Current Marketing Trends: Successful Content Marketing Starts with Strategy

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In September, the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs shared a sneak peak of their 2015 Content Marketing Benchmark research report which will be released this month. Over 5,000 marketers participated from 109 countries and 25 industries.

The single most important finding in this year’s study was seemingly the most obvious: companies that were rated as effective content marketers were five times more likely to have and follow a documented strategy than those rated as ineffective content marketers.

Here are the stats:

  • Among companies rated as effective, 97% report having defined content marketing strategies and 54% have those strategies documented
  • Among companies rated as ineffective, 56% have a strategy, but only 11% have it documented

Respondents rated in-person events, webinars and video as their most effective content marketing tactics and reported their largest gaps with blogging, social media, and research.

Current marketing trends suggest that content marketing is an increasingly important component of the marketing mix. Various studies have reported that between 65-70% of the B2B purchase decision is made based on online research conducted before the prospect ever engages with your company. For B2C purchases, that number is over 80%. Your online content needs to be both visible to your target customers and compelling if you hope to be in the consideration set.

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With the importance of content marketing in today’s buying process, why are so many companies still operating without a documented strategy? One reason is organizational. Many companies have not appointed a content marketing lead. Director of Content Marketing is one of the hottest jobs in the field these days; however, there is a lack of candidates with experience in developing and executing content marketing strategy, marketing that content and measuring results.

Content Marketing Strategy Fundamentals
One reason some companies may have put off creating a documented content strategy is that the literature on the topic is somewhat overwhelming. Should greater focus be placed on keyword stuffing, link-building or guest blogging? The answer is none of the above. Your top focus should be on creating an ongoing stream of engaging and relevant content that addresses your target audience’s key concerns and positions your business as a useful resource. Below are some fundamentals for developing your content marketing strategy:

1. Know Your Audience. Every business needs to zero in on 2-3 key customer personas. These should be as specific as possible in order drive a level of content personalization that will be engaging and on the mark. For instance, defining your target as males age 35-55 with household income over $150K isn’t nearly as useful as defining your persona as Jeff, a busy 43 year old software sales rep with a wife who teaches school, three children, and a house outside Boston who reads Wired Magazine and enjoys sailing, tennis and coaching his kids’ soccer teams.

2. Be a Useful Resource. This means you need to select topics that address key pain points your personas are feeling and provide good advice on how to solve them. You content shouldn’t sell; it should offer insights and advice. It should also include calls to action that encourage the reader to take the next step in engaging with your company.

3. Make your content engaging and shareable. When you meet people at a cocktail party, you likely attempt to be witty and amusing. It’s no different online. Your content may be the first impression you give to a prospective buyer. It should position your company as a bright voice in a potentially crowded field offering helpful ideas in language your personas can relate to. Your content should be offered in a variety of formats; blogs, articles, video, webinar, infographics, etc. to address differences in the way individuals prefer to digest information.

4. Create Content for Each Stage of the Sales Funnel. Top of funnel content is about the pain-point. It addresses the question of “Why?” and is aimed at encouraging target customers to consider taking action. This content is setting up the issue or problem your target needs to address and associating your brand with a solution. Middle funnel content addresses the question “Why You?” It is about differentiating your company and demonstrating the superior approach you provide in addressing the pain-point. Finally, bottom of the funnel content addresses the question “Why Now?” It provides the rationale for investing today rather than putting off the decision. A successful content strategy needs to include content and associated success metrics for all three stages.

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5. Market your content to both internal and external audiences. Most companies are successful at internally focused content marketing. They make relevant content available on their websites and deliver it to customers and prospects via internal email and newsletter lists. Some go the next step by ensuring that their content is easily shareable and posting it to all their social media sites. Less have mastered the art of marketing to external audiences. This requires research into trade associations, trusted third parties, guest blog sites, publishers, and influencers where the content can be shared and potentially endorsed. A successful content strategy includes not just content creation, but marketing of content across a variety of internally and externally focused platforms.

6. Measure, adjust, optimize. Your content strategy should be built around goals. These should be less about the quantity of pieces created and more about the quality of content created and the level of interaction. Views, downloads, and shares are all useful metrics. Ideally, you can create metrics that also relate to lead generation, opportunity creation and closed sales.

How to Use this Information
Need help creating or refining your content marketing strategy? Take the first step and make it someone’s job to own content marketing within your organization. Then take the next step and call Webolutions. We help clients successfully develop and market content every day and set up detailed tracking tools to measure success. For more information on how we can help you refine your content marketing strategy, call 303-300-2640.

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