This article is written by Lisa Toner, Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot and a member at Iconic Offices.
Businesses across Europe have mostly embraced content marketing in their organisations but according to HubSpot research, few have an optimised or advanced strategy. In fact, 59% of European marketers have an inconsistent, basic, or limited strategy, meaning they’re putting in some effort but likely not reaping many rewards. Looking at those figures, I’m struck by the huge opportunity that’s being presented to businesses who actually can nail an effective content marketing strategy. Get it right and you instantly have a competitive advantage over almost 60% of European businesses.
But I hear you saying: “That’s all fine and dandy, Lisa, but how exactly do I optimise my content marketing to become a well-oiled customer-generating machine?” Great question.
The answer can be broken down into three parts:
- Content Creation
- Content Distribution
- Content Monetisation
Let’s look at the tactics behind success for each of those categories:
If you rush out a piece of content simply to have a piece of content out there on the internet, you could end up doing more damage than good for your brand.”
This might sound obvious, but the content you create is the foundation of a successful content marketing strategy. Your content has to tick a lot of boxes in order to perform; it has to appeal to the right people, it has to be in a format they want to consume, it has to be valuable–in fact, more valuable than any other piece of content they could find elsewhere, and it has to relate to the key topics you want to be known for.
Seems like a lot, and it is, which is why you should never rush into content marketing without thinking through your strategy in great detail.
Here are my tips to creating content that works as hard as you do:
1. Understand Your Persona
To get started with choosing the topics you want to write about, start with your audience. Who are the people who would get the most value from your product or service? What does their day look like? What are they interested in? What excites them? What value can you offer them?
Understanding your buyer’s persona goes so much further than just knowing their job title or the industry they’re in. You need to get inside their head and understand what makes them tick. Customer interviews are a great way to do this.
Bonus tip: Find someone in your friend or family circle who represents your buyer persona’s characteristics and meet them for dinner a little more frequently to really get inside their head.
2. Research the Market Interest
Once you think you know a topic that your audience will be interested in, you need to research if there’s actually a place in the market for it. There are a few things I always do before embarking on a new content project.
- Run the topic through Buzzsumo to see who’s already creating content for it.
- Run the topic through Google Keyword Planner to make sure it’s getting good search volume.
- Do a Google search to see who’s already ranking for this topic and check out their content quality as well.
- Ask yourself how evergreen the topic is. If it’s something that’s going to need to be updated every few months to stay relevant, is it really worth your effort to create content for that topic over something that won’t need any (or very little) updating in the future.
When you understand the landscape you’ll have a better idea whether or not you’re in with a chance of dominating the market for that topic or if you’re better off finding something else to create.
3. Align your content with your product/service offering
At the end of the day, we create content to generate demand for our product or service offering because that’s what puts the food on the table. While it’s important to go broad with your top of the funnel content, you don’t want to stray too far away from your bread and butter either.
For example, at HubSpot, we sell marketing software so we know our target audience is interested in marketing. Our topic selection might look a bit like this:
Marketing → Social Media Marketing → Facebook Marketing → Facebook Advertising → How to Get Started with Facebook Ads
We also have a feature in our paid product that helps marketers with their Facebook advertising so there’s a really nice tie in for our CTAs from this content. We can easily navigate people from our top of the funnel content to becoming paying customers. You should always be thinking of your content as a way to demonstrate the value that your product or service offers. (Like a free sample.)
Marketers really need to spend as much time on their content distribution as they do on their content creation. If you build it, they won’t come, unless you’ve been strategic about getting the word out.
4. Plan a Pre-Launch Phase
Adding in a pre-launch phase to your campaign promotion calendar will open up lots of opportunity for you to get your content out there post-launch. Your pre-launch will give you ample time to prepare your promotional assets and gather some testimonials to use in your promotions. For example, in your pre-launch phase it’s a good idea to share early-access to your customers or influencers for feedback. You can then use that feedback as testimonials on your landing page and promo images.
5. Leverage Influencers
Influencer marketing is a really great way to distribute your content to your target audience, especially if you’re in early stages and don’t have a big audience built up yet. Use tools like JustReachOut or Buzzstream to build a list of influencers that are relevant to your business and then put together a personalized pitch to request their assistance in spreading the word of your great content.
Always remember these rules when it comes to influencer marketing:
- Never send a mass email with a generalised pitch
- Think about what’s in it for the influencer first. There has to be a value exchange for both parties.
- Get creative. Influencers are often bombarded with requests like yours, how can you stand out? This guy is a great example of how to do personalised influencer outreach.
6. Build a PR and Guest Blogging Strategy
There are tons of publications online that have a huge subscriber list of your target audience. You’d be surprised how easy it can be to get them to talk about you or to secure a guest article on these publications if your content is good. The key is to come up with unique and interesting angles that will appeal to their audience. It’s important that you do your research first though, just like with the influencers. Your request needs to be relevant to them, their audience, and offer value.
Bonus tip: If your content includes any exclusive data that can’t be found anywhere else, you’ve just increased your chances significantly.
7. Create Mico-Content
The more content you create, the more opportunities you have to drive traffic back to your core piece of content. I recommend marketers not just create one piece of content and put all their eggs in that basket, but to create lots of relevant micro-content and publish that across multiple channels, all with links back to the main landing page.
For example, if your main content asset is a video, why not put a snippet of your video on YouTube, Facebook and Linkedin? What about creating a short slide deck and uploading it to Slideshare with CTAs driving people back to your main landing page. What about creating an infographic on the topic of your video and having tons of other publications blog about it, all the while linking back to your core asset. Get creative!
Creating high-quality content that people enjoy and building up an organic audience is the first order of business.
8. Think About the Conversion Funnel
There should always be a relevant and compelling action for every piece of content you publish that brings people further down your marketing funnel. For example, if I write a blog article about content planning, I should have a CTA for an even more valuable offer relating to that topic that requires the reader to make a bigger commitment, like completing a form and exchanging their contact details for that piece of content.
Once you have their contact details, you can send them more relevant and valuable offers, building trust and educating them until they’re ready to take another step towards becoming a paying customer.
9. Track Value per Lead Source
Not all leads are created equally. It’s important to realise that when you’re pouring resources into content creation. For example, at HubSpot we see that certain topics convert leads into customers at a higher rate, those customers tend to stick around for longer, spend more money with us, and are generally more satisfied with our product.
If you’re not tracking the value of your leads by source you could be missing out on huge opportunities to optimize your marketing funnel. This value is difficult to get without an all-in-one marketing platform however. HubSpot is of course, a leader in all-in-one marketing solutions but you can try before you buy with our free CRM, Marketing and Sales tools.
Article written by Lisa Toner
Lisa Toner is a Senior Marketing Manager at HubSpot and owner of ETTCH, a subscription box for empowering children and teenagers. At HubSpot, she leads a global team of content and acquisition marketers responsible for driving new business for HubSpot. She’s a regular event speaker on topics such as content strategy, sales and marketing alignment, acquisition strategy, and sales process.