Content marketing is great. Long live content marketing. Brands are publishers. 10 great ways to create engaging listicles. These ideas represent a common refrain among marketers who’ve become wise to the idea that giving consumers information or expertise of value might actually do more to support their brands and their businesses than simply hurling one-way marketing and product messages to an audience.
In the great gold rush of content marketing, we’ve seen marketers creating brand newsrooms, honing their craft of digital storytelling and shifting their respective budgets and marketing mindsets into content.
But the most successful among content marketers are now focusing on more than just creating great content. They’re aiming for a more holistic strategy, one that also includes building a meaningful audience and organizing planning and measurement around business outcomes.
To help you make 2014 a resounding success for your own content marketing efforts, here are some content distribution and targeting flavored best practices and ideas to consider as you build and evolve your strategy for the year ahead. For many of the recommendations below, we’ve included insights from some of today’s top content marketers.
1. Define your distribution strategy up front
To get your distribution strategy right, think like a journalist and define the 6 W’s of your content distribution strategy:
Who do you want to reach? This is the target audience from your overall plan.
What do you want to reach them with? This is your content, of course!
Why do you want to reach them? This should include the strategic imperative behind your overall content marketing plan and the calls-to-action that you’re looking to drive.
When do you want to reach your audience? Think about the typical customer journey and what might be some of the information and content needs at different stages along the way.
Where do you want to reach them? This defines where you believe your content can meet your audience. It can include their social networks, specific media destinations they visit and the mobile apps they use that are the most relevant to your content.
How do you want to reach them? This defines the paid channels and ad formats you’ll invest in. This includes social advertising with native formats, search advertising with text formats and display advertising with standardized formats.
2. Make your content power your advertising
All paid advertising formats — native, search and display — either need great images, great copy or both. Study the image and copy elements of all the formats you’ll be using. Take every opportunity to repurpose headlines, descriptions and imagery from your content into your ad creative.
“With respect to content, across nearly all platforms we’ve found that creative, visual content paired with strong calls-to-action drives the highest engagement.”
– Linda Boff, Executive Director of Global Digital Marketing, GE
(Source: Inside General Electric’s Digital Strategy, Digiday, May 2012)
Disclosure: OneSpot’s platform converts content marketing assets into standards-based ad formats and runs them programmatically across thousands of sites.
3. Identify relevant environments for your content
Content marketing, intrinsically, is intended to be non-interruptive. Consider the use case and context for users consuming your content. In some cases traditional publishing environments or online destinations may make the most sense, while in other cases the content may be more useful if discovered via a social environment. And of course, there are many cases where consumption on-the-go via mobile or tablet devices will be most important.
“The technology is really allowing us as marketers to do a better job of reaching them [the target audience] in the context of what’s important to them.”
– Rick Zuroweste, SVP and CMO, Dean Foods Company
(Source: Contextual Marketing, Think Insights, June 2010)
4. Layer in audience targeting to reach your most likely customers
Great content can always find an audience on its own. However, when you’re paying to grow your audience look for ways to only pay for audiences that share one or more qualities with your profitable customer segments. One way to do so is by using the exceptional ability of programmatic buying to reach precise audiences with segment based targeting mechanisms such as behavioral, interest-based, intent-based, look-alike, demographic, psychographic and geographic targeting. There are platforms like the one I work on every day, that make extensive use of machine learning to find the right people at the right time. Think about the targeting mechanisms that can best reach your target audience and test multiple strategies to learn which approaches work best.
“For every piece of quality content, there is a relevant demographic or persona to match.”
– David DeVore, Co-Founder and CEO, FanCentric, LLC
(Source: 4 Keys to Using Social Media Content for Real-Time Marketing, Content Marketing Institute, November 2013)
5. Intelligently sequence your content via a retargeting strategy
Retargeting makes it possible to create additional touchpoints with people who have come and then gone from your website by reaching them later with follow-up advertising. Retargeted ads can run across a vast pool of inventory including spaces on premium publisher sites, niche sites and social networks. Build and use segmented retargeting lists to reach precise subsets of your website’s audience. Common methods include segmenting by audience characteristics like age or gender or by content-consumption patterns like sports enthusiasts or travel readers.
When you consider that your intended audience typically steps through various customer journey stages, using retargeting makes it possible to sequence various types of content for the appropriate stages or milestones along the path to purchase.
“Content maintains its kingship by staying relevant. For instance, when the customer is at the top of the funnel, content can be related to thought-leadership pieces, which deliver value and insight to the prospect. In the middle of funnel, case studies, demo, peer reviews, webinars and white papers move buyers through their journey. As a prospect moves towards the end of the funnel, the how-tos, best practices and communities for support engage the customer.”
– Meagan Eisenberg, Vice President of Demand Generation, DocuSign, Inc.
(Source: Market Smarter With Automation: An Interview With Meagen Eisenberg, PSAMA’s Market Mix Blog, March 2013)
6. Tie business results to content topics, formats and channels
If you’re doing all of the above, you’ll be spending some real effort and money to make your content marketing make a difference in your business. For this reason, it’s critical to be able to attribute key business outcomes back to various sources. First and foremost, make sure you’ve properly instrumented your online properties and content to be able to track which paid or organic sources are contributing not just the most traffic, but also more concrete business outcomes such as product considerations, lead conversions or even sales. That way you can know which channels and sources are working best and reallocate future spending and energy more heavily to those.
Also be sure to structure your online analytics in such a way that you can know which particular pieces of content are driving the best results; when you get this part right, you can share that information with your writers and editorial team to focus future content development on topic areas and formats that drive the best results.
I invite you to put these six recommendations to the test – and hope they’ll serve as useful guideposts for mapping out your 2014 content strategy.
What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments!
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