If you don’t have six figures of budget to buy in consultants and software to help you develop your content marketing programme or you simply need a solution faster, then there are less expensive solutions.
The following are 5 hints and tips born of practical, boots on the ground experience from developing content marketing programmes in the UK and around the globe.
1. Be a detective on Google to assess your target audience needs
It is critically important to understand what your target audience are interested in, where they go for that content and how they ‘consume’ it – - rather than what you want them to engage with – - because you need to work within their user journey if you are going to succeed.
Be a detective on Google. Drill down into the words and phrases that your customers use to express questions about your products and services. If you have an idea of the most popular search words and phrases for your category, that’s a good place to start. Then, follow your searches to see what content comes up in natural search findings and paid advertising. Keep an eye on the search results # at the top of the page, “About 364,000,000 results (0.38 seconds)”. Click and follow findings. Repeat. Repeat. After a while, you’ll get a picture of what your audience engages with most often and where they are finding that content.
An offline technique that is worth considering is to call 10 customers and ask them c. five questions: where they go for information (online & offline)?, what do they find most engaging?, who do they turn to for advice on the topic?…and the most important final question, would you please recommend 2 or 3 people whose opinions you value that I could call? Repeat your telephone interview with the 20+ recommended people. Repeat. By the 2nd or 3rd generation of this exercise, you will learn fascinating things about where your customers go for their content needs. NOTE: remain open minded as you go.
2.Hang around the ‘watering holes’ to learn about how they engage
There is an important difference between two types of content: that which is posted frequently and generates little engagement (think: digital press release by a company about a new product) and that which is posted less often and generates high levels of engagement (think: customer post about product experience). Both are good. They serve different roles in terms of awareness and engagement.
I am not going to focus on a tip for learning more about digital press release best practice. There is plenty of that around. This tip is about getting closer to the content that drives deeper engagement.
Spend some time at the ‘watering holes’ that you will find as a result of step #1. These are places that people gravitate to in order to find information about products and services, away from the cacophony of branded content. www.moneysavingexpert.com and www.mumsnet.com are examples of two such popular ‘watering holes.’
Follow the forum discussions, read the reviews…engage in some discussions. Very quickly, you will get a sense for what your customers are interested in engaging with more deeply and you may also get some valuable directional insight into what they think about your brand.
3. You have more content than you thought you had
After you’ve completed your low cost detective work, you’ll have a good idea of what content you need to use. The next key step is to find those valuable, relevant content assets. A top tip is to give your own corporate files (electronic and paper) a good search or audit before you produce new content or buy in content from a third party.
Companies, especially Fortune 500 businesses, generate an enormous amount of excellent content on a regular basis for events, press announcements, analyst sessions, etc. Auditing content in a methodical fashion across organisation silos results in a surprising find of valuable content. Everyone is so busy doing their tasks that valuable content is often treated as by-product that gets stored and forgotten. It’s there. In cupboards. Buried five pages deep in the corporate website. Sitting unwatched on YouTube. Viewing this through the lens of customer need frees you up to see and use this content in new ways.
4. Whatever the question is, the answer is probably video content
It is in the numbers. People spend x2.5 more time watching short, relevant video. Watching a video increases conversion rates by 40% to 300%. SEO performance lifts by 50% to 500% when using video content.
When you think about it, it makes sense. You don’t want to feel stupid asking the same question about “how a pension works” for the 5th time. But you don’t have any problem watching the video a 5th or 6th time. Plus, a video is more engaging than words on a screen and, when a person is included in the video, a good proxy for our preferred method of communication: face-to-face.
The key thing is to view video content as an opportunity to replace words on an email, copy on a website, a brief to a journalist on key points in the next quarterly financial announcement, etc. It is no longer just about producing one, 7 minute case history with Hollywood production values per year at a cost of £100,000. You should be thinking about producing and distributing 20 videos per month with lengths of 30” to 60” for around £100 per video.
5. Focus on content that will be shared
We turn to our friends and colleagues for information about new products and services about 5 times more often than advertising. Around 80% of advocacy is transferred face-to-face. So, the most likely scenario is that your content will be discovered online by a relatively small audience and then discussed face-to-face among a wider audience.
To be clear, this does not devalue the role of online content or social media sharing. The opposite. It underlines the value of viewing online content as the springboard for offline conversations.
So, one of the most important questions that you need to ask when planning your content strategy is: “what is the information that I need to distribute online in order to generate a conversation where my brand will be mentioned – - hopefully endorsed – - offline?
We don’t tend to repeat product announcements in our everyday conversations. In fact, one of the scenarios where people advocate product and services most often is in a cynical advice based story. For example, “you are travelling to France for the term break…great news…be careful about taking cash out of machines in France because you get charged large fees on your credit card…my credit card is X, I use it because they don’t charge me for these transactions…”
Think about the content that will get talked about and find a way to insert these content assets in the places where your customers’ discover nuggets to share with their friends.