So, you’ve decided to launch your content marketing campaign. You’ve got an idea of what you want to say, (and, obviously, what you want to sell). You’ve bought into the concept that this isn’t an instant win, but a longer-term approach based on building a relationship of trust with your audience. This is usually the point when the questions start to creep in…. ‘Should I focus on articles on the website? Or fun posts and quizzes on social media. Or how about an e-book with an ad campaign?
There are many formats at your disposal, and each works well for different environments and changing messages. So which ones do you choose? The answer could be all, some or even only one of them.
The first port of call should be your messaging structure – what exactly do you want say? Who precisely do you want to say it to? And what definitively do you want them to do as a result? Sort that out before everything else, then think about your plan for media – both paid and organic. When you know what you’re going to say, who you’re going to say it to, and where you’re going to say it – how you say it should become an obvious choice.
Here are some of your options…
Often the first channel to be considered for content marketing – in a digital world, Social is the shop window for your brand, so it’s vital to have an effective social presence. But Social can be a tricky ride. LinkedIn is certainly more business focussed, but channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and others are primarily places where people go to relax and escape work – fertile ground for sales in consumer sectors such as fashion, cosmetics and travel; much trickier (though not impossible) for B2B brands.
- Creating ongoing relationships with your audience in a place where they already gather
- Encouraging word of mouth distribution
- Engaging the audience in a way they (and you) might not expect.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Insincerity and preaching – social only works if you talk to your audience honestly and without ‘advertising’ too much – unless you’re running straight paid advertising of course, in which case you should always adapt your creative and messaging to fit a format that sits in the style of the channel you’re running on.
- How you will establish an ongoing story that creates interest and further investigation. Do you create posts that you yourself would subscribe to and view in your downtime, alongside family pictures and updates from friends? If not, change your approach.
Film is unbeatable at creating an emotional connection. It’s the most effective way there is to tell a story and communicate brand values. But it’s not cheap. When making film content, consider how you will make that content work hardest for you – the ‘full film’ can live on your site, but a ten-second version shown on social media will get the most views. A 30-second version can be used for TV advertising or YouTube pre-roll. All of those versions can be used in live sales meetings, proposals or sales training. When you plan for multiple uses film can be, if not cheap, then certainly cost-effective.
- Introducing audiences to your brand, product or business ethos quickly
- Developing an emotional connection with your audience and demonstrating the personality and character of your company
- Showing the versatility of your brand.
- Explaining big-picture information in simple, accessible ways
WATCH OUT FOR
- Over-using generic stock library footage. Although a lower-cost option, it can often look insincere and cliched.
- What’s the one message you want your audience to remember? Trying to put too many ideas or information into a film can result in your viewer being unsure of what they are meant to take away.
How-to guides & explainers
The internet loves how-to guides. In content marketing, the how-to is a fabulous way to project authority by helping audiences solve problems in an immediate and accessible way. How-tos and explainers can take many forms – simple films, animations, infographics, listicles or long-form copy. If you can help someone tackle a problem or learn something new, you establish authority and build trust.
- Breaking down complex ideas into simple building blocks – the way we all find easiest to learn
- Demonstrating the competence and authority of your brand. Nothing says ‘We know what we’re talking about’ more than being able to teach someone else how to do it!
WATCH OUT FOR
- Stating the obvious. Pitching your explainer at too simplistic a level will bore (or patronise) the viewer and undermine your own credibility. Don’t tell them what they already know, give them something they don’t.
- Doing something original by taking a different visual approach. Explainers and how-tos can have a tendency to look and sound formulaic. This is an area where a little creativity goes a long way.
E-books and white papers
An extension to trust building, e-books and white papers cement authority. Effective e-books and white papers contain information that isn’t available anywhere else. When creating them, think about commissioning first-party research such as a survey, or analysis of a subject you know your market will be interested in. An e-book should be something unique and ownable by you that demonstrates you know more than anybody else about a given subject.
- Building your R&D kudos. White papers are about taking the conversation into new territory and surfacing insights that have been hidden.
- Establishing expertise and commitment in your sector. Thought-pieces show your audiences that you’re more than just a supplier or a retailer. It says that you care about your subject and the success of your audience.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Dry delivery. Even an e-book needs to keep the reader involved and entertained. Serious content can be delivered in thought provoking ways.
- Drawing conclusions from data can be a precarious activity. Try not to blind your audience with complex conclusions or clever jargon. In-depth research pieces must be able to present clear answers through a convincing pathway.
- Bringing on board experts that have a track record in the subject. This will show that your research is both impartial and thorough.
Case studies should be success stories. They should detail how a company planned and delivered results or solved a single problem. They should not be self-promotional in tone, though they should provide proof-points of how and where your brand made a difference to the case being discussed.
- Diving into a business story where you can demonstrate the viability of a product or service. Especially if it is new to your sector or industry.
- Introducing your team to the world. Whether you choose to relay the case study through the written word or film, it’s an opportunity to establish the abilities of your people and their relationship to the customer.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Focussing too heavily on your brand’s perspective and not enough on the value to the customer. It’s natural to want to give your company the ‘front and centre’ of the story, but your customer is looking for what they get out of it.
- Delivering context. Good case studies are all about the benefit to the customer, so what was the issue that your product or service managed to resolve? Setting up a challenging pretext to the case study emphasises the quality of what you do.
Micro-sites and blogs
The great advantage of a microsite or a blog is that they enable you to zero-in on a single, saleable product or service. This is about going deep, without the distractions of other products or offerings to get in the way. And when you strip away the distractions for your audience, you can focus their attention on the value of what you can do for them. Micro-sites and blogs are how you get potential customers to fall in love with a single item or service.
- Launching new lines. Connect up your online marketing, advertising and SEO to your new product/service and you can drive engagement with new audiences who may not already be aware of what you do, or may have preconceived ideas about what you offer.
- Funnel development. Micros-sites and blogs are a brilliant way to attract interested high-funnel browsers, then enagage and lead them through consideration to conversion
- Taking your audience from your mother brand site into areas where they have specific and specialist requirements.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Unaligned marketing strategy. The success of a micro-site or blog often rests on carefully tuned marketing to ensure you find the right audience through the correct channel. If it’s a B2C product, then maybe social media advertising will be the correct avenue. B2B might require budget be put into pre-roll or Linkedin ads. And make sure your Search campaign focusses on the benefits of the product rather than details of the product itself.
- Navigation and ease-of-use. Micro-sites especially might not follow the UX of your general brand site or sales site. They’re about imparting information swiftly and with clarity. A 30 second film that extends those used in your marketing can be a valuable way to immediately tell the visitor they are in the right place. Or not.
‘Interactive tools’ is a generic name for a wide number of user experiences. These can range from timelines that explain the evolution of a product through to surveys to enable you to deliver more targeted marketing. What any good interactive tool gives you is user engagement. And once you can engage your audience, you have the opportunity to build trust, sales and brand loyalty. Used well, interactive tools can give you not only insight on your audience but valuable data you can use to bring prospective customers into your sales funnel.
- Data capture. Create a tool that’s fun and interesting, and you can use it to gather data about what your customers want, what they’re prepared to pay for a product or service – and what they don’t want (which can be just as useful as what they do!)
- Interactive tools, whether that’s simply asking your prospect to answer a question or make a choice between a few options, moves that customer from being a passive viewer of your content into an active partner in your marketing.
- Pushing up site visit duration. Drawing an active response from your site visitors, even if it’s just to make a click or two, ensures they will stay in your digital environment for longer. The longer a prospect stays, the greater the opportunity to show them something that piques their interest.
WATCH OUT FOR
- An interactive tool that offers no tangible reward to the user is likely to result in them abandoning the experience. We’ve all bailed out of a series of survey questions that went on for too long.
- What the interaction is offering the user. This is key. You might want the visitor to give you loads of their details and data, but if there’s nothing in it for them, why should they? Think about what they might want in return and make sure you flag that up front. And try to be specific – the value exchange has to be clear to convince your audience to give up that all-important contact address.
Direct mail isn’t dead
With the advent of digital marketing, the old concept of ‘Direct Marketing’ – that is printed material delivered to the recipient’s physical address, was overtaken by email. Over the last 30 years, email marketing campaigns have proven a useful method of connecting with prospective customers. A well timed and crafted email shot can provide a link that takes your customer directly to your chosen channel, whether that’s a website, micro-site, blog or embedded film.
However, with the increase in digital traffic and zoom fatigue, prospective customers are craving a new kind of experience – or rather a return to a very old one. In a recent survey, traditional direct mail (to a well targeted and up-to-date mailing list) achieved a response rate of 5.3%. Compare that to the 6% achieved via email. The reasons are obvious and intuitive. Physical direct marketing – especially if it includes an offer and a Call To Action is more likely to be kept and used by the customer – instead of clicked over. It can provide valuable ‘sensory’ indicators. The feel and weight of quality paper, foils, embossing and scent can all add to the user experience, and clever, creative design can reinforce your brand attributes. Perhaps, the greatest opportunity can be found when you combine physical and digital marketing. Drop an email into your prospective client’s inbox and follow it up with a mail shot including QR code, and that customer knows they are dealing with a company that not only exudes competence but who also seriously wants to do business with them.
- Creating stand out. On average, Americans receive 1 piece of direct marketing for every 36 emails in their inbox.
- Generating site visits. 68% of US companies who combined emails and direct mails, said their web visits received an uptick.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Out-of-date mailing lists. The cost of sending physical direct marketing means it’s vital that your mailing lists are as up-to-date as possible. Every unvalidated address is wasted money.
- Calls To Action. Whether you’re sending an email, a mail shot or combining the two, make sure every piece carries a call to action whether that’s a link, a QR code or just a web address that expands on the mailers.
Reusable content is valuable content
The wealth of content channels available to businesses, can sometimes raise the question, ‘well, how do we create enough content to optimise them all?’. It’s a fair point, but one that misses the value of reusable and reformatted content. A smart online marketing strategy will generate an array of opportunities from a single piece of content. One blog or article on a website can often be reworked into a powerful infographic. Or a fun animated explainer. Or a filmed case study. Or a how-to guide. If the information the original piece contains is worthwhile to the audience, then the challenge is how can this information be framed into a variety of delivery mechanisms and engagement channels.
In addition, most content, overtime, will date. This is the inevitable result of changing times, evolving technology and advanced thinking. That’s why created content will always need to be revisited and re-aligned to the latest industry, product or service developments. Good content is a starting point. Great content can continue to offer value for years. If you want to know which channels to start with, or venture into, we’d be delighted to help.