How can your business build a sustainable and effective content marketing strategy that creates real presence and drives leads?
For the fourth year running, the Fifty Five and Five team had the pleasure of going to the Microsoft Inspire Conference, which was held again this year in Las Vegas, Nevada. The week was packed full of corenotes, workshops, meetings, and conversations with clients and partners alike. Inspire 2019 was certainly an event to remember.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with Marc-Andre Fontaine from SherWeb, Paul Hsu from Nintex, and Jennifer Tomlinson from Microsoft and discuss fantastic content marketing in practice – does it work? What does it look like? And most importantly, how to do it?
In this year’s Digital Marketing Excellence Report, SherWeb and Nintex placed tenth and third, respectively – which meant they had plenty of fascinating contributions to offer. Including doing a pretty great job of answering those questions.
Does content marketing work?
What does it look like?
How do I do it?
If you weren’t able to catch the session, don’t worry – because we’ve pulled together some of the most important points together in this blog.
Here’s a look through our eight tips for a successful content marketing strategy.
1. Have a clear goal
Any successful content marketing campaign should start with one clear question: ‘What do we want to achieve with our content?’ This should influence every blog, eBook, or social post you create.
Having a clear overarching goal to your entire digital marketing strategy is vital. It can be easy to assume that this goal would be ‘to generate leads’ – that is, after all, the goal of every business. But it’s also worth taking some time to consider the ‘how’ as well as the ‘why’ you’re creating content.
In the case of SherWeb, for example, this meant creating informative content that would engage their readers, so they feel empowered to take the next step in the buyer’s journey. Defining this goal requires an understanding of what your readers’ expectations are and how you can effectively fulfil these needs.
2. Understand your audience
Before you write a single word or post a single tweet, you need to understand more about the people who’ll be reading it. For that, you’ll need analytics.
Luckily, almost anybody with a website domain can analyse who comes and goes on their website – using Google Analytics. As Nintex have discovered, this data can help you understand who your readers are, what they’re looking for and how they’re doing it. With this information, you can understand the demographics of your readership, including age, job title, seniority, and any related interests they might have. This is all important information; the material you create for an HR manager will naturally be different from that created for an IT expert.
Once you understand this information, the next step is to create marketing personas based on the information; a semi-fictional account of your ideal customer based on this research. From there, it’s much easier to target your future content towards this person.
3. Identify your content types
Once you’ve worked out who you’ll target, the next step is to work out what you’ll create. Different organizations will have different needs from their content strategies – so there’s no one size fits all approach. There’s an almost infinite range of different content types, from the more conventional blogs, eBooks and case studies, to more interactive examples like quizzes, polls, infographics and much more.
Having worked with many Microsoft Partners on their marketing strategies, Jennifer is well placed to advise on how buyers can identify the right content for their audience. The trick is to identify what question your buyer is asking, and then tailor the content type back to that specific need. Research is central that, understanding who your customers are, the search terms they’re using, and the specific problems they aim to address.
If you’re a smaller company with limited in-house resources, chances are you won’t be able to produce a large range of different types of content straight off the bat. For that reason, it’s important to effectively identify what types of content will have the maximum impact on your readership. For B2B audiences, we find blogs, eBooks, and whitepapers, as well as social media content on LinkedIn to be the most effective. But this won’t necessarily be the same for you – so make sure to go back to your personas and consider your audience data when planning your content marketing strategy.
4. Plan your time
Creating an editorial calendar is one of the most important pillars of a successful content marketing strategy. It’s easy to think ‘I’ll just write a blog when I’ve got something to write about, or when inspiration hits’. In reality, unless you create clear goals and deadlines, it’ll almost certainly fall to the bottom of the to do list. For that reason, it’s good to start by defining exactly how much content you’ll produce each month, and what types. Then, it’s time to start generating ideas.
When planning their content strategy, Nintex took an ambitious approach, setting a target of 20 blogs a month and five or six webinars a month. They also found success with whitepapers, eBooks, infographics, and guidebooks. For a large company with a wide readership over many industries and verticals, this strategy is effective.
For many companies, however, as little 4-8 blogs a month, 1-2 eBooks and some accompanying social media activity can lay a strong basis for an effective digital marketing campaign. Remember, consistency is always more valuable than quantity.
5. Promotion is everything
You can write the best content in the world, but if nobody knows about it – it’s not worth the html code it’s written on. It’s important to find ways to push your content out and find new audiences. SEO and paid media will naturally play an important part in this – and learning how to properly optimize your content for Google is really important.
But if you want to build a successful, sustainable and organic following, the best tools are social media and email marketing. SEO and paid media might help you generate an audience, but it won’t help you sustain it over time. For a B2B audience, Twitter and LinkedIn generally provide the most valuable audiences.
SherWeb have experienced great success in expanding the reach of their social audience by using their employees’ profiles. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for this, since your employees will already have a ready-made network of relatively engaged followers with a specific focus on your industry. Many organizations would (and have) paid good money for a following like that – so underestimate it at your peril.
6. Track, measure and refine
Building a long-term content strategy from the ground up is certainly the hard part – but that doesn’t mean it is plain sailing from there. The B2B technology market is a competitive place and organisations looking to stay on top need to make constant improvements to their digital strategies.
To do this, you should constantly aim to discover more about your readership and how they interact with your content. Research is incredibly valuable, and it is vital to understand how successful the content you produce is or could be. That requires an understanding of how many people are viewing the content, as well as how they access it. If you discover that all your readers are finding you through paid media and SEO, it’s a good sign you need to improve your organic social efforts. As well as this however, tracking bounce rates and engagement times will help improve your strategy, since it will allow you to identify which pieces of content readers are really interested in.
7. Conversations = leads = customers
It’s important to remember that every digital marketing campaign is ultimately designed to generate leads. It’s all well and good providing content that engages your audience – but ultimately you need that audience to convert. Engagements metrics and conversions are therefore important. Luckily, these can also be found In Google Analytics.
Producing a large amount of content will allow you to experiment with different content types, and consider over time which ones are most likely to attract and engage your readers. Every organization will have a slightly different readership, so it’s important to remember that there’s no one size fits all approach.
But it is important to remember that you can’t expect conversions overnight – and achieving true thought leadership is a long game. The most successful content marketing strategies, like those of SherWeb and Nintex, benefit from a long term investment into an honest and informative conversation with their customers.
8. Consistency is key
A content strategy must, above all, have a long term goal. There’s no point posting a few blogs and some social media tweets and expecting the leads to roll in. It simply doesn’t work like that.
If you’re looking for short term wins, paid media will help get some immediate traffic – but it’s important to work on an organic presence at the same time. Over a long period of time, you’ll start to see content and social engagement rise, providing you with far richer and more lucrative audiences then Google Ads ever could.
But as well as consistency in the amount of content, you should also aim for a consistency in style. Every piece of content you produce is essentially a lesson in branding – and should contribute to your company’s wider image. Whether that’s the topics you choose to discuss or the opinions you share, you should work to create a clear and tangible brand voice through everything you do. This is perhaps the key to the success of Nintex’ and SherWeb’s content strategies – any piece of content you read is distinctively there’s – contributing to a clear unity of brand and focus across the whole reach of the strategy.
Creating a long-term content marketing strategy
If you only take away one of these content marketing tips, make sure to remember that there’s no shortcut to digital marketing success. Becoming a true brand leader requires patience, commitment, hard work – and a clear understanding of the people you’re talking to. This is perhaps the most important thing that our conversations with SherWeb and Nintex discovered. All of that takes time – but if you’ve got the resources it’s absolutely worth investing in.
Having worked with a range of established Microsoft Partners, we at Fifty Five and Five know full well how effective a long-term content strategy can be. If you want to find out for yourself how you can achieve more with content, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.