If you haven’t heard the term “content marketing” before right now, you may be living under a rock. Kidding. Not really kidding. Organizations of all sizes are exploring content marketing and determining how they can incorporate strategic content into their overall plans. Let’s back up a step. What is content marketing?
Content marketing refers to a type of marketing that involves the development, creation and distribution of original materials to target audiences or customers. These materials–or content–can refer to videos, blog posts, social media posts, webinars, white papers and a wide range of other pieces of information. Content does not always have to clearly and explicitly promote an organization’s products or services, but rather is intended to build brand familiarity and encourage interest in the organization. Incorporating effective, valuable and awesome content into a digital marketing strategy can yield some seriously mind-blowing results for just about any organization.
If you’ve been developing content and pushing it out there for your audiences, but aren’t seeing the results you hoped for, you may be missing a few pieces of fundamental criteria. This post will focus on some content basics to help you ensure your content isn’t coming up short. So, what really makes a great piece of content? Here are some good starting points.
Content should be relevant and timely
Are you interested in reading a white paper or watching a YouTube video from 2003 on a topic that is not relevant to you, your business or your personal interests and goals? Your customers aren’t either.
Strive to understand the topics that are relevant to your target audiences and develop your content plans around that understanding. Delivering content to your customers that closely aligns with their preferences, habits and interests is a great way to show them you truly care about adding value to their professional (or personal) lives. It’s also a great way to ensure they can’t pass by your content without taking a second look. Can you develop an educational video for your company’s YouTube channel? How about an infographic that truly informs customers of important statistics? Focus on your customers’ interests rather than on self-promotion, and you are sure to see results.
The same is true for timeliness. Aim to create content that is relevant to the current trends happening within your industry to show your customers you are paying attention and innovating alongside your competitors and other companies in the marketplace. Leave the Kardashians out of it (please), but really strive to find that balance between timeliness and longevity. You want your audience to find your content interesting and appealing in the moment, but you also want to develop your content with a longer lifespan in mind, as well. This will help you avoid spiraling into a cycle of constant content creation.
Content should be appealing to your target audiences or customers
What came first: The content or the customer? The answer is always “the customer.”
If you launch into content creation without first fully understanding what appeals to your customers and target audience personas, you are almost guaranteed to miss the mark. What types of content resonate most with your customers? What kind of information are they looking for online? What social media platforms do they leverage most to gather information? Do they even read white papers? You should answer these questions–among others–before developing a single piece of content. Tailor your content to your customers, rather than expecting them to adapt and accept whatever it is you are pushing out. If your audience hates white papers and you begin churning out white papers, well, we don’t even want to go there….
Ideally, you want your content to be a perfect balance of the right kind of information, in the proper format, delivered at the correct time on the most effective channel or platform to ensure your customers are seeing and engaging with it. How can you make those decisions without first understanding what appeals to your audience? Upfront research and understanding of the target personas you are trying to reach will go a long way in ensuring your content is successful. If your content is clearly meant to benefit your audiences rather than your own organization, they are going to recognize that right away.
Content should grab attention
When it comes to content consumption, grabbing your audience’s attention is half the battle. Leverage catchy subject lines and headlines and eye-catching graphics and images wherever you can, and don’t forget about optimizing your content so it appears in search engine results. Paid post boosting and advertising on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is another way to increase the reach and visibility of your content once it’s created and ready to be distributed.
You’ve worked hard on developing awesome content that’s going to make an impact for your business, so make sure it grabs attention and is seen by your target audience. Invisible content doesn’t help your customers (and it definitely doesn’t help your business, either!).
Content should be developed with the end goal in mind
Don’t just develop content to fill up empty space on your organization’s blog, website or social media accounts. Instead, develop content with the end goal in mind. The goal should be established first. The plan for content development and distribution should be established second.
For example, let’s say you work for a local landscaping company that provides landscaping services to residents and commercial building owners in your area. Pretend that your organization has set a goal for the first quarter of the year to further establish your company as a leading, credible and well-known organization that can be trusted to provide top-notch landscaping services and advice to people in the area. How can you leverage content as a tool to help you meet this goal?
Perhaps your team begins blogging about easy landscaping tips people can leverage on their own. Maybe your organization develops a series of ebooks that website visitors can download for free with educational information on how they can improve their landscapes without professional help. Maybe you start a #FAQFriday campaign on Twitter to distribute a helpful landscaping-related tip to your followers on a weekly basis. You get the picture! No matter what the format, all three of these strategies are showing potential customers that you know what you are talking about and further convince them that your landscaping services can be relied on.
Whatever your situation, it’s important to develop and distribute content with the end goal in mind. Refer back to your goal throughout the entire content process to ensure your efforts are aligning with what you are looking to achieve. Make sure your content is helping you inch closer to achieving your goal, and make sure you are able to track your progress and success. In our scenario above, for example, analyzing traffic to your blog, looking at collateral downloads and form fills or measuring engagement with your weekly Twitter posts can help you determine whether or not you are getting closer to your goal of establishing your brand as a credible voice in the landscaping community. If you are achieving this goal, you should (hopefully) see a spike in requests for consultations and lawn care service appointments! Yay!
Content should encourage audience action
We know what you’re thinking…That you should get to creating content ASAP because everyone else is. It’s the cool thing to do. That’s all that matters. Unfortunately, we don’t recommend this approach.
Your content should encourage audience action, whether that be in the form of a tradition call-to-action (CTA)–such as an online form fill, click or download–or a more abstract takeaway or feeling you want your target audience members to feel as a result of seeing your content. Your content should encourage them (whether directly or indirectly) to do something: Continue researching solutions to their problems. Dig deeper into your website. Provide you with their email address to download a white paper on your website. Dance. Something.
You want to develop content that inspires your target buyer personas to take a predictable action that you can track. Content is valuable at every stage of the buyer’s journey, but only if it prompts your potential customers to react and move in the direction you want them to. Don’t just push out content without considering its impact and purpose within your overall strategy.
Content should be clear and easy to understand
This one is relatively simple. For content to be effective, your audience needs to be able to fully understand it. Bottom line.
Using overly-technical terms, jargon or run-on sentences in your content can make it difficult to digest and understand. It can also prompt your target persona to stop consuming your content halfway through, before they’ve necessarily reached the main message or point of that piece of content. That would be bad.
We’re not suggesting you never use technical terminology or complex concepts in your content. If your audience is a group of aerospace engineers, as a matter of fact, that might be appropriate! Our point is: Make sure you understand your customers’ level of understanding of the topics your content is covering and what their content turn-on and turn-offs are. Whatever you have to do to make sure the message is clear and understandable, we urge you to do it. There’s no point in sending a message via a piece of content if the message is not received, right?
Content should be appropriate for the chosen distribution channel
Last, but certainly not least! Your content should be appropriate for the distribution channel you plan to use to deliver it to your target audiences. Understand the best practices, requirements and interface of the distribution channel you are planning to use, and be sure to develop your content with these key criteria in mind.
You wouldn’t develop a 35-minute video tutorial for a Twitter post. We hope you wouldn’t, at least. Something like this might be a very valuable piece of content for your organization’s YouTube channel, however. Figure out what types of content will help you reach your company’s goals and figure out where those pieces of content fit best for distribution. Videos, for example, are great for YouTube. Ebooks and white papers might be best suited for download directly from your website or an email. Photos are perfect for Instagram. You know where this is going.
There’s a wide range of content types, as well as distribution platforms for those content types. Making sure those two pieces align will be a key component to ensuring your audiences have an enjoyable content experience.
At D. Cohn Communications, we love content. We want you to love it, too! Don’t fear the content! Follow these tips to increase your chances of content marketing success. As always, we’re here to help if you need further assistance. Just let us know.