In our continuing series on “Content Marketing” we now come to the $64,000 question — Everyone in the field admits that you need to put effective content out there. Effective content is the cornerstone of Content Marketing. But that begs the question: Just what is “effective” content?
Same Animal – Different Face
“Effective” content looks — and behaves — differently, in different contexts, in different niches/industries.
For example, a set of company tech spec sheets might be effective (think lots of downloads) for reaching site visitors and searchers who might be researching a laptop purchase.
On the other hand, those contemplating the purchase of the latest best-seller will be interested in another type of content — reviews of those who have already read it.
There is no one type of content that works best in all situations, for everyone, for every type of audience, or even the same person at different stages of the sales/marketing funnel.
Another thing: Effective content is not just about getting one thing right, but about getting the whole picture in mind.
Spring Is In The Air — Let’s Go to the (Baseball) Game
Yep, Spring is just around the corner here in my neck of the woods, so I thought that for this article I would use scoring in Baseball to provide structure for this article. So, just how do we round those bases and score a home run with truly effective content?
First Base: Effective content is based on the right understanding of your target audience and their needs and concerns.
Second Base: Effective content is content presented in the best format/type.
Third Base: Effective content is targeted at the right audience channel.
Home Run: Effective content is content that provokes the right response from your target audience.
Let’s explore this in more detail…
Getting to First Base: Correctly Understanding Your Audience Needs and Concerns
You have to get to first base… well, um… FIRST. Unless you understand your audience correctly you can’t choose a correct format or channel for your content.
- How much do you really know about your audience?
- How much about your target audience really CAN be known?
The need here is satisfied by creating customer personas. These are summaries of what you already know for sure (or have discovered) about various “types” of people you need to target. These are not fictional creations but are based on data about actual persons that you have collected, or have access to.
How do you get such data? Think…
Google Analytics – Alexa – Facebook Insights – Google AdWords Display Planner.
Find out – Who is reading your blog? Who has subscribed to your newsletters, courses or free giveaways?
There are tools that exist that will help you to discover more about them.
You can use your customer personal data (personal names, company names, telephone numbers, email addresses) and research them or social media and even reach out to them directly with carefully-crafted questions, in order to find out more about them.
Look at forums, hangouts, industry sites, membership sites — anywhere your customers are or could be.
In addition to an email try picking up the phone (!), if they are near you, you could even visit them. You could create a focus group (or hire a marketing research firm to do this).
What Kinds of Things Do You Want to Know?
- Where are you located?
- What is your income level?
- How big (size) is the company you own or are affiliated with?
- What is your educational level?
- What types of products or services do you like to purchase?
As you compile this data, you will need to segment the data into separate personas when it seems relevant. For example, if you are selling laptops one of your audience might be college-age students, with another big segment being already employed business professionals. As the life situation, income, political/cultural/social viewpoints, age, family size, etc. differ greatly they would constitute two different personas.
Getting to Second Base: Presenting Your Content in The Best Format/Type
As you are well aware, there are many, many different “types” of content that can be produced, and the way it might be presented:
Blog posts – videos – FAQ’s – infographics – buying guides – quizzes – surveys – polls – latest news – trends – photos – memes – product reviews – podcasts – email blasts – newsletters – industry roundups – quotes from industry influencers – interviews, press releases – research results – statistical analysis – case studies – controlled research – data-mining – editorial opinions/commentary (social/political/cultural) – whew!
As was outlined in a previous article, you want to consider learning styles when you match content to various audiences.
And there are some types of “content” that you want to AVOID like the plague:
Auto-generated/spun content – pages on sites that are slow to load (>1-2 secs.) – keyword-stuffed content – factually incorrect/untrue/outdated content – content on sites loaded with ads – content not properly proofread with grammar and spelling errors – content with broken links – pages with cloaked links.
All other things being equal, effective content is also going to be:
Findable – Can be found in the search engines, ranking well.
Actionable – Practical and useful information that your audience can put to use right away.
Sharable – Make sure that you provide social-sharing buttons and/or share links.
Commentable – Content good enough that people will want to share comments, if you think it is appropriate to allow comments and you have the resources to monitor and reply to comments.
Readable – Content that is well-organized and aimed at the correct reading level for your audience and the site where the content is located.
Understandable – Solid, meaty content but also a presentation that does not overwhelm the reader.
Getting to Third Base: Targeting the Right Audience Channel
How do you target your content to the right audience channel? Very simply: Begin first with where your audience already is.
Your referred website traffic stats can tell you this. Are certain sites, certain locations, popping up often?
Again, as before noted in other contexts, look at your competitors – Where do they seem to be getting traffic? Where are they placing links? Look for your competition on social sites, find their pages and see what level of engagement they have been able to achieve. If they are successfully engaging with a shared core audience, you can do it as well.
It is important not to roll out engagement on too many different channels at one time. It is far better to roll out on 1-2 of the most important channels at first and do a thorough job of execution and engagement than to aim at 5-6 (or more!) distribution channels and only engage half-heartedly.
Critical: Watch your metrics. At this point in time, you should have a good idea of what metrics you need to track, so keep your eyes on them as you deploy your Content Marketing campaigns. Deploy through one channel at a time so you will know that any observed metrics changes are due to that deployment. Also, be monitoring for negative metrics – declines in site visits, likes, shares, higher than usual bounce rates, fewer conversions, negative comments/reviews.
Finally, don’t be afraid to drop unproductive channels if they don’t seem to be working for you. You can use the time, resources and content you have available to try out content placements on other, potentially more effective, channels. As you move forward, you’ll soon learn the channels that seem to work best for your types of campaigns. Retain them, they are the gold dust you are looking for.
Hitting a Home Run: Content That Provokes the Right Audience Response
Everyone wants to hit a home run, and the home run of any content is that it provokes the right response, the right reply, from your audience.
But that means that you must decide what type of “response” you are looking for.
For some types of content placements, the desired response might be a click on a download button.
For others, it might be a signup for a demo account — or perhaps an inquiry to your sales/marketing department.
Simply put: If you don’t know what you’re after, how will you know if you get it?
No More Superficiality!
It should be getting clear by this time that effective Content Marketing requires – demands – content that is not superficial. And content that provokes the right audience response takes time to develop – because it is based on a deep-dive into the subject-matter, and that requires lots of study and organization of what you know (or come to learn).
This type of response-provoking content resonates with those who encounter it because they can instantly see how helpful and useful it will be to them. There is no confusion there -they can see that it answers their questions and/or solves their problem(s).
Response-provoking content generally presents information not available elsewhere (or not easily accessed) and/or presents it in a different way than others have done, or presents much more detail than other, similar content.
Response-generating content impresses others with its trustworthiness and authority: References or sources are given for facts presented, the reader gets the impression that the content is fair, well-balanced and objective. It is also going to be presented to the public by a person/company with important credentials and reputation.
Finally, engaging, non-superficial content is often talked-about content, so the presenter (writer, poster) of such content does not go into hiding but interacts with comments and replies, to further engage the target audience.
A Final Word Or Two On Content Marketing
Content Marketing is simple — if you are going to rush through it and get half-assed results. But if you want to succeed at it, you have to be prepared to really work at it and plan it out in detail at every stage. But the rewards can be truly transformational for any business — so don’t get discouraged, keep at it and strive to improve. Some day you WILL hit the ball out of the park, I GUARANTEE IT!