Since I started working in marketing (far more years than I’d like to admit), content has been in high demand. Press releases, brochure copy, ad copy, case studies, packaging copy and annual reports – these are a few examples of must-have content.
In today’s information age, you need web copy, blog posts, thought leadership articles, social media profiles, white papers, videos and podcasts. Do you get dizzy just thinking about it?
Not only are people consuming more media these days, but digital advertising is on the rise and driving the need for content. Digital ad sales in the U.S. are expected to grow by 14% in 2018 to reach $97 billion, according to Marketing Dive. Especially in the B2B world where products are less visual than a shiny car or plush sofa, you’ll need riveting content to drive click-throughs.
Another engine fueling the need for content is automation software designed to streamline marketing and sales efforts and convert buyers into customers. The US Marketing Automation Software industry is a $3.3 billion market in 2017, growing 30%+ annually. Without high quality content (and not just a sales pitch about your wonderful brand), these automation platforms can be a bust.
Content is Queen.
And you can’t disrespect royalty! Your marketing plan should include details about how, when and where content can help you achieve your business goals.
But how do you get started when many companies struggle with content creation?
- Know your audience.
How can you possibly develop high quality content if you don’t know who your audience is? With input from staff, current customers, prospects and other research data, you can create customer segments and personas. Over time, you’ll be able to fine-tune the demographics, psychographics and interests of this audience.
- Create content that dazzles your audience.
Using those personas, think about the type of information they may want/need to know, rather than telling them what you want to say. Envision a crystal ball and predict how you can help them and/or make their lives easier.
When creating content, heed Ann Handley’s great advice in her wonderful book, Everybody Writes:
Relentless, unremittingly, obstinately focus on the reader.
This golden rule holds true whether you are creating a blog post, podcast or video.
- Know where your audience hangs out.
As you start to map out topics that might interest your audience, try to imagine where they would find and consume that information. This includes considerations such as channel, medium, platform and format:
Channels: This article has a great graph showing how age influences the channels we choose for consuming news (yep, us older folks still like the tube).
Mediums: Though mobile devices are growing in popularity, the desktop is still winning out when it comes to consuming information digitally.
Digital Platforms: Does your audience read email? Visit LinkedIn? Live on Instagram?
Format: Does your audience prefer to read, listen or watch (or all of the above)?
Even if you don’t have analytics to support your hunches at this point, prioritize the channels, mediums, platforms and formats that are the best fit for your prospects. Then track and measure what most captivates them. Like hitting a golf or tennis ball, accuracy improves with time (at least in theory).
- Understand your customer’s buying journey.
The customer journey is the series of interactions with a brand from initial consideration, to purchase and use, and then to subsequent purchases, as explained by McKinzey. It’s important to understand what this journey looks like for your company or brand, even if it takes a thorough exercise to map it out.
- Develop content for different phases of the journey.
Creating content for your prospects throughout that journey is important for getting and keeping customers.
For example, if you are “window shopping” for a new car and get bombarded with a pushy salesperson, there’s a good chance you’ll ditch the Honda for the Toyota. But if you visit that dealer with a check in hand, find a helpful guide to share car features, prices and what’s in stock, there’s a good chance you’ll drive off the lot in a new CRV.
Like a car shopper, it’s important to distinguish between the varying needs of your prospects and provide the right information at the right time. Even if you are eager to share the key benefits of your product or service, there’s a right (and wrong) time for TMI.
- Create a road map and start cranking.
Creating content is not for the faint of heart. It’s expensive and time-consuming, whether you outsource the task or require leaders to contribute (or a combination of both). That’s why it’s important to create a plan, or roadmap, that includes topics, channels, formats and timing. Like buying a new car, you’ll probably start with all the bells and whistles. But you may have to whittle down your expectations based on budget and resources.
Once you have a plan, it’s time start cranking.
- Optimize your content.
To make sure your content is friendly to search engines, be sure that it’s optimized. Understand what terms your customers might use to search for your brand, then incorporate those terms in the content you create. Make sure you don’t overdo it (remember than pushy salesperson!) – building trust is important, too.
And don’t forget to optimize your videos! YouTube is a highly searched and searchable platform.
- Remember B2B is still a me.
Consumer brands seem to ooze with personality, from Lululemon to Mercedes-Benz. But when it comes to B2B marketing, it often feels like a buzzword contest. According to Forbes, some of the most boring buzzwords are buy-in, core competency, swim lane, empower, move the needle, scalable, best practice, ecosystem, thinking outside the box, just to name a few.
It’s no different with resumes. LinkedIn says the ten most used words on profile’s are: motivated, creative, enthusiastic, track record, passionate, successful, driven, leadership, strategic, extensive experience.
Though overused terms aren’t necessarily bad ones, they don’t set you apart from competitive brands (or candidates!). By invoking personality, voice and your unique perspective, you’ll be more likely to catch the attention (and earn the love) of prospects and customers.
- Repurpose to get more from your budget.
To get the most from your investment in content, it makes a lot of ‘cents’ to repurpose all of it. You have already created a content roadmap (right?), so now you can figure out what format(s) you need for which channels and platforms. It’s easier and more cost effective to create a video or slide share from a blog post than from scratch, for example.
There are a number of great resources to help you out with the repurposing task. A blog post can be turned into a podcast easily and simply wiht a WordPress plugin. (Creating a podcast from scratch may be more involved than it looks, however). Blog posts and thought leadership articles can be converted to slideshare presentations, if LinkedIn is a channel you use to market products and services. Lumen5 turns e a blog post into a video in seconds for free. And this skims the service of tools that are available.
Creating content is no longer on the wish list. It’s as integral to your business as the bride curtsying to the queen on her wedding day. It’s a long held tradition that’s still in style – and always will be.