppliers and distributors, and investors.
- Promoters: Fans, influencers, thought leaders, journalists and others in your niche.
The true power of owning your audience comes from a deep understanding of their true wants and needs based on internal microdata.
Knowing your audience based on data enables you to distribute contextually relevant content. Create modular content to dynamically deliver personalized experiences based your audience’s preferences. This includes device usage, content formats, and activities.
2. Plan and create quality content with a defined purpose consistently
Your ultimate goal: Maximize content lifetime value.
Translation: Keep evergreen content up-to-date and visible through continued promotion and curation.
Plan content creation. Sounds ho-hum so it’s underrated. But ensure that each piece of content:
- Supports your content mission.
- Deepens your niche content offering.
- Meets your audience’s information needs.
Include 3 key content categories:
- Maintain existing content utility. Keep it current. Budget resources to update, consolidate and repromote it to maximize content effectiveness over time.
- Develop new content. Include variations tailored to different formats, platforms and devices when created. Include budget for on-going A/B testing that yields bigger results over time.
- Adapt conversion content to remain contextually relevant and maximize leads and sales. This includes landing pages, gated content/bait, and welcome series.
Each piece of content is a building block. This includes your smaller pieces like blog posts and newsletters. Different content formats and platforms aren’t any less important. No part of your content offering should feel like filler.
Establish content guidelines to keep your content consistent regardless of creator or format.
In 2016, marketers focused on quality over quantity. But you’re only as memorable as your last published content.
You must regularly supply content to build audience anticipation. This includes becoming part of their content routine and content inner circle.
3. Build your owned media entities
In 2016, Facebook and Google accounted for 75-85% of the digital advertising marketplace depending on which source you cite. Both platforms offer targeted, measurable advertising businesses regardless of size need and will to pay for.
Expect Facebook and Google advertising expense to increase in 2017 and beyond.
BUT, this investment won’t necessarily yield better results.
- You’re competing against top advertisers. According to WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, Facebook will their second largest advertising medium in 2017.
- Facebook and Google are known to change their algorithms without notice.
- Problems exist with Facebook’s ad tracking.
As a defensive move, smart content marketers will allocate resources to build or buy owned media entities. Most notable is their blog.
While many content marketers give lip service to their blogs, their content entities are often filled with the equivalent of table scraps. So it’s no surprise they don’t yield satisfying results.
Add quality content to your blog on an on-going basis. Justify your resource investment by making it the centerpiece of your content offering.
Planned and executed well, your blog will show measurable business results.
- Orbit Media Blog (B2B). Andy Crestodina writes posts every other week. Each post focuses on a specific keyword phrase based on research to rank for targeted searches. It’s a successful business generator.
- River Pools Blog (B2C). Marcus Sheridan answered every customer question in a separate blog post. He even answered the tough “How Much Does It Cost?” Result: Qualified leads and reduced time to sales.
- Spin Sucks (Thought Leadership). Gini Dietrich started Spin Sucks to establish thought leadership in the PR space. Beyond thought leadership Dietrich uses the blog to build her community, sell products and support clients. She’s even wrote the book, entitled Spin Sucks.
BTW: Don’t overlook email and print newsletters. Go beyond pushing regular blog servings.
Incorporate your owned media into your editorial calendar to ensure regular quality updates.
Get your sales and customer service teams on-board. Make it easy for them to:
- Share customer problems and needs as the basis for blog posts.
- Supply answers to customer questions.
- Curate relevant content into their prospect and customer communications.
4. Amplify content distribution
Many content marketers think they’re done once they finish creating their content.
No surprise, it’s the sexy part of content marketing.
But the reality is your work starts when you publish your content. Social Triggers’s Derek Halpern spends 80% of his content effort on promotion.
Distribute, distribute, distribute. To maximize your content investment, you must continually distribute each piece of content.
Priceonomics and Contently amplify their content to get attention from people who sway others to read it. This causes your ideas to bubble up to a broader reach. They use a variety of approaches and platforms other content marketers overlook.
First optimize your content for 5 different audiences. Otherwise, the best distribution will fall flat.
- Readers. Use tantalizing headlines and introductions, make text 8th grade level, use outlining and bolding, and include visuals.
- Social media. Make sharing easy (but not at the expense of reading content.)
- Search. Focus on keyword phrases and categories.
- Influencers. Bring them into the creation process.
- Business. Ensure content helps build your audience and provides the information your prospects need to buy.
As part of your optimization, make your content granular to be contextually relevant for each platform. Also create multiple formats to extend your content sharing.
Building influencer relationships
To support your content amplification, build your base of fans and influencers. Tap into the power of your influencers to help your content gain visibility and expand your reach.
Don’t hand this key activity off to an outside agency. Develop influencer relations directly. Assign members of your marketing team to build relationships with specific people. Think pay-it-forward.
Influencers fall into 3 key categories:
- Customers/fans. These people love your company, product and services. They want to associate with your brand. They actively talk about and share your content.
- Employees. Look beyond your c-suite and sales people to your technical people. Customers trust them.
- Thought leaders/Professors. They’re trusted based on their experience. Don’t expect them to just pimp your products.
Supplement organic reach with an advertising budget.
Once your amplified content gains traction, support it with paid advertising.
Use your first round of content distribution to test headlines and presentations. Priceonomics invests $50 to A/B test their headlines on Facebook.
Continue to spotlight and distribute existing content when and where appropriate.
5. Measure content return
Content marketing is a long-term strategy. It takes 12 to 18 months to reap rewards according to Joe Pulizzi.
The key to content marketing success is continual tracking, testing and adjustment. As Hubspot showed, the firms that try to measure ROI yield 17X better results.
BUT, there’s content metrics disconnect. The difference is smaller than other performance elements.
- 88% of best in class content marketers measure content results.
- 56% of worst in class content marketers measure content results.
Translation: Marketers measure content activity. It’s often the easy-to-measure things, not the right stuff.
Content metrics must move from what we can measure to what needs to be measured to drive profitable business.
I like Rebecca Lieb’s content marketing metrics framework. It includes a variety of key elements to assess content marketing effectiveness.
Since you may find this approach too complex to implement, start small with these metrics.
- Email subscribers. This is the key metric Joe Pulizzi tracks. Also, include check click-through rates, conversion rates, open rates and churn rates.
- Qualified leads. These subscribers seek more targeted content, often in return for sales-related information. At a minimum, verify the information collected is real and usable before turning it over to your sales team.
- Sales. Dig deeper than dollars and/or units. Examine first purchases versus second purchases and beyond. Explore opportunities to segment customers.
- Content costs. Assess your content investment. How much did it cost to create, optimize and distribute the content? How much new traffic does an updated piece of content deliver?
The 2017 Content Marketing Resolution bottom line:
You can’t put your content marketing on autopilot in 2017.
But you already knew that!
Instead of stepping onto the content marketing hamster wheel, focus your efforts on supporting your audience and your business.
Provide high nutrition content that satisfies your audience’s information needs and wants.
Content is highly important, but widely ineffective. What does that mean for the modern marketer?
Experience matters more than ever before, and what enables experience is content–the content your buyer engages with can make or break a sale. Are you prepared to give them what they want?
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