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Content Marketing

Is your brand’s content is working as hard as it can?

By Carrie Webb, Head of Content, The Bigger Boat

It’s no secret that a brand’s content is hugely important. It can mean the difference between and organisation being discovered online or not.

But so much more than that, quality content elevates brand perception, nurtures lasting relationships with an audience and enables companies to build authority and credibility.

In such a content-rich environment, it can be difficult to know how to grab consumers’ attention, drive real engagement, create conversations and ultimately increase conversions. Whether it’s via a well-designed infographic, a collection of helpful blog posts or a fully-fledged PR campaign, here’s how to give great content the best chance of surviving and reverberating in such a crowded place.

Build out a strategic approach

Don’t create content simply for the sake of posting something. There should be a sound detailed strategy behind it that takes into account many factors, but most importantly aims to create a connection between brands and consumers.

The first step is to identify the brand’s strengths and consider this alongside a competitor’s offering. Take a holistic view of how those in the same space behave, and look at the types of content they’re producing – what’s working and what isn’t and, crucially, how audiences are responding.

A structured, analytical approach is required to then apply learnings to the content strategy. This will provide internal guidelines and is the brand’s ‘why’ and ‘how’.

Begin by defining audience personas (include their needs, where they consume content and any challenges and pain points), the organisation’s story and messaging and nail down content purpose.

There should also be considerations for business-wide and content KPIs. Detail success metrics for every piece of content – traffic, views, shares, conversion rate, brand awareness, for example – and jot down outreach plans for them. Collating and assessing all this information leaves an overarching strategy that plans ahead for every aspect of the organisation’s marketing activity in an effort to produce the best results.

Consider shareability from the outset

Creating a fantastic piece of content that ticks all the boxes – for example, it’s user friendly, relevant, and has SEO coursing through its veins – is great, but it’s not enough to simply upload and sit back in the hope results will flood in.

If a business isn’t promoting its own content, it’s missing out on many outreach possibilities. There’s no harm in giving customers a helping hand in finding content. If there’s budget, look towards PR, consider paid promotion or use influencers to shout about the work.

Email marketing provides a good way to round-up and tease content on the brand’s site and, of course, sharing contentacross the relevant social platforms is always a winning tactic when looking to start conversation.

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of employee advocacy. If a workforce shares its content, this shows customers that staff members have bought into the brand – and its content is credible. It also ensures a much higher reach without having to put extra budget behind it.

Write for the desired audience

A business should know its audience better than they know themselves, and create content that perfectly tailors to their needs and behaviour. This is key to content success.

Provide answers to questions asked, offer a viewpoint on topics customers are interested in, and ensure the brand is operating in a space where the target market is digitally active.

Genuinely useful, purposeful content gains more traction and is more likely to resonate in a meaningful way. Knowing – and serving – an audience is vital in content marketing. After all, the goal isn’t always to simply clinch a sale – there needs to be an effort to work hard and gain their trust, and convert them into advocates. Consistent, quality content that provides for their needs should do just that.

Ensure CTAs are simple and structured

Find subtle ways to encourage an audience to share thoughts, move through to another piece of relevant content or perform a customer action. Whether it’s to download a PDF, buy a product or simply head on to another blog within the site, the call to action (CTA) should be well-designed and strategically placed, with clear and compelling text.

Use the right words to give the CTA an obvious thrust – the user must be left in no doubt as to what’s being asked of them, and what they’ll receive if they click.

Make it timeless

The best content is evergreen – it doesn’t have an expiry date. Its information is as useful and relevant now as it will be five years down the line.

‘How to’ guides are a great example of content that doesn’t date. While there will always be a place for seasonal, topical content, it won’t have much appeal once conversation around it has subsided and an organisation is left with an initial increase in traffic that will quickly fade.

During its 20th anniversary celebrations in September 2018, Google announced a selection of new search features. Among them was the ‘Topic’ layer in the search, which aims to recommend new content to the user after analysing the web for a topic and developing a huge range of subtopics. It favours the most relevant content, namely that which has shown itself to be ‘evergreen and continually useful, as well as [being] fresh content on the topic’.

Harness the power of analytics

Insights software provides invaluable data as to how content is performing and can help to make strategic decisions.

For each piece of content created, its objectives and goals should have been set out in the content strategy at the very beginning of the process – using analytics gives specifics of whether it’s meeting them. Find out what’s working and what’s not by measuring traffic, bounce rate, dwell time and engagement, for example.

If content isn’t doing too well, an organisation will gain insight into why that is, and should make changes accordingly to avoid making the same mistake with future content.

Using an analytics tool should be routine for content marketers – do it correctly and learn what makes users tick, where they’re coming from, what type of content they favour and easily pinpoint successes, and where improvements are needed.

Apply detailed consideration to the strategy behind content as well as its aftercare and ensure it works as hard as it can for the brand.

With time, effort and consistency in the approach, content will find its place with the right audience, help raise brand perception and generate the desired results.

Carrie Webb is head of content for The Bigger Boat – a creative digital marketing specialist business based in Yorkshire.

C-Suite execs urged to step up to B2B marketing plate

Even in the age of virtual reality activations, social video and mobile apps, the most effective media format for branded business content remains the good, old-fashioned ‘opinion piece’.

That’s the view of Michael Feeley, Founder of Feels Like Content, who previously spent the five years working as a consultant journalist with marketing media brand The Drum, advising hundreds of marketing agency clients on their content marketing output.

Feeley says that while there he was surprised to find that, on average, it was opinion pieces, above all other content types, which generated most readers, most engagement, and most click-throughs.

He said: “My experience was that a well-written opinion piece would often outperform all other branded content types online – even video, animations or infographics – by a factor of three-to-one.”

Feeley has now launched Feels Like Content to offer a range of content coaching and development services which he believes “plug the gaps” in the traditional agency/client relationship. The first of these services, the Thought-Leadership Sprint, is a 60-minute training and content package that teaches senior executives how to recognise and develop great ideas for opinion pieces.

Feeley explained: “For opinion pieces to be truly authentic and cut-through to your target audience, they need to originate from the ideas of your senior team, and be based on their sector experience, their real-world expertise and the conversations taking place inside your organisation right now.  

“The problem is that senior executives are busy people. Ask the average over-worked sales or IT director to write produce an article on the latest industry trends at short notice and their immediate response is likely to be unsuitable for publication! However, it’s a big mistake for C-suite executives to view content marketing as ‘something other people do’, so I want to help shift that mindset wherever I can.”

Feeley claims that during the 60-minute group session (and subsequent 1-2-1s with participants) he can convince senior execs to become “enthusiastic content creators” and, using a unique ‘5 magic questions’ approach, show them how to develop thought-leadership articles easily that deliver genuine ROI. Each participant then develops their first opinion piece in collaboration with a professional journalist to kick-start their journey as industry commentators.

Feeley said: “The vision is to make content marketing make less about automation and being on the latest hot social platform without really knowing why, and more about reconnecting your content with the expertise inside your organisation.”

Feels Like Content is currently trialling the Thought-Leadership Sprint with selected organisations in Scotland and will formally launch the training and content development package across the UK from June 2019.

Blog

FORUM INSIGHT: Make your company blog work harder

There’s no sadder sight than a neglected company blog.

The chances are you’ve invested a fair bit of money in your website, which is probably the main channel through which to present your company to potential and existing customers outside of face-to-face meetings.

And if that’s the case, you’ve probably spent a fair bit of time setting up social media channels, and have maybe even paid someone to manage those for you.

First impressions last and your blog is the perfect tool with which to keep those channels fed and your website looking fresh and up to date.

But like New Year resolutions and Arsenal FC post-Christmas, it’s very easy to lose momentum after those initial earnest posts.

The main consideration when trying to keep a company blog updated is time, or the lack of it. Quickly followed by the need for inspiration. Both are easily addressed.

If you’re already paying someone to manage your social media, speak to them about taking on blog duties too. If you’re using an external creative agency the chances are they will be able to help too.

Internal solutions are also easily happened by. That new marketing intern is probably desperate to get his or her name up in lights and should be eager to prove their worth through blogging duties. Failing that, ask around – offices are often full of hidden talents waiting to be released.

Once you have the resource, it’s time to think about the content. The task of conjuring up appropriate subject matter can be a little intimidating, but it needn’t be.

A good place to start is drilling down into your product line – what do you sell? How were those products created? Look at mini FAQs, staff profiles, product announcements and commentary on industry news that affect your business. Does BREXIT have implications in your market? Tell your audience why.

To keep organised, draw up a simple content calendar, containing subjects, publication dates and responsibilities to keep things on track.

And the more content you post, the better it is for SEO too. Search engines will see that your site is being maintained and kept fresh, and that will score you brownie points against competitors in the rankings wars.

Plus, as alluded to earlier, the great thing about blog content is that it will feed your social media channels, which can also become neglected quite quickly. Each blog you post should be shared on LinkedIn – via employee profiles and your company’s own page – Twitter and Facebook.

All all three platforms you can then increase your reach if you pay to ‘boost’ posts to reach specific demographics. But more on that anon.

So, brush those cobwebs off your CMS and start posting – the world of content marketing awaits…

Mapp

Industry Spotlight: Say hello to Mapp

Mapp is one of the largest independent digital marketing technology companies in the world.

Built by marketers for marketers, Mapp provides a comprehensive family of software and customer-centric services, including a sophisticated data management platform; tools that optimise email, mobile, app, social and web marketing; and campaign management and strategy consulting.

Mapp has more than 3,000 customers including Puma, PepsiCo, KFC, PacSun, Thomas Cook, Deutsche Telekom, Bon Prix, Cnet, Xerox, TUIfly, Lloyds Banking Group, TSB Bank, and Deutsche Bank.

Guest Blog, Catherine Spencer: The real problem with content marketing…

‘Content’ as a word has seemingly got itself a bad name and it’s starting to cause a real problem for our industry – or so a number of recent articles would have it. It is a vague term that’s entered our marketing lexicon but, love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. Content marketing itself is not the problem, it’s the fact that most content has little to no impact on its target audience and really, it’s helping no one. We just get overwhelmed with clutter.

Take a look at any major UK company’s blog and you’ll see that most of the “content” they’re churning out doesn’t do the following:

  • Teach visitors something new or useful;
  • Give away handy resources for free (such as templates, cheat sheets and how-to-guides);
  • Inspire their visitors;
  • Clearly and concisely answer the question implied by the title.

The ‘Definition Problem’

One of the quirks of this industry is that we love coming up with complicated or vague words to describe what we do – and often they stick a little too strongly.

Remember when “selfie” became the Oxford Dictionary word of 2013 and we collectively went mad over how our country was going to the dogs? Well the unfortunate bystanders in the marketing industry mightn’t like it, but new words like “native advertising” and “content marketing” have quickly become the new normal.

Just by looking at Google search trends, it is clear that ‘content marketing’ has become widely accepted within the industry above ‘marketing communications’ since 2004.

 

equimedia-image-1

The ‘Practicality Problem’

While it is agreed that “content marketing” fits under the definition of “marketing communications”, referring to web content as “Marketing Communications” is tricky when working day-to-day in the ad industry. Actually, content marketing is just a small part of the overall marketing communications strategy.

When you’re working for global brands, you’ll find referring to a blog post as “marketing communications” will create more confusion than it’s worth. Confusion costs time and money in our industry and it goes back to the definitions problem – you might not like it, but the easiest way to be on the same page is to use the same language.

The ‘Content Problem’

Whilst most content indeed fails, it doesn’t mean content marketing itself is the problem. It means the people who’ve made the content maybe.

We’re not here to defend crappy content. But content marketing done right has tremendous value, there’s a reason it’s so big! It just needs to be matched with relevance.

To succeed with content, marketers need to develop content around a brilliant idea, focus on overwhelming the target audience with value, amplify the message by sharing the content with the right people, and finally ask for (and listen to) audience feedback.

Are we using the wrong word to describe content marketing? Maybe.

But let’s not forget the bigger picture: we should be focusing on value, not semantics. Whatever the buzzword might be that describes how we’re doing it, we really just need to get on and do it.

 

Catherine is a senior content, PR & social executive at equimedia. She joined equimedia in 2015, previously having worked in-house for a large charity. Today, Catherine manages marketing campaigns for a number of our large charity clients, as well as retail and insurance, from planning and production right through to delivery.