Content marketing is the practice of sharing informational resources that educate a specific audience about business-critical issues, shows how our expertise can help them resolve the issues and provides evidence that we can deliver on those promises in order to actively engage those most likely to buy.
Content marketing has a pervasive impact on all the stages of the digital marketing strategy framework.
Stage 1: Define Digital Marketing Mission
This stage is about setting goals about what you want your digital strategy to achieve. If you define the mission of creating customers, for example, the underlying question is just how you can use digital means to accomplish this level of conversion. That means content. For digital doesn’t exist without content.
It is during the goal stage that you must take a deep dive into the types of customers your strategy should create, come to understand their needs and priorities and how they conduct themselves within the digital environment. In essence, you must answer the who, how and why questions in relation to the selected mission(s). This information will become the foundation for your content marketing plan. Without this knowledge you cannot move further in the development of your digital marketing strategy framework.
Stage 2: Derive the Digital Strategy
Armed with the information you developed in Stage 1, you’re now ready to determine how to fulfill your mission by selecting the core elements for inclusion in your digital marketing strategy. Once you have specified the delivery vehicles (e.g. website, social media platforms, email, etc.), prioritized your channels and metrics for accountability you’ll have the insight you need to determine what type of content to develop.
Stage 3: Derive the Interaction Strategy Across the Customer Lifecycle
Based on Stages 1 and 2, your task is to develop content storylines based on the goals you’re tasked to achieve and the fulfillment components you’ve selected. This is the critical impact point for content marketing. In addition to consistent messaging, with digital, all components must be integrated to work together in achieving your goals. The best practice for engaging prospects and customers across the lifecycle is to map your content topics across stages from awareness to pre-purchase to customer introduction and extension. Informational needs are different at each stage. The execution tools you select will perform best with the right type of content delivering the message with the most meaning for the audience at the right time.
Stage 4: Measure and Improve ROI
This stage is all about measuring the performance of your content and the interactions it generated for your digital marketing strategy. Based on goals and the metrics you chose, how well did your content perform? What worked and what content fell flat? Can you identify additional opportunities for conversion based on the patterns exposed by the metrics?
Review Existing Capabilities
Before you start investing in content marketing, you must determine what overall processes exist, the resources available and the obstacles to using them. Here are a few things to consider:
- Can you update the content on your website and blog, as well as create and send emails without IT assistance? Or, do you need to plan for a 3-week wait in the queue to get a new content resource coded and posted? Timing is important, so make sure you can plan appropriately.
- What are the capabilities of your email marketing tools? Are they integrated with other reporting or will you need to manually compile results from other analytics tools to attempt to prove the outcomes you’ve achieved? Can you build a business case for acquiring a marketing automation platform?
- Do you have lead and customer management processes in place that the technology and tools will support in execution? What about editorial processes and branding guidelines? Must legal review and approve content before it can be published?
- What resources do you have available to develop content? At what capacity?
Content Marketing Success Stories
There are more and more success stories coming to the fore for content marketing. The level of ROI depends upon a number of factors, but the following are examples of the achievements being reported by companies that have embraced content marketing as a vital component of their digital marketing strategy:
- Increased qualified lead conversion rates [70% increase reported by PivotLink]
- Improved ability to connect with leads – they accept calls because they feel like they “know” the company and appreciate the value of the information received. (increase of 200% was reported by Intellitactics)
- Higher contract values have been reported as a result of using content to nurture leads by providing the right information at the right time.[ increase of 450% reported by Zuora]
To improve your returns on content marketing, it’s critical to monitor and measure response to content across the buying process. Figure out what works and what doesn’t and then produce more of the content that shows the best results. Keep tabs on your buyers, prospects and customers and make sure you shift your content in parallel with the changes you monitor in their behavior. Never stop listening and applying what you learn to content development.