The term “content marketing” has been around for a few years and marketers have long accepted that an effective content marketing strategy is crucial to a marketing campaign’s success. In its simplest form, according to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” However, with customers becoming increasingly industry-aware and reliant on comprehensive research before they make buying decisions, marketers have had to reevaluate their perspective of content marketing. To an inbound marketing perception, to be more exact. Thus, content marketing, defined within the context of inbound marketing, is used to drive results and advance a business’ goals with content that is designed to:
- Attract organic traffic to a business’ website
- Educate visitors through relevant information pertaining to their buying needs
- Convert visitors into qualified leads through relevant CTAs and offers
- Nurture generated leads to make them sales-ready with targeted and optimized content
- Delight new customers through engaging, relevant content to convert them into lifelong customers and promoters of your business
So, what this all boils down to is this: a content marketing strategy is about creating dynamic smart content that takes “context” into account. It’s about understanding where in the buyers’ cycle your visitor currently is at, and serving up the right content that will serve to push them further down the sales funnel. It’s also about tracking and analyzing the non-linear behavioral patterns of buyers and using that data to optimize your content and achieve the desired business objectives of lead conversions and increased ROI.
So, how does one create a content strategy that successfully drives a business’ growth? By creating it around the elements of the dynamic smart content framework.
Dynamic Smart Content Framework
This framework is a cyclical system, where the actions within each element are driven by meticulous analysis of data collected over the course of a campaign. Any information that pertains to customers and their behaviors and engagement counts as data; this includes clicks, downloads, conversions, email opens, social media engagements and lots more.
This element involves analyzing and parsing the data into identifiable patterns to understand what type of content drove specific actions during the campaign, and using that knowledge to plan and optimize your future content strategy. This parsing – also called segmentation – divides your data based on actions or metrics that define the effectiveness of the campaign such as consumption, audience reach, lead generation and conversions. By cross-referencing specific actions against the content that drove them, marketers can formulate a clear plan of action for the content distribution cycle.
2. Buyer persona
Smart content is contingent upon serving the right people with the right content at the right time. This means you need to understand:
- who your audience is,
- where they hang out at any given moment during the buyers’ cycle and
- what influences them into taking specific actions that convert them from visitors into long-term customers.
In short, you need to create a profile of a hypothetical customer who is the ideal fit for the service you offer: known as “the buyer persona”. By creating a buyer persona and tailoring your content strategy around them, you are essentially talking directly to your customers and guiding them organically down the sales funnel. Read: Why Developing Buyer Personas is Crucial for Business
3. Buyer’s journey
Before a visitor becomes a customer, they will need to go through a series of action-driven stages, called the sales funnel. As a marketer, it is important to know how your audience behaves: how they think, what answers they seek and what steps they take to get those answers. In short, you need to understand the “buyer’s journey”, and then use that understanding to map out a content strategy that matches every step in that journey. The buyer’s journey consists of three main stages:
- Awareness: where the customer is looking for answers, opinions and solutions for their requirements
- Evaluation : where the customer is evaluating various services and products to decide which one fits their requirements best
- Purchase: where they have decided on a particular service and are on the verge of making a purchase.
4. Relevant content
Relevant content is the type of content that matches the current stage where the buyer is at in their journey. Presenting a buyer with content that’s irrelevant to their current position in their journey can lead to a loss of potential customers. For instance: A buyer in the awareness stage is looking for a solution to a problem, and will not respond favorably to an e-mail newsletter sign-up or e-book offer which offers them more information about a particular service or product. Instead, they’re looking for content that will help them decide what general solution they Once they have understood what kind of solution they need, they move into the evaluation stage where you can start positioning your service as one that provides that solution. At this point, therefore, they will be open to receiving an e-mail newsletter or e-book offer about your service. Read: 10 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Content Marketing Strategy
5. Relevant Channels
An effective content strategy not only involves producing relevant content, it also involves distributing the content effectively so that it reaches your target audience. It might seem like promoting and distributing content on every platform there is, such as social media channels or paid channels, will eventually make it reach your intended audience. But, this hit-or-miss strategy is actually ineffective and a waste of investment and resources. Rather, use the intelligence gathered from dynamic campaign data to understand where your buyer personas hang out, and segment your audience into targeted groups to distribute your content more effectively.
In order to ensure that you’re serving the right type of content which is relevant to the buyer’s stage in their journey, a content marketing campaign should begin with a content-mapping strategy. This involves deciding which content is appropriate for a buyer at any given stage in the buyer’s journey. In other words, it is mapping the relevant content to each buyer stage.
To formulate a content-mapping strategy, marketers need to work backwards to determine various logical pathways that a hypothetical lead took to move down the sales funnel. Now for each of those pathways, marketers can track what types of content moved those customers along towards the sale. From there, it’s now a matter of grouping the content types according to the stage on the funnel where they occurred. 7. Conversion
This involves producing and promoting content assets that can nurture prospective leads through effective and successful stage-to-stage conversions down the funnel. Smart content drives actions that advances a customer from the awareness to the evaluation, and finally to the purchase stage in a non-intrusive, organic manner. Whether it’s landing pages and well-placed CTAs which drive visitor-to-lead conversions or demo videos and trial offers that successfully influence purchase decisions, content is carefully mapped to a business’s goals.
Analysis and optimization add the “dynamic” aspect to the concept of “dynamic smart content”. This element is centered on crafting a data-driven content campaign that drives high conversion rates and increased sales. Over the course of the campaign, marketers track and collect data pertaining to every aspect of their customer, both personal and behavioral. This includes geographical locations, professional or occupational information, clicks, quick-form engagements, email sign-ups, etc.. Once marketers have segmented the collected data into viewable patterns, they can use correlation and cross-referencing to map what kind of content effected certain actions from customers; for instance, the number of white-paper downloads against the number of successful conversions made. Insights such as these can then be used to create new content marketing models or optimize existing campaigns to drive more conversions. Read: Using and Understanding Big Data to Optimize Your Online Strategy
Types of Content and Their Role In the Framework
As mentioned above, the framework is used to create content marketing campaigns that help a business goals of attraction, education, lead conversions, lead nurturing and customer delight. So, how and where exactly do various content assets fit into this framework? Here are a few content formats that support conversion strategies:
In the most general sense, articles – which includes blog posts – can affect conversions at nearly any stage within the buyer’s journey. Therefore, the content of the articles need to reflect the stage where their buyers are. For instance, general, in-depth articles can be used to attract and educate buyers in the awareness stage. However, during the buyers’ conversion or evaluation phase, an article which compares various services will serve them better. Infographics As a visual content asset, infographics can be used effectively to attract and educate buyers, i.e the awareness stage. Additionally, since visual content assets account for higher information retention, they are more likely to influence higher customer engagement and conversion rates.
Ebooks are usually used to provide in-depth information, and hence serve the intent of educating a buyer during the awareness stage of the journey. Ebooks are an effective cross-platform asset that can be used to drive customers into the conversion stage through well-placed calls-to-actions within the content.
Videos & Demos
As stated before, visual content scores higher when it comes to content retention and engagement. Videos can therefore work at any stage during the buyer’s journey.During the initial awareness stage, educational videos and short commercial advertisements can help serve a customer’s need for more information. As they move towards the evaluation stage, videos like product videos or stop-motion animation videos that simplify a complex concept can build a customer’s trust and push them closer to the stage where they are willing to buy from you. At the purchase stage, videos like user testimonials and visual case-studies can finally drive them to a sale.
Case-studies are bottom-of-the-funnel content to nurture your leads to the point where they are willing to trust that your product or service will serve them best. Case-studies are used to present a clear demonstration of a service’s impact on a customer’s requirements or problems. For instance, HubSpot offers a large number of case studies of companies who have benefited from each of its services. By crafting a content strategy that delivers dynamic smart content, marketers can prevent their campaigns from stagnating. A dynamic content strategy is one that generates continuous, data-driven results that affect a company’s long-term growth.