It has been proven over and over again that content is indeed still the king and has been an essential part of business that drive measurable leads: whether it be through organic search engaging your new customers, or continuing to strengthen the existing loyal audience base.
Wendy Clark, Head of Integrated Marketing Communications for The Coca-Cola Company, gave an incredible keynote at Ad Tech a few years ago about the value of content, creating stories that spread, emphasizing that the content is the new currency.
This has been very true for Salesforce. Dave Thomas, Sr. Director, Content & Engagement for Salesforce, who recently led a panel discussion at Salesforce Connections, shared that even as short as two years ago, their content was only driving a few hundreds of leads but now accounts for 15% of all leads globally.
Types of Content
Certainly, content is not limited only to articles or blog posts. It can be an audio podcast, video, photograph, or even an infographic that conveys your expression and message to your intended audience who finds them helpful, useful and shareworthy.
So how do we get started? It all starts with the big picture: strategy.
Build Content Strategy
When we talk of strategy, it sounds all fancy and business-y. It really boils down understanding your business first:
- What are you really about?
- What make you who you are?
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- What is your voice and color?
Your Customer Base. Then we need to understand our customer base:
- What are their typical personas that represent 80% of your customer base? Are they moms, dads, working professionals? What are their age?
- How are they finding your business? Is it mostly through search, advertisement, word of mouth, or social media?
- What part of the website do they engage the most or the least? Is it the weekly sales, useful articles, product detail pages, or reviews?
- Do you have their Journeys mapped out, from the very first engagement (e.g. advertisement, or search) to becoming loyal followers?
Using tools like Google Analytics can really help find answers to many of the above questions for free.
Often large established brands spend a large chunk of their budget conducting fancy research, and often forget to ask their sales team or service reps who knows your customers more than anyone. What are the top questions that they are asked the most? What is occupying customers’ mind? Come up with a list of top 10 content ideas that can be value to your customers.
Competitors. Then look to your competitors and see what they are doing, what tactics are working for them. Search them and see what types of content they are creating. Sign up to their e-newsletter and social media, and pay close attention. Observe how they are best engaging their customers. What lessons can you learn and provide even more engaging and compelling content for your own customers?
Though do you know who your competitors are? In a traditional sense, they are your direct competitors that sell similar products and targeting similar customer base. But you should not limit your competitors to just these direct competitors. In terms of creating that valuable, engaging, and shareworthy content, identify those that do this well. Perhaps, right now, you can’t create video but only articles. Look for those that are great at creating shareable articles. What attributes stand out that make the content so shareable? For example, Starbucks does so well on illuminating their brand in people’s lives.
Alright. You have done your homework. You know what your business offer, what your customers love, created persona and created a list of topics based on the top questions that your customer asks. It is now time to create that compelling content.
Passing the “So What/Because” Test. Before we invest a significant amount of time creating that content, how do you know if it will be that engaging, useful, and shareworthy content? Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and the author of Everybody Writes, shares this critical content worthy test. Ask “so what? because” test at least 5 times, to truly dig deeper and determine if the content will pass this test and prove its worthiness: “We need to write a story about pumpkin.” “So what?” “Because Halloween is coming.” “So what?” “Because our customers seem to do well with Halloween products.” “So what?” “Because the story will help us connect organically with our consumers and our Halloween products.” “So what?” …
Quality, Not Quantity. There are billions of pages on Web. You can pretty much assume that every topic you can possibly think of probably have been written. As I shared in my SEO article, most of website traffic usually come through search engines and search engines want quality content that can answer people’s questions. We don’t need more content; we need better content that is useful, engaging, and shareable, just like this cat video that went wildly viral.
Don’t Overthink. Barf Up TUFD (the ugly first draft). Even if you are a seasoned writer, we often run into blank page syndrome mostly coming from us trying to be perfect and afraid of failing. It is our lizard brain overtaking our creativity stopping us from taking that first step. A great way to overcome this, according to Ann Handley, is to write for yourself as if you are writing your dairy or writing a letter to your mom, dad or even a friend. Don’t overthink. Don’t try to perfect the story. Just “barf up” your thoughts and get that ugly first draft done. Then as you edit your work, you can hone into your audience.
Plan Your Content. Get serious and get real and plan your work. Get your calendar out, and plan out what you will write and for how long, and when, even down to hours. Try your best to stick to the plan.
What good of that compelling shareworthy content if it is not reaching your audience and generating value for both your customers and your business?
Owned. Your email list and social media channels that you worked so hard to buildup will be the best and most cost effective way to get your message out. These are the audience that are already engaged so the message and content will need to be unique and personalized. Otherwise, they will get bored quickly and optout of your communication.
Paid. If you don’t have a big email list, or social media followings, but have some budget, buying digital advertisement will get you far. Today, digital advertisements offer pinpoint accurate targeting of your audience and allows real-time adjustment and optimization.
Also, even though your content may be very engaging and viral in its nature, usually it will require initial distribution to the right audience to get the traction it needs to go organically viral. This is done through paid advertisement. Experts also advise that often such content needs second, more focused, push to the most effective audience to then realize the maximum potential virality of the content.
Earned. If you cannot afford to do a press release push out, your next best bet would be to focus on influencer marketing. This is not easy and mostly a grunt work of discovering who those are that has the reach, engagement, and alignment to your brand. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to make this discovery process easy and fast. Once you identified those influencers, here is a list of best practice tips that you should follow to get their attention:
- Think about what I can do for them. Often the best way to get their attention is to follow their activities, share their posts, reply to them, get to know them, build the relationship, and do the things that they have asked for. They will start to notice you and pave a way to building long term relationship.
- It is a two way street. Make sure that they gain a tangible benefit from the relationship with you.
- Get to the point. Be blunt and direct. These are influencers. That means they are established and usually have a lot going on.
Measure, Learn, Optimize
Last but not least, you need to keep track of how your content is doing. Usually pageviews on Google Analytics can help you determine your most popular and least popular content. Set baseline for different types of content. Expand on the content that does well. Find out who that audience is and what type of persona it fits into. Then find out where about they are in their customer journey, and continue to brainstorm content ideas that can help them get further on their journey to become your loyal customer.