The latest research by the Content Marketing Institute shows Australian marketers are perfectly positioned to build amazing experiences through content marketing and get real business results. So how do you create killer content that cuts through the clutter and outperforms the competition? In the first of a two-part content marketing series, Daniel Benton, GM – Search, Salmat reveals the top tactics to get started.
Welcome to the age of content marketing, a time when companies talk in terms of hashtags rather than taglines. Where beverage brands and soap brands produce films and magazines. And where 27,000,000 pieces of content are shared every day. It’s no wonder that nine out of ten organisations are now making content marketing an important part of their arsenal, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
The idea behind content marketing is simple: it is the use of information, ideas and entertainment to engage with consumers and enhance a brand. But that definition simplifies a phenomenon that has revolutionised the way companies communicate today. In reality, content marketing lets companies connect with consumers like never before. They can react in real time; be more transparent about who they are and how they do things; and tell a strong brand story to people who care.
And the best part? Content marketing lets companies do all this far more effectively and affordably than has ever been possible with traditional marketing tactics. Some studies have shown that content marketing generates approximately three times more leads then traditional marketing, and costs 62% less.
And it’s not only consumer brands reveling in the rewards of content marketing; B2B and corporate brands are also investing sizeable portions of their marketing budgets into content marketing campaigns with a view to generate leads, inform and engage their customers, and establish reputations as thought leaders.
But competition is fierce, and today’s marketers need to find ever more creative ways to ensure their brand stands out amongst the proliferation of content. They are battling to get the right messages to the right people and keep those people engaged on an ongoing basis, all with the ultimate goal of driving sales, loyalty and real business value. There are plenty of marketers getting it right – just look at the likes of Red Bull, GoPro, IKEA and HSBC – but there are just as many struggling to reach the Promised Land.
So what’s the secret sauce behind successful content marketing? Here are the first four of eight steps to content marketing greatness:
Step 1: Know your audience
Before you produce any content, you need to know who you are talking to, and most importantly how they like to consume media. Think like a magazine publisher; they know exactly who their readers are, what kind of content they like to read and why, what problems and daily habits they have, and so on. This in-depth understanding will empower you to get content in front of your target audience that’s much more engaging and targeted to their interests and lives. IKEA is an example of one such brand that has got this down to a fine art. The Swedish furniture company has made an effort to understand its audience’s wants and needs, putting a face to the consumer and looking at how people live their lives at home.
How to get started: The most effective way to understand your audience is to create buyer personas, which are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and educated speculation about customer demographics, behaviour patterns, goals and motivations. By creating buyer personas, you can generate the right content that will most effectively attract your ideal audience, convert them into leads, and nurture them as loyal customers.
Step 2: Create a content plan
The biggest fear in content marketing is producing content nobody wants to read. The remedy to this is creating a content plan that answers the key questions of how you will create content, get it distributed, reach the desired audience, and build that audience. Without this framework, you simply cannot expect to engage your audience and deliver business results. The Content Marketing Institute and Association of Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) recently reported that 44% of Australian marketers who have a documented content marketing strategy said their content marketing was effective, compared with an average of 29%. In other words, marketers who document and closely follow a strategy are more effective than those who do not.
How to get started: Focus on the key planning stages for content marketing:
- Define objectives: Why are you doing this? What will the content marketing do for your organisation?
- Define audiences: Who are your target audiences?
- Research: Keyword research, content gap analysis, audience analysis and competitive reviews; this will help you understand the kind of content that will resonate with your audience, and where the opportunities and challenges are in your market.
- Find your POD: What’s the one point of difference that will truly set you apart? Will your content be overly motivational, helpful, useful, inspirational, or something else?
- Define your metrics: How will you measure your success? More on this later…
With these five points complete, you will be ready to create your content execution plan.
Step 3: Focus on building relationships
Content marketing doesn’t sell. Let’s say that again: content marketing doesn’t sell. It is about building a relationship with your audience. This quote from the Content Marketing Institute sums it up perfectly:
“Good content marketing makes a person stop…read… think… behave… differently.”
In many ways, content marketing flips traditional marketing on its head. You don’t talk about your product or service – that’s just inappropriate. You focus on attracting the consumer to you, rather than pushing ads to them. And you think like a publisher, rather than an advertiser.Of course, the goal behind this is to deliver consistent, valuable information in an entertaining and interesting way, to engage your buyers, and be rewarded with business.
How to get started: Look at some of your own favourite content marketers and think about why you are attracted to their content. Is it the topics, the tone or a combination? Then consider how you can focus on attracting your target audience, rather than selling.
Step 4: Be a great storyteller
According to the Content Marketing in Australia 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, the number one goal for Australian content marketing is engaging the audience (87%). Yet the most challenging part of content marketing is identified as producing engaging content (50%).
At the core of all great content marketing you’ll find great stories – because that’s what it take to engage an audience. So to improve your content marketing, you need to focus on telling stories your audience can relate to and wil find interesting.
Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences.
Start with your brand story; this is the one thing that nobody else has, the one thing that truly sets you apart from your competitors. If you can successfully uncover and tell one-of-a-kind brand stories, you will be able to attain the Holy Grail of content marketing: an emotional connection.
Before you can tell engaging stories, you need to find your brand voice. Each brand has a certain voice, whether edgy, nurturing, conservative, friendly, or tongue-in-cheek. This voice should be woven into every element of your content, making your stories sound like they have come from the same person.
Take Innocent Drinks in the UK, it has a famously intimate and informal brand voice and exceptionally engaging content that tells you a lot about their identity, their spirit, and their personality. As leading brand storyteller John Simmons says: “Let us explore our potential through words, words that soar off the page, fly out of the screen, into the imaginations of others.”
How to get started: At its core, storytelling is about using characters, setting and storyline to engage people and take them somewhere. To start with, focus on real stories that are heart-felt, genuine and inspirational. Or better yet, find brand advocates who can tell these stories for you.
Don’t miss part 2 of this article covering how to get the format right, the share factor, how to measure your content marketing, and ways to recycle content.