Content marketing: what your business needs to be doing
Recent research indicates that over 60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its website. Furthermore, 93% of the companies who use content marketing, or ‘inbound marketing’ as it is also known, are seeing an increase in their lead generation [HubSpot ROI Report] – all of which proves that content is now of unequivocal importance. Subsequently, the budget that companies are allocating for content marketing has grown exponentially over the years, with content creation rapidly evolving into one of the most significant challenges for businesses to manage.
It’s easy to discuss the issues surrounding content marketing without actually taking the time to solidify it as a tangible concept, so let’s just clarify. The Content Marketing Association defines it as ‘The discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands’ [CMA].
Content marketing essentially ‘humanises’ a brand – creating a personality that customers are able to interact with on a regular basis. In turn, this leaves them with a more positive impression of a business, allowing the formation of a long-lasting relationship from which customer loyalty and ongoing sales can be derived.
The scope of content marketing is far-reaching, as are its benefits. So the key question is – what exactly does your business need to be doing in order to create engaging, insightful yet cost-effective content that delivers a high return on investment?
What kind of content should my business be creating?
1. Evergreen content
This is sustainable content that is not date sensitive and will remain relevant and valuable long past its publication date. It is often found in the form of lists, tips and tutorials, because this is the type of information that will continue to have value to readers on a long-term basis. News articles on the other hand, will struggle to stay ‘evergreen’, as shortly after being published they will be superseded by more current news. Evergreen content therefore gives the best return on your time and money, as you will be able to reuse it on a regular basis, or produce follow-on content from it.
2. Rejuvenated content
If you have a lot of content that is not evergreen, and hence is now out of date, you can still re-post this – but with supplementary reflections or comments to give an article, blog or news story a new lease of life. This can rejuvenate older content and make it relevant again. It can also reflect well on your business as it shows you’re curating your content to ensure your visitors get the most out of it. Likewise, evergreen content can also be reused as part of a follow-on piece, as outlined above.
3. Helpful content
All content helps you to form a relationship between your brand and your customers. When you produce informative content, you are giving customers something valuable to take away free of charge, which strengthens this informal bond. From a business perspective, insightful web content helps you to retain visitors – which in turn boosts traffic and increases your conversion rates as they continue to come back to consume new content as it is published.
More importantly, if your customers find this content useful, it is more likely to be shared on social media, which can greatly increase your reach. One of the key purposes of a content marketing strategy is to develop content which is so valuable that people want to share it with friends or colleagues – giving you far more exposure that you could manage alone.
4. User generated content
This is a slightly unusual aspect of content marketing, but one that we felt was important to mention. The holy grail of inbound marketing is to get your audience to talk about your business positively, either on social media or in the form of reviews – in effect, creating your content for you. As such, you need to give people something to talk about, and make it easy for them to review your products or services via relevant review sites. Of course there is always a risk here, but if your business is looking after its customers properly, you should not have an issue!
What’s the best way to approach content production?
1. Develop a tone of voice
With more and more brands fighting to engage with the same customers online, your verbal identity is now more important than ever. Developing a ‘tone of voice’ for your business has always been an important part of a branding strategy, but with more and more focus on written content, this is now even more vital.
In order to develop a tone of voice, you need to understand the fabric of your business. What is your ethos? What are your key values? What makes you distinctive? These are all questions you need to be asking. Once you have clearly defined these ‘personality traits’ you then need to implement these across all of your content. If you have a number of people who write on behalf of the company, put together a formal Tone of Voice document to ensure consistency, as this is vital when it comes to building a customer’s trust in your brand.
This document should direct your authors as to the style of writing they should use, along with advice on the use of punctuation and appropriate sentence construction that suits your company style. For example, should it be ‘short and sharp’ or more conversational? You can also include a list of words that authors should look to incorporate, as well as those that must be avoided! Although your Tone of Voice document offers a useful point of reference for how content should be produced, it’s important to remember that it is not written in stone, and should evolve and change with your company over time.
2. Make your content visual
Articles that include images receive a staggering 94% more views than those without [Optimind]. Whether it’s a video, an infographic, or a slide show presentation, visual content is popular because it expresses ideas quickly and effectively – lifting it from the overwhelming mass of written online content, and engaging the viewer more effectively. Visual content is also much more palatable and appealing, breaking up intimidating blocks of text whilst also providing valuable information in accessible chunks. This type of content is also social media friendly and immensely clickable, helping you drive traffic to other online content which you may have elsewhere.
3. Create a content calendar
Plan your content at least two to three weeks in advance (we actually recommend getting a full month ahead of yourself if you can!) and be sure to think about all of the different channels that you will use to publish this content – for example, your own website or blog, magazine articles, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and so on. This will allow you to organise your content fully, and to synchronise everything to ensure maximum reach. It also enables you to create one core piece – such as an opinion based article or ‘how to’ guide – and then expand this for other purposes by breaking it into, for example, three blog articles and 10 tweets, all of which can drive traffic back to the original piece.
Planning your content creation efforts in advance also gives you a definitive structure, allowing you to cover a range of selected topics that your customers will benefit from, and move through different areas of interest in a way that doesn’t fatigue them. A content calendar also saves you from having to come up with last minute content, which could be irrelevant or less well thought out.
From a social media perspective, you can set up a content calendar with a plan for your key updates, and schedule these with tools such as Tweetdeck, which ensures that this activity can continue, even when other day-to-day activities might otherwise distract you. As you don’t have to worry about putting out a tweet or a Facebook post, you can be paying more attention to your audience, engaging with them and gaining more insight into the kinds of content they want. This, in turn, will help you write more informative, evergreen content and subsequently grow your audience.
4. Be topical when necessary
Having said all of this, some content has to be immediate, as there are times when you will need to respond to events within your industry or the wider world. Although around 80% of content can be pre-planned, you need to ensure that someone is responsible for identifying opportunities to get involved with topical discussions, and for generating relevant content to support this – whether that be a simple tweet or Facebook post, or a more detailed opinion-piece article for your blog.