As marketers, we all know that we need a certain amount of content to attract, educate and move leads through the sales funnel. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s latest report, 89% of B2B marketers use some form of content marketing to drive profitable action from leads or customers.
The same report also found that marketers believe their content marketing programs are continuing to improve each year, citing higher quality content and more strategic development of that content being the primary drivers of performance. That said, 71% of those surveyed said their content marketing programs are still in the early stages.
So this begs the question, how do you create high-quality, strategic content that resonates? What is that silver bullet?
The murky, icky, muddy answer (that you likely don’t want to hear) is that there isn’t one for content marketing.
At some point in time, content marketers latched onto an imaginary checklist of the number of whitepapers, case studies, blogs, etc., they need to be successful. It was about having a digital presence and a large quantity of content to back it up. We heard that one company’s whitepaper had a major conversion rate, so we all clearly needed a similar whitepaper. Another company had a case study that finally converted a whole heap of leads to sales-ready prospects, so we needed that as well.
Sadly, just because it worked for one company doesn’t mean it will for your organization. All too often our content marketing plans have been built around quantity and that imaginary checklist.
You likely share an audience with your competitors. But the fact is, how your audience interacts with you is unique to your organization. Your brand, your brand’s voice, and how you have previously interacted all color this relationship. So, what may have worked for a competitor doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Content, and primarily the quality of it, is the most important aspect of content marketing.
So back to that ornery question: how do you create high-quality, strategic content that resonates.
Step 1: What content do you need?
To clearly understand what content you need for your marketing program, create a simple spreadsheet with your target audiences on the left and columns for top, middle and bottom of the funnel. Map your current content to each column. Most of the time your content will end up filling the top of the funnel. This is where you are casting the widest net, but you can’t neglect the remainder of the funnel. The holes are where you should begin. Feeling stuck? Check out this blog post for inspiration.
Step 2: What content formats do you need?
Ahem, did you just skip down to here? I told you already: be agnostic. So what do I really mean by this?
First, your audience’s past engagement should determine the pieces you need in the future. Study your current content to see what has received the most attention. If your audience never reads your blog, why are you spending so many hours on it (beyond SEO) when you know they will flock to a new video? Your audience is telling you how they like to receive information, but are you listening?
Secondly, we often start a piece declaring that it has to be a white paper or case study. Instead, we should ask: “Does the content actually work best in this format?” Let the content itself guide that decision.
Finally, to be truly content-agnostic, repurpose and test. You have created new content and put it into a nice whitepaper format. Now rip it apart. You aren’t losing a whitepaper; you’re gaining a blog, an infographic, a webinar outline, etc., from it. Every format has its own benefits and connects you to your audience in a different way. If you don’t test different formats, and, more specifically, offer a wide variety of them, you’ll never give your audience a chance to show you what they really want.
However, do keep a few basic guidelines in mind when doing this:
- Just because you are repurposing content into different formats doesn’t mean it should feel repetitive. Repurposing doesn’t mean cutting and pasting the exact same copy, but using the bones to guide another quality piece of content.
- Think about the length. Test to see if your audience will only read shorter pieces or if they frequently engage with more in-depth coverage. Based on this, you may ramp up your blog program or get more eBooks into development.
- Think visually. Every audience has visual learners in it, a fact that content marketers often fail to take into consideration. That means you always need a mix of infographics, data visualization and visual storytelling.
- Video is an important part of the mix, but is often not factored into the content marketing program. Video engages your audience unlike any other format.
- Consider webinars in your content marketing program – especially those that bring in an outside partner or industry expert to speak. That lends additional credibility to the information you offer in the presentation.
Step 3: Set goals, measure, report and revise
Being content-agnostic doesn’t mean shrugging your shoulders, throwing content out there, and saying, “Eh, I hope this works.” Now that you’ve developed content in a strategic way, your audience is guiding what you produce, and you’re letting the content dictate the format, the final step is truly about evaluation.
You should set goals for all your content. How many views does it get? Did it convert new prospects? Did it move a contact further down the funnel? Once you’ve determined your goals, give the content time to live, measure its success or failure and report on it.
And guess what? Depending on the trends you see, you get to go back to the beginning and figure out the next steps in your content marketing program. Remember, we said there isn’t a silver bullet. But the good news is, if you keep asking the hard questions and making the right moves, you’ll end up creating pieces that contribute results. Your content might be agnostic – but you’ll create a lot of true believers with that kind of marketing.
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