Today we want to talk about something we feel very strongly has the power to educate, engage and accomplish some of our most important goals.
We’re talking about content, of course, but not just any content… we’re talking about GREAT content. The kind of content that gives users that Aha! moment when they finally understand a concept they’ve been struggling to grasp. Content that answers people’s questions and engages them simply by speaking their language.
We can all probably think of a few businesses that do an excellent job of engaging us with their content. One of those businesses for me is MailChimp because there has never been an email marketing question that I’ve had that MailChimp has not been able to answer in a simple, clear and sometimes even funny way.
And how do you think I feel about MailChimp? I LOVE MailChimp! I sing their praises to my coworkers and clients because they are awesome, and so is their content. So, why are these great content experiences so few and far between? The thing is, content is complicated.
An Elephant-sized Problem
Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, coauthors of the book Content Strategy for the Web, call unruly content “the elephant in the room”, the big problem that no one wants to talk about. But the one we have to address, especially if our content is creating a barrier between ourselves and our customers.
In order to eliminate this barrier we need to focus on creating content that is well written, thoughtfully organized, easy to find, content that answers questions and supports business objectives and inspires people to share, get in touch and even part with their money!
We want to challenge you to rethink how your organization approaches its content and help you discover how a strategy can make it even better.
6 Questions to Ask
The key to a successful strategy involves delivering the right content to the right users at the right time. You can figure this out by answering 6 questions:
- What do we want to do?
- Who are we speaking to?
- Why should they care?
- Where will we communicate with our users?
- When will we deliver content?
- And How can we gauge performance?
Step #1: What Do We Want to Do?
How many of you have been in a meeting where goals are being discussed but no one is clear on how your team will actually measure success?
And yes, this step seems like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many times marketers set goals and fail to assign the correct success metrics.
Luckily, the solution is simple: before anyone clicks a mouse, ask the project leader what they want to do and write these goals down. Then you can take them back with you and match them up with their corresponding KPIs.
Here are some examples of the most common business goals and their respective KPIs.
Step #2: Who Do We Want to Speak to?
After we’ve figured out what we want to do, it’s time to decide who we want to speak to.
A useful exercise for this involves creating buyer personas or user personas.
Personas are essentially detailed descriptions of your customers or audience that give information about their demographic profiles, psychographic characteristics as well as their most common goals, challenges and concerns.
Take for instance, this buyer persona that we created for one of our clients. Although a lot of the data presented here came from anecdotal information provided to us from our client, we were actually able to verify some of this information using Demographics & Interests data in Google Analytics. So even though the client told us that their customer base is made up of mostly men and women between the ages of 25 and 45, we were able to verify the accuracy of this information by navigating to Demographics and Interests in analytics.
Once you’re happy with your personas, we recommend taking some time to come up with some specific messages that will resonate with each user. So, for instance, this user group was very concerned about taking their vehicle to dishonest shop and wanted to make sure they would get their car back within a reasonable timeframe, so our messaging for this persona emphasized our client’s honesty, friendliness and commitment to efficiency.
Step 3#: Why Should They Care?
As we move on to step #3, our goal is to answer the question: why should our users care about our content? Yes, it’s well written and well organized but what does it do for them? How does it help?
The answer to these questions involves taking those great personas you just made and applying a simple concept.
Despite what people like to think about “the power of marketing”, it is impossible to get someone to care about your content if it is irrelevant to them. People will only care about our content if it provides them with the answers and information they need, when they need it.
That’s when the buyer’s process comes in.
This concept revolves around the idea that before a person can make a final purchase decision, they usually go through four semi-distinct stages:
Awareness > Build Trust > Influence Decision > Close
The Awareness stage of the process relates to when the user has identified or expressed symptoms of a potential problem or opportunity.
The Build Trust stage relates to when the user has given name to his problem or opportunity and has begun to gather information from a number of reputable sources.
The Influence Decision stage relates to when the user has defined his solutions and is seeking information that will support (or contest) his alternative.
And lastly, the Close stage relates to when the user is ready to make a final purchase decision and will initiate contact with his vendor of choice.
What a load of marketing mumbo jumbo, right?!
Car Trouble Example
So, if we were to illustrate this process with an example, imagine a car driver who has begun to notice that his car sometimes shudders when idling. He might go to Google and search “car shudders when idling” to see what kind of information comes up.
Imagine this user stumbles upon an article written by a local mechanic shop which says that this particular symptom could indicate a problem with the car’s transmission.
Our user will now move into the Build Trust stage of the process and start to look for trustworthy sources of information to help him find a solution to this potential problem. This might involve him speaking to his mechanic friend or browsing the internet for local shops who offer transmission repair services.
So after consulting Google again, this time for local transmission repair services, imagine this user finds a transmission service page from the same business who wrote the first article he read. He is impressed by what he sees, but wants to be absolutely sure they can be trusted with his precious car.
Our user might then ask friends via Facebook whether they have ever tried this business out, read a few customer testimonials and check out the business’s reviews on Google. If all this information lines up, you can bet this guy is thinking seriously about taking his vehicle into this content-savvy shop.
Say a couple days go by and he’s browsing Facebook and he sees an ad from this same business asking when was the last time he had his car’s transmission checked out. He clicks on the ad and is taken to a landing page where he was able to easily book his car’s service appointment.
Though this is a very idealized example, it is totally within reach. You can be there every step of the way for your customers from beginning “symptom awareness” to “final purchase decision” by creating the best content the internet has ever seen around topics related to your business and specific user questions.
You can ensure that users get enough of the content they need by creating custom, user-driven content for each stage of the process.
Now, what if you make the commitment to create great content and you are, but people still aren’t seeing your stuff? We recommend you get the ball rolling by promoting your content through Google, Facebook, and other channels (more on that later) and by leveraging remarketing (more on that later too!).
A great way to figure out the kind of questions you could be answering with content is by using Google Keyword Planner.
Just type in some common questions your customers often have and then hit the Get Ideas button. Pick out a high volume search query and write a blog article on it. Gather up a number of search queries around a specific topic and create a super comprehensive FAQs page.
#4: Where Will We Communicate?
There are a lot of different ways to get your content to your customer, but before you go platform crazy you should go back and think of your personas. Not every persona is going to use every platform the same way. So think about the persona you are targeting and pick the platforms that will best suit them.
Some of the platforms we recommend considering because of their reach and conversion potential are Google Search & Display, Facebook Advertising, email marketing and influencer outreach. Of course there are many other platforms you can leverage but we are just going to talk about the ones we just mentioned.
Google Search & Display is an incredible platform as there are 1.17 billion user worldwide. It is a platform that when used correctly can be very successful in generating leads and eventually into converting customers.
Facebook Advertising is another powerful platform that has more than one billion active users. Facebook Advertising also allows you to get very granular with your targeting and allows you to A/B test between different ads so you can find the formula that works best for your audience.
Although it has a bad rep, email marketing is still a great way to communicate with users since there are 2.5 billion email users worldwide. And with the introduction of CASL, marketers don’t need to be so concerned about damaging relationships with customers as people can easily unsubscribe from your list if they no longer wish to hear from you. (Yes, this is a good thing!)
Influencer outreach is another great way to gain massive exposure and build your brand’s authority at a relatively low cost. We recommend you consider any opportunity that will allow your content to be consumed by a larger audience. This could mean writing a guest article for a respected blog in your industry, making friends with local media and submitting newsworthy content to press release distribution services like Market Wired.
With the first three platforms you are easily able to implement remarketing which is a way to position targeted ads in front of a defined audience that had previously visited your website.
To give a real life example let say you’re looking to purchase a new laptop. You go on the Future Shop website to browse around and see what your options are. Then you leave the page and start seeing Future Shop ads in Facebook and other websites you visit. When done correctly, these ads catch the user’s attention and keep the business “top of mind” without becoming overly annoying.
Super remarketing is an even more targeted form of advertising because not only does it allows you to target people that visited certain pages of your site, it also allows you to layer demographics and interests so that you can “hyper target” a segment of users.
If we take Diana’s earlier car trouble example, that mechanic shop could start managing a remarketing list for any user that arrives to transmission blog articles. If they wanted to continue to target these users with more content and ads related to transmissions, they could then target advertising by choosing this remarketing audience and adding a layer of demographic and interest targeting that would reach men between the ages of 25 and 55 who have an interest in car care.
#5: When Will We Deliver Content?
As we mentioned before, you can only get people to care about content that is relevant to them. But sometimes it’s not enough just to be relevant, it has to be timely too! An example of timely and relevant content is First Foundation Layoff Insurance campaign.
When we were preparing to run First Foundation’s layoff insurance campaign we knew that this topic was going to be relevant to users given the economic times. We ran the first round of ads to moderate success but then decided to alert the media about this new product by submitting a press release via Market Wired. The media picked the news and the next thing we knew Gord and his team were featured in the Edmonton Journal, the Calgary Herald, and CBC radio.
We then switched up the ads to play off of the timeliness of the media attention and then that when things really took off for them online. Leads began pouring in from Facebook and Google and to date they have received over 250 leads from Google and Facebook campaigns alone.
In order to time your efforts correctly and present content to users in sequential order, it’s necessary to come up with a content schedule. This schedule allows you to coordinate the delivery of your content around specific times of year and important events.
- Seasonality i.e. fall, winter etc.
- Company promos and events
- Important calendar events i.e. Christmas, tax season
We recommend using Unbounce to build landing pages. Unbounce makes building landing pages super easy, with design-quality results and conversion happy layouts.
#6: How Will We Gauge Performance?
Now that you have created and released your content it is time to analyze what you have created and determine what was a success and what could use improvements.
If we refer to goals and KPI’s from step 1, whether that was to drive leads or increase engagement. It is important to keep these goals always on the top of your mind.
One of the best ways to do this is using Google Analytics.
Our two favourite Google Analytics reports are: traffic & time on page for measuring engagement and the goal conversion report for measuring leads.
Traffic & Time On Page
Although looking at traffic on it’s own it doesn’t tell the full story when it comes to content marketing, it is a great place to start when analyzing your content.
If you can recall the goals we mentioned in step #1, one of them was related to raising brand awareness. By checking pageviews, you can see how well certain pages are doing on this goal, as they will help you find the content that is driving website traffic.
Another important goal, user engagement, can be measured by looking at pages with low bounce rate and high average time on page. If users are not bouncing and engaging for a fair amount of time on a page, that is usually a great indicator of user engagement.
Learn more about creating custom reports like this in Google Analytics: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033013?hl=en
Goal Conversion Report
If you can recall the goals we mentioned in step #1 again, two of them were related to generating leads and driving sales. By checking the goal conversion report you can see how many people completed a goal which can be anything from an email click, form fillout, click to call, or an ecommerce transaction.
The goals report is a great tool to get a high level understanding of our conversions. With analytics you always want to take the next step and dive a little deeper to get a better understanding of what drove those conversion.
To show you I will dive a little deeper into what went into this Purchase goal completion.
Note: to generate the goal conversion report you will have to have proper goals set up. To learn more about how to do this follow this link. http://coschedule.com/blog/marketing-objectives/
#7: Stay Focused
Managing content can get hairy quick…
You have to deal with competing user needs and figure out how to balance those needs with business objectives.
You’ll need to field lots of comments, opinions and ideas about what kind of content should and should not be published and you’ll have to manage relationships with content creators and sometimes media to ensure that content quality is not being compromised at any step along the way…
But if you stay focused on what you set out to accomplish and work to create great content that meets both business goals and users needs, you’ll set yourself up for total content domination!