The word ‘content’ has become a bit of a buzzword amongst online communities and commentators over the last few years; forming the basis for new job role disciplines, shifting online users’ consumption behaviour and changing the shape of business’ digital presence and approaches.
While marketers have long sought to sculpt and distribute information about their brands to swing into consumer favour, content marketing is a more hands-on approach and considerably more involved. But what does this phrase actually mean, what type of organisations can benefit from it and how does it work? Let the Skein team explain…
Content Marketing: A Definition
Content marketing is defined by the CMI (Content Marketing Institute; yep, it has its own specialist body!) as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Rather than taking a traditional sales approach that requires continual pitching and incentives to customers, content marketing instead provides continued, relevant and interesting related content to help inform, educate and interest the target audience.
Today, content marketing is most commonly seen used by businesses with a large online presence through the publication of blogs, news articles, how-to guides, eBooks, videos, podcasts and white papers. While content in this form may not directly refer to a brand’s products or services, it should be appropriate to the theme of the business as well as in line with its values.
Keeping Content Relevant
In order to ensure that the content being produced as part of a content marketing strategy is appropriate, it should be relevant to and ideally tailored for the brand’s target audience. This may vary by product/service but should be as bespoke as possible depending on who is going to read/consume it and what they are likely to find of benefit. For example, a computing company may find that the content they use to market a ‘starter’ laptop may fit best with older people or those unfamiliar with modern tech functions (an article on ‘how to browse the web’ or a video on ‘how to set up your computer for voice recognition’) but the content for a high-powered fast-processor laptop better suited to an early adopter tech-reliant audience (a podcast on developing tech theory or how-to articles for constructing detailed code).
If content is not considered interesting or relevant to the target audience, they will not be receptive to the consumption of it and it is likely to go ignored; wasting time, effort and money for the business. While in theory this may attract another, unintended, audience for the brand, this is unlikely – particularly when combined with adequate marketing strategies already tailored to the particular audience segment.
All businesses should tailor their sales and marketing activity (content marketing or otherwise) toward their target audience through the use of audience personas. These can be created and understood with the help of a marketing agency to identify relevant demographics, purchase behaviour and online usage behaviour.
Forming and working from a comprehensive content marketing strategy is the most effective way to find success with this approach. At the core of all content being created should be a ‘why’ – why is it being created, who for and what will it achieve for those consuming it?
The CMI report that their members who have a documented and thorough content marketing strategy are more likely to consider themselves effective at content marketing, feel less challenged in its application and are able to justify spending a higher percentage of budget and time on the production of it – all vast benefits for those searching for success.
While there is no definitive template for the creation of a content marketing strategy, it should include as a minimum:
- A business case to justify the money, time and resources to be spent on content marketing
- A business plan covering the goals, opportunities, challenges and value expected to arise from a content marketing approach
- Audience personas to describe the target audience and segment them into categories to be reached and communicated with through varying content types and channels
- Content maps to clearly demonstrate how and when content will be interacted with by consumers at different stages of the marketing funnel through their purchase journey and customer lifespan
- A brand story to explain what messaging will be communicated and how, in order to keep all content consistent in its branding and easily recognisable as from the brand producing and distributing it
- A channel plan to map out what content will be produced and through which channels it will be distributed.
Strategising the use of content in this way allows it to be maximised in its value and carefully targeted to ensure it reaches who it needs to, how it needs to and in the form it needs to in order to encourage conversion to action.
Presenting Content As Entertainment
While content marketing often frequently refers primarily to the creation of content for educational and informational purposes, it too can be presented as entertainment provided it remains related to the theme or sector.
The gamification of content can provide opportunities to appeal to an audience who wouldn’t otherwise interact with a brand, as well as capture the attention of those who otherwise aren’t necessarily displaying sufficient interest to constitute engagement. However, when presenting content purely for entertainment purposes it must remain appropriate to the audience the business intends to target and should still convey the benefits of the brand in question wherever possible. This can be a tricky balance to walk for marketers but when done well, can prove hugely successful.
Engagement vs Conversion Analytics
Where the content being produced as part of a content marketing plan is hosted on the organisation’s own website or on a platform with sufficient business analytics, the engagement and conversion rates of the content can be monitored.
The engagement rate of a piece of content refers to the amount of times a consumer actually takes an action from or engages with it online; for example, a like on a blog post, a comment on a Facebook post, sharing a news article with someone else, or a subscribe on a YouTube channel. All of these indicate that a consumer has viewed the content and found it of enough benefit to interact with (even if that interaction is a negative comment or share, it has still captured their imagination enough to take the time to react).
The conversion rate on a piece of content refers to the amount of times the user or consumer takes the brand’s desired action after viewing/reading it; for example, buying an item after seeing it on an ad, requesting more info after reading an informational piece or signing up to a subsequent title after working through an eBook. Whilst it’s often assumed that a ‘conversion’ means the completion of a sale, this isn’t always the case – it can be any action desired by the brand, and pushing a sale isn’t always appropriate.
Of course, the ultimate content marketing created well and pitched right will have a high engagement rate and a high conversion rate as it will reach the right audience at the right time in the right format through the right channel. These statistics change on a daily (if not hourly) basis and can be monitored and analysed through various analysis tools online both on and off of the brand’s own digital domains. Businesses need to ensure that they’re not just measuring the rates of content success regularly but also that they understand how best to continue the improvement of these rates and to produce new content to help do this. This often requires the intervention of specialists who are able to judge the best ways to nurture rates upward and to identify new content opportunities to do so as they arise.
Optimising Content to Capture Web Searches (SEO)
All content online is filed and ranked by search engines and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the practice of optimising such content to best meet with the algorithm’s programming requirements so that it’s able to understand what it’s about, who it’s for and the quality of it. Content created with SEO parameters in mind will be ranked higher up SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) than other.
While brands need to ensure that every aspect of their website is created with SEO in mind, there are some basic actions they can take to help improve their chances of competitive advantage in search result rankings. One of these is the use of relevant keywords and terms to match search queries. Keywords and terms appropriate to written content can be found through various research terms online and compared with the search queries being made by the target audience of an organisation (be they potential or existing customers). However, it is imperative that the content is of high enough quality that the keywords integrate into the piece organically and make sense in good English – otherwise the search engine will identify the inappropriateness of their usage and rank the content further down.
It is not just written content that can be optimised for SEO purposes. Video content can be made accessible through the use of subtitles, explanatory contextual captions, the use of relevant thumbnails and appropriate keyword usage in the title tag. Images should be titled appropriately and be as quick to load as possible, and podcasts should be filed publicly and on as many free streaming services as possible.
The exact requirements of search engines’ algorithms for high ranking on SERPs is updated almost daily and so SEO is an ever-changing practice. SEO specialists are employed as full-time experts in this field to allow businesses to remain on top of the latest developments in the field and to update and amend their content as required in order to meet the relevant requirements.
Content as a Marketing Funnel Strategy
Where a proper marketing funnel has been mapped out and is being used, content marketing can be implemented throughout as a tool to nurture leads through to conversion. The type of content to best encourage movement through the stages will vary reliant on the consumer maturity stage and their needs at each level. Basic awareness content will work well to help raise an organisation’s profile at the beginning of the marketing funnel with heavier, more educational and niche content further along the process.
All content will fit into a marketing funnel at some point and the mapping of this along with the effective analysis of its engagement and conversion rates will all help fit the overall marketing strategy.
Content as Lead Magnets
Lead magnets are a free item or service in exchange for contact details or other information – and online content constitutes a fantastic one. Such content usually comes in the form of eBooks, white papers, newsletters or a trial subscription but also includes exclusive podcasts, videos and other content of perceived value (even though its free).
Such free content can be considered part of the first stage of the marketing funnel in order to drive sales leads in and attract potential new customers. Content types can be varied dependent on the audience being targeted and a perception of exclusivity can be built through time-constrained offers and limited runs. Where a piece of content does convert a customer to supply their details and is a successful lead magnet, more content can be used along the marketing funnel to nurture the lead further and, hopefully, eventually, supply a sale!
Getting Expert Help with Content Marketing
Content marketing is a fantastic marketing tool and can truly differentiate an organisation from its competitors in crowded marketplaces but it must be strategised well and managed cleverly in order to ensure it lands correctly and converts as desired. The Skein team work with in-depth content marketing plans and strategies daily to create brilliantly bold content that impresses every time. Get in touch with our team today to discuss how content opportunities could improve your lead generation and online conversion rates.