We don’t need to sell you on the benefits of content marketing. If you didn’t believe it can drive sales, amplify brand awareness, build brand credibility and supercharge your SEO, then you wouldn’t be reading this would you?

When compared with other forms of marketing, content marketing has the potential to form a meaningful and long-lasting relationship with your customer or prospect. This is in part down to the fact that good content marketing can hold a visitor’s attention for much longer than, say a social media ad, but also because the nature of content marketing is about providing people the answers to what they’re looking for, without them even actively searching for it. And it’s generally presented (if you’re doing it right) with expertise and in a compelling way.

It is the relationship that is built through content marketing that helps companies achieve their desired goals (rather than the medium itself) – whether that’s shifting customers down the sales funnel or converting them.

So, effective content marketing builds real relationships in the digital world and gets you closer to customers and prospects. And that results in you achieving your marketing goals.

However, many markers fail to focus on this concept of building relationships and trust, and default to superficial content that sells, rather than adds value. And that results in poor results.

So, how do you get it right when it comes to content marketing?

Offer solutions not a sales pitch

To quote the irrepressible  Jay Baer: “content that helps is content that sells.” This couldn’t be truer; the focus of content marketing should be on creating videos, podcasts, articles, posts that help your customer, add value to their life, and help them solve their particular problem.

I’ll give you an example. Imagine you’re a gift wrapping company. Which of these do you think is a more compelling piece of content;

  • A blog post and video highlighting to customers how to effectively wrap awkwardly-shaped presents, from footballs to Wendy houses

 

  • A social media post selling wrapping paper, highlighting how cheap it is, and the variety of colours it comes in

It’s the first one isn’t it? It works for a number of reasons; firstly, it answers a question that all of us face at one time or another (more on how to discover this type of insight later). And that means the content is ‘evergreen’ i.e. it will never stop being relevant, and will continue to perform for years to come.

Chances are, anyone searching for how to wrap a present will need some wrapping paper to do it. And boom, it’s your brand that is front and centre (with a subtle link to product or call-to-action at the end of the article or video.

Of course, the sales-focused social media post has its place – for example, when it comes to retargeting anyone who has watched your video or read your post – but to base your entire strategy around hitting your cold prospects with a sales message will not work effectively.

It doesn’t matter what sector you are in, your customers will have specific challenges, problems and questions, and you need to make sure its your company providing the answers to them better than anyone else.

The importance of data and understanding your audience

So far so good, but how do you get to the stage where you understand the questions your customers are asking, better than they understand themselves?

The answer lies in effectively using data to better understand your audience. At Prohibition, we have a robust three stage process covering social media listening, audience insight and content and channel analysis. I’m going to explain each in turn and their role in uncovering valuable customer insight;

  • Social media listening – this is the practice of using tools to track and analyse any kind of conversation happening online, whether it’s on a social network, blog, forum, image or video sharing site. By tracking and analysing these unstructured conversations you can start to understand the key narratives around your brand, your competitors and in your sector or category. The skill then comes in taking the data, and pulling out insight. For example, what are the key challenges facing customers, what are your competitors doing (or not doing) that you could do?

 

  • Audience insight – this is directly polling your own customers or social media communities to better understand them and their challenges. There are multiple ways to do this; either via dedicated audience insight tools, or via direct surveying through your email database or social media communities. The key to getting value from this exercise is in asking the right questions and building up very detailed personas of your key customers. The more you know about your customers, the more you can answer their specific questions through your content.

 

  • Content and channel audit. This is about understanding how people currently interact and engage with your existing content, be it your website or social media channels. Using Google Analytics and the back-end dashboards on your various social media channels, find out what is your best and worst performing content, the pages people spend the most time on, where and how they convert and so on. The idea is the get a better picture of what is working for you, and what isn’t.

By carrying out these three steps, you will be presented with a wealth of data. However, data in isolation is not always helpful. What you need to do is to pull out insights from the mass of numbers in front of you and start drawing conclusions; what are you customer’s top challenges, how does this vary between each audience personas, what are you doing currently that is (and isn’t) working?

Creating compelling content

These leads us on to the next step – turning your insight into content that is going to delight, engage and (eventually) convert your audiences. You might have the greatest insight ever into your target audience, and know exactly what their challenges are, but unless you can present the answers in an engaging and compelling way, it’s never going to work. Here’s where you need to get creative, and this is what you need to consider;

  • Create content with personality – spending time on developing a tone of voice for your brand is time well spent. Consider factors such as ‘character’ (i.e. friendly, warm, inspiring), ‘tone’ (personal, humble, clinical), ‘language’ (complex, savvy, jargony) and finally, ‘purpose’ (i.e. engage, educate, sell etc). Once you’ve settled on your tone of voice make sure you use it consistently across channels. Writing in a generic tone of voice risks making you yet another bland voice in a sea of content.

 

  • Use multiple channels – content marketing shouldn’t be just about blog posts. While long form written content is important, there are lots of other engaging ways to present information. Consider video, which in 2021 is set to continue to become an even more dominant social media content type. Also think about podcasts. In 2020, podcasts enjoyed their biggest-ever listening figures in the UK, and the medium allows you to capture your audience’s undivided attention for anything up to several hours. What other type of content can do that?

 

  • Be bold and be brave – it’s a busy market out there where in comes to content marketing. Brilliant insight and relevance will help drive cut through, but it’s by taking risks and delivering truly creative activity that will make you famous in your market – and beyond. So, challenge yourself if you really want to generate results.

 

  • Be consistent – consistency in every respect of your content marketing efforts is key. Become predictable – not in terms of subject matter, but in terms of creating consistently high quality, relevant and well-researched content. Publish regularly so that your audience know what to expect of you. Be in this for the long-term, not the short-term.

Measuring for success

All of this effort and investment is wasted if you don’t know what success looks like, and you’re not consistency measuring it. We’ve already talked about the harder commercial edge of content marketing i.e. driving sales or conversions, but also consider the softer metrics that can lead you to this point. Consider the sales funnel, and the role your content plays in shifting customers down that funnel, from brand awareness to consideration and eventually, conversion.

Softer ‘relationship’ metrics should also be measured – such as dwell time, sentiment, repeat visits and so on. As we’ve mentioned, building effective relationships can be the catalyst for the commercial outcomes you seek.

And measure regularly – weekly, monthly and quarterly. It’s important to understand at all times whether you’re winning or losing, and it’s crucial you act on what the metrics are telling you. Constantly optimise your approach, and put simply, do more of what appears to be working, and less of what isn’t.

In the spirit of this article, I’m not going to sell you on the many content marketing services that Prohibition offers. This was aimed at showing expertise, and building trust, and I’ve hopefully done that! You know where we are.

About Will Ockenden