Effective content marketing requires discipline, processes, commitment and skills. You just don’t start cranking out “stuff” based on your gut and then sit back to watch the business grow.
Which is why I want to share with you 10 content marketing tips for driving profitable growth.
1. Know Your Audience
In the marketing courses I teach at the undergraduate and graduate level, knowing your audience is a popular topic.
And by popular, I mean one most students struggle with – and the reason they struggle is the same reason business leaders struggle.
They don’t want to leave anyone out because they want to sell to everyone and never miss an opportunity.
The problem with that type of thinking is you have limited resources with which you need to achieve specific goals, and when you try to accomplish too much with too little, failure is soon to follow.
That’s why you need to invest some resources and really understand who your audience is – which means segmentation and developing personas.
The image above is “Traveling Tina”, a persona I helped develop for a small liberal arts colleges in the MidWest. Notice the specific details in this document – demographics, geographic location in the US which helps with targeting, psychographics, media habits which will help with media strategy and education wants and needs which will help with messaging.
Remember, developing segments and personas does not mean you will never do business with people that don’t fall within these parameters – it means you realize people with these shared traits offer your business the greatest opportunity for success and that you will focus you resources on pursuing them.
A few of you are looking at “Traveling Tina” and wondering how in the world you could get this level of detail.
Let me show you.
Recency. Frequency. Monetary. Analysis.
RFM – which stands for recency, frequency and monetary – is how to get things going.
Take your customer list for the past 12 to 24 months. Then rank them based on how recently they purchased from you.
Divide the list into quintiles (five equal groups) and award 5 points to the top quintile, 4 to the second highest quintile and so on.
Next, rank them based on how frequently they purchased from your business – and divide the list into quintiles so you can award points in the same manner as above.
Last, rank them based on how much money they spent with your business – and then rank and award points as you did previously.
Now, your customer list has been awarded up to 15 points to a little as (possibly) 0 points.
Divide the list into quintiles one last time – and those in the top quintile or 20% are your “best customers”.
During the past 12-24 months, they bought most recently, most frequently and spent the most money.
That’s how you get started.
Append Data. Create Personas.
Now that you have identified your “best customers” through RFM analysis, the next step is to fill in the blanks with more data – and the fastest, most accurate and affordable way to make that happen is to work with a data company like Experian, D&B, InfoUSA or others.
These firms will append data for each of the customers in your list so that you have a broader, deeper, richer understanding of their demographic, psychographic, geographic factors.
NOTE: Notice in “Traveling Tina’s” persona that those sharing this traits total 1.5M in the US and that there were approximately 100,000 within 100 miles of the campus/college. This helps with targeting – because this is ‘down to the household data’ which means they know where those most like your best customers live.
Interviews and Surveys Capture the Finer Details on Your Persona
The final step in the process is actually reaching out to your audience, asking questions so you can analyze their responses and fill in some of the blanks.
For example, with “Traveling Tina”, we learned about career goals and lifestyle factors that significantly impacted messaging and offer strategies.
We also got deeper insight into the buying process, selection criteria and perceptions of my client’s institution – all of which added to our messaging and content marketing strategies.
2. Know Your Audience's Buying Process & Selection Criteria
The next key factor to your content marketing success is understanding your target audience’s buying process and their selection criteria.
First, you want to be able to provide them with the right information and offer at the right time via the right media so you can motivate the right action. Or, in Engish, your content marketing program needs to help your audience gather the information they need in each stage of their buying or decision-making process so that [a] they can move forward in the process, and [b] they can move forward with your.
Think of it this way – “John” doesn’t have a very high awareness level of your business but he does meet the criteria set for the target audience/segment of “ABC Auto Repair.”
John wakes this morning and when he goes to start the car, nothing.
As it would happen, your business sent him a “50% off Your Next Repair.” Because of the low awareness level, John doesn’t even remember the coupon or the name of ABC Repair – and the next thing he does is try to figure out what really is wrong and if he can fix things himself.
After some time fiddling with the car and not making progress, John starts looking online for a local garage that can come get his car, work on it and get him to work ASAP.
Now, let me tell you where ABC Auto Repair went wrong.
Because John had no awareness of who they were, and no interest in what they were offering at that time, ABC Auto Repair failed to provide John with what he needed at the “Pre-Problem Recognition Stage.”
However, if they had been sending John information that he found valuable – like checklists on “10 Ways to Keep Your Car Running Smooth” or “What to Look for in an Auto Repairperson” – they might have caught his attention and interest because John’s car is 10-years old and he’s been worried about keeping it running for some time.
And if ABC Auto Repair had held off on that 50% offer until John had [ex] remembered reading those helpful checklists and articles and looked up ABC Auto Repair on his smartphone (Information Search Stage)…
See what I am getting at here?
Take this a step further and move on to the “Evaluate Alternatives” stage. During this stage, ABC Auto Repair would be providing testimonials, awards won, warranties and guaratees, employee bigraphies that include experience, education and training, certifications so that you differentiate themselves from the competition.
Now, the big challange is this – you need to understand how to identify which stage your audience is in so you can get them the proper information. And that will require [a] insight from the interviews and surveys, and [b] testing.
That’s right – this isn’t an overnight solution where you add water, stir and tada! It takes work which requires time to perform effectively – but it sure does pay off in the end.
3. Written Strategic Plan
Download Your Complimentary Content Marketing Strategic Plan Template
This template walks you and your team through the content marketing strategic planning process quickly and efficiently – providing you with your roadmap for greater success.
Your chances of success are substantially higher if you have a written content marketing plan. After all, if your team isn’t all on the same page regarding what needs to be done, why, how, when and by whom…chaos can ensue.
- What are your goals?
- Who is your audience? What are the primary and secondary segments?
- What is their buying process?
- What are their wants and needs at each stage of the decision-making process?
- How will you capture the right data to determine if your work is effective?
Too many businesses try to wing it – don’t let that happen to you. Download my complimentary Content Marketing Plan template and improve your chances for success.
4. Effective Processes
Creating great content is more than just writing, designing, producing – great content needs an efficient process to ensure the work is performed quickly.
Tasks. Milestones. Owners. Which tasks are dependent on others to be completed so that the creation, review and approval process is efficient and effective?
Download a complimentary copy of my Editorial Calendar and Production Schedule today – it walks you and your team
You can view the “How to” video to use this incredibly to learn how to use these tools – and how to customize them for ever greater impact.
Download Your Complimentary Content Marketing Editorial Calendar & Production Schedule
These customizable tools will help you manage the creation of your content from idea generation to kick-off and through to distribution. Save time. Save money. Save sanity too!
The key to successful marketing, including content marketing, has always rested on getting the right message and offer to the right person via the right media at the right time so that you grab their attention and interest while motivating them to take appropriate action.
But with new media popping up all the time, and different generational segments favoring different media, success is harder and harder to achieve.
And then there is the volume of messages published online every day – combined with the messages still using traditional media – and you must be extremely strategic and efficient with how and when you distribute your efforts unto your target audience.
5. Performance Metrics and Analytics
A vital part of the planning process is establishing clear performance goals for your content marketing. Setting clear performance goals will address what metrics are needed, how they will be gathered and stored, who will analyze the data and make reports.
After all, your goal isn’t to generate content – your goal is to generate leads, new customers, improve retention, and generate profitable revenue.
Success requires more than “downloads” and “likes” and “shares”.
I strongly recommend having your data collection and analysis processes hammered out before investing resources in creating and distributing content. Starting with these processes in place helps you stay on top of your resource investment right from the start and improves your chances for focusing on high performing content campaigns.
Can you track the download to the account/customer? Then use that as the primary campaign code and when they make their first purchase, make sure you credit this campaign with generating that business.
As the customer engages with more and more content, you will have to determine your contribution model.
Don’t get too caught up in this – the important thing is your content helped generate a new customer and sales. But use the information to identify ways to possibly shorten sales cycles and use content in the right combination to generate sales.
6. Test. Test. Test.
Great content marketing campaigns test to identify the most – and least – effective
Check out this great article on this subject.
7. Repurpose Content
Always look for ways to repurpose content. Ways to repackage it, reuse it, and get more mileage out of it.
Why? You will save money. You will save time. Oh, and you will keep your content marketing team a little more sane – which can be a valuable benefit!
Turn that 30-minute video interview of a happy customer into shorter snippets.
Then use the audio for a podcast.
Then use the transcript for a blog post.
Then use the transcript to create checklists or “How to” papers.
8. Build Your Email List
Check out this article and video for some hints on how to grow your email list – and the reason this is important for content marketing is YOU OWN THE DATA.
Why is this so important that I shouted it at you in all CAPS?
Imagine having 1,000,000 people express an interest in your company and products – but being unable to reach them all at once with a single campaign.
Welcome to social media.
When you’re on someone else’s platform, they make (and change) the rules so that they have the advantage. Remember, those social media platforms don’t exist to help you make money – they exist to sell ads and collect data.
By building your email list (and turning that into a list that includes phone numbers and mailing addresses), you have more control over who sees what you send.
9. Leverage Your Audience
If you have never done it before, check out REI’s website and then check out the YouTube channels for REI and GoPro.
Great content – and a lot of it is from their audience.
Imagine having customers that are so involved with your brand that they create great content for you!
Making this happen so you get great content will take some work – setting up a process for submitting and reviewing, as well as standards for the subject matter, etc. But in the end, you get great content from your audience, which will carry higher weight with your audience.
10. Know Your Competition
One of the keys to great content marketing is ‘unique value’ – and if you are going to be presenting your audience with a unique value, you need to keep an eye on the competition.
What are they doing with their content marketing efforts? Topics? Formats? Frequency?
Then ask yourself how you can create unique, valuable content for your audience that is superior to your competitor’s content.
A Few Closing Thoughts
Walking through these ten points is a great way to gather the information you need to write your content marketing plan. And having a written plan is a great way to get the most from your available resources.
Remember, just because you have a written plan doesn’t mean it can’t be changed so you can better address internal and external change – but it does mean you and your team has a foundation that they can build upon.