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These days, a lot of brands are adding content marketing to their existing marketing mix. They have finally figured out that this type of promotion can really influence their online exposure for the better. Creating various types of interesting images, how-to texts, case studies, white paper researches, guides, webinars, reviews and classic blog posts that serve to educate your existing and potential customers about your brand, company culture, products and services, is definitely the new black in this ever-expanding digital world.
However, all that aside – content marketing (along with its evolution) – is still a pretty tough cookie to crack. There are just too many factors that you need to understand and take into consideration when creating content for your brand.
If you want your content to fit you, your core values, and your audience’s expectations, you need to invest more than just money into its production. You need to live and breathe your content and become one with its recipients, so that you’ll know how to perfectly tailor it to their needs and desires.
I know this is something no one really wants to hear, but you have a much better chance of failing with your content marketing efforts than actually succeeding.
I’m not trying to rain all over your parade here, but the numbers speak against you. According to the study conducted by The Content Marketing Institute in the first quarter of this year, only 30% of B2B businesses that invest in content marketing claim that their efforts are paying off. Bummer, right?
The Misconception of Success in Content Marketing
Even though a lot of big, medium and small B2B businessmen around the world are pouring large portions of their budget into this type of marketing and employing dozens of content specialists to help them craft posts that might resonate well with their targeted crowd, they’re still pretty much stuck in the same place they’ve started from. Yes, they’re constantly creating new links and improving their rankings, but still – their content isn’t really making any new sales. The number of conversions isn’t growing, and they’re starting to freak out and question just how good content marketing really is for their business.
And why shouldn’t they? – I don’t know about you, but if I work so damn hard on something and I have nothing to show for it – I tend to think of myself as a failure. I get all gloomy and depressed, and start to think how all these so-called digital marketing experts are feeding me garbage advice only for the purpose of generating more clicks on their dumb links.
Yeah. As you can see, I can go from zero to full Kafka in a matter of seconds.
But that’s wrong.
Even though abandoning ship seems like the logical move when things start to go south, it’s still important to avoid acting on that impulse, at least when it comes to content marketing. My advice here is to clear your head and approach the problem at hand from a whole different perspective, rather than just go and burn down everything you worked so damn hard to build.
Most of my colleagues don’t agree with me here, but my experience has taught me that the key to successful content marketing cannot be solely found in your data. It cannot be found in your personal and unique story either. They key to creating a successful content marketing strategy lies in the middle of these two things. I’m talking about that sweet spot in between that covers the best of both worlds.
Let’s face it, if you use your content marketing to sell ice to an Eskimo – you picked the wrong strategy. My advice here is to immediately stop what you’re doing, before you create some serious problems for your brand. Earning a bad rep in this digital world is basically a death sentence for your business. If people perceive you as a source that distributes garbage, you won’t be able to recover from that. They’ll think of you as a noob or a spammer, which means that you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone and everyone to do business with you.
With having all this in mind, it’s better to have no content at all, than content that isn’t relevant to your targeted crowd.
On the other hand, if you see that your targeted audience is interested in learning more about your products and services through your content, but they still aren’t buying anything, that means that you’re onto something. You have something that’s tickling their interest. You’re almost there. All you need now is to figure out how to craft your story and transform your words and values into something that’s gonna tip your prospects over the edge and convince them to actually do business with you.
In the beginning, we at AltusHost experienced some problems with our content marketing. When I say “some”, I mean I wanted to jump off the top of the tallest building in my neighborhood, face first. Sure, traffic kept increasing, the number of shares, likes, favs and retweets continued to rise and reassure us that we were doing something good, but still – that wasn’t good enough. Even though it felt satisfying to see hundreds of likes and shares next to our posts, the sad truth is – they didn’t really mean squat. We’re not in the business of gathering likes, so this type of metric was, is and forever will be pretty useless to us.
We cannot run a web hosting business solely based on the number of shares and likes. In our line of work, the only way to make your efforts pay off is to make money and continue to generate new quality leads from what we do online. That’s it.
So, having this in mind, we needed to rethink our entire strategy. We needed to dig deep and look for solid and data-backed reasons on why people aren’t converting through our content.
We started with a couple of plain questions, like:
What Type of Content is Considered to be Great Content?
The kind that is data-driven, goal oriented, and that provokes people to make some sort of action once they’re exposed to it.
When you really take the time to properly look at the sentence above and let it sink in your head, you’ll notice that these four words really pop out: data, goal, people, action.
I don’t know about you, but the people part really stuck with me.
I started to obsess on how to make it truly work for us. This got us all the way back to the center of our content marketing strategy, and that is customer engagement. Everything basically revolves around that, doesn’t it?
Some of you are probably thinking that you have already heard this story before. But, have you really? I’m not talking about creating customer personas like most other brands do. Why? – Well, because most of them focus on all the wrong details. The key to truly figuring out who your customers are, and how to engage them cannot be found just in data. No. Apart from the numbers, you need to consider your target’s human traits as well. We are creating content for the customers, not ourselves, so it’s quite normal to make their satisfaction the center of our universe.
Cutting corners and looking for some quick wins isn’t gonna cut it anymore. We need to do all the heavy lifting of developing a sound customer-centric content strategy.
Why? – Well, because, at the end of the day, your goal here is to create content for the searcher, not the search engine. If you sit down and really think about it, your products and services are purchased by humans, and not some tiny robots that crawl websites. Sure, it is of crucial importance to make your content SEO-friendly, and to back it up with as much firepower as possible, but it’s also imperative that you design it in such a way that it directly caters to the human nature of your prospects.
Having all this in mind while going over our existing content strategy, I figured out that every piece of content needs to provide answers to these four following questions, if we want it to spike the interest of our targeted crowd and get some real, living and breathing humans to truly convert through it:
- How is this topic relevant to my targeted audience?
- What kind of emotion do I want to provoke with it?
- Would they promote it? And if so, why? What’s in it for them?
- How/where/when will my targeted audience acknowledge my content?
In order to answer these four questions, you need to know a lot about your targeted audience. You need to know them better than you know yourself. You need to know who they are, what makes them happy, what makes them sad, where do they hang out, what kind of content do they usually consume, share and like, where do they go for fun, and where do they go to learn new relevant information. Apart from that, you need to figure out if your products or services are somehow age or gender oriented.
Designing The Right Customer Personas For Your Content Marketing Efforts
In order to get your hands on this type information about your customers, you need to:
- Go over your user database and figure out how your active clients found your brand and what made them choose to do business with you. Even though this might seem stalkerish to some of you, the answers might end up surprising you. Some people shop on impulse, which can be triggered by all sorts of unusual things.
For example, there have been multiple cases where people chose to do business with us, instead of our competitors, because they liked our company colors best. Some of them said they liked the general tone I use in our content. A few guys said that they enjoy that I tend to write about business lessons from fictional characters and add a lot of gifs to our blog posts. These are just some of the things that we haven’t really considered as our strengths. These answers came as a surprise to us all.
Ask your audience everything. Ask them what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. The idea here is to look for patterns that tend to repeat in your usual customer’s journey.
- Start actual conversations with your customers. Many markets forget that their customers are more than just numbers, and that they cannot really understand them solely by looking at their stats. No. In order to truly get to know someone, you need to have an actual conversation. And once you do that, you need to treat your interlocutor like an actual person. You cannot ask him or her soulless survey questions and expect to learn something deep and real about your subject. No. It doesn’t really go like that. Engage with them, person-to-person, start a back-and-forward conversation, and I promise you you’re efforts will payoff.
- Develop and employ forms and surveys that seek to capture all the necessary information about your customers, that you can later use to directly and intelligently apply to their needs and profiles.
- Sales stats. Most business owners forget that their salesmen hold a lot of key information that could positively influence their content marketing strategy. It doesn’t matter if you have a team of 2, 4, 5, or 100 sales reps, the important thing is that they’re constantly in communication with people outside of your company walls who may or may not be interested in doing business with you. They have access to all types of different leads, so they know what kind of people usually go for your services, and what don’t. They also know what makes them reject your services, and what could improve your products and services. This is all extremely valuable intel for your future content marketing efforts.
These are just some of the ways you can gather important data for creating intelligent buyer personas for your content marketing. Naturally, the list goes on and on. Buffer has an interesting post on designing customer personas. You should check it out. It doesn’t matter which approach you choose, the only thing that is truly important here, is to figure our where to look for this type of data and how to make it easy for your target crowd to say YES on participating in your data collecting activities.
Now that you’ve completed your customer personas, and you know everything you need to know about your current and potential customers, what kind of content do they prefer, which sites do they visits the most, and what kind of problems are they usually facing, it’s time to get down to small details and build the foundation of your content marketing strategy:
Choosing the Right Keywords – Pick an Adequate Chariot For Your Personas That Focuses On Intent
Now that you know whom exactly (and how) you’ll be addressing with your content, is time to start looking for those topics that will surely provoke some significant engagement from your targeted crowd.
Apart from providing answers to frequently asked questions that your users tend to ask your sales reps and (or) customer relationship specialist, which is always a great idea, you need to go one step further and actually look for hot topics that currently generate a lot of noise within your niche. That’s why it’s so important to frequently look for good short and long-tail keywords.
Producing a piece of content that is build upon a foundation of smart keyword research + fresh customer avatars is a recipe for success. You can rest knowing that this type of content will surely resonate well with your targeted crowd.
The Hummingbird Twist and How to Take Advantage Of All The Changes
Even though the Hummingbird has changed the way on how Google interprets user queries, keywords still play an important part in every successful digital marketing strategy. They still matter.
Yes, Google’s core algorithm has been completely rewritten and updated, for a number of different reasons (mostly, to enable voice search), but it still works on the same set of principles. Google still provides answers to questions, which means that there’s still need to conducting solid keyword researches. Figuring out different ways on how for to capitalize on most popular short and long-tail queries that directly concern your business is still a legitimate strategy. However, the only thing that has really changed here, is how Google understands intent. This means that exact phrase match content will no longer dominate the SERP.
This is what the Hummingbird is all about. For example, if you type in the search “how web hosting works”, you won’t get a lot of exact match results. No. You’ll get tons of links about web hosting. These are all good topical matches that suggest that you, if you truly want to dominate the SERP in a specific niche, need to focus a lot on SEO + related keywords.
Choosing the right related keywords will certainly give your content that additional push you need to climb up the ladder in SERP. That’s why it’s necessary to keep an open mind and think from your customer’s perspective when doing keyword research for your future content marketing efforts. This means that you need to find some themes in your data, not just search volume.
Analyzing and singling out key themes that best cover your customer personas needs, wants and key pain points is what you should be adding to your content creation worksheet.
I hope my formula for producing engaging content will help you overcome your very own content marketing issues. Content marketing can be extremely powerful player of your digital marketing team, if done right. I used this process over and over again, and it always delivers the desired results. I hope it does the same for you, as well!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you have anything to add or ask, please, feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section below!
‘Till next time,