Content is king... That's what all the buzz has been about, right? Yet the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark Report found that only 36% of businesses believe their content marketing is effective. (See the B2C version here.)
Why? Simply put, with so many competing priorities, marketers struggle with producing not only enough content but also content that justifies their investment by truly engaging users.
Timely, pithy, and unique content is critical to establishing awareness and trust with your audience. The need for you to produce content is not going away.
So how do you make content work for your brand?
1. Get serious about creating trusted editorial
You may not know it, but you have a head start on professional news organizations in terms of quality. Doubling down and getting skilled writing professionals in the door can take your program to the next level. That doesn't need to impact headcount; the marketplace is filled with talented freelancers who might be a perfect fit for your particular project. Just be sure to have a dedicated person managing these projects for a consistent level of quality and a steady drumbeat of content.
Having professional writers producing quality content can also help draw in your users. Here's how online consumers qualify "quality content" (all of which professional writers can bring), according to Behavior Shift: Getting Content in Front of Consumers, a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf onRelate:
- From a source already known in the offline world (60%)
- Includes images (24%)
- Includes author image and byline (23%)
- Includes embedded video (11%)
Content that keeps online consumers most engaged on your site longer builds the trust that drives them back to your site. As for purchase decisions, consumers say they trust content from a brand or manufacturer's website (44%) or content pushed to them via email newsletters from brands the products and services of which they use (51%). (These and subsequent findings are from Behavior Shift: Getting Content in Front of Consumers.)
2. Be stringent on eliminating the sell
The point of branded content is not to sell things. It is to forward initiatives and ideas through thoughtful, levelheaded writing and multimedia. We all know this, but we also can get sloppy, letting a few self-serving bits and pieces creep into our editorial. Don't do it.
Brands must strive to create content that is not sales-focused but, rather, customer-centric. Today's online consumers want to make informed decisions about what to buy beyond the usual concern with price and quality. The brand that helps them make better purchasing decisions without any ulterior motives will build the trust is that will continue to keep buyers engaged.
And, in the end, engagement is what will ultimately drive sales.
3. Look at your content strategy holistically, and avoid silos
Think more broadly about the content you're creating to support different initiatives, and don't operate in silos. Experimenting with Instagram or another social media platform? Your Instagram feed is content—so think cross-platform about how those efforts can also make your blog strategy or video series work harder.
Think about the overall story you're telling and how each tweet or post ties into the story your brand stands for. Remember that your audience lives on multiple platforms, so they'll need to see a consistent story across all the platforms they're engaged on. Online tactics, including search engine optimization, lead generation, and social media, should all be focused around telling a compelling story to engage your audience.
Don't forget email or newsletters; online consumers haven't. In fact, 51% say they read and click on content pushed to them via email newsletters from brands they trust. So extend the life of the content you're producing all the way through to even more traditional communications channels.
4. Don't jump on the video bandwagon just because you think you should
Yes, video is hot and it should continue to be a priority, but with 62% of online consumers still preferring traditional news links versus images, videos, or blogs, it doesn't mean you have to invest now. Instead, focus on diversifying your content to include a mix of infographics, articles, video, and podcasts.
Your audience members are similar to one another in that they're interested in what you have to say, but the way they consume that information varies from person to person and varies depending on when and how content is accessed. After finishing an article, more online consumers say they are more likely to click on a link to another article (34%) than to a video (15%)—but 39% indicate they are more likely to click on an article if there is an image associated with it.
Different kinds of content attract consumers in different ways. By keeping that in mind and developing a mix of content, you're more likely to keep them engaged and returning.
5. Keep your eyes on the prize at all times
How do you know if you're going in the right direction if you don't know where you're going in the first place? We've been so crazed to churn out the content that we often find ourselves stuck when the higher-ups ask, "So, what did we get out of producing that video?"
As with any project, setting clear and measurable goals for each piece of content plays a critical role. Think about what you're looking to achieve (business leads, traffic to the website, keeping users on your site longer) and how you would determine whether the content achieved that goal.
Maybe benchmark testing needs to happen before new content is even developed. Perhaps additional budget will be required to measure your work. Making these decisions early on will help prioritize content production and weed out fruitless projects that don't serve overall business goals, saving you time, money, and probably some headaches.
And as with any good branding or marketing campaign, the goals must be closely aligned with your company's business goals; otherwise, what's the point?
*Behavior Shift: Getting Content in Front of Consumers by Harris Interactive, on behalf of nRelate, was conducted online within the United States between October 3-5, 2012, among 2,512 adults (age 18 and over), of which 2,377 were identified as online content readers by Harris Interactive via its QuickQuery omnibus product.