Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Five Point Checklist to Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy in 2017

By Patricia Jacoby
Publications Editor
Elisha Gist
Marketing Program Manager
Frost & Sullivan

Creating compelling content that performs is an essential requirement for the modern marketing leader. Content marketing, or creating and providing useful content to customers with the end goal of a profitable return, will be most successful if you think through your team’s strategy first and adhere to the following checklist and best practices: 

#1: Target Your Best Prospects First 

The first best practice for effective content marketing is to identify and target your best prospects. This should include your best potential customers as well as your best current customers, as generally 80% of future revenue comes from 20% of existing customers. To identify your best prospects, create a customer persona, or semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Personas are based on market research and information about current customers. It’s also important to include demographics and behavior patterns as well as drivers and motivations when creating your customer persona. When putting together your content marketing strategy, focus on these two groups—your best current and best potential customers—first. 

#2: Consider Your Source

When creating your content, consider the author and voice carefully. Make sure your content marketing comes from a credible, authoritative source. It is usually best to have an expert or analyst who can communicate from a vantage point of industry expertise. Ideally your content will also be derived from well-respected research in the marketplace. Accept the fact that perception can progress or hinder the message: content written by a vendor, about the vendor and delivered by that vendor, will be viewed as corporate collateral, not credible research. Utilizing a third-party who has evaluated your product or service or who is recognized in the industry is a great way to present outside validation of your brand’s value in the marketplace. This third-party content could be in the form of a video, white paper, customer case study or over a dozen formats you may choose as your content delivery vehicle.

#3: Make Sure You Create Compelling, Customer-Centric Content

Content is no longer just the written word. The vessel you choose to contain that content is equally as important. Infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than other any other type of content, and companies using video enjoy 41% more web traffic from search than non-video users. Knowing these statistics, make sure your team’s content is customer-centric and deliver it in a format that will appeal to your target market. For instance, a mix of video, infographics and blogs will diversify your channels and can offer reuse or repurposing of older assets. Consider delivering traditional content such as whitepapers or executive interviews in snackable 30-90 second videos or digital eBooks: your buyers are going to look for these assets and you will capture and delight them with a more modern presentation. 

Content marketing should be leveraged to keep your visitors on your website longer and a balanced combination of content marketing formats can help visitors continue to engage. Consider your audience’s generation as well as their profession and title when selecting your marketing channels and content formats. A multichannel digital approach would be appropriate for some, while more traditional formats such as direct mail might work better for others. The goal of your content marketing is to give your customer the data, information or context they need. Ideally the stories you tell or the information you share will address your customer or potential customer’s pain points and help them solve a problem. 

Utilizing the user personas you’ve developed for your ideal customer, share value added content that will resonate with your buyer. Position your company as a thought leader and only if relevant and additive, work in customer case stories which will provide prospects insights on your company’s client roster and your company’s success stories. Content can be proactive and reactive. Create a library of case studies by vertical to make that instant connection to your audience. Dedicate a section of your website to this content and label it appropriately ‘Customer Case Studies,’ ‘Our Work,’ ‘Success Stories.’ Embrace the idea of repurposing, reusing and recycling to create content that's both timely and lasting. 

Learn to support your story with data: use surveys and brief Q&As to collect data and encourage engagement along the way. Be sure to link responses to internal sales and marketing channels by tying their answers to content or even products that match their needs. Finally, for account based marketing opportunities, consider leveraging your current or potential customer’s trigger events, such as a merger or new product in the marketplace and use those events to create relevant, targeted and timely content. 

#4: Distribution is Key 

When it comes to distributing your content, do so intelligently. Before any content is presented to your audience, make sure your team has a distribution plan and appropriate marketing mechanisms in place. Remember, the goal is to create useful content that brings in leads. 

For B2B content, consider distributing via LinkedIn and targeted industry websites and newsletters. For B2C content marketing, social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and even Instagram are channels that should be explored and tested. A social media channel’s popularity can be largely generational, so having your customer personas mapped will help you identify the best social avenues to engage with prospects and customers. “A social media channel’s popularity can be largely generational, so having your customer personas mapped will help you identify the best social avenues to engage with prospects and customers.” 

Investigate avenues that are available to your organization for recycling, repurposing and reusing content: a digital newsletter can be a great way to repackage and extend the shelf life of content that might be buried on your website. For a content marketing campaign to succeed, it should be delivered in a mix of formats and channels to align to the myriad of different customer personas a company may be targeting. 

#5: Always Track, Measure and Drive 

Although it’s very important to track and measure your content marketing efforts, many marketing teams find this to be a significant challenge. Prior to launching any campaign, identify exactly what (and how) you are going to track and then begin measuring what is working—or not. You’ll begin to understand what channels and formats are delivering the results you crave— and you can kick the under performing channels (or formats) to the curb. 

Once you have started your content marketing campaign, the first thing you’ll want to track is unique visits. These will provide a standard measure of how many people have viewed your content within a specified time frame. The next thing you’ll want to measure is page views. High page view and unique visitor metrics generally mean that your audience is very engaged and returning regularly to view your content. Another metric to capture is your conversion rate, specifically your micro conversions and macro conversions. A micro conversion is any activity that the user takes towards your primary conversion goal, such as filling out a lead capture form when downloading a white paper. These customers may not have purchased a product yet, but a measureable journey has begun. Macro conversions are any user completing your ultimate conversion goal. These conversion goals vary but generally are a user purchasing from your organization. 

You’ll also begin to learn what other data you need to drive results: beyond user name, company name and title, what other data is necessary for you to qualify leads? Once you’ve started asking—and answering that question— you are ready to implement a lead scoring system so both marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) have a clear destination through a lead nurturing program or even a first touch by the sales team.