How do you make your content stand out from the rest? What's the right strategic framework for identifying content opportunities that can enable you to accomplish the right goals? How do you integrate your content directly with your social marketing efforts?
That's what this session, moderated by Ryan Jones, SEO manager of Sapient Nitro, addressed.
Up first was Lisa Barone, vice president of strategy for Overit, her part of the presentation was titled: "5 steps to creating your integrated content strategy (without killing yourself or anyone else)."
Barone began by talking about how content powers the customer lifecycle, and is the best way for you to engage with your consumers regardless of which stage of the lifecycle they're currently in. However, she said, you have to be there at the right place at the right time with the right content.
There are too many people pushing out content for the sake of content. That's not a winning strategy. In fact, by rushing out poorly thought out/constructed content, all you'll guarantee is that no one will read it or share it, and that's not going to lead to the conversions you'd like to have. In other words, the key to this whole thing is "Quality Content."
Determine Goals and Resources
Where do you want to get to, and what do you have available to you to be able to get to that place?
Barone identified six different potential goals for a content strategy:
- Brand awareness: Making people aware of who you are and what you do
- Lead nurturing: Finding people who are interested in your products/services
- Sales nurturing: Moving interested people into the next stage of the sales funnel where those dollar generating conversions happen
- Customer service: Answering questions, helping existing customers
- Customer retention: Because it's cheaper to keep a customer than find a new one
- Visibility: Which goes further than just brand awareness. It's setting your company up to be a thought leader in your space.
But to accomplish those goals there are several questions that you have to ask about your resources. If the answers don't tally then you either have to adjust your goals to a more realistic level, or increase your available resources to give you a chance of success.
- How much time can you allocate to this process?
- Do you have writers/designers/motion artists on staff?
- How will that work within the structure of your organization?
- Who is responsible for managing and delivering the content?
Get to Know Your Audience
You can't just assume who your audience is, as without data, you're probably wrong. Barone also stipulated that in order for you to be successful, your audience has to care about the content. So you need to take the time to analyze your data and identify patterns. See what content resonates among the audiences that come in from different referrers, and examine the differences in interactions with the site with those different user bases.
You should mine your social conversations and stalk-observe your audience; see what makes them happy, what they're talking about, what's trending, who the influencers are, where the communities are, and what gets shared. Tools that you can use to do this include:
- Google Alerts
- Social Mention
- Advanced Twitter search
When you're done observing, go to the next step and actually ask your audience what they like - focus groups and questionnaires still work - and can provide useful insights.
When you're done looking at your audience, the next thing to do is to look at the audience you want, that of your competitors. What have they done? Where have they failed? Where have they succeeded? How can you appeal to their audience without alienating your own?
Find Your Stories
Barone then talked about how to use a persona worksheet to represent your audience groupings, with the idea being that you then tie those personas into the buying cycle stages to determine which type of content needs to be developed for each persona.
As you think through the types of content, you then have to determine how that ties in to the message that you're trying to tell. What is your story?
Barone identified five key elements that you need to clearly think through at this stage so that you can communicate them appropriately to the audience:
- Your core values.
- Your USP.
- Your company mission.
- Your brand promise.
- Your key messages, and how you live them.
Audit Yourself and Others
Do a content audit. Take inventory of the content you already have, see how the pages were constructed and displayed, look at when they were published – were they timely, look at the tone and the buying cycle stage they were aimed at. Identify your essential topics, and see where you have too much or too little content.
Measure the impact that this content had: How was it received? How did it do against your social metrics? How many links or citations did it draw?
Lastly, Barone specified that you had to evaluate the impact of this content when measured against the goals that you'd set. Did it help you to achieve the specific goals it was intended to? Did it move enough people to the next stage of the buying cycle, or did it drive conversions?
Once you've done all that, it's time to do the exact same thing for your competitors. Crawl their sites, evaluate their successes, learn from their failures, and use that data to help improve your content strategy.
Create Your Calendar
Now that you've identified your audience, you've determined what type of content works for your goals at each stage of the buying cycle, the last stage is to build out your editorial calendar. For this you need to get everyone in the room – SEO, PR, developers, PPC, social, content, and the client.
The reason for this being that you're not just going to be building content, you're building a fully fledged campaign, and for that you will need that support from everyone in the room, for the content to reach the audience you want it to in the manner in which you want it to.
This ensures that there are no surprises for anyone in the room, and that you get everything set up just right, from the distribution channels to the tracking. You should also think about ways to repurpose your content across different channels, in other words, don't make your content be like a wedding dress…find other ways to utilize it, reuse it.
Once you have that common calendar created, you need to have accountability dates, detailed titles and descriptions, the persona/buying stage being targeted, the social platform targeting plan, and any specific tasks that need to be completed prior to/post publishing.
The last piece of advice from Barone was to START NOW!!!!
Bookending the session was 352's director of digital marketing, Erin Everhart.
Everhart started by stating that while we know that "content is king," it's a phrase that's been used to death and has lost meaning. We want content we can be engaged with, but that content needs an effective, coherent strategy. Basically you need to make sure that you build content for people not for a secondary purpose such as links.
Everhart then expanded upon Barone's discussion of buyer personas, specifically on the topic of audience interviews. She specified that once you've identified the various personas/user groups, you should interview a good sample of people in each of your segments. These interviews should be kept as conversational as conversational as possible, asking questions that can influence your content strategy:
- When did you know you needed this product?
- Where and how did you shop?
- What was your timeline?
- What things were you looking for in this product?
- What were the most important attributes?
- How did you decide to buy?
- What did you do after buying?
When you've got the results, look for patterns in the responses, and pay close attention to the actual words they use, this is the purest form of keyword research you can do.
Once you have the buyer personas, map out where in the funnel they go. Are they in that awareness/information stage? The consideration stage? The decision/buying stage?
Creating the content is actually the hardest part of this whole process, because you shouldn't just be throwing out content for the sake of it; it has to be tailored and crafted to reach the right audience with the right message at the right time. Don't think about quantity, think about quality - that should be your guiding thought.
As Barone before her had mentioned, Everhart then went into talking about content reuse, stating that "Effective content marketing is using the content you already have in multiple ways."
Your content's life shouldn't end at a blog post - if it does you're wasting content. Think about how you can repurpose your blog post, break it down into bite-sized pieces, pull out the interesting pieces, push them out to your social profiles, get people interested, and funnel them over to the blog post.
For those who want more detail, more of the content, take that bog post and expand it to a whitepaper or e-book, then publicize that. Alternatively take your content and turn it into a webinar. You'll get people registering and that will give you contact information for interested parties, in other words a good set of leads.
Everhart also mentioned that Google Hangouts have worked well for her clients, with the audience liking that real-time face-to-face aspect, and the ability to ask, and get answered, questions that matter to them.
Don't Be Self-Promotional
When crafting your content, she stressed that you should ensure that you're not self-promotional, because people don't care about YOU - you instead need to focus on them, and what benefits them. Promote your content, not your service.
When sending your content, make an effort to personalize it if you can. If you know who they are, use their name - personalizing the content will has the propensity to make it resonate more than generic content. So wherever you can capture information to personalize the content, do so.
Be Device Agnostic
Everhart also reminded the audience that we now live in a multiple device world, and your site needs to be device agnostic, but you can't just build a responsive design site and leave it at that - you also need to think about what happens to your call to action on different devices – if it's usually on the right does that mean that on a smartphone it's now below the fold? Look to see and then explore and test alternatives.
Use the Right Metrics
We're still struggling with the same issue that plagued John Wannamaker, despite us now having the right tools to give us the information that can help us determine the answer. The first step is to use the right metrics.
If we're driving conversions, rankings and pageviews are exceptionally weak metrics. You have to track EVERYTHING, put tracking codes on every piece of information you send out, so that you can differentiate every campaign across every different channel you use. This real data will come from your marketing automation platform, and really help you to focus the resources that matter on those channels that bring in the money.
Finally, Everhart recommended that you sync with your CRM to track the entire lifecycle – this is how you report conversions, can visualize the whole sales funnel, and see the full impact of your content strategy.