Illustration woman planning content strategy

Content planning: the 3 crucial steps to keeping your audience coming back for more

When it comes to content planning, developing a strategy is easy…in theory. In practice, it can be tricky to create a successful plan that not only reaches the right people but keeps your readers coming back for more. That’s why we’re revealing the three crucial steps to attracting an audience and keeping them primed and interested in what you have to say.

 

Step 1: Know your audience

The first step to great content is understanding who you’re creating it for. It’s been said a million times before, but it’s worth saying it again:

  • Research who your ideal customer is
  • What is stopping them from doing a better job?
  • What do you think they would change about the way they work if they could?

Asking these questions – every time you think about your audience – is absolutely crucial. Never lose sight of who they are, what they need and how you can help them.

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Quick tip: combine tech and human insights

Get in touch with the person in charge of your sales strategy. Ask them to help you with their insights into who your business is talking to. You likely have an idea who your ideal audience is. Your sales team are the people on the ground talking to them day after day. Mine them for all the insights they can muster.

In combination with speaking to the humans who sell your products and services, don’t forget to lean on technology to give you a hand. Conduct keyword research to understand what your audience is searching for online. The phrases and keywords they use should help you understand exactly what they’re looking for.

Try to adopt the mindset that your audience doesn’t know who you are yet and then think of your content as the answer to their questions. You are the solution to their needs. They may just not know it yet.

 

Step 2: Connect with your audience

At first, your audience may be looking for the answer to a question, as mentioned above. But what keeps them coming back to you for more? It’s all down to the way you tell a story. We all love stories and are hardwired to respond to them. The key to growing a readership is to create engaging content that tells a compelling story.

What is engaging content?

Really great content goes beyond answering a question or ‘providing value’. The engaging stuff connects with the people consuming it. The dynamic is similar to a joke or a piece of art. It’s surprising, it rises above the humdrum of everything else you may have read or watched on a subject, and above all it contains your unique voice. But how do you do that?

Well, first, forget the idea of ‘converting’ a reader into a lead and a lead into a customer. These things get in the way. Instead focus on connecting with what motivates your audience. This is where the art of rhetoric comes in.

When creating your content, think about the rhetorical devices that will connect with your audience:

Logos

Use facts and figures that will resonate with a certain type of audience who need to know what you’re selling will get them results.

Ethos

Develop content that shows that you are credible in your field. Awards, length of service and experience in a sector, and partnerships with other brands or vendors are all good ways of highlighting your credibility.

Pathos

Pathos is about emotional appeal. To connect with your audience on an emotional level, appeal to their beliefs. Using anecdotes, a specific tone (e.g., 'straight to the point' or 'irreverent'), along with figurative language are all good ways of doing this.

 

Step 3: Grow your audience

Getting your content in front of people is the task at hand. But to get them coming back for the next piece is the goal. And it’s the key to growing your audience and developing your authority in a space.

So, to recap: you need to put together your knowledge and connection with an audience into great content. That will ensure that they remember you and come back for more. By knowing what your audience wants and what it needs you can create content that is relevant to them.

Produce on a consistent basis

Looking forward to a piece of content requires knowledge and expectation of when it is going to appear. If your content is sporadic, even the most ardent members of your audience are likely to forget you. You need to schedule your work and stick to it. Creating a content calendar is a good step. Putting in place time and resources to develop ideas and create the content is crucial. And following that with a peer review will help make sure what you produce is fit for purpose.

Put your content where people will see it

There are several places your content can be seen by your audience. Your website and social media platforms like LinkedIn are the obvious two. But also creating a newsletter each week or month to send to your email marketing list is another good way of getting your work out there. Along with these, you can also publish your content on third-party sites as a guest blog or a syndication article.

Capture contact details and convert readers into subscribers

Not all your content should be kept behind gates. But long form pieces like eBooks, whitepapers or webinars can be great for capturing email addresses from interested readers. Giving people a way to put their hand up and acknowledge their interest in your content is a great step to establishing an audience base.

 

Amplify your brand

Once you've established a loyal following, then you can expand your content, developing longer/deeper/more niche stories. Your audience will follow you into new formats (such as podcasts). And a loyal audience will share, tell their friends, and help amplify your brand.


Blog image - The power of negative thinking

The power of negative thinking

One of the worst-kept secrets of the B2B writing world is that persona-writing is everybody’s favourite job. Fleshing out this ‘semi-fictionalised’ outline of our target audience is a unique opportunity to bring a little bit of fantasy and creativity to the writing process – and we love it.

Not too long ago, I found myself once again living my best life writing about Brenda, the absurdly overachieving CIO of a multinational corporation. Brenda was the kind of person everybody wanted to know. Her technical knowhow was first rate, her management skills incomparable - she knew exactly what was needed to be ‘ahead of the curve’, and she was wasting no time in getting there. Brenda, in a word was perfect - and that was exactly the problem. In a moment, my marketers’ fantasy was shattered as I realised I’d fallen into the classic writers’ trap: My persona was a Mary Sue.


Mary who?

‘Mary Sue’ is a term used by writers to describe a character who’s unnaturally and infuriatingly perfect. She’s a staple of internet fanfiction and young adult novels; a character with unnatural talents, beauty, ingenuity – and usually far younger than anyone with her skills and experience is likely to be. Once you know what to look for, you’ll start seeing Mary everywhere.

Brenda was textbook Mary Sue. She’s nothing like a real CIO; she’s a personified pastiche of various absurd B2B marketing clichés. I was being too positive about my character – to the extent where it barely resembled the target audience at all. Luckily it didn’t take much tweaking to tone Brenda down a bit – but I’d learned something valuable in the process.

There’s such a thing as too perfect

When creating personas – and indeed all marketing content, it’s easy to fall into this mindset of overly-idealising your ‘ideal’ audience. When your perfect persona looks nothing like your actual buyer, the marketing material you create will struggle to chime with the real audience’s priorities, pain points and challenges.

As marketers, we like to live in the world of positivity. Our job is to explain to the world why our clients’ products are great. But good marketing needs to have a basis in reality if it has any hope of communicating with the real people that are going to read it. Sometimes, a little negativity can help bring your Mary Sue personas back down to earth.

What does your customer actually want?

A little pessimistic thinking can go a long way in aligning yourself with your customer’s priorities. This is particularly the case when selling technology. Poor B2B writing usually features several clichés, revolving around innovation, digital transformation and the dreaded ‘ahead of the curve’.

These things aren’t strictly wrong, but they’re abstract, and they don’t really chime with the very tangible priorities of your target audiences. A client once put it to me in terms I could never beat: “my people don’t really give a fig about digital transformation, they just want their buggers to do their time sheets”. Applying a little strategic negative thinking can help you better understand the wants, challenges and pain points of the people you’re trying to sell to.

Improve the content you’re creating

But it’s not just about better understanding your audience. Being critical is also a vital part of understanding more about the work you’re creating and whether or not it’s up to scratch.

In any industry and profession, it’s easy to fall into the habit of patting yourself on the back, rather than forcing yourself to engage with the reasons your marketing material might not hit the mark. Is it too jargony? Too dense and overcomplicated? Is it too focused on how great you and your product are rather than engaging with the priorities of the reader? These are easy traps to fall into – we’ve all been there. But by putting yourself in the shoes of your reader and thinking critically, you can force yourself to get out of this habit – and your readers will thank you for it.

Sometimes controversial is ok

Being blithely uncontroversial is another positivity trap that marketers often fall into. It’s easy to justify not being offensive. But there’s a danger that in seeking to offend nobody, you also end up engaging roughly the same number of people. Sometimes, a little tactically-placed controversy can give you something unique to say, letting you speak a different language from your competitors.

To put this into practice, let’s pretend we’re marketing a videoconferencing app, which we’ll call WeTalkr. The inoffensively uncontroversial way of promoting the software could go something like this:

“WeTalkr allows you to seamlessly catch up with your colleagues any time and any place.”

There’s nothing wrong with this. But let’s be honest; it’s a little bland. Realistically, every competitor is going to be saying roughly the same thing. Why not try this instead:

“We know virtual meetings can be a faff. Are you tired of wasting ten minutes at the start of every meeting fiddling with cables and sound settings? Check out WeTalkr – for meetings that you actually want to attend.”

If you look beneath the surface, the second one isn’t all that different to the first. There’s nothing particularly offensive there, either. But by taking just a little extra risk and engaging with the less-than-perfect reality of your customers’ real lives, you can start to create content that’s better targeted to your reader, and better differentiated from your competitors. And, after all – isn’t that every marketer’s ultimate goal?

Creating content that really sings

Of course, there’s a line between a bit of well-placed negativity and being straight-up unpleasant – which isn’t going to impress anyone. It’s not always easy to work out where the sweet spot is for you and the people you’re speaking to, but it is possible. And sometimes, a bit of tactical negative thinking can help get started.


Smartsites A microsite with a unique look and feel

bluesource is a multi-award-winning, globally trusted IT consultancy on a mission to remove IT complexity and help organisations across every industry leverage the best technologies and drive innovation.

Standing out in a crowded market

bluesource were looking for help to create a microsite to promote its workplace intranet solution, SmartSites. For bluesource, SmartSites represented something completely different to any of its other offerings. They wanted something unique in terms of look and feel. Therefore, the SmartSites microsite had to have its own identity and brand, but also it needed to stand out in what is a competitive market.

bluesource sought us out for the project because we had worked together before. They knew our competencies and were confident they were in safe hands.

How the process worked

At the outset of the project, we began by sitting down with the bluesource team and assessing how best to market the new product. From these initial duscussions we developed the SmartSites site map, which outlined what pages would be needed and how they would connect to provide a seamless user experience. This was followed by the design concept to determine the look and feel of the site.

When this was complete and signed off by bluesource, our Web Design and Build team built the site, creating it in WordPress so that bluesource would have full control of the site after it had gone live. With WordPress, bluesource have the ability to update the site when they need to. On top of this, we provide ongoing support and technical maintenance on request. Finally, we wrote the copy for the site, applying messaging that had been developed from bluesource’s pre-existing literature.


bluesource case study

bluesource A services brochure that is as engaging as it is informative.

bluesource are a globally trusted business IT consultancy whose main objective is to help customers unlock their potential through technology; maximising business productivity via digital transformation and cloud computing.

Business services brochure design

bluesource’s list of services are numerous and varied. They required an engaging and visually appealing overview of the services they provide—something that could be given to prospective customers at a conference and as a downloadable piece of marketing for their brand explaining in detail the value they create. Before working with us, bluesource were struggling to unify the story of their brand in a simple and coherent way.

Telling an appealing story

To help bluesource broadcast their message to a wide range of potential clients we put together a high-end, A5 folding brochure that elegantly compiled all the business-critical services they provide. We worked closely with the relevant stakeholders to understand bluesource’s vision. This allowed us to produce content and design that brought together their numerous services into a single, engaging narrative.

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harmon.ie case study

harmon.ie Providing a range of marketing services.

Masters of email productivity

Over 1.5 million licensed enterprise users from thousands of companies count on harmon.ie to increase their adoption and return on investments in SharePoint, Office 365 and other Microsoft collaboration products. Whether it’s Email Management, Records Management or Knowledge Retention, harmon.ie are determined to make email – perhaps the most instrumental part of our working lives – all about the user.

Expertise across Office 365 and SharePoint products

We work regularly with harmon.ie to provide a range of original content. Well received both internally and externally, this content is used as part of the company’s marketing campaigns and strategies. The overall aim of our work is to further develop harmon.ie’s reputation as SharePoint and Microsoft experts.

Our writers at Fifty Five and Five are experts in Microsoft products, so we are able to write with real authority about topics that others find difficult to communicate. We are extremely well-versed in subjects like SharePoint, Outlook and Office 365, something harmon.ie appreciated as they required a deep understanding of the subject matter to communicate to their audiences.

We help harmon.ie in a numbers of areas:

  • Blog content
  • Social media engagement
  • Campaign planning
  • eBooks
  • Reports

A breadth of work

Focusing on content creation, Fifty Five and Five have worked closely with harmon.ie to ensure we are consistently expressing their business solutions in an accurate and appealing manner. Remaining up to date on the latest product changes and enhancements, we see content through from generation to SEO and social sharing.

harmon.ie case study

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Nintex case study

Nintex Content creation for the leading workflow brand

Nintex is the recognized global leader in workflow and content automation technology. The company’s easy to use technology solutions support the efficient management of processes at thousands of enterprise organisations worldwide, allowing users to tackle anything from basic business functions like document approval to sophisticated company-wide and even intra-company processes. Nintex solutions allow information workers to quickly and easily build on-prem to cloud-based workflows in a few clicks as no coding is required.

Engaging content that drives traffic

Nintex wanted to build market awareness and drive more traffic to its website, www.nintex.com, through content marketing. However, to produce the kind of consistent, high quality content which would lead to an uptick in traffic, time on site and, ultimately, leads, Nintex knew this would require a lot of time and dedication from internal staff.

The initial engagement with Fifty Five and Five was to produce a couple of blogs and a whitepaper. Over time, this relationship has evolved. Today, we are a strategic communications partner for Nintex who produces weekly blog posts, as well as regular in-depth whitepapers, design work, eBooks and interactive blogs.

Besides content relating to the Nintex Workflow platform, we have also interviewed senior staff at the business to produce thought leadership articles on topics as diverse as the future workplace and guidance on new regulations. We have also interviewed independent experts on how workflow automation could be applied in different industries for the Nintex blog.

Nintex case study

Goals achieved

Nintex's goal with its content marketing campaign was to generate more market awareness and boost traffic to its website. The initial targets have been surpassed. After just a few months of working with Fifty Five and Five, sessions on the Nintex blog had doubled on the previous year, bounce rates had dropped significantly and users heading to Nintex's main website from the blog had grown by 50%.

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proserveit case study

ProServeIT Helping a leading Microsoft Partner stand out online

ProServeIT is a multi-award-winning Microsoft Canada Gold Partner and Citrix Partner. Offering managed services, customer software development, IT service desk, and technology consulting services, they were one of the first Canadian companies to spearhead cloud computing and they have migrated over 200,000 users to the cloud.

ProServeIT had won a steady stream of work via referral. However, they wanted to gain more work organically through their website, and so turned to Fifty Five and Five to help develop a consistent SEO strategy that would help them reach new audiences and win more leads.

A close partnership for successful SEO

Our SEO experts worked closely with ProServeIT's in-house marketing team to help develop an SEO strategy that would help them achieve their goals. We have developed a close relationship where we regularly provide advice and guidance on changes and improvements ProServeIT can make, as well as carrying out optimisation of their website.

ProserveIT case study

Success with SEO is about long term, incremental improvement. Every month, we carry out regular work on ProServeIT's website to help shift individual pages, and the website as a whole, up the search rankings for their target keywords. We also produce a detailed monthly report where ProServeIT can monitor the work we have been doing and the results of that work. This report includes:

  • Data on search traffic
  • An update on unique users
  • Reviewing time spent on the website and user journeys
  • Checking keyword rankings
  • Monitoring leads

We also provide additional advice and guidance for ProServeIT's marketing team, keeping them up to date in latest SEO trends and updates.

A steady rise in traffic, time spent on page and leads

Success with organic SEO is something of a 'long game', yet the results of Fifty Five and Five's work with ProServeIT demonstrate how much impact a consistent strategy can have. For instance, one metric our reports cover is unique website users. 10 months after beginning our engagement with ProServeIT, the number of unique monthly users increased by 58%.

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prosymmetry case study

ProSymmetry A sleek and modern website for a leading ISV.

A cool vendor for 2016

ProSymmetry are the people behind Tempus Resource, a resource management tool that helps Project Managers model their project data. Identified as a ‘Cool Vendor’ by analyst Gartner, ProSymmetry enables companies of any size to make data-driven resource decisions.

prosymmetry case study

Web, social campaigns and content

We began working with ProSymmetry to modernise their website, and our relationship has developed to the point that we provide them with the ‘full works’ of our digital marketing offering. Since we upgraded their website, we now maintain it and keep it fresh with regular blogging and SEO management. We also help them tell their story with high value content in the form of whitepapers and eBooks, along with lead nurturing email and social campaigns. Our monthly reports and site performance analysis mean they can see the impact of the work we're doing.

ProSymmetry target the niche field of Resource Management, so they needed an agency that can understand the complexities of this specialism, and produce content that feels authoritative and relevant for a very specific audience. We know how to speak to that audience in a way that engages them and our marketing has helped grow traffic to ProSymmetry's website and the number of leads acquired through their digital channels.

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the information lab case study

The Information Lab Email newsletters, case studies and social media

The Information Lab help organisations make sense of the data they collect. They are Europe’s biggest reseller of Tableau, the leading data analytics tool, and they support customers right through the process of provisioning licenses to roll out and training. They also founded The Data School, one of the UK's most competitive and innovative graduate schemes which trains new data analytics experts and places them in exciting companies.

Emails which make a difference

The team wanted to produce consistent email marketing for both The Data School and The Information Lab which would engage their existing mailing list and also grow their reach. Finding the time to consistently write emails with new angles and interesting stories was proving to be a challenge, as was the requirement to design unique emails that still kept to a central theme. The Information Lab turned to Fifty Five and Five.

We have now been working with The Information Lab for almost three years and have developed a fantastic relationship with the company. Through regular calls with senior team members, we help set the direction, tone and topics to be covered in the emails, choosing stories their subscribers find interesting, crafting clickable subject lines and designing eye-catching images.

Through working with Fifty Five and Five, the Information Lab's email list has grown consistently month to month. Their news, special offers and events reach thousands of people, helping build relationships with customers and spread awareness of how the company can help their target audience. The Data School emails, in particular, have boosted the profile of the school—both among potential students and among clients, who often go on to hire data school graduates.

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Consort.it case study

Consort.it Design, content and print services.

Consort.it are a consortium of likeminded IT businesses based in the UK that share resources and expertise to enhance the services they can provide their customers. They are a collection of the leading professional IT service providers in their region; their objective is to be considered thought leaders in their industry while helping their customers advance their businesses via digital transformation.

A quarterly thought leadership magazine

Business Talk is a business quarterly offering thought leadership and important insights into current and future business trends produced by Consort.it. While the magazine had proved a useful marketing tool, each member company in the Consort.it group wanted to offer more in-depth information to their audience with an updated design, with each company able to publish their own unique version of each issue. They entrusted Fifty Five and Five to help them do so.

At Fifty Five and Five, we set about the project by developing a wireframe design of the magazine, coupled with a specific theme for each quarter (topics have included distance working, data analytics and data protection). Each issue contains several original, researched-based articles along with fully designed infographics and other design visuals.

In addition to the editorial theme, each member of Consort.it receives their own customised version of the magazine which includes an interview with one of their team members and a design which matches their individual company branding.

The content is then printed and shipped to customers and clients of each Consort.it member.

Consort.it case study

Reaching a wider audience

The makeup of Consort.it means that their marketing targets are varied and any material must be customised for each member of the consortium. Each edition needed to contain an individual message that spoke to that company’s customers while also aligning with the overall message of the group. The refresh and updating of Business Talk has driven leads to the Consort members via both traditional and digital channels and proved a valuable way of starting conversations with potential customers.

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