Conquering Content Marketing

Mustard recently wrote a three piece series for Research World Connect about content marketing. The three pieces outlined the way in which content marketing should be approached, while communicating the benefit of investing in it.

Here are all three pieces:

Building a Brilliant Content Marketing Strategy

Over the next few weeks, RWC will be publishing our guide to content marketing for market researchers. We plan to outline the way in which content marketing should be approached, while communicating the benefit of investing – both time and budget – in it.

Let’s start with the basics. When we talk about content on the internet we mean information, that can come in the form of words/editorial, or images, charts and infographics. Basically the ‘stuff’ of the world of the internet. So, content marketing means creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.  The aim will be to drive profitable actions on the part of the customer. Content marketing  focuses on creating content owned by a company, material that is published on its own platforms (website, blogs etc) rather than being bought (ad space) or being published in another media (PR).

So, why do content marketing in the first place?  Is this just a current fad or is it worth investing time and energy in it?

While it is true to say that content marketing has taken off in the last few years, there is no doubt that it is here to stay. It taps into the revolution that has been created by the open and generous nature of the internet – share and share alike. If you don’t share, you don’t get to join in the conversation and you don’t gain the benefits.

So, here’s our guide to sharing. In this article we will focus on how researchers can plan and develop a content marketing strategy, in later articles we will look at different approaches and how to evaluate your campaign.

Defining your objectives and audience
First of all, you need to think about what you want to achieve and who you want to attract. It is important to come plan your strategy before you begin your content marketing journey. The reasons for this are many; it helps you to get the rest of your organisation behind your efforts, it allows you to shape your content with conviction, it means that you can measure and evaluate the efficiency of your approach, and it keeps you on track so that you can ensure you actually produce consistent coverage rather than leaving your plans to gather dust in the crevices of your mind.

By defining your objectives and developing a strategy, you can prioritise exactly what content marketing can do for your business – which is important because it can do a lot of things (and I really mean this). These include, but are not restricted to: building awareness, educating your audience, nurturing leads, engaging influencers, serving existing customers, generating new leads and establishing expertise (told you I meant it). Prioritising a few of these narrows down the focus of your efforts, gives you a starting block to generate ideas for content and, alongside your objectives, provides a goal against which to measure your approach.

The next thing to consider is the audience of your content marketing. If your goal is to build awareness, who exactly do you want to build awareness with? Build a persona for each segment you’re trying to reach – you could consider in terms of the organisation size, job function and seniority level of the people in the organisation – think about what they’re already experts in and what information would be valuable to them.

Speak with your own voice
Social media is all about authenticity. It is vital to speak with your own voice – from a company point of view this must be rooted in what is special and different about what you do.

In order to offer valuable content to readers, you need to communicate value that is distinct from another company, your niche. This is the area where you have the most knowledge and where no one else has a better claim to authority than you. It should be the core or fundament of your business, and if you have not given it any thought, we would urge you to do so as it will be the way your clients think of you – your elevator pitch if you like. This must be articulated clearly and definitely before you start – and it must be articulated with your own tone of voice and company personality. Are you going to be direct, honest and challenging? Are you going to be amusing? Think through how this will reflect on your brand. Mix your unique voice with your potential customer persona’s pain points – that’s where you’ll find the most valuable stories.

Search Engine Optimisation
After all, it’s what Google says about you that counts.

Your keywords, which should be built around your business’ key offer and built into your website, should be used when creating content. Make sure that when you’re writing and planning content, you chose at least one keyword to appear in the title of your content. This will boost your rankings on social media and further allow you to ‘own’ your distinct positioning – which is a real value of content marketing as it will drive traffic to your website.

Delivering great content
If you have a strategy, and a vision for your content marketing, then it will be more straightforward to enable a member or members of your team to implement it.  Of course, this day and age large organisations have teams of people looking after their content marketing, but this is not realistic for many research organisations. Our advice is to either appoint a bright junior who really understands your niche, who can write well, and who is interested, to own this area. Or, share out the delivery of content across the team. Use experts within your company – potentially those who have written and submitted research papers in the past – to contribute their knowledge on the topics you plan to cover.

Themes should be built around the area of research you want to own. Within the MR industry, some generic themes would be:  industry trends, what’s new and why it matters, best practice guides, self-funded research. When you have those themes, think about articles that you can create around them – considering buyer personas, their pain points and what you want your content marketing to achieve.  Check out what your competitors are doing or browse a news site – are there any current issues or news stories on which you could offer an insightful view? Could you commission a piece of research about a particular trend that might interest your customers?

However you decide to handle it, be aware that content marketing is not an easy win and does require time each day to ensure your content stays up to date and reflects well on your organisation. The content you plan should not only be designed for consumption, but should also provoke thoughts with clients which create an opportunity for you to work together. The service you’re offering can be summarised in a call to action which should appear at the end of the content – to encourage potential customers directly to do what you want them to.

Content Marketing – The When, The Where and The How

In our last article, we discussed planning and implementing a content marketing campaign with a content marketing strategy. In this article we will share a guide to creating and sharing content.

The most important thing to remember is that although you are writing to attract custom, content must never be a sales pitch; the audience is more interested in their own problems than your product. Always provide evidence to support your points.

The best content draws inspiration from your clients’ business issues and brings them to life. And the richest content can be created from existing resources, such as your own company’s or  your best customers’ opinions and experience, existing research, case studies, , desk research, industry news and trends and self-funded research.

So here’s what we think you need to know:

When to blog…
Blogs are a great medium because they are created on a platform that you own – your company website – and customers will go to a site with great content. Blogs are brilliant for snappy thought pieces, short best practice articles, sharing multimedia like videos and short slides, writing short reports (such as key take-aways) on conferences or webinars, top-tips, infographics, top-line findings from self-funded research and company news.

Frequent blogs also make your site more easily findable through search; if you use the right keywords and phrases in your headlines, image alt tags and blog post URLs, you can increase your ability to show up higher when someone searches for the same terms (SEO).

And when it’s a whitepaper…
On the other hand, whitepapers should be used when you want to explore a topic in depth. They are typically more complex and give away more intellectual property than a blog which makes them really useful for market researchers to explain models, methodologies or in-depth analysis. When someone downloads a whitepaper, they make a commitment. This grants you a longer time with them, and this should be made the most of.

The buzz of the moment
A snappy and at times inspiring way to communicate research findings, infographics are very popular for web based communications at the moment and are clearly a really important communication medium for market researchers. They are an accessible and absorbable way to communicate data, allowing you to tell a more impactful story. But before you reach for your Adobe Creative Suite, remember infographics are not always straightforward. Give yourselves time to plan and design one, and if possible use a designer or data visualiser who knows what they are doing. If you play your cards right, your infographic might just go viral.

All right Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up
Videos are great because they can really engage an audience. B2B decision makers don’t have a lot of time to spare, and in this digital age, attention spans are just getting smaller. According to comScore,  45.4% of internet users who view at least one video online over the course of a month. The average user is exposed to an average of 32.2 videos in a month, increasing the chances that your marketing message will be seen.  And recently, 75% of executives told Forbes that they watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week.

Why a webinar?
Webinars are an excellent tool to promote engagement with your audience because they provide the opportunity for them to ask you questions. Again, this makes them a great medium for more sophisticated research communications. They also increase the memorability of your content because they provide an immersive content experience. They are particularly useful if you are explaining something, a case study for example, that might otherwise lose your audience’s attention due to depth of detail. But you are not going to get anyone to sign up to one unless you are engaging with them through the rest of your content marketing already….

And now to communicate…
The most effective way to communicate your content depends who you are targeting. Don’t blast your content over all channels – your efforts are best spent breaking the content down and promoting that over the most important channels.

A recent survey conducted by Market Makers found that 60% of B2B marketers consider email marketing the most effective way to generate leads. There’s no surprise there – sending out content to your database is a great way to get their attention. Database management plays a key role here; segmentation of a database allows you to tailor content and target the appropriate audience with it.

Promoting your content via social media is important to maximise the effectiveness of your efforts. For market researchers, the most important social media channels are LinkedIn and Twitter. According to Quirk’s Corporate Researcher’s report, 53% of client side researchers read LinkedIn discussions at least once a month, 25% read #mrx related Twitter posts at least once a month and 38% share or like research content on social media. Both Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to boost engagement with promoted posts, often allowing you to target the audience your trying to reach.

SlideShare is also a great resource for those within, and those outside the market research industry. Regularly posting content on this site and directing traffic builds up a following, and creating content for the captive audience will build your company’s reputation as a thought leader.

The key to successful content marketing is to prioritise it. It reaps great rewards – B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms – but will not do so unless it is regular and the content is great. To get that, it is important to use an agency or employ someone within your organisation who is responsible for its production and distribution.

Content Strategy – It’s In The Numbers

In our last article, we discussed how to create and share great content. But working out whether your content is actually great, means turning to numbers and defining objectives. The measurement of the effectiveness of your content is key to a successful campaign.  A digital conversation should be like a real conversation, two way and engaging. If it’s not working, you must be prepared to change your tactics.

If you don’t assess the performance of your content across all your efforts, how can you determine which was most successful and why? And how can you determine which type of content to invest in going forward? This is extremely important, as there is no one size fits all answer to content marketing.

Measuring consumption
Consumption metrics will tell you how many people have accessed your content – through page views etc. This can be measured through Google Analytics for posts which sit on your website, LinkedIn Impressions, through Twitter Analytics, through SlideShare views and more. Using a service like MailChimp to send your news out means that you can track who did or didn’t read your mailer, and measure this against previous efforts.

Google Analytics can be whittled down further to establish the geographical location of visitors, the social media platform or email campaign from which they found your post and bounce rates. Bounce rates, average session duration and pages per session reflect how engaging your content is – the longer the viewer stays on your website, and the more pages they visit, the more engaged they are with your content.

Your audience’s path on your website as it is a good indication of ROI. For example, perhaps a visitor came to your site to read a blog post, then followed a link to your services page, then clicked to your about-us page, and then filled out a contact-us form.

Measuring shares
Sharing metrics will tell you how engaged your readers are with your content. If a potential customer comes across an article which is not only valuable to them, but also their peers, then they are more likely to share it. The more shares a piece of content gets, the more valuable it is to your potential customers and therefore to your business.

Social profiles help to build up long term relationships with customers and potential customers. By sharing great content on social media platforms, you will build up a following which means that when you share content in the future, its reach will be greater.

You can measure Twitter interaction through Tweet Reach which will allow you to search for the URL of your piece of content and measure how many people have tweeted it, and how many of their followers have seen it. You can measure LinkedIn interaction through followers gained, shares and likes on a post.

Measuring sales
It’s healthy for a business to sit back and assess their new business leads in a holistic way. Though it’s hard to assign direct sales to content marketing alone, especially in B2B, it’s important to know where your leads have come from and how much value they have generated for the business.  In order to do this, you need to make sure you ask your new business leads about where they found you. At Keen as Mustard, we look at all of the new business meetings we’ve had, and how they found us. Sometimes, we might have been recommended through word of mouth, but an additional piece of content has reminded them to get in touch.

The more that people cite your content as part of their journey in approaching you, the better your content is doing.

If a piece of content is not successful, try to work out why. Is it the content itself, or the way it has been presented or marketed that has made it unsuccessful? Conversely, if something has worked really well, try to work out what it was that you did right – and do it again. Don’t be afraid to experiment – doing so is far more beneficial than trudging along with a mediocre strategy that isn’t working.

If you’re interested in content marketing, then please get in touch.