Content marketing for startups and beyond
We’ve learned lots of lessons from the content marketing we do from our Bristol office. Here are some key takeaways for you.
When it comes to your content marketing strategy, as a business owner, you’ll be asking one question; “What do I spend my time on for maximum effect?”
You’re busy, so picking and choosing the best use of your time, and that of your team, is important.
That means being clear and precise about what you do and why you are doing it, never truer than with content marketing.
It’s hard sitting at the bottom of the “content mountain”, as you look up at the snow-capped peaks and it can seem impossible to find a clear path to the top. You’ll need a plan. Content marketing strategies are complex beasts and it can be hard to know where to start and in what direction to head.
Digital content marketing is a subset of your general marketing. Therefore, you’ll need to have established your brand, product/service, targeting and positioning, segmentation, promotional tactics and monitoring and evaluation techniques, before you think about diving into content marketing.
In addition, content marketing will be a subset of an overall digital marketing strategy, which will also encompass SEO, PPC, as well as social and other digital marketing. A digital marketing plan will follow many of the same rules as a traditional marketing plan. They’re not exactly the same, but the process will be similar.
It starts with your customers
Just like traditional marketing, you’ll need to know what your customers look like. A first complexity will be that for each product/service you sell there will be many target customers and each of them will have differing needs from the content you develop.
To help with this, therefore, you should start profiling.
Having fully understood who you are trying to get hold of, you can look at the next element of the plan; where you’ll put that content for maximum effect.
Where (and when) do your customers look for content?
Ask yourself the following question, “where do my customers look for content?”
Be honest with yourself. If your customers aren’t on Facebook, then there is no point in using that platform.
Place the best content where it will be seen, by the most number of people you’ve identified in your customer profiling. Look at your own site; does your blog attract new visitors because of the quality of the content or because your SEO, outreach or PPC brought them there? Generally, unless they are avid followers, it’ll be the latter.
Locating places that will accept your content efforts, means some relationship building. While there are places that will simply take all submitted content, you should focus on the actual sites that your target readers visit. It may take you some time to find an approach that works and one shoe won’t fit all, but you’ll get there with some perseverance.
Other things to consider are the particular times that your consumers prefer to access content, and topics of that will get their attention. Furthermore, an editorial calendar will help you keep on top of your digital content marketing strategy. As this will be a long term commitment, anything that will make the process easier should be considered.
What message will resonate with them?
Now for the customer journey. There are a few ways to look at this, but essentially, it will be how the customer goes from ‘never having heard of you’, to (hopefully), being familiar with your brand or even even a loyal customer.
There are many stages of progression through that journey and you need to present a different message (and possibly using a different medium) in each of them. We can call those points “moments that matter” or “touchpoints“. This spans a whole range – offline and online and before, during and after you do business with them.
“Today’s customer journey is an iterative, complex,
pinball of touchpoints.”
David Louis Edelman
In order for this process to be worthwhile, you’ll need to really understand your customers at each stage of their journey.
This means getting feedback, careful measurement and A/B testing. There are some general rules you can use to create content that will resonate.
Understand where to use hard facts and where to use emotion to drive customers onwards in their journey. While a customer journey map might be a stretch for you to create, it’s a good place to aim for.
The Salesforce State of Marketing 2017 report, showed that 91% of high performing marketing teams found a customer journey strategy to positively impact on their overall customer engagement.
Actually creating the content
As with creating blog posts, 90% of the work involved is in the planning. Our work with creating content for startups in Bristol and London shows preparation is of key import.
By the time you get to creating content, you should have done some of the work surrounding what content you need. This will include knowing who you want to talk to, where they are looking and what they want to hear. So, get going.
Your previous research will tell you what the best type of content is, to reach your intended reader and how you need to phrase the message. If you’re really not sure how to begin, you may want to seek the help of a freelancer or agency. However, if you want to have a go at it yourself, be sure to make it:
- Branded thoughtfully
- SEO friendly
- Sharing friendly
- Ready for site guidelines (if you’re going to try submitting it to another site)
- Legal (it must be checked for copyright).
How will you get your content in place?
This part is a bit more difficult, as it will involve research, effort, and time.
If you’ve have created the content for your own site/blog, then you should be able to publish easily.
If you’re aiming to have the content published elsewhere, then again, it will be an easier process.
The important thing is understanding where your readers will go to get the content that they want. It may be via social media or a particular site on the web. Finding outreach partners that will accept your content regularly can be very time consuming, since you need to be sure it’ll be seen by the right people.
A way of doing this is to simply ask your customers (perhaps via a questionnaire) where they like to go when browsing on matters that are related to your product/service. In some cases, this will be straightforward, in others will be more difficult. The time taken here will pay off later, as you will be able to pick and choose sites based on your content type and message.
Measurement and feedback (and exercise in expectation management)
There are several ways to measure content ROI. Just keep in mind why you created it in the first place; to achieve business goals. Also, you need to accept that it’s unlikely you’ll get clear data about exactly how many new customers you got from any single piece of content. You’ll need to be happy measuring general changes. So, with that caveat drawn, let’s look at what you can measure. What you can measure will be largely dependent on where the content is. Try to measure the following (if possible):
- Unique Visits
This basic metric allows you to gauge basic success for the content. Are people coming to view your
creation? Remember, a visit to a blog post is not the same as a download of a whitepaper. Adjust
your data accordingly.
Knowing where consumers of your content are situated. This will help with future content generation
- Mobile Vs Desktop
The Hostingfacts.com survey of 2016, suggested that there are more mobile internet users than
desktop, with mobile traffic taking 52.21% of the share. Finding out how your content is viewed is
important when it comes to optimising for specific platforms.
- Bounce Rates
Clearly, you don’t want to be losing your visitor before they’ve seen your content. A high bounce
rate may mean a disconnect between what they wanted and what they got. Look at how
they arrived at the content and work out why they might be leaving.
- Movement and click patterns
If you are able to get a heat/click map, you may get some really useful ideas about how people
are interacting with your content. Google Analytics offers some functionality, or you may need to seek
a specialist provider like heatmap.me or Crazyegg.com.
It can be difficult to allow unrestricted two-way conversations when it comes to your content. Some viewers may not even take the content as you hoped. You need to embrace all the comments you get, even negative feedback since they will give you insight into what people really think. Don’t leave it hanging, offer some thoughtful and measured responses where possible. The fact that your content is creating discussion, should be taken, overall, as a positive!
- Social shares
Social interactions (signals) are now a firmly entrenched SEO ranking factor; exactly how much they mean remains a subject for debate. Still, measure them and build a picture of what gets shared and what doesn’t. Then, use that data to improve and build a better picture of your customers.
Where does that leave you?
Take all of this, build it into a dynamic process that changes and improves on each cycle and you’ve got a content strategy. You will have answered the following questions:
- Who do you want to talk to?
- What stage of the customer experience are they at?
- Where will they look for content?
- What content do they want to see?
- What message will make them want to move forward?
- How do you get the content in front of them?
- Did it work?
There may be wrong turns, a need for experimentation, or even moments of confusion, but keep on persevering. Having a strong content marketing strategy allows you access to the hard-to-reach locations that other marketing techniques may miss. Impressona provides digital content marketing strategy for businesses, small and large, in Bristol and London.