ver the last 24 months, a sharp awakening has been triggered amongst marketers and operators alike. Consumer behavior and the online environment have evolved even more rapidly than usual. And just as we had adjusted to tougher privacy regulations like GDPR and CPA, the Covid-19 pandemic hit like a 100 ton mack truck.
However, the death of third-party cookies deserves a special shout out. Their ongoing removal, or requirement for users to proactively opt in under initiatives such as Apple’s ATT framework, is arguably the biggest shockwave to hit marketers yet. You may not even realize how big the impact of this is just yet. We had all gotten very comfortable depending on third-party tech giants to collect audience data and manage optimal ad targeting for us. As a result, quick lead-gen strategies are becoming more less cost efficient to execute than they were a year ago because of the steep decline in user data for ad targeting.
The widespread social and online evolutionary forces of recent years have driven several important digital marketing trends to which marketers must adapt for survival.
The defining online marketing trends for 2022 and beyond are:
1. Cautious audiences that are slower to trust, and less willing to give their attention to adverts and promotional content in oversaturated online environments. Online users are more selectively giving attention to branded content based on value, whether it’s entertaining or educational.
2. The rise of content authority, which drives search engine algorithms and SEO performance. Google ranks content according to the E.A.T. matrix, standing for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. Improved user experience is driving this trend, demanding higher value content to maintain SEO visibility.
3. More importance is placed on brand, values and mission, especially from younger stakeholders where virtue signaling is more important. Customers want brands to resonate with their values on a deeper level, whether the context is social responsibility or more personality focussed, and ideally both.
4. The emergence of community-driven markets such as crypto and NFTs are part of a growing trend that is oriented around user-generated content. Brand communities, content creators and ‘fandom’ are taking ever more precedence in shaping purchasing decisions.
5. Enforcement of greater user data privacy is reducing the quality of user data for targeted advertising, resulting in less profitable paid campaigns. Brands are being pushed to rely more heavily on organic acquisition, customer retention, and first-party data.
6. First-party data collection and utilization is increasingly required in place of third-party data in order to accurately target and convert online audiences. Brands have to take more responsibility for collecting PII data and understanding their audience in order to build relationships.
These combined forces boil down to sustained content creation being a non-negotiable for online brands in 2022. In order to survive and ideally thrive over the next decade, we all have to take more responsibility for audience development and ownership.
To quickly clarify:
- Audience development is the process of identifying, engaging, nurturing and growing an audience. That means attracting and maintaining the attention of a group of relevant people. An audience member may or may not be a customer.
- Audience ownership is having a direct relationship with your audience, achieved when they subscribe to your owned channels and share personally identifiable information (PII), giving you permission to store their data and communicate directly.
Content marketing is the linchpin for helping brands achieve both of these objectives - it's your primary online audience building tool, especially for achieving scale. The world we now live in is an attention economy and attention is the most valuable currency there is. Capturing and holding attention is necessary for creating a long term and sustainable audience.
Helping marketers is the fact that online audiences are absolutely ravenous for digital content. Internet users (globally) spend hours of their free time online literally every day, with a daily average of 144 minutes on social media alone. Where the engaging content goes, attention goes, and where attention goes, the money goes.
Take YouTube for example, which paid out $30B in ad revenue sharing in the last 3 years, incentivizing content creators to stay on their platform. Or Patreon, which in April 2021 raised $155M in a Series F funding round with a $4B valuation. Platforms like these have fueled the rapid growth of a creator economy, emerging over the last 10 years to somewhere over 50 million independent creators and community builders today. A new breed of independent content creators has emerged, defined by a deeper knowledge or passion for their niche area, creating authentic content that their audiences lap up. This is upping the ante for businesses to also consistently connect with customers using content that personally resonates, provides value and builds trust.
The title of this article, ‘Flipping your brand into a media company’, sums up the fundamental imperative for businesses that intend to grow leveraging an online audience. An effective, adequately resourced content strategy is no longer a nice-to-have. Business models need to shift to where content is recognized for being just as essential as any other product or service offering a business delivers. This may require a shift in understanding in terms of content creation as a business investment priority.
To achieve the flip you’ll need:
- A robust content strategy built on customer insights.
- A skilled and resourced team who can consistently deliver engaging content to the right people at the right place and time.
Get your content strategy right and you’ll unlock an audience of fans who want to have a direct relationship with your brand, providing you with the highest marketing ROI possible. You can also leverage an upgraded content strategy to drive down CPMs for your brand awareness campaigns thanks to improved audience targeting and engagement. In summary, you’ll be able to create a valuable and forecastable revenue stream that no third-party tech giant can take away from you.
With that said, here is your essential guide to flipping your business into a media company. Get ready for your business to become a content (and customer) generating pro!
Skip to what you need:
- The Business Case for Investing in Content Marketing
- Content Marketing and the Customer Lifecycle
- How Successful Brands Masterfully Use Content
- How to Build Your Own Content Marketing Strategy
The Business Case for Investing in Content Marketing
Building an online audience and converting them into customers is a challenge. It takes so much more than one viral meme. It’s a long term investment with upfront output required. It also usually lacks immediate feedback or incremental gains.
For marketers, I know you don’t need me to explain the benefits of content marketing. However, your C-Suite team may not quite get it yet for these very reasons. In which case, you may be in an uphill battle to secure the ongoing budget allocation that your content marketing merits.
For senior business leaders looking to understand the case for a larger content marketing investment - or for SME marketers looking for pitch inspo to secure more budget allocation - this section is for you!
Here’s a summary of the impressive benefits of content marketing:
- More website traffic and leads - According to Hubspot research, businesses that publish 16+ blog articles per month get 3.5x more traffic than those that post 4 or less. And small businesses that use content marketing get 126% more leads than those which don’t!
- Higher marketing ROI - On average, pull campaigns that generate traffic organically via optimized or shareable content cost 62% less than paid strategies. As a general rule, content marketing delivers three times more leads per dollar than traditional outbound marketing methods. There’s also a significant boost in social shares and conversions when you focus on rich, long-form content. And once you have prospects or customers opted onto your email list, you’ve hit the marketing ROI jackpot.
- Improved customer trust - Online users are increasingly discerning and slow to trust, and they trust organic content over ads every day of the week. Research found that 78% of people prefer articles to ads when getting to know a company, and 70% believe companies creating custom content are interested in building a good relationship with them. There might be multiple facets of trust you can build using your content depending on the business offering and the requests you make for customer data.
- Communication of your brand identity - A brand needs to create a personality that mirrors the needs, beliefs, values and aspirations of its audience. Before your product, it’s your content that provides the best means to connect with your audience’s needs and emotional drivers - whether that’s entertainment, knowledge, identity validation, etc. Content messaging allows you to convey that your values align with what your audience cares about. Resonating with customers on a personal level as authentically as possible will generate sales and loyalty.
- Outdo bigger brands to win fans - Content marketing is a great leveler because it’s accessible - a wealth of platforms and tools are freely available. The brands with the ‘best’ content are more successful at building engaged online audiences, creating fans and building communities. You can quickly build a competitive niche that outpaces bigger brands who don’t appeal to and engage with your audience as well as you do. Great content that engages your audience regularly is truly a powerful competitive advantage, keeping your brand front of mind.
- Gain customer insights - Once you have a decent volume of published content across your channels, you’ll be able to see very clearly which channels, topics, content formats and other variables work best for engaging and converting your audience segments. For example, which social platform or keyword brought a visitor, how long did they read, and which link did they click before making a purchase or getting in touch? You can track KPIs for the audience insights to build a well-oiled customer acquisition machine.
- Expanded customer touchpoints - The online customer journey doesn’t always go in a straight line from ad click to conversion, with multiple touchpoints required before a customer is ready to convert. Unlike ads, content that’s focused on providing value to an audience can contain lots of insights to repurpose for any number of channels and formats. It’s a cost efficient way to leverage your content investment to improve brand reach and create better customer journeys that convert and retain more customers.
Did you know?
The number of touch points required to convert a sales lead is usually somewhere between 5-20, but can be many more! It depends on the size of investment a buyer is making and the level of familiarity they require to build trust. B2B audiences tend to require more brand touch points and trust than consumer audiences who are making low-cost impulse purchases. An understanding of the typical customer journey among your successfully converted customers will help you to keep optimizing for your unique audience.
Content Marketing and the Customer Lifecycle
The process of content marketing can be distilled into three overarching objectives that span the customer lifecycle.
Objective 1 - Build Brand Awareness
Customer lifecycle phases: Awareness, Interest & Desire
Create content specifically for introducing yourself to new members of your target audience with the aim of building brand awareness.
Brand awareness is achieved when your audience not only recognizes and recalls your brand, but has built a deeper understanding of your UVP. It positions your brand as a leading solution for their needs. All of your brand elements come together so that when a purchasing need arises, the customer will come to you first.
Early brand awareness touchpoints should be more brand driven than product driven. At early stages of the customer journey, people can find a hard sell off-putting and intrusive. The best promotional content for your company won’t feel that way to a highly targeted audience that it has been specifically tailored for using data insights. Content marketing should be focused on relationship building, from first introductions to familiarity and trust.
Exert influence by holding your audience’s attention. Use inspiring creatives, aim to activate emotional responses, and appeal to customers’ psychological needs or values.
For B2B brands with longer customer buying cycles, industry news and trends is a great way to build familiarity with your brand as a leader in your niche. For B2C and DTC brands, shorter attention spans and greater potential for impulse purchasing means you can dive in sooner with featured products, but by highlighting how they serve the needs of specific audience segments.
Objective 2 - Own Your Audience
Customer lifecycle phases: Interest, Desire & Action
As your potential customers develop growing interest and desire, you can take the relationship to the next level. Your content can be more informative and detail-oriented regarding your service or product capabilities. The goal is to move users from browsers to sales leads and customers by inspiring them to take an easy action at each stage.
The process of converting leads to customers may happen immediately for businesses such as ecommerce, or could require a few stages in cases such as B2B service providers. Whichever scenario you’re in, you want to bring customers onto your owned channels such as your website, and capture their PII data.
Here's simple example for DTC. Clicking on creative content on Instagram or Google Shopping Results takes users directly to the country-specific product page. Here, they can read the product description, view more product imagery, and hopefully decide to complete a purchase. The process of completing a purchase allows the customer’s PII to be captured. They can be moved into a loyalty and retention cycle, and also encouraged to follow social channels. If the customer doesn’t convert at that point, they can be identified for inclusion in retargeting ad campaigns, assuming they have consented to advertising cookies.
For B2B, it might be an editorial piece about an industry challenge featured in an industry magazine e-newsletter. The editorial links to a landing page describing the company’s service offering in relation to the particular customer challenge. At the side of the landing page is a form-fill for either downloading a more detailed white paper, or to get in touch with the sales team. There are featured links to social media accounts and more related topical content for further reading. The user could also be retargeted with ads if they consented to advertising cookies.
- Check out our guide on how to capture accurate marketing data to better track customer journeys and conversions.
Up until now, many marketers have handed over significant parts of audience targeting and retargeting responsibilities to third-party tech giants; Google, Facebook and Apple. It means outsourcing large parts of audience insights and selection to them, which is no longer working as effectively due to enhanced data privacy.
- Read Half Past Nine’s guide to collecting and leveraging first-party data.
Objective 3 - Turn Your Audience Into a Community of Fans
Customer lifecycle phases: Loyalty & Advocacy
Once you’ve delivered a great experience to a customer, it’s time to ensure that they stay in a deepening relationship with your brand, helping to bring you more aligned customers from their own network through advocacy.
Fans are very loyal by nature, resulting in less customer churn and higher LTV. A community of fans is a powerful means of leveraging word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. This is the same as old-fashioned word of mouth except it’s shared online, and it’s highly effective.
Research has shown that 92% of people trust recommendations from family or friends over advertising and marketing, and 88% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from people they know.
- Discover how to create a community of fans by turning your customers into believers who are willing to spread the good word!
How Successful Brands Masterfully Use Content
Let’s take a quick look at a few great examples of influential marketing content from B2C and B2B brands.
I’ve seen countless articles where Starbucks is held up as a content master, and the evolution of their marketing content demonstrates exactly what I’m talking about.
Starbucks marketing leadership observed that a one-time promotional approach isn’t as effective as sustained relationship-building, so they changed tact with a content strategy focussed on personalization and loyalty rewards to increase the retention and LTV of customers.
The pandemic was a prime example of how they position themselves as a long-term relationship brand, creating content that fosters emotional connection. Take their 50th anniversary ‘Possible is just the beginning’ campaign, which centered on the need for human connection. Starbucks are tapping into a very deep emotional and psychological need that resonates with everyone.
In 2020, their 'Every name is a story’ campaign featured a trans person using their chosen gender-identity name for the first time, tapping into the desire to express and be accepted for who you really are.
Or simple email designs such as the fall campaign below, which encourage people to express their personality via a choice of indulgent Starbucks drinks. This sort of personalized feel is very easy to deliver en-mass.
Starbucks have adeptly kept their brand relevant by creating content which appeals to the evolving social and emotional needs of their audience.
Learnings from Starbucks’ content:
- Appeal to deep emotional needs, like connection and acceptance.
- Make your content feel personal and keep your existing customers engaged.
The ‘With Canva you can’ campaign featured users in Canva’s community, demonstrating how Canva helps people to quickly create and share professional-looking designs with user-friendly features and templates.
However, Canva elevates itself beyond the great features of its design tool. They make an association with the values that their users passionately hold and how their product can have a life-changing impact. A strong emotional connection is made between the user's need for self-actualization and the product.
Creating brand ambassadors from your customer community is a powerful tool. Customers are significantly more influenced by other customers than they are by traditional advertising. Pew Research, found that 82% of U.S. adults read customer ratings or reviews before making first-time purchases. Marketing content featuring customer testimonials can create an influential emotional connection with other potential customers, allowing you to leverage this psychological phenomenon with the addition of sleek branding. For B2B businesses, video testimonials can elevate the old-school case study format.
Learning’s from Canva’s content:
- Fulfill your customers’ desire to shine through using your offering.
- Make a values-based connection with customers, such as acting out their values to help create the world they want.
- Leverage the power of word-of-mouth marketing by using authentic brand ambassadors.
Wistia offers a video marketing hosting platform with analytics and targeting capability for marketers. Today’s B2B buyers expect more of a B2C experience. I picked out Wistia because they’re a smaller brand doing a great job using a personal tone for B2B content marketing.
Wistia prominently features their own videos and insight articles as part of their offering. This helps them build topical authority by showing that they know how to leverage video marketing themselves, conveying that you can trust them to provide a good quality product with capable customer support.
Their Original Series introduces itself as ‘made for people who aren’t all business’. They demonstrate that even while selling to businesses with formal purchasing processes, you still need to sell to individual people at a human level, balancing professionalism with real-human appeal.
Hubspot is a bigger B2B brand providing an ideal example of getting this hybrid tone of voice just right.
I also like the way Wistia has provided hybrid media formatting in their case studies, featuring an interview video up top and traditional written version underneath, like this one. They also regularly share video content across a combination of professional and personally-oriented social platforms.
Learnings from Wistia’s content:
- Humanize your B2B audience with personal appeal.
- Incorporate your content as a core offering to help build topical authority and trust.
- Hybridize or diversify media formats for differing content consumption preferences.
Check out the Buzzfeed newsletter sign up page, and you’ll see a master in content personalization at work. You can choose from a stunning 38 email categories at last count!
This is an extreme example, and most businesses need nowhere near that level of segmentation. However, pick out your core audience segments, and explore what common interests, values or emotional desires they have that can be related to your offering. You may not even need to offer them topical choices at sign up - just adequately tailor targeted campaigns at your end.
Buzzfeed offers Buzzfeed Community - a forum for sharing user-generated content. Or as they describe it, ‘a hub for BuzzFeeders to create awesome quizzes and posts that people love’. If you have the resources to host and manage a user-generated content forum - even if it’s just sharing social followers’ content when they tag you - you’ll get content generated for free while providing more engagement for your fans. In a B2B context, that could act as a free advertorial space for clients. It’s a win-win.
Buzzfeed demonstrates better than anyone that quizzes are an interactive form of content that can work brilliantly for engaging audiences. Use them to provide interactive entertainment for followers while generating useful customer insights for you in one fell swoop. You could also swing it for a B2B audience if you can find the right angle. For example, promote an online survey to identify current industry trends or challenges, positioning your business as a facilitator of industry insights. Be sure to let users see the live results upon completion, and you could use the final results for a unique piece of gated research content to capture sales lead information.
Learning’s from Buzzfeed’s content:
- Leverage user-generated content to enhance audience engagement and community building.
- Allow users to personalize their content preferences, or do it for them.
- Use quizzes or surveys for interactive appeal - they’re also perfect for collecting customer insights and for your own thought leadership research.
How to Build Your Own Content Marketing Strategy
Put time and effort into building a solid content strategy and you’ll soon find your business punching above its weight for share of voice. It will help you convert and retain more customers, improving customer LTV in the process.
Create a Formal Content Strategy On Paper
A content strategy needs to be formally documented whether your business leadership team requires it or not. It’s a structured game plan that you can follow and a shared vision for your team. It defines how and why content will be used to achieve clearly defined business goals. This strategy can be a collection of supporting documents that work together under the same objectives.
Creating a strategy pushes you to think long-term so you can achieve overarching brand and marketing objectives. Becoming a prominent voice in your niche requires you to ride the crest of breaking industry developments, leveraging relevant trending topics on search and social for maximum visibility. However, you also need a longer-term vision that supports a clear brand identity with SEO goals, on-brand messaging for each business stream, and recognizable brand consistency.
The following points are what should ideally be covered within a content strategy. You might have some other additional elements you want to include too, but this is a great starting point to get you going!
Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is the foundation for everything within your content strategy.
Start off with the audience requirements for your business model. Are you operating a DTC brand that requires a big online audience? Or are you a B2B business that can thrive on word of mouth referrals, account-based marketing and personal networking? What content is required to support the development of your specific customer audience during online interactions with your business?
Spend time looking through your CRM database, website analytics, social media engagement, email reporting, and advertising data. Where did your existing customers come from, and what was their journey?
Identify any distinct audience segments you have, and their typical journey from awareness to conversion. Craft customer personas for distinct audience segments, identifying their primary pain points and motivators. This is the basic framework for identifying the corresponding content requirements for finding, converting and retaining your ideal customers.
Invest in macro insights, such as trustworthy customer research if it’s available. Do some social listening and research hashtags. Also research your competitors to help you build a differentiated market position and brand identity that’s unique to you. A competitive analysis of content marketing will be very insightful, helping you identify any market gaps, and will probably provide additional inspiration.
Define Your Brand Messaging + Tone of Voice
Your brand messaging goes beyond a simple strap line, benefits and features, or even topical authority. It’s how you express your mission, values and market positioning in a way that connects with your target audience.
As we’ve covered, you should create a brand identity that reflects customers’ needs, values and desires in a way that ties into your offering. It’s best to find a core customer need, desire or value that’s consistent across all audience segments. Be consistent with your brand personality so that you become known for it. Your tone of voice is a core part of this and should be guided by your brand messaging.
For example, are you a B2C brand that targets people who want to feel special and raise their social status? Do you help people nurture their wellbeing? Do you help them do their job better with more ease while increasing productivity? Perhaps your products help people to express themselves? Maybe you appeal most to people who shun conformity and have a specific sense of humor? Whatever your main UVP for your unique audience is, bring it to the forefront of your brand’s personality + style.
For B2B, you are still tapping into the personal needs of your audience, just in a professional context. Your product or services could be a springboard to shine glory upon an individual by allowing them to fulfill their potential; reduce stress; make their role emotionally fulfilling with more time to focus on what they care about most; help them outdo competitors and achieve better customer satisfaction; or get a raise to enjoy a better lifestyle and support their family.
There’s always a deeper emotional or psychological need behind everything that people do, which you can tactfully appeal to using your brand messaging and tone of voice. In addition to your company mission, write down a list of core brand messages using your chosen tone of voice and ask content or copy writers to take inspiration from this.
Select Your Channels
Content should find your target audience where they are. That’s usually on social media, search engines, email inboxes, or news platforms. Some kind of blog format and email marketing are a no-brainer as the foundation for your multi-channel content marketing strategy.
Focus initial efforts on the distribution platforms and content that get you most engagement and reach, which could be several platforms or just a couple. Remember that it can take time to gather momentum and see results. Focus on the highest value channels where you can maintain publishing schedule consistency given your resources.
- Social Media - Find out where your audience congregates, how they prefer to interact with brands, and what content they engage with most on that specific platform. Investigate groups, hashtags and accounts they interact with most. You may have insights from trial and error to help you eliminate tactics that haven’t been effective. Seek inspiration from other brands doing it well. Do allocate resource for interacting with your audience when they comment; liking and commenting on your audience’s posts is also good practice to boost their familiarity with and trust in your brand.
- Search Engines - Select which search platforms are most suitable for SEM campaigns based on audience demographics and search engine preference. Keyword selection is your primary tool here, along with SEO tactics to boost domain and page ranking.
- Word-of-Mouth Marketing - Consider influencers and content creators in your space, native editorial options with publications or industry organizations, and organic PR. Again, it depends on where your target audience spends time online.
Create a Content Planner
After creating customer persons for your clearly differentiated customer segments, build a content map and campaign planner that covers each of them. List out the content needs for touchpoints on a typical customer journey, from building brand awareness to customer retention.
If you don't already have landing pages for your offerings sorted out, start there! There's less value in great top of funnel content that has no where for potential customers to progress on a conversion journey.
Then detail your specific campaign topics, and the marketing channels and format, allocating them a priority level and target publishing date. You may have specialized team members who should take ownership here, such as social media managers, website content writers and email marketers. The content planner should form the basis of channel-specific monthly content planning, tying together into multi-channel campaigns.
You may only have one main customer persona, or can develop pieces of content will work across your audience segments, and that’s fine. You don’t need completely unique content for them all. However, the discipline of breaking out content plans for audience segments will help you to see where more niche personalization could help improve customer experiences and boost conversion.
Build Topical Authority with Supporting Calls To Action
Topical authority is subject matter expertise. It boosts SEO, builds trust among your audience, and can improve the ROI of advertising thanks to better audience engagement and landing page ranking.
Topical authority can be built by educating your audience, or being completely on trend in regards to what your audience cares about. Research your audiences’ needs, challenges and what they are talking about regularly - be current and interesting with your topic selection. You might even be leading the evolution of thinking within your niche if you’re really good! Just stay topically relevant to your service offering, and make sure to tie the content into what your brand can offer. Apart from brand awareness creatives, effective content should end with a call to action appropriate for the journey stage.
Google’s search algorithm puts emphasis on a website's topical authority for specific niches, so focus search efforts on topics and keywords that are core to your brand. Your overall domain authority will help your individual page authority. Use your keyword and audience research as a guide for scoping out relevant topics.
Identify the multiple angles you can utilize to build topical authority in your field depending on what your audience's needs and interests are. Talk around your core offering by pulling in related topics that matter to your customers. At mid to bottom funnel, include information that will help break down any barriers there might be to making a purchase.
Let’s take Hubspot as an example again. Their offering is marketing & sales software, and they have clearly segmented blog article categories that build deep topical authority in their niches, and is easy for users to navigate. They invest in creating valuable insights for addressing their audience’s wider goals, challenges and needs while still being relevant to their own offering.
For more technical B2B services and products, your leads or contacts are likely to sit in different job roles and may have varying levels of technical knowledge. Use segmentation to develop content according to the required level of understanding and specific role priorities.
Boost topical authority by gathering input from your own technical experts or leaders; original insights from experience will set the quality and uniqueness of your content marketing apart. Even if it is just a few bullet points that you can wrangle out of them! Ideally, you'll have experts as the authors and public face of your insights content as part of their leadership role. Encourage them to build their networks on LinkedIn especially.
For SME sized businesses and up, I recommend you invest in specialized writers for your topical niche, whether they are in-house, agency or freelance. There are suitable writers for all budgets.
Plan Integrated + Consistent Customer Journeys
Factor in omni-channel marketing practices that create a consistent customer experience across multiple touchpoints, on and offline. Focus on the customer and content quality, optimizing each potential journey. For example, if users click on an Instagram ad, make sure they are directed to the relevant product page on your website. There should always be a clear and simple flow for your customers to reach the conversion end-goal, no matter where they start. Wishlists and items in carts should be available across a user’s devices.
Long-form content should be interlinked so your readers always have somewhere to go next. Have a footer carousel or list of more related content the reader might be interested in. Each piece of content you create can be used to promote other pieces of content within your library to help maximize their value and ROI.
Consistently apply your brand style to your content marketing to build brand recognition and awareness. If you haven’t already, create branded content templates for each type of content format. This makes content creation or repurposing quick, easy, and always recognizably on brand.
Include a Mix of Content Formats
People have their preferred formats for consuming content, so it’s important to cater to these individual preferences with your key pieces on the customer journey funnel. Create repurposed versions of your content in different lengths or formats, and collect engagement KPIs to understand what format best engages or converts your audience on each platform. The channel you're publishing on will determine this too.
Tailor and repurpose your content for each channel, maximizing the number of possible touchpoints for the customer journey. If you don’t already know which content formats and topics work best for your channel-specific audiences, experiment! (Just don’t confuse your audience by going completely off-piste, or forgetting the overall brand objectives.)
Do include a mix of ‘evergreen’ content and website pillar pages that have a longer life span. These can work alongside cluster pieces, reactionary opinion pieces, seasonal or trending topical content that may have a shorter life span.
Evergreen content is best used on your owned channels in order to concentrate SEO efforts including topical authority, branded keyword and back linking. Topical or visual content works well for social or media platforms in order to direct traffic to your evergreen website pages and more expensive content resources that need to provide longevity.
Improving your ranking on search engines is a must, for both the branded and non-branded search terms that your target audience commonly use. Compile a master document of keywords that covers your branded and non-branded keywords.
Identify the keywords that you already rank for organically, and investigate where you’re missing out on other relevant keywords with a competitive gap analysis. Hunt out any long-tail keywords that you can corner the market on. People searching with long-tail and niche keywords are lower volume, but often prove to be higher-intent leads that are lower-cost to convert.
Track each selected keyword’s monthly search volume, keyword difficulty score (how much effort or competition to rank highly for it), and search intent. Your SEO tools, such as Semrush, can help you with this. These metrics can act as an invaluable guide to identifying and prioritizing top-of-funnel content topics using non-branded keywords.
I equally recommend researching hashtags for your chosen social media platforms. Your hashtags are part of your content and essential for expanding content reach. There are social media listening and analytics tools out there to help you with this research process.
Determine Your Content KPIs
Pick out KPIs for each of your channels or platforms which you can consistently measure and report overtime to track progress, use to assess ROI, and make strategic decisions with. These should tie into your overall marketing and business objectives, demonstrating how well your content is contributing to achieving them.
Allow time for consistent publishing to gather momentum. Nothing happens overnight for anyone. Platforms such as Google won’t allocate top ranking authority to your site until you have a regular track record of publishing high quality content that receives backlinks.
If you’re an ecommerce business, check out the ecommerce KPIs you should be tracking.
Review Your Tech Stack
Budget dependent, what tools can you bring in to support all of the above? Or can you find ways to better leverage the tools already available with more learning and know-how?
Content marketing tech stack requirements vary depending on your level of marketing sophistication and audience requirements, but considerations include:
- CMS for easily publishing and managing content, including website pillar pages & a blog
- CMS offering content personalization for visitors, including recommendation engines, search engines, personal portals or wishlists
- CRM integration with your publishing platforms, especially email
- Social publishing and audience analytics tools
- SEO research and analysis
- Virtual event or webinar platforms
- Interactive content tools, like quizzing, messaging and chatbots
- Integration with customer review or community platforms
- Customer data analysis, and consolidated dashboard reporting or data visualization tools
- Project management for content workflow
You might also want to consider an AI content writing tool if your marketing team is a little tight on human resources. Check out Half Past Nine’s detailed review of AI writing software!
Maintain Regular Reporting + Optimization
Test, analyze, optimize, break-up and repurpose content as an ongoing process. Define what that process is, and when it should be done.
It could mean creating Instagram quote cards from a popular blog article, rewriting a webpage with different keywords, trying a new design template, or publishing social content on a different week day or time. Assess what gets more engagement on a regular basis so you can keep up with any evolution in your audiences’ preferences or needs.
Remember that your content strategy and content calendar are live documents that should evolve with new insights, developments and changes in customer behavior. Keep your team referring to your strategy regularly, such as during content brainstorming meetings.
It’s time to move your content marketing off the sidelines and into center court.
Content marketing thrives on customer insights, requiring a strategic and methodical approach over time. It doesn’t happen overnight, and can involve multiple teams and stakeholders in your business in order to be sustained. A cohesive strategy takes some work and revision to get right, however it’s unlikely your business can afford NOT to make the investment. And it is hugely rewarding when you see those KPIs and marketing ROI starting to take off!
If you need support creating and executing your growth strategy, Half Past Nine have deep technical expertise in performance media, marketing intelligence and integrating MarTech infrastructure. We work exclusively with high-growth SMEs businesses that are ready for the next step in growth. Give us a holler anytime if you’d like to discuss a potential alignment.
Before you go, why not check out Half Past Nine’s guide to audience building via a Linear Commerce model to learn more!