Friday, February 17, 2012

Demystifying Content Marketing

Content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute, is “creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” In other words, it’s communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. That newsletter you receive every week that gives you “how to” tips or shares industry trends, or tells pet adoption happy ending stories – that’s content marketing. The hope behind this strategy is that the recipient will reward the purveyor of this valuable information with business and loyalty.

The challenge with this strategy is knowing where to start and what information to send. In theory, this is an uninterrupted stream of information going out via whatever channel, or channels, you select. That’s a pretty high demand on your resources if you try to deliver custom information to every segment. I’ve broken that down into a more manageable process:

  1. Simplify content management
  2. Analyze personality segments
  3. Establish the content production process
  4. Focus on relevant data

Simplify Content Management

Sure, you have customers and prospects everywhere. You can’t turn around without running into one. But the question is, where are they congregating? It’s like going fishing. You’re sitting at the top of a river and you can see all the subsidiaries downstream. They all look promising but after a little observation you notice that all the fish you’re after are located in two or three places. Those are the places you want to cast your line. The same is true of content management. Just because you can disseminate through twitter, facebook, blogs, or more traditional print media, that doesn’t mean you should. Find out where your fish are hanging out. Whittle it down to a few major sources. That’s where you concentrate your energy.

Analyze Personality Segments

Psychographic segmentation is a great tool for breaking down what information you want to send out. The confusion comes when you try to create a different strategy for each personality segment. There can be a huge number of variables you have to deal with when it comes to your buyers – so don’t create a strategy based on each personality segment. Look for commonalities. You may find that two, three or four overarching content paths that will resonate with the largest percentage of your customers and prospects.

Establish the Content Production Process

We’ve all been there. You need to write some content for a channel. You whip it out and think it’s great. You’re ready to post. Oh, wait…you forgot something – the review. And now you’re behind on your schedule. As with most things, having a formal process in place to manage collaboration and production will smooth the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to admit that one of my favorite things is to review and streamline processes, but for the most part they’re in place because they work –at least to some degree.

Figure out what your demands and resources are. How much time does the project require? How many people do you have on your team with the necessary skills for the project and how much time can they give, respectively? You might have to cut back on the scope of the project a little or you may be able to expand, but there are your demands and resources. Then you formalize your actual process. Typically that means going from writer to editor to final to publish to promotion. Specify who does what and how long they have to do it. Thanks to CMI for this great illustration:

Focus on Relevant Data

Finally, you’ve got your message out and you’re starting to see returns. Great! I love information. I love seeing it come in, putting it into a visual format, analyzing it and using it to adjust my strategy or design to maximize my return. Not everyone loves numbers, though, and even those of us who do know we need to pick and choose. You need to decide which data is most relevant to what you are trying to achieve. For me, that usually means conversions, traffic sources, key words, popular content, exit pages and traffic comparisons.
  • Conversions – I like to know what content is successfully achieving the desired actions. Sometimes that means clickthroughs; sometimes that means a phone call off of a sell sheet; and sometimes it means something else. The point is, I need to leverage what’s working to increase my ROI.
  • Traffic Sources – This helps me figure out where to spend my dollars. I may shift my spending from one ad to another or away from postcards and into webinars. Maybe those Google AdWords you’re spending an arm and a leg on simply aren’t working.
  • Key Words – This is probably pretty self-explanatory. Look to the ones that are working and leverage their exposure and use. Eliminate the ones that aren’t. It doesn’t hurt to look at your key phrases as well.
  • Popular Content – Again, you need to know what’s working and what’s not. If something isn’t working, rework it or replace it. I repurpose content that’s working in one channel for other channels, if it isn’t already in use there.
  • Exit Pages – For whatever reason, if you see a high percentage of exits from a particular page, there’s a pretty good chance something on it is losing your audience. It might not be pertinent to them or it might not be presented in such a way as to hold their interest. Any way you look at it, something needs to be done to keep them looking at your content.
  • Traffic Comparisons – This is a great overview tool. It will tell you if your traffic is up or down. You can compare to the same time period from the previous year or just look at how traffic is doing on a continuous basis.

Small Bites

Like any other large project or undertaking, looking at Content Marketing in its entirety can be a little bit frightening and overwhelming. If you break down into its component parts and then focus on the most relevant aspects of those parts, it’ll seem a lot more manageable.

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