It has been thirteen years since Bill Gates wrote those golden words, ‘content is king’, and more recently Seth Godin paid homage to content marketing by declaring that it’s ‘the only marketing left’. With both of these statements in mind, are you taking your content marketing efforts as seriously as you should?
As with all business disciplines and strategies, content marketing is consistently going through an evolution; and while search giant Google continues to revel in their role as ‘puppet master’ for all brands when it comes to search rankings, it’s even more vital that brands strive to stay at the forefront of the changes to ensure they are capturing the attention of their audience.
Despite content marketing not being a new strategy, its effectiveness doesn’t wane. Recent research by the Content Marketing Institute found that 70% of B2B content marketers said their content marketing is seeing increased success compared to a year ago. Below we provide some areas that are set to dominate the discipline in 2019.
1. Content strategy documents
Common sense will tell us that a well-researched strategy should be the norm – but that’s not always the case. Whilst many businesses have a marketing ‘plan’ or editorial calendar, more than 60% of them don’t have a content strategy.
The content that you create should be formulated after carrying out research in a number of areas including keywords, search data, competitor research, audience analysis and trending/topical content. As a result, each piece of content you produce should have well-documented, data driven motivations behind it.
Once this initial strategy is in place, the ideas can be developed for various uses, such as PR pitches, creative content and paid campaigns.
Content strategies should also include objectives and key performance indicators for measuring the impact of each piece of content.
2. Transparency and authenticity
Producing content for contents sake is a pointless activity. Every piece of content that you create should be authentic, entertaining or educational, and above else VALUABLE. What we are ultimately saying is: avoid click bait.
It’s 2019 and consumers can spot a sales call under the guise of anything else a mile off. Your content should reflect the voice and mission of your brand. To underpin this point, it’s important to know that 86% of consumers report that authenticity is a key differentiator that influences a buying decision.
Transparency is the minimum expectation – failing to be transparent will make your target audience question your authenticity along with the validity of any of your claims.
This also lends itself to reviews, because we know that there are companies submitting fake reviews to Google and Facebook, just like we know that there are agencies encouraging it and getting involved themselves.
A flurry of very positive, 5 -star reviews, then back to the abyss? FAKE NEWS – these counterfeit reviews can be picked up a mile off and arouse suspicion to the reader. You’d be better off integrating strategies that encourage real customers to leave positive reviews and learning from any undesirable feedback. From a PR perspective, it’s important to respond to all reviews, whether positive or negative to demonstrate an authentic commitment to the customer experience. As well as being a learning curve, this could also be an opportunity to win back customers that haven’t enjoyed their initial experience with your brand.
3. Personalisation and user-data content
On average, we are bombarded with around 10,000 marketing messages each day, personalised content is manageable and relevant, influencing the way that consumers perceive your brand.
As humans, we naturally have selective attention – we only care about information that we are already invested in. Purely by using a customer’s name in a personalised ad or email, you cause them to feel more invested.
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t look forward to the annual end-of-year personal stats from Spotify? Personalised content makes us feel valued and listened to, it also provides us with a greater perception of choice and less of a feeling of overload. This is because we feel as if the information received is tailored to our needs and interests, resulting in more enjoyment over the personalised content we receive.
One easy way to use personalisation is to delve into your business data and scour it for user-data and user-generated content. Despite sounding like a marketing buzzword, user-generated content or UGC, is leveraging your delighted customers to market your brand or product. It’s defined as any content that has been created ‘unpaid contributors’, i.e. loyal customers and brand advocates.
Good examples of user generated content are the Coco-Cola, ‘Share a Coke’ campaign and Burberry’s ‘Art of the Trench’ campaign. When it comes to using user-data to personalise the user experience, Netflix is a brand that does this well. From recommended Netflix viewing, personalisation can be anything from geolocation, basket items, previously bought items, asking for a review of their experience of an exact service or product – anything that exhibits that you are paying attention.
4. Aligning content with the buyer journey
Many brands are guilty of taking a blanket approach with their audience, when in reality, it makes perfect sense to tailor content to the stage of the buyer journey that they are at.
If you only produce content that focuses on the awareness stage of the journey, you could be missing out on opportunities to forge brand connections with users that are further down the funnel.
By splitting down the buyer journey, and in turn, content produced into ‘awareness, consideration and decision’, you can identify key pain points of each stage and create the information needed, enabling you to forge and reinforce a connection. Your campaigns should use language that also reflects each stage of the buyer journey.
For instance, a PPC campaign or thought leadership article could be targeted towards the awareness stage of the buyer journey. The call-to-action on this piece of content could lead to a landing page that reinforces this initial point. The next part of this campaign could be a re-targeting campaign that uses language and messages that sits within the next part of the journey, the consideration stage.
Identifying and creating buyer personas will aid you in creating messages that will be critical to their role and influence purchasing decisions.
5. Comprehensive business input
Often it’s the case that sales and marketing work in silo. Actually, it’s the case that when it comes to marketing – most other departments work in silo, perhaps even regarding marketing as a ‘fluffy’ activity that lacks in any strategic direction.
We ALL know that is not the case, especially in this digital era. Where the impact and value of any activity can be tracked and analysed, down to the very last user.
In order to create content that has increased value and relevancy (as well as the aforementioned authenticity and transparency), everyone in the business should be feeding into the ideas behind your content marketing. This rings especially true if they are customer facing, because who is going to know your customers and audience better than the team members that are in contact with them day to day.
If there are reoccurring questions that are being asked to different departments by your customers, or common challenges your customer face in your industry, this can be turned into valuable and informative content.
6. Voice Search
Along with focussing your efforts on appearing for queries that are typed into a device, now is the time to focus your attention on appearing for voices searches made through devices like smartphones and Amazon Echo. Let’s think about it, how many of us are beginning our sentences with, ‘Hey Siri!’, ‘Alexa’ or ‘OK Google’?
There is no denying that voice search is becoming an integral part of our lives, so much so, that around one billion voice searches are conducted each month. A report by ComScore has predicted that 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice by 2020, so by failing to act on this, you are effectively giving your competitors that do, the advantage.
Businesses will need to first understand content written for the two forms of search (written and voice) have vast differences, with voice searches being more conversational. Other areas to keep in mind is using schema mark up and optimising content for local search.
Of course, voice search is currently most relevant to B2C brands and isn’t predicted to be a priority for B2B firms for the foreseeable future. Of course, this comes down to how well you know your customers and how they search for information in your industry.
If it isn’t already, content marketing should be a critical part of your marketing strategy.
Always start with the data; by analysing the audience demographics, the pages of your website that currently resonates with your audience, the type of devices they are using and what it is they want to know about your industry and offering through search data – you will be well equipped to meet them exactly where they are.
Using this information, coupled with input from customer facing departments, will give you a solid, data-led foundation to begin your content strategy and future campaigns. By regularly analysing the performance of the content that you create, you will be able to clearly understand the way that your audience interacts with it, and the type of content you should continue to create.