According to tech guru Neil Patel, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. 48% of small businesses have a content marketing strategy – but despite this apparent confidence in digital marketing, many small businesses feel overwhelmed by the challenges and options it offers.
So how do you ensure that your content marketing campaign hits the spot? The beauty of a great content marketing campaign is that it targets potential customers and works to build trust with them without being overtly promotional. You are offering your customers value before you’ve sold them a single thing, creating a strong and sustainable relationship of benefit to both of you. But in order to do this, you need to research, measure, tweak and repeat. Here’s how:
Create marketing personas
To target your customers (and content) correctly, you need to undertake thorough market research. According to The Content Marketing Institute, 41% of B2B and 38% of B2C marketers are prioritising better understanding their audience, and you don’t want to fall behind on this curve. One way of creating a customer profile that includes age, gender, income, occupation, key influencers, the type of content they respond to, and so on, is to create buyer personas. Defined as semi-fictional characters that personify your ideal customer, research suggests that marketing is more effective when targeted at personas rather than a generic market demographic. The more research you do when creating your buyer personas, the better. You could gather this information by interviewing previous customers, looking at existing data in your CRM system, by employing a research agency to do it for you, or by creating customer surveys or questionnaires – try SurveyMonkey or SurveyMoz.
Create a unique brand voice
It’s vital to create a unique brand voice and character that appeals to your personas/target audience. Bland and generic content doesn’t have an impact on modern clients because they already face information overload – you need a distinct voice and personality in your content to capture their attention. One way of doing this is by picturing your brand as an actual person – what do they look like? Are they young or old? Male or female? Once you’ve established who ‘you’ are, write your content from this perspective. It may seem odd at first, writing in a voice other than your own, but this can be resolved by practice! If the voice still doesn’t seem quite right, feel free to tweak it – marketing is about trial and error, and if something doesn’t work first time round, simply change it, learn, and move on.
Identify your business goals
What do you plan to achieve through your content marketing. Do you want to bring more organic traffic from the search engine? Are you more concerned about establishing your authority in the industry? Do you want to establish your brand?
Once you know the destination, you can plan the route. When you set goals, make sure they’re SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. These goals are easier to reach and keep track of. However, be realistic about your time frame, especially if you’re building a new business from scratch. Rome wasn’t built in a day – and most digital marketing agencies advise a minimum of at least three months before you can expect results from a campaign.
Choose your content wisely
These days, there’s almost no end to the forms that content can come in, from blogs and infographics (which already seem a bit old hat) to videos to guides to podcasts. A good content marketing strategy is diverse and uses different forms of content – however, it goes without saying (almost!) that you tailor your content for your audience. Go back to your personas and think about content from their perspective – what would they be most receptive to? Memes, for example, probably won’t go down too well with an older B2B audience! However, great for an audience of millennials. Be creative – just always have those personas at the back of your mind.
Outsource or in-house?
Many SMEs face the dilemma of whether to outsource their content marketing or try to do it themselves. Obviously, there are pros and cons to both – however, even if you’re a great marketer yourself, if you’re trying to single-handedly run your company’s content marketing campaign, it will distract you from the all-important task of actually running your company!
The other option, then, is to outsource to a dedicated content marketing agency. The upsides to this are that you’ll have a large, multi-skilled team handling your entire content marketing strategy, enabling you to focus on the results and your business, it’s cheaper than hiring an inhouse marketing team, and if they don’t deliver the results you’re after, you can get rid of them. The downside is that you’re unlikely to get the same level of commitment and understanding of your core business and personas that you’ll get from doing your own content marketing – and it’s tempting to walk away if you don’t see results quickly, meaning the content marketing campaigns aren’t always given proper time to mature.
Keep an eye on ROI
All marketing campaigns should bring in a quantifiable return on investment (ROI) and content marketing is no exception to that. After you’ve initiated the campaign, keep an eye on the traffic it generates and track a number of conversions. The most obvious and free tool for this is Google Analytics, which provides details on site visits, bounce rates, conversions, impressions, and other such factors. Other marketing tools and websites such as Moz and Ahrefs can also help you analyse and assess your performance, as well as offering valuable data for future content marketing campaigns such as keyword analysis. You won’t see a return on your investment straight away, so ensure you’ve set realistic goals and unless your campaign is haemorrhaging money, try not to panic!
Change your strategy if it doesn’t work
Even the best-planned strategies can fail because of small mistakes or inaccuracies in research – or even for less tangible reasons than that. If your content marketing campaign isn’t performing as well as you expect it to, don’t hesitate to alter it or revise it completely. Before you revise the strategy, take time to study the campaign carefully to determine the flaws and mistakes you made. That will help you avoid similar mistakes in the future and create a more sophisticated campaign.
Integrate customer feedback into your marketing strategy
88% of customers research local businesses online before purchasing from them, according to research by Brightlocal.com. Allow your readers and website visitors to comment on your content, whether on social media or on your website and always take their feedback into consideration. The comment section can be an opportunity to engage in conversations with your clients and keep them engaged with your brand. The feedback can also help you understand your target audience’s preferences and expectations better, information that can be use to create better and more targeted content at a later date.
You can also get new content ideas for the comments section and customer feedback. For example, if a customer asks you a question related to an article you posted, you can create a separate article answering that question. You can then add internal linking between the two articles and spread traffic throughout your website. This will help you with your rankings and provide more comprehensive information to your customers as well. If you can get your customers creating your content for you, it saves you a job!
Quality is better than quantity
The old days when marketers could post drivel on the internet to boost their SEO rankings are long gone – and good riddance! Not just content, but quality is now king. Customers have high expectations and you need to ensure you meet them. If you don’t, your competitors will….
In this multi-platform age, customers also expect you to interact with them on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc, as well as via your website. Creating frequent short form content to fill in the gaps between long form content postings can help you maintain a schedule, ensure the audiences are engaged, and still deliver good quality articles, videos, and other forms of content.
You can do it…
Content marketing is a great leveler – even the smallest business can come up with an ingenious campaign that enables them to steal a march on their competitors. The opportunity to be a huge digital success is greater than ever. Just remember that every business is different so you need to take some time to plan a strategy that is unique to your business and effective in generating leads. Now go get ‘em!
Author bio: Sam Carr is a content specialist for UK digital marketing agency Two Digital. She’s passionate about social media and marketing, and can be found writing about this on the Two Digital blog. In another life, she’d have liked to be a stand-up comedian!