Here’s why your content marketing doesn’t ka-ching

You could say I’m a content marketing evangelist. I’ve written a book about it (Content Marketing Revolution) and I’m just finishing my second book on the subject. I believe in it. I help other businesses to do it. It works.

But not everyone gets it right. One of the reasons that some content marketers fail to see an increase in actual customers is that they get so lost in the idea of “not selling” that their activities stop moving prospects along the buyer’s journey. Regardless of how engaging your content is, if you aren’t selling later down the line, your efforts may be all for nothing.

Don’t loose sight of the fact that selling is the ultimate aim of all marketing activity, so it makes sense to be thinking about the endgame throughout all of your activities. Even if the purpose of your content marketing is to attract or build a relationship with your audience, you always want it to lead to a sale.
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If you’re creating great content without thinking about how it contributes to a sale, you might as well be blasting it up into space and expecting a return.

In my book, I talk a lot about identifying your audience (or target customers) and building your content efforts around influencing these groups. A big part of this is getting to grips with the buyer’s journey and working out exactly what they need at each stage. If you align all of your content marketing activity to the journey you want customers to travel, your content will be working for both the customer and you.

Whether you realise it or not, your content already appeals to specific stages of the buyer’s journey, so it’s important that you acknowledge these milestones in the way you deliver it: from tone and purpose, to considerations about branding and calls to action, etc.

While the principles of content marketing might be right for hooking in your audience and building a long-lasting relationship at certain points in the journey, the same principles might not be right when you get closer to the sale. Take a logical approach to how you communicate with your customers and remember that there comes a time in every buyer’s journey that more direct, sales-led content is crucial. Don’t allow content marketing to cloud certainty about your product at the sharp end of the sale.

The bottom line is: if you want to improve the impact content marketing is having on sales, it is crucial that you recognise when to use apply the principles of content marketing and when to use content to all out sell.

By Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.

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Monitoring is key to content marketing success

A few years ago, I did some acting. I started off with stage plays, before going on to do quite a lot of short films, web series and a couple of b-movie features.

In some ways, being involved with film productions felt more glamorous than theatre. This was partly because of screening events in swish venues (basically parties), those glossy publicity photographs and, of course, the strangely satisfying IMDb records, preserved online for all eternity. I was young and I felt like a movie star! Yet, I desperately missed something about performing on stage…

The intimacy and the immediate audience connection just isn’t there when you’re performing for the camera. After all, it can be months, even years, between the Director shouting “it’s a wrap” and the audience seeing the final edit. As a theatre actor, on the other hand, I had the audience right there with me. My eyes and ears were like real-time monitoring devices that enabled me to test and validate my performance on-the-fly. Moment by moment, I could adjust and adapt according to silences, laughter, tension and applause.

As a content marketer, I still feel like I need that instant audience validation. I’m always looking for their approval and seeking the rewarding feeling that comes with knowing my efforts are valued. The only way you’re ever going to succeed with content marketing is if you’re obsessed with wooing your target audience. Indeed, it’s the pursuit of that satisfying feeling that makes me successful in my efforts. And let’s face it, what are your customers going to do with their approval? They’re going to pay it back in loyalty, advocacy and years of repeat business. Get obsessed with giving the audience what they want!

I’ve found that content marketing is not a million miles from theatre acting in the way you can monitor and adapt to your audience as you go, using real-time analytics and social interactions as our eyes and ears. Are they enthralled or bored, cheering or booing? You can use this instant feedback to continually adapt your performance, make sure you’re holding attention and confirm in your own mind that you’re giving the audience everything they need from your story.

Across all industries, there is a real problem with the measurement of content marketing activity. Just 8% of businesses consider themselves to be ‘very successful’ at tracking content marketing return on investment, according LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community.

Most businesses fall down by looking too broadly at general numbers like page views and shares, without interpreting this data into actionable insights. In fact, according to research by Contently, 90% of marketers don’t feel that their key content metrics effectively measure business results.

Why not take this as an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors? What do you need to look for and how can you translate your findings into actions that will help tip the scales?

Although you’ll measure and monitor each piece of content continuously, you’ll probably want to report more broadly on your activities at certain points. When you set out your content marketing strategy, hopefully you were clear about what you wanted to achieve. Are you getting there? At the end of the day, you need to be able to answer one question: is it working?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to focus only on metrics that directly relate to your aim, goals and objectives. Don’t waste time collecting data and reporting on anything else. In my experience, information that doesn’t prove or justify your activity will just distract you from those actionable nuggets of insight, not to mention bloat your reports and encourage extraneous questions that are impossible to answer.

In a nutshell, by only monitoring the right things, you’ll keep your wits sharp and be empowered to cut loose ineffective efforts that are slowing you down.

The concept is simple: collect the right information, make informed judgements and change things that aren’t working. The mantra goes like this: ‘GAUGE – ACT – MEASURE – ADAPT’.

by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.

If you build it, will they come?

Last week, I caught a bit of the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. If you haven’t seen it, the story starts with the main character hearing a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying “If you build it, he will come.” As the story progresses, Costner feels compelled to take action and ends up building a baseball field in his yard…and of course, he does come.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAaXAAAAJDc0MjZmMzZiLTYyN2MtNDhhYy1hOTE4LTZhYzZmM2I0ODE5YwThis got me thinking…

I meet a lot of businesses that have built great products and services, yet are struggling to succeed because not enough people are coming. This is because, generally, businesses don’t sink or swim on the quality or utility of their product alone; it’s only when there’s a sense of appeal that customers start switching on. In reality, the product’s existence isn’t ever reason enough to attract the volume of customers you want.

When these businesses realise nobody is coming, they often turn to special offers, discounts and even drop the price in a bid to attract customers. But this thinking is fundamentally flawed if the overall objective is to attract new customers – especially if they aren’t be aware of the product (or its value) in the first place. The actual problem is the product’s obscurity in the customers’ world – it isn’t inside the bubble they’re living in yet. If they don’t understand the value of the product, a drop in price isn’t going to create appeal.

Appeal is built on attraction, urgency and perceptions of demand. For some businesses, creating product appeal using content marketing will be easier than others, but the same basic ingredients usually apply:

  1. Attraction

Attraction in this context is the power of evoking interest in or liking for your product or brand. Here, you need to think about how you can attract customers without just telling them that you think your product is great.

My book, Content Marketing Revolution, talks about how today’s consumers are increasingly making decisions based on useful information, valuable engagements and brand affinity. To expand on this, I strongly believe customers hardly ever make decisions based on the product itself – in most cases customers don’t buy products – they buy brands. It’s usually more about the way they feel about the seller, brand or provider.

Think about how you can use informative and educational content to demonstrate how your product or service is solving a problem or making something better. Whether it’s hard facts, tutorials or user-generated content, you need to make sure your content delivers the message clearly and is appealing or relevant to your target customers.

  1. Urgency

In sales and marketing, urgency is often created with time pressures and scarcity. When attraction and urgency are paired, swift action naturally follows. Think about how you can create a sense of immediacy in the content you create. For example, you might make a download available for a limited period for a limited number of people, or maybe schedule a live webinar or Periscope talk on a specific date and time. The idea is to encourage your audience to take some kind of action before the opportunity passes.

  1. Demand

Demand is something every seller wants to keep and every buyer wants to get rid of (the buyer seeks to end “demand” by making a purchase). Often, this is heightened when their peers, influencers or even competitors also desire or advocate the product. Think about how you can use content to demonstrate demand within this group – endorsements, user-generated content and social conversations are a good starting point.

“Demand is something every seller wants to keep and every buyer wants to get rid of.”

Beyond this, how can you fortify the connection between the brand and the buyer to increase demand? A great way to do this is to create an intrinsic connection between the content you’re creating and the buyer’s relationship with the product. How about creating exclusivity with a club, a newsletter, or a social profile that offers exclusive content, advance access to offers and information?

Whatever your product, whether it’s a new idea, an improvement to an existing one, or even just an offering that’s new to your business, the product’s existence isn’t enough to attract buyers. Instead, be proactive and start creating your market right now with valuable content that directly appeals to your prospects.

If you set your target and build the content, they will come.

 

by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane and author of Content Marketing Revolution.

Content marketing: Driving quality

Every day for work, I wear a suit and tie with a pocket square. Over the last few years, this has become a sort of trademark among people that know me. But, for me, it isn’t just a style choice – when I’m wearing these clothes, I feel like I’m ready to take on anything that comes my way. Batman has his cowl, Superman has his cape and I have my pocket square! Ok, a bit much? Bear with me…

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The way we present ourselves, sends out a clear message to the world. What do you want that message to be? For me, it is about demonstrating effort, professionalism and attentiveness. Whether I’m meeting clients, colleagues or rivals, I want them to know I’m there with full commitment and strong conviction.

Whether we are meeting customers at the cash register or speaking with them through our content, the way we present ourselves will dramatically influence perceptions of our brand.

I’m not suggesting we make all of our content overly formal like my clothes, but we do need to let an air of quality and reliability permeate everything we do.

VOLUME & VELOCITY RISKS

It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of filling space and pumping out masses of content in all different formats, across a range of platforms. But, the more content we are producing at pace, the more quality and consistency comes under threat, particularly if we’re stretching limited resources.

Consider the ‘Speed – Quality – Cost Triangle’. For every piece of content we create, there is a trade-off between the speed we can deliver it, the production cost and the quality of the end result. It’s not possible to have more than two of these factors working in our favour at any one time. For example, if we’re looking to deliver the content quickly to a high quality, it will be expensive to produce; if we want it to be high quality and inexpensive to produce, it will not be delivered quickly. The final option is the one we’re to avoid at all costs: delivering quickly, but inexpensively – this is where quality fails.

Picture1Problems with our content reflect badly on our brand; if customers spot quality flaws, they will expect the same sloppy effort from us when it comes to our products and services.

We can mitigate these risks by complementing our style guide with a quality assurance framework that all work must pass through before it is published.

The process can be as simple as a manual checklist, or it can involve automated devices or sophisticated checking systems. In all cases, there are some crucial factors to consider before we hit the little red publish button.

COPY 101

The most obvious and easy way to manage quality checks are for spelling, grammar, punctuation and language, yet these are some of the most common content flaws.

No matter how compelling our content, simple typos and grammatical errors will immediately create the perception that it is low value and less authoritative.

Just as these errors are easy for us to check, they are also very easy for audiences to pick up on. It is beneficial to set up a process for checking the basics, making full use of the tools built-into our text editing programs as well as human proof reading.

APPROPRIATE MULTIMEDIA

Multimedia like videos, slideshows, photos, playlists, audio and photography can be highly engaging, but only if it is produced to an appropriate quality.

We might not need every piece of content to be top notch, but we do need to make a judgement call on whether or not the media is appropriate quality for the context it’s used and the target audience.

Lower-quality multimedia might be acceptable if it’s user-generated, deliberately ‘home-made’, or it fits into the context of its channel, such as Vine or Periscope. But in some cases, the context of the content will call for higher, even professional-quality media. For example, if we’re recording a podcast series, we’re probably going to want the content to be as professional as possible.

One aspect we can never compromise on, however, is the quality of the message. Whatever context, regardless of the audience, the message is the purpose of the content. What do we want it to say? What statement do we want to make? Is this clear enough?

GRAPHIC DESIGN

When producing anything that has a visual element, use a professional graphic designer or the best in-house resource. Whether it’s a flyer, an infographic or a web element, try and not be tempted to do it without the right skills or experience. Not only will an inferior attempt be less likely to get used or shared, there is also a chance it will damage perceptions of our brand. Is our business slapdash, unprofessional or dated like that homemade infographic?

LAYOUT

The layout of the content will affect its usability, so we must ensure we deliver the best possible experience by presenting the content in a logical format. Huge blocks of text are difficult to negotiate, especially online, and could cause your audience to skim read.

If we are not thinking about our audience’s needs when creating our content, they simply will not use it.

DON’T GET STUFFED (WITH KEYWORDS)

Let’s acknowledge for a moment that we have an ulterior motive at play. Although we’re working really hard to create content that our audiences will find useful, interesting or entertaining, we are doing this because we want something: a place in our target customers’ minds.

Naturally, in our quest to get our content out there to as many of the right people as possible, we’ll want to search engine optimise it with relevant keywords. But be careful not to diminish the overall quality and readability of the piece with unnatural keyword stuffing or phrase manipulation. Our audience won’t like it and, actually, neither will the search engines.

Your brand may not be the biggest or most influential in the marketplace, but what makes you the BEST in your niche area? Is it your unique relationship with customers? Or, perhaps your passion for the topic? Whatever the proposition, the clarity of your voice and the quality of its delivery will define your customers’ perceptions.

Next time you’re about to hit the publish button, stop for a moment. How much do you believe in this piece of content? Do you genuinely see where it delivers value? Don’t allow things like the pressures of a publishing schedule or a rapidly emerging opportunity to cloud your judgement. Quality concerns should trump all other commitments!

Remember, delivering quality content is your obligation, your privilege, your raison d’être.

by Dane Brookes, Director at Group Dane & Author of Content Marketing Revolution, Giant Leap Media, 2015.

How to make an impact with real-time content marketing

One of my favourite business experts, Grant Cardone, says “success loves preparation”. It makes perfect sense that you’ll perform better in any given situation if you’re suitably prepared. Content marketing is no exception – the best content marketing is always well planned, executed with precision and highly targeted to the intended audience. This is the epitome of good preparation, right? But, it isn’t always possible to plan for every situation before it arises.

What if something unexpected happens? Perhaps a new product is released by a competitor, there’s a sudden economic slump or even a hot topic of discussion emerges among your target audience overnight. As content marketers, sometimes the only way we can take unexpected opportunities and swerve dips in the road is to adapt and respond quickly, if not instantly with relevant, valuable content.

timeReacting and adapting to the audience’s world can make your voice more relevant and dynamic, but it can be a risky tactic, so you need to make sure everything we publish in “real-time” supports your strategy.

CREATING IN REAL-TIME

Sometimes an opportunity will arise that calls for content to be created from scratch. The scope for pay-off will be more risky because there just won’t be time to follow all of the usual planning and development processes. However, there are a few questions to answer before creating anything on-the-fly, including:

  1. How will the content specifically contribute to your big aim, goals or objectives?
  2. Will the topic still be ‘hot’ by the time it is ready to publish?
  3. Are there any legal considerations associated with publishing the content right now?
  4. Is the situation really time-limited?

IDENTIFY KEY CONVERSATIONS

What are the topics, issues and discussions you want your brand to be associated with? They might be conversations people are already having, or they might be new ones that we’re anticipating. Think about how you can valuably contribute to and fuel these conversations early on. How will this content help to bolster your voice among the target audience?

LISTEN UP

You can monitor the use of keywords and phrases related to the topics and conversations you’re interested in. The best way is to use social media monitoring tools and online keyword scrapers to sift through blogs (including blog comments), news articles and other user-contributed content. There are a large amount of systems available to help with this:

  • For social media monitoring, my favourite system is Radian6. With huge data depths, this system scours the internet and highlights virtually every relevant conversation happening right now across the social web.
  • Services like BrandWatch dashboard complex keyword searches across social platforms and beyond, with a high degree of filtering. Like Radian6, this is a paid option, but well worth considering if budget allows.
  • The best of the free systems is probably Hootsuite, which enables you to identify the words and phrases you’re interested in across various social channels, all displayed in a series of real-time feeds.
  • Google Alerts is a great free service that allows you to identify keywords and phrases and get real-time alerts when they appear in news and other online publications. There is also a special setting to include results from social media sites.

stand-therePIVOT AND ADAPT CONTENT

It is important that you’re ready to adapt to the market challenges and opportunities whenever necessary. Don’t be afraid to bring scheduled content forward in the content calendar if it’s particularly relevant to a current topic. Market need always trumps the schedule.

The same goes for archived and live content. If there is an opportunity to bring it back to prominence or reinvent it, go ahead and adapt, refocus, or republish. But be careful not to crowbar content into tenuously linked topics, as the lack of relevance will be obvious and will only devalue your voice.

INDIVIDUAL TARGETING

We have already discussed how important key market influencers are. While it is crucial that you listen to how they are using their dominant voices, you must remember that every single member of our audience has the potential to influence others.

Some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Philips, take the time to respond and deliver bespoke content to audiences of just one person. There is no engagement like a one-to-one engagement.

Creating ad hoc content for individual customers might sound like a great deal of work, but it shouldn’t actually be an indiscriminate process. In reality, it is more about responding to individual customers in a very personal way with content that will also appeal to the rest of the audience segment.

ADD VALUE OR GO HOME

Although you need to look for content marketing opportunities around the hot topics you’re interested in, you don’t need to interact with every single conversation and related sub-topic. Only get involved with hot topics that are relevant to your audience and that you’re able to add value to.

DON’T KILL CONVERSATIONS

If you see conversations on websites, social media, blogs and forums that you want to get involved with, it’s important that you keep your contributions appropriate and highly-relevant. We want to position ourselves as part of the community, almost like friends sharing useful information. But, bear in mind that nobody likes that friend who won’t let anyone else speak; you can be that clever, understanding and helpful friend instead.

Remember, you’re not telling people where to go next or what to do, we’re just going with the flow of the conversation and helping with content where it might be useful. Avoid spammy interruptions!

FINAL THOUGHTS

For me, real-time content marketing is about heightening empathy by listening to customers’ rants and sharing their joys. If you aren’t watching, listening and relating to customers, they will quickly realise you are speaking at them, not with them.

Before you start publishing any content “on-the-fly”, it’s important to be sure it contributes in some way to the overall aims, goals and objectives of your content marketing strategy. If it doesn’t help you move towards your purpose, don’t publish it.

This blog post contains an excerpt from Content Marketing Revolution by Dane Brookes and is used with permission. You can buy the book on Amazon and the offical book website.

Why is content king?

It’s no secret that a website’s success depends on strengths in a few key areas, including: design and structure; functionality; and content.

Interestingly, when a client asks us to develop a website, content is often the last item on their priority list.

From copy, images and videos to the titles of pages and sections, content is fundamental to the success of any website.

But why is website content so important? Here are a few pointers to help you to understand why great content is important.

Search ranking

Search engine rankings are driven by content. No matter how well designed or user-focussed your website is, without high quality, subject-relevant content, Google, Bing and other search engines will not rate your web pages as well as you would like.

Guiding visitors

It is important to remember that visitors are always looking to do something, whether that is perform a task, be entertained or find information. It is ultimately content that will guide a visitor around a website and encourage them do something. Without strong messages and appropriate calls to action, the user will struggle to follow the paths you have set out for them.

Images, video and beyond

Strong copy isn’t the only thing to consider when it comes to content. A picture may paint a thousand words, but if labelled up correctly, they can also pull in more website visitors, not to mention compliment the design of the website. There is little point investing time and money into fantastic webs design if you are going to assault it with poor quality images.

Given YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine, why not try to capture some of that traffic by creating video content that you can upload and embed into your website? Don’t forget to label the video appropriately and link back to your website.

Further guidance

If you would like more support or advice about improving your website content, find out more about our content services.