In today’s world, the importance of content marketing cannot be understated. Content marketing has grown into an integral component of digital marketing strategies across all industries and organizations. As online interactivity has skyrocketed, and the use of social media and digital tools has grown exponentially, the ability for our customers to self-learn and self-direct has become the norm. Most sources cite that roughly 70% of all buying decisions are made before conversing with a salesperson.
Many buying decisions are fueled by customers’ online experiences and their ability to learn, understand, and engage with products, services, and organizations on their own. Not only does content drive this engagement, but it also plays a key role in customers’ perceived reputation of your organization (which also determines whether they will reach out to you or your competitor).
Given the importance of content to drive interactivity, enhance lead nurturing, and build brand trust, it’s important to ensure content marketing is front-of-mind as you develop your demand generation strategies. To help simplify the process, we’ve broken down planning into the 5 Ws (why, who, when, where, and what). As always, we start with “why” because we always need to begin with our purpose in mind.
Before diving too deep into your content marketing strategy, ask yourself these questions: Have we defined our key marketing goals and objectives for the coming quarter/year? How does content fit into our overall strategy? What kinds of content have we created in the past, and how has it performed? Where are our greatest opportunities to enhance our content marketing? Admittedly, these are not always easy questions to answer, but it’s important to start with your “why” before developing any strategies and plans.
Once you’ve defined your greater marketing goals and objectives, review how content marketing fits into that plan. Are you looking to increase lead generation? Are you beefing up your lead nurturing efforts? Are you developing or enhancing your search engine marketing? Do you need to increase speed-to-lead and/or increase conversions? Do your sales people need more qualified leads? Are you hoping to enhance and unify your customer’s online experience?
As you move through the 5 Ws, your answers to the above questions will help to identify your key audiences and provide more clarity on the types of content and messaging needed.
With goals and objectives clearly documented, it’s time to define your target audiences. If you already have buyer personas, great! If not, now is the time to create them. For content marketing to work, it needs to be written in alignment with the needs, questions, and frustrations of your customers throughout their buying journey. In order to ensure you have the right content and messaging, we first need to understand the drivers and challenges of those buyers.
If you’re just getting started with buyer persona development, or you’re looking to enhance or adapt the ones you’ve already built, start with your data. Review your website analytics to uncover who is visiting your website, interacting with high-value pages, and interacting on conversion pages. Analyze SEO and SEM data to see which types of keywords and messages are resonating with specific audience members. Dive into your CRM and attribution data to better understand your key targets. Look at engagement across your social networks to see which audience members are most engaged.
You should also run interviews across your organization with people that know your customers — sales, customer service and support, product management, analytics marketing, etc. — to provide a clear picture of your key audiences and their needs, wants, and desires. Once you’ve defined your top 3-5 key personas, you can use that insight to define demographic and psychographic profiles along with pain points and opportunities, which will help to drive your messaging.
Now that you know “who” needs to be reached with your content marketing, it’s time to define “when” they need to receive it. Delineating your buyers’ journey is critical to defining the right types of content and messaging that will have the greatest impact. Although we know the buying journey is far from linear, it is still crucial to understand the various phases from an experiential, informational, and emotional standpoint.
When crafting your buyer’s journey, consider not only the phases of their decisioning, but also the touchpoints they have with your organization and the people, processes, and technologies that empower those experiences. Although not every detail will be pertinent to your content marketing strategy, they will become important as you define your overall approach to customer experience management. For content marketing purposes, you’ll want to define the questions, concerns, emotions, and drivers for your buyers at each stage of their journey. These change considerably throughout the buying process, and you’ll want to ensure you have content needed by your customers throughout.
Similarly, now is the time to define when your customers will consume content. As we know, this process is not linear. It can bounce from one stage to another, skip steps, or stall. What’s important is that your audience has access to the right content when they need it. To do this, ensure you’re using analytics and marketing technologies to identify where your audience is throughout their journey, and offer them content that matches their needs at the time. Your lead nurturing programs should be nimble and personalized to ensure content is delivered based on buying signals and online engagement. There are also content marketing hub technologies, such as Uberflip, that are designed to offer your buyers a chance to self-consume content when and where they are ready.
Where your content lives, be it actual location (blog, content hub, resource page) or content type (video, article, podcast, white paper, etc.) will depend on a number of factors. However, one thing is certain. Your content should live wherever and however your audience engages.
As you build your customer’s journey board, be sure to include every digital touchpoint. Analyze how your customers are consuming content today and which ones lead to the greatest conversions. Are your buyers more inclined to read an article or watch a video? Does this change depending on their current stage in the process? Do they engage on social media? Do they visit your website for thought-leadership, product information, and/or customer support? What content types seem to drive the most engagement?
As you’re thinking about these questions, look at your data for answers. What story does your buyer’s digital body language tell? Which types of content are advancing them to the next stage of their journey? Which ones are leading to the most conversions? Use this information to create content that will engage in the places your customers consume.
At this point, you’ve documented your goals, defined your personas, built your journeys, and identified the types of content that best resonate with your audience. Now you need to determine what content you need to develop or repurpose. The good news is that you’ve already done the heavy lifting.
Armed with your personas and journeys, you can start to define the key messages and content required to answer your customers’ questions, alleviate their concerns, and prompt them into the next stage of their journey. This is typically done by mapping buyers’ needs across their customer lifecycle. At this stage, you’ll start to define the content required at each pivotal point in their experience with your brand.
Similarly, you’ll need to conduct an audit of your current content. More than just an inventory, this analysis should map each piece of content to the proper messaging needed across these various stages and personas. At the end of this exercise, you’ll have the ability to identify gaps in your content, outdated content that needs updating, and opportunities to use old content in new ways.
While you’re at it, start to give thought to the organization of your content. How will you present this information to your customers on your website or hub? What taxonomy structure will be best received? What tags, categories, and filters are required to help customers find what they need quickly? How can content be grouped so users can continue to binge when they are highly engaged? Answering these questions will ultimately enhance your customer’s content experience.
You’re well on your way to building a rock solid content marketing strategy. Remember, as you continue to develop new content, be sure to continually analyze what is working and what is not. By constantly measuring the effectiveness of your content (both engagement and impact), you’ll be able to enhance your targeting and messaging in the future.