Content marketing is strongly associated with the Internet. Before the idea of web sites, no small businesses had ever heard about it. However, the history of content marketing dates back to the early 1700s to Benjamin Franklin himself. Back then, the Founding Father published what he called the Poor Man’s Almanac. While it was filled with crucial factoids, a calendar, poems, and aphorisms, the main goal was to promote his publishing business. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he could push his message on a large number of people as he was printing 10,000 copies back then.
A hundred years later, Johnson & Johnson published the Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment. It was a manual on how to use sterile surgical products sold by the company to doctors. Back then, mass production of surgical products was still a novel concept, and the company a platform to reach out to its target market. As doctors understood better how the products work, profits soared for the company.
Perhaps, the Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment–despite being a mouthful–laid down the foundation for what content marketing is today. In other words, content marketing is all about creating value. It solves a problem, answers a question, and share crucial information that your audience may find relevant.You could say that traditional advertising is aggressive, invasive, and disruptive. While content marketing is non-restrictive as it allows space for the audience to take a step back before making a choice. Click To Tweet
It Sounds A Lot Like a Glorified Term for Advertising, Right?
It’s easy to mistake content marketing with advertising. After all, they are the same dog wearing different clothes. But while they may share the same objective, the method used to achieve the goal is significantly different. They abide by different rules and use different parameters influencing the consumer’s behavior. You could say that traditional advertising is aggressive, invasive, and disruptive.
In contrast, content marketing is non-restrictive as it allows space for the audience to take a step back before making a choice.
To put it in another way: Take advertising as a one-night stand. It strings you along, and by the end of the day, the company wants to make a quick buck. You might allow yourself to play along, but it’s not your fault.
Now think of content marketing as that one friend who wants to build a relationship with you. They are not interested in a one-night stand. They are in for the long haul, and all you have to do is say yes.
Before anything else, let’s talk numbers.
According to the 2018 B2C Content Marketing Report, nearly 4 in 10 of the businesses surveyed use content marketing exclusively. Meanwhile, 36% are just starting to experiment with content marketing to drive traffic, leads, and conversions. And 49% of Business-to-Consumer marketers have outsourced their content creation needs to specialists.
Outsourcing is but the natural step considering that most organizations recognize their limitations. Lack of workforce and skills makes it almost impossible to produce consistent quality content. That was the challenge faced by 6 in 10 businesses in the UK, as found by the Zazzle Media research in 2017. Finally, more than 8 in 10 of organizations surveyed admitted to using content marketing as a strategy to enhance their services and goods.
Content marketing is also a sound strategy if you have a limited budget. Small businesses think that they have no money to spend for third-party content creators. This strategy delivers three times the returns on your investment compared to traditional advertising. You triple your number of leads and yet shell out 60% less compared to spending money on digital advertising. When you talk of conversion rates, content marketing is six times more effective compared to other advertising methods. And companies don’t play around.
If a company is going to invest in content marketing, they want their returns in terms of customer acquisition or lead generation. Only about 27% of companies want brand recognition out of their investment.
But how effective is content marketing to generate leads?
The report from content marketing platform Kapost showed that for every dollar you spend on your content marketing strategy, you generate three times the number of marketing. The report also concluded that content marketing is a more cost-effective way to drive traffic to your site compared to paid search.
If you are a mid-sized business, you will be cutting about a third of your spending while delivering more leads compared to paid search. For a larger-sized business, you will be spending 41% less with the same results.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you dismiss paid search altogether because both strategies don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Sound Strategy for Your Content Marketing Campaign
With content marketing, it’s not about driving traffic to your website. It’s counterproductive, as it generates a lot of noise, which contributes nothing to your bottom line. What you need is quality traffic — the kind that turns into leads and ultimately, conversion.
Now, if you are a small business with resources already stretched thin, you want to maximize your investment. You don’t have the luxury of spending too much on your content marketing campaign.
What you need is a solid strategy for getting the best most return for the least amount of cost possible. The problem is that content marketing is an umbrella term for all these sub-tools:
- Video content
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Surveys and questionnaires
- Webinars and podcasts
- Live Streaming
- Product guides and contents
- Frequently asked questions or FAQs
- Memes and GIFs
- How-To and DIY tutorials
- Contests and awards
- User-generated content
- Product demonstrations
As you can see, there are many ways to reach your audience. It’s enough to make heads spin for small businesses. You can’t possibly invest in each strategy because it’s the fastest way to lose all your money. Some organizations still don’t have a sound marketing plan for their content, which can be challenging.
As you can see in this chart, the most successful companies have a solid content marketing strategy. Meanwhile, the least successful ones haven’t even started crafting their plan yet.
Developing your content marketing strategy
There are ten essential questions you need to answer:
- Who is your target market, and how do they behave online?
- Where can you find your target market, and how can you reach them?
- What motivates your target audience, and how do they like to be contacted?
- What are your goals in implementing a content strategy?
- What is your core service or product that solves a customer’s problem?
- How do people perceive your company, and how do you want to be seen?
- Who are your main competitors, and what are they doing that is successful?
- How much do you spend to acquire one lead?
- How will your marketing strategy enhance or meet your business goals?
- How is your business unique compared with others, and how can you deliver this message to your potential customers?
Easy Steps to Craft Your Content Marketing Plan
1. Who are you? To introduce yourself to the market, you must first know who you are. That is not an existential question but a vital aspect of developing the right message. Who you are is your unique selling proposition. This is what makes you stand out from the rest in the field. Knowing your product and service is the first step to developing your content strategy.
2. Determine your goals. Your goals will help you identify the marketing channel you are going to exploit. Each content marketing strategy complements and enhances a business goal. For instance, SEO and blogging are two of the most effective ways for traffic-building. For brand recognition and customer engagement, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram are the perfect platforms. For webinars, product presentations, or vlogs, you can use YouTube. Instead of trying to rack your brain for the right content marketing strategy, establish your goal first, then decide.
3. Be Transparent About Your Brand Messaging. Customers tend to do business with a brand they trust. A study by Label Insight revealed that about 40% of customers are willing to switch to a new brand that is more transparent. Meanwhile, more than 7 in 10 customers are willing to pay more for a brand that shows transparency in what it does. As you can see, trust is a crucial factor for customers. Perhaps, even more so than the price of the commodity. This means you don’t embellish facts, make exaggerated claims, and promise something you know you can’t deliver.
4. Maximize Big Data Analytics. To know your audience, you need to establish a baseline profile. There are analytics software apps in the market that you can utilize to get a feel for who your audience is and the effectiveness of your marketing strategy when reaching out to them. The problem is that after gathering all that information from the ether, it’s difficult to make sense of this large volume of data. According to Forbes, 4 in 10 businesses have a problem making sense of their unstructured data. And big data is big business. Consider it as unharnessed potential.
5. Identify your audience. You may have a general idea of who your target market is. For instance, if you are a lawnmower manufacturer, you pretty much know your demographic. You have first-time homeowners, a young couple starting a family, or husbands who like to think they are handy around tools. You can customize your content to appeal to these demographics. In business parlance, we call it target market analysis.
But take note of how John Deere increased its profits by changing its messaging:
- Selling customer experience rather than highlighting product features. To do this, the company needed to find out what the customer wants and then calibrate products to address those needs
- Existing customers are valuable, but you plan for potential buyers. The company focused too much on providing value for its current customers. While nothing is wrong with that, it failed to take into account the large pool of potential customers out there who were willing to buy its products.
- Asking the right questions. Focus group discussions, surveys, interviews, and questionnaires deliver qualitative data. But if you are asking the wrong question, it’s easy to be steered toward the wrong path. Big data analytics and automated marketing tools will help aggregate more accurate data through machine learning and AI capabilities.
Creating Great Blog Content
Businesses are often intimidated by blogging. There’s something about a blank space staring back at you as you fiddle with your keyboard. The blank space of the page dares you to pluck your ideas from the ether and commit them for posterity. But this is an essential tool to create value.
How can blogging help your company?
- It helps promote your business
- It helps establish your expertise in your native field
- It secures your credibility among your audience and peers
- You can build a relationship with your customers
- It provides a platform for engagement
- It helps control the narrative
- It helps people relate better to your company by telling your story
- It gives you an edge over your competitors, especially if you are consistently blogging
Blogging is a huge commitment, especially now that the readers’ response to it has changed. In 2014, a typical blog was 800 words long, according to this study by Orbit Media Studios. Now, the number of words rose to 1,151, representing a 42% increase in five years. As a result, bloggers now are spending more time writing an excellent blog. For instance, in 2014, a blogger spent 2.5 hours to write an article. Now, they spend 3.5 hours on average to write a blog post. Interestingly enough, readers today seem to prefer longer blogs compared to the short ones.
The higher the number of words, the stronger the response.
However, in the face of such incontrovertible evidence, only a few bloggers are doing long-form content.
In fact, according to Orbit Media, only less than 10% of bloggers are willing to write more than 2,000 words.
Writing A Blog for Business
1. Write for your target audience. A business blog is not your journal. People access your blog for a myriad of reasons—they want to resolve something, they want to digest new information, they want to learn from your expertise. In this regard, your language and tone matters. You are going to alienate your audience if you use too much technical jargon. Write clearly and succinctly. Don’t equate expertise with complicated words.
2. Write for the search engines. One thing that is often overlooked by businesses is the search engines. With more than 9 in 10 online searches coursing through Google, you are basically at the mercy of its algorithms. The object is to rank high in the search engine results page. About 95% of Internet traffic goes to page 1 of Google results. Meanwhile, the click-through-rate of the websites on page 1 is 208%. Meaning, if you are not on the top 10 list, your chance of getting traffic nosedives.
3. Answer the most nagging questions. When people go online, what are they writing in the search engine query box? If only you can anticipate the exact words they are typing, it would answer all your problems. There are SEO tools that will help narrow down the query phrase that your customer will likely ask. One such tool is the Google Ads Keyword Planner, which will help you plan your content to make sure it answers your target market’s core issues.
Promoting your Blog
The next step is to reach out to your target readers and make sure they are digesting your content. There are many avenues to promote your blog, and here are just some of them:
1. Make use of your social media. Look at this graph:
About 3.5 billion social media users around the world are active. Facebook users alone spend an average of 142 minutes or more than two hours glued to social media each day. Aside from Facebook, there’s also Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Pinterest.
2. Use SEO. This is still the most effective way to get Google’s attention. Its algorithms are always scouring the Internet to give the searchers the most relevant results.
3. Write daily. The key is consistency. You might have inserted the right keywords and phrases but still won’t rank high in the search engine results page. That’s because Google rewards consistency. When you churn out content daily, Google will sit up and take notice.
4. Email list. Make an email list of your existing and target customers. The advantage is that you are reaching them directly. The bad news is people tend to ignore emails, especially with all the malware and spam emails circulating today. The average open rate for emails is a shade under 18%. With that said, the open rate dramatically increases if they are active subscribers to your mailing list. That means they are willing to listen to what you are selling.
5. Consider aggregate websites. Aggregator sites, as the name suggests, doesn’t build content on their own. Instead, all content is user-generated. You can find all the topics there, classified by industries, genres, and the like. Think Rotten Tomatoes and you have an idea. You can upload your content in these aggregate sites.
6. Join online communities and forum sites. Quora and Reddit are two of the most popular sites with very active online communities. You can answer questions on Quora that relate to your expertise and then insert a link to your blog so they can be more noticeable.
7. Write guest posts. Guest posts are the best way to introduce your authority, credibility, and writing style. This is one method to grow your traffic organically. High-traffic sites are prime targets because they have an engaged audience. You do need to pitch your material so it will be picked up among the hundred others. But when you impress people, they will likely visit your website to read more about what you have to say on other topics.
8. Add RSS feeds. Adding RSS will update visitors of any new content you upload. Once they subscribe to your RSS feed, they are hooked.
9. Make sure your blog can be easily shared. Use share icons so your readers can easily forward your content to their social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like.
10. Measure performance. The only way to know if you are effectively promoting your blog is to measure performance. Google Analytics is one tool that can help measure and analyze your data. It will also give you a glimpse into how people are finding their way to your website.
In terms of cost, video content is probably the most expensive channel compared with other digital marketing strategies. However, if done right, it also yields the most returns.
Let’s take YouTube, for example.
There are now more than a billion YouTube users today. Every day, over a billion users view more than a billion hours of videos on the platform. YouTube, therefore, is a rich trove of a ready audience that is more than willing to be entertained. In a single month, more videos are uploaded online compared to the past three decades of TV content. Meanwhile, nearly 9 in 10 marketers integrate video content into their marketing services.
According to a study on the persuasiveness of visual presentations online conducted by the University of Minnesota and the University of Arizona in 1986, there’s a science behind why video content marketing is highly effective. The research found that people process visual stimuli 60,000 times better and faster compared to text. Also, 90% of the information transmitted to our brain is visual in nature.
Video content is one of the most effective strategies for a company that is looking to increase traffic, boost brand awareness, as well as generate leads and conversions. Businesses know this, too. Video content is right up there on their wish list, according to this graph:
More than the resources and time, one of the most common problems with video marketing is the content itself.
Even podcasts and webinars, despite their spontaneity, need a lot of planning. You have to develop the storyboard, the script, the topic, video angles, production issues and more.
About 60% of small and medium businesses are also planning to increase their investments in video content marketing after recognizing its benefits.
That’s hardly surprising considering that 76.5% of small and medium businesses have observed the direct impact of video marketing to their bottom lines. Meanwhile, more than 8 in 10 have outsourced or produced a video in the last 12 months.
Now that you are convinced about the importance of video marketing, the next question is: what are you going to do about it? Unless you have a killer team in your company with broad experience creating visual content, it’s challenging to jumpstart your video marketing campaign.
If blogging is intimidating, video production is downright impossible for some SMBs.
In the past, traditional commercials cost thousands of dollars to create. Today, however, you can create videos in HD using a high-end smartphone. There are also plenty of editing and filtering software apps that help make you look like a pro.
YouTube is also a lucrative resource of tutorial videos that will teach you to create killer videos across different stages—pre-production, production, and post-production.
Here are some steps on how to start your video marketing campaign:
1. Don’t underestimate the importance of planning. It all begins with pre-production. This is where you think about the team, subject matter, the message you are trying to convey, the script, the actors, the gadgets to be used, among others. Of course, you should also factor in the estimated budget for video production.
What type of video are you making? There are several templates to choose from:
- Explainer video
- Educational video
- Tips and tricks
- Testimonial video
- Entertaining video
- Funny video
- Case study
- Tutorial video
- BTS or behind the scenes
2. Who is your audience? The tone and language used in your video will depend on the buyer persona. The target market will determine the content of your video. For instance, if you are talking to a younger audience, you need to find a topic that resonates with them or else, you will lose them altogether.
For instance, millennials and those in generation Z relate more to influencers than they do celebrities. But sustaining their interest is going to be the biggest challenge. While the attention span of an average millennial is 12 seconds, this goes down to eight seconds for the gen Z.
3. What message are you trying to convey? A confusing message will get you nowhere. Narrow down your message down to its core. You only have a few seconds to capture the attention of your audience and you are competing with different stimuli. Don’t overwhelm them with too much information because that’s the fastest way to lose their attention. As a rule of thumb, stick to one message for each video.
4. Showcase your personality. How do you like your brand to be perceived? The video is the perfect platform to showcase your personality. Typically, you link your brand’s character with your product or service. For instance, Nike or Adidas is perceived to be an athletic brand. Apple is known to be hip. Red Bull is associated with adrenaline, while Dos Equis is known for manliness. You can’t escape the industry you belong to, but you can always massage the message and control the narrative in terms of brand perception.
5. Informational doesn’t need to be boring. Creating an explainer video is an ideal choice when you are starting your business. It allows you to explain what your product or service is all about. The problem is that it’s a slippery slope. It takes one small step to make the explainer video dull. But remember that people process visual stimuli faster. Animation, funny images, an interesting script, and the right actor can prevent your video from becoming boring. Here’s an example of an interesting explainer video about how deep can an ocean go.
Video content marketing is not an easy undertaking. But you can always outsource it to a third-party online marketer if you are not confident about your ability to produce one.
Of course, creating a video is just half the work. The next step is making sure your video will reach the intended audience. Here are some tips on how to promote your video content online:
1. Video SEO is essential. We often associate SEO with text. But you also need to optimize your video content to make sure the search engines index it. Just like with blogs, you need to search for the keywords that your target customers type for their video queries. For YouTube videos, the first 60 characters in your video title are crucial. Make sure to include meta tags and meta descriptions for proper indexing by Google.
2. Use social media. When uploading your video on your business website, make sure to share it with all your social pages. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are ideal platforms that automatically reach out to a billion audience. Of course, with the platforms’ algorithms, your video will eventually find its way to your target market. But this will depend on Step No. 1 above. Finally, don’t forget a clear CTA.
3. Run some ads. Businesses are wary about sponsored content because they think the audience is not clicking on them. This is one of the common misconceptions. In fact, in some instances, Google Ads prove to be a more effective tool compared to organic search when reaching out to customers who are ready to purchase — with ads grabbing 66% of the clicks compare with 30% for organic search. Facebook also has sponsored content, which gives a lot of freedom for businesses to lay down their budget for a specified period. This should not be confused with Facebook ads.
4. Don’t dismiss the value of the thumbnail. People often click on a thumbnail that catches their attention. That is why some people use beautiful or sexy girls as thumbnail even if the frozen image in question has nothing to do with the video. This is known as a click-bait. Make sure to brainstorm with the team before deciding on the final thumbnail for your video.
5. Insert your video in your most popular posts. Add a link to your video whenever you have a blog post that is generating a lot of interest in your social media feed. Chances are, some readers may also click on the link to watch your video. In the same vein, if you already have an email subscribers list, you can also send the video directly to their digital addresses. Again, if they are already receiving regular content, your subscribers will likely watch your video.
6. Stalk online forums and communities. If you just created an explainer video, you can crawl to Quora or Reddit to gain attention. Insert your video as a crucial resource to get your point across better. Once people are impressed by your answer to their question, they will likely click on your video to get more information.
Much has been said about Infographics being an ineffective tool. In fact, there are many reasons why people have predicted the death of these graphics:
- They’ve become more spammy
- They’re often misused
- Everybody’s doing them now
However, if done right, they can still be very effective in delivering your message across. An Infographic conveys information in graphical form so that it can be consumed in easily digestible formats. Infographics are more inexpensive than video content but better compared to text in terms of deconstructing data.
Here are some ways to make your Infographics better:
- Keep to one topic.
- KISS or Keep it Short and Simple.
- Strive for accuracy (people can easily fact-check your data).
- Size matters, clip your infographic if you need to zoom in to read the figures and text. The length should not exceed 1,800 pixels.
- The headline should be interesting to catch the reader’s attention.
- Don’t forget the negative space to allow your graphics to breathe.
- The text should be kept to the minimum.
- An Infographic is still storytelling. Let the whole graph flow like a story.
- Don’t forget to credit your sources. You don’t want to be plagiarizing content.
- Don’t forget to embed your logo and brand in case other websites will share your infographic.
Multi-purposing Content Marketing
Multi-purposing and reformatting content is a strategy to recycle your content and reach as many of your target audience as possible. It is one way to maximize your investment in the content that you created.
While most people agree that blog posts should be at least 1,000 words, not everybody likes to read long-form content. Viewers want information in bite-sized pieces. You can reformat your blog and make an infographic out of it.
You can also make video content out of the same blog and infographic. With our example, you already created three unique marketing strategies from a single content. Again, with any action you take in your digital marketing strategy, you need to establish the purpose.
Is the aim of reformatting or repurposing content to:
- Raise Awareness
- Generate Lead
Depending on the purpose, you modify the tone and language of the content to achieve your desired goal.
One thing you need to understand when crafting a strategy, the story is never finished. Don’t think of content as an end unto itself. Even if you already earned the ROI from a blog post, for instance, don’t move on to other things. Think of content as a part of a more important strategy.
Here are some ways to multi-purpose your content:
- Document your content management and strategy.
- Don’t create content without a backup plan to repurpose or reformat it.
- Make modular and modifiable components, so you don’t spend too much when changing the format for another purpose.
- Establish the channels and platforms where you will distribute the content.
The beauty of this strategy is that you can work on the component assets simultaneously. You can also repurpose and reformat these components and distribute the outputs across different channels.
Embarking on a content marketing strategy seemed like an impossible task, especially if this is your first time. There are too many moving parts to consider. And it looks like one wrong step could lead to severe repercussions to your brand.
Luckily, you can outsource content creation and marketing to third-party digital marketers who have the experience, track record, and expertise to help you meet your goals.
At HiveMind, a Digital Marketing agency in San Jose, CA, we have developed unique solutions across the entire gamut of digital marketing services. It’s our goal to help our clients navigate the complex and rapidly-evolving marketing landscape and remain at the forefront. Contact our team for more information.