Apr 21 2016
It doesn’t take too much Googling to turn up a wide range of “great”, “killer”, “need to know” or “essential” content strategies. But all of the tips in these articles fit into one of two broad buckets.
The first type are the very general ideas that don’t have specifics, or are big and bold predictions about the future that don’t actually have relevance for content marketers or businesses when they read it today.
The second type are the timeless, proven strategies that work. Sometimes, these strategies are only just emerging, but they have shown enough promise to deliver benefits to those clever marketers who adopt them early. This article is about the second bucket of ideas and strategies. We call it “best practice” because these are the things that should underpin all of your content marketing.
When we talk about “content” in this article, we are not just referring to blogs and articles, we talking more broadly about any communication delivered at any time during pre-purchase engagement in a range of formats. This means that content includes the copywriting on your sales pages, the text on your marketing emails as well as the words in your eBooks, video scripts and “how to” guides.
So with that in mind, let’s dive in.
1. Know the data
It’s impossible to talk about any industry or business these days without the use of the word “data”. It’s almost moved to being a buzzword rather than a useful concept. So, let’s fix that with some quick, easy facts. These don’t represent the full spectrum of what content is, and should be, for every business. But they do set the baselines for how you should think about your content.
First of all, the average length of content published to company blogs is 810 words. That number was found after a study of over 6,000 articles in a range of industries. As a basic rule, it is difficult to add real value for a reader with an article post of less than 500 words. And on the other end of the scale, articles that get much longer than 1000 words struggle to hold our attention due to the fact most content is now accessed on phone screens rather than desktops. Behaviourally, we seem to have limits to how many times we want to swipe up on the same article without clicking away.
Almost 80% of consumers say that personally relevant content increases the likelihood they will purchase. That means creating content that extends beyond a clickbait or viral style headline and actually delivers value.
The other big data point is that good content takes time to create. In fact, most well researched, keyword optimised posts take between two and three hours to publish. The key takeaway there is that good content marketing requires a serious time investment, and isn’t something that can be done in the 30-minute break between meetings.
2. Know the purpose
Content strategy is easy to think of as a single, big idea, but in reality, it works far better if it’s broken up into smaller sub parts. Think of it this way: if you were wanting to climb the highest mountain in the world your goal would be “climb Mount Everest”. But to actually do it, you would have to break that goal up into smaller sub-parts and achieve each one. For that example, sub-goals could be “fly to the Nepal”, “ascend to base camp” and “ascend from base camp to summit”.
Content marketing is similar, in that it should be segmented into its parts. For businesses and content marketers, that means knowing the purpose of their content. There are three phases that content can be created for which we discuss below.
3. Know the type of content your customer is looking for
The most commonly thought of phase when it comes to content marketing is the “awareness” phase. This is where browsers enter keywords into Google researching solutions to their problem or a company that can provide a desired product or service. The kind of content best suited to this stage is blog articles, how-to videos and checklists. For more complex areas like business to business software, legal, accounting or human resources, slightly longer format content like ebooks and educational webinars might be appropriate.
The stage that follows awareness is the assessment phase. This is when the browsers you’ve attracted move to the stage of assessing and testing your offering against their needs. For simple products (e.g. food, clothing) this can be a very short phase. For more complex products like business software, the assessment phase can take a week or more. In this phase, the best content shows people how they might use the product through a case study or demonstration video. For lower value consumer products, sending a physical sample is a good action to build content marketing around.
The final stage that follows the assessment phase is the purchase phase. This phase is where the browser has finished assessing and is ready to convert to being a customer. But the most effective way to do this is by making it easy to do so. A strong content strategy at this phase will involve a free trial for a limited time, a live demonstration, consultation with a company representative or a coupon to spend. At the end of each of these activities, or as the “price” of getting them, credit card details or a refundable deposit can be requested. Good content can help make this process seem seamless.
4. Know how to measure your effectiveness
As Magicdust points out, content marketers, like any creatives, sometimes find it hard to be objective about their work. And business decision makers sometimes find it hard to appreciate the importance of content to the overall marketing and sales strategy. Both of these problems can be fixed by investing the time it takes to learn how to measure the effectiveness and reach of published content.
This can be as simple as keeping a spreadsheet of social shares, engagements and replies to a blog post right through to the full dashboard view and investigation that are enabled by a tool like Google Analytics. By investing the time to learn how this works, you can refine your content strategy over time to pivot towards the things your audience values based on actual data, rather than gut feel, which in turn will build your brand voice value.
5. Micro-influence matters
The idea of influencer marketing is not new – they just used to be called celebrity endorsements. But driven primarily by the rise of Instagram and Youtube, micro-influencers are now getting a far greater share of marketing budgets than traditional brand advocates who charged millions of dollars per campaign. These micro-influencers have smaller bases of as low as 10,000 fans, followers or subscribers. And finding the right ones can deliver big advantages to your content strategy.
Micro-influencers can be thought of as amplifiers of content that you create. Their own organic reach allows you to tie up your content with their advocacy. This kind of content distribution overcomes the high hurdle of establishing trust in your product or service as it allows your content and brand to be delivered to a receptive audience by a source that they trust, as well as increasing overall brand familiarity and exposure.
Video content is especially valuable for brands looking to work with micro-influencers as it aligns with the shift towards shorter form or live video content that all of the major platforms are investing in.
By acting to implement on the key points in this article into your content strategy, you will be far more likely to create a high performing slate of content, consistently, that will have tangible benefits for your business. Good luck!
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