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How To Do Less and Get More in Every Facet of Content Marketing

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How To Do Less and Get More in Every Facet of Content Marketing


Content marketing work hasn’t slowed down – and it’s not likely to anytime soon.

Yet content marketers have adapted admirably to constant disruptions and changes in direction.

Many of you have explored newer content platforms (metaverse anyone?). Many have built a presence on new channels like Clubhouse and those that have entered the mainstream like Discord. And some have experimented with content formats like NFTs and pushed the envelope in AI, AR/VR content experiences

What’s even more impressive? Two-thirds of B2B marketers say they made these strides without additional budget resources or team support, according to CMI’s 2022 B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.

We’re all doing more with less. A new year is a great time to flip that script. So, I’ve pulled together a collection of tips and resources that will help you do less heavy lifting and get more value from your effort.

Do less heavy lifting and get more value from your #ContentMarketing efforts in 2022, says @Joderama. She even shares ideas on how (via @CMIcontent). Click To Tweet

Get your strategy in order

Success rarely happens through shortcuts. But it can occur through a reliable process followed by the most successful B2B marketers: They create – and document – their content marketing strategy.

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Your content marketing strategy should detail three key pillars:

  • Why– the marketing and business goals and the reason to create content as opposed to other marketing techniques
  • Who – the audience to serve, including who they are, what they need, and their customer journey
  • How– the unique brand mission or story, what sets your content apart from what else your audience might choose

Start with a simplified strategy and refine it over time. Zero in on your top-priority content marketing goal by asking these questions:

  • What business need are we struggling to achieve through current marketing initiatives? For example, if the challenge is lead or demand generation, the goal could be to build the brand’s authority in the marketplace or accelerate the conversion path on your website.
  • How big is this need? How will addressing it help drive our goals? If you aren’t sure, compare the business value from each target market. If one drives more revenue or incurs more conversion costs, it’s likely worth focusing your content on the more successful market’s needs.
  • What is the differentiating value? Why is it more important to invest time and money in content marketing than in other marketing?
  • What is our ideal outcome with this process? What will it do for our business if we succeed?

Then, ask these questions to develop accurate personas to guide your content:

  • Who is the audience? What are their defining traits and distinguishing characteristics?
  • What roles do they play? What does their typical day look like?
  • What do they need to accomplish? What informational gaps stand in the way of reaching those goals?
  • Where are they in our funnel? What information do they need most to help them reach the next stage?
  • Why would they care about our company as a product/service provider?

Go to the source for more details: Create a Content Marketing Strategy in 3 Steps

Map out your content operations

Content marketers are expected to collaborate on constructing, implementing, and administering a framework to manage content operations across the enterprise.

Cathy McKnight of The Content Advisory offers these suggestions for building that framework and simplifying how content gets created and managed in your organization.

 Articulate the purpose of your content. Your purpose explains why your team creates content ­– think of it as the North Star guiding all your efforts.

Define your brand’s content mission. Do you intend to use content to attract recruits? Build brand advocacy? Deepen relationships with customers? Can you clearly communicate your mission? Do you have a unique voice or value proposition? Answering all these questions will solidify your content mission.

Set and monitor a few core objectives and key results. OKRs are an effective way to communicate goals and milestones to be achieved. Each objective – an overall business goal – usually encompasses three to five quantifiable, objective, measurable outcomes. Checkpoints ensure the ultimate objective is reached.

Organize your content operations team. With OKRs set, people need to get the work done. What will the structure look like? Who will report to whom? Will you use a centralized command-and-control approach, a decentralized-but-supported structure, or something in between?

The team structure and organization must work within the construct and culture of the larger organization. Use the sample org chart below as a reference: At the top is the content function before it diverges into two paths – one for brand communications and one for a content center of excellence.

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Click to enlarge

Formalize a governance model. Governance ensures your content operations follow agreed-upon goals, objectives, and standards. You also need to ensure all content stakeholders across the organization are willing to adopt them.

Create efficient processes and workflows. Adherence to the governance model requires a line of sight into all content processes – including how each type of content is generated from start to finish. You may need to do some leg work to understand:

  • How many ways is content created and published?
  • Who is involved (internal and external resources)?
  • How is progress tracked?
  • Who are the doers and approvers?
  • What happens to the content after it’s completed?

Once documented, you can streamline and align these processes into a core workflow, allowing for outlier and ad-hoc content needs and requests. (See below for more details on how to map that core workflow for your business.)

Cathy offers this model for approving social content, organized into three tiers – the request, the production and scheduling, and the storage and success measurement:

Click to enlarge

Deploy the best-fit technology stack. Many organizations grow through acquisition, inheriting duplicate components within their content stacks. Do an audit, eliminate redundancies, and simplify where possible. Use the inherent capabilities within the content stack to automate where you can.

Get more from the source: How To Build a Content Operations Framework (and Why You Need One)

Document your workflow details

Creating a detailed and documented content marketing workflow gives structure to your processes, visibility into collaborative dependencies, and execution efficiency.

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A content marketing workflow structures your processes and provides visibility to collaborative dependencies, says @HANDLE

For example, content teams get tons of requests for content from across the enterprise and are tasked with coming up with ideas to fulfill them. If your team doesn’t have a reliable way to collect and call up those ideas, it will be impossible to track them.

Workfront’s Raechel Duplain suggests documenting these aspects for greater efficiency and effectiveness:

  • Identify who needs to be involved in content requests and ideation. Consider where requests and ideas are coming from. Include the key members of your team and relevant stakeholders and subject-matter experts in other departments.
  • Create a central location or repository for requests and idea submissions. Require that all content requests and ideas be submitted in a standardized fashion to one place. You could create an email alias that goes to your team lead (e.g., [email protected]), an online form that auto-populates a shared spreadsheet, or a cloud-based solution. The repository should serve as the place to prioritize and select content for production.
  • Detail approvers and reviewers. Before work starts, know who needs to approve topics, such as the sales team, internal subject-matter experts, or executives.
  • Determine the sequence of work. In the ideation stage, map out what needs to happen in what order – brainstorm ideas, cull ideas, submit ideas, fill out a content brief.

Get more from the source: How To Document Your Content Marketing Workflow

Distinguish your brand with content

The content landscape is crowded, noisy, and competitive. How can a brand get noticed?

The first steps involve analyzing the content in your market:

  • Take inventory of your competitors’ content. Catalog each content medium and site, from articles to videos on and off their website. Each content type gives insight into the level of investment, formats enjoyed by their audiences, and the range and relative importance of topics and keywords.
  • Evaluate quantity and quality. Take stock of the number of media and channels used and the publishing frequency on each. Look for trends in engagement – shares, comments, etc. – to understand how well the content is performing.
  • Tag and analyze content topics. Do a micro-analysis of each content piece. Tagging and analyzing the topics of individual assets can surface content marketing gaps.

You’ll end up with a master spreadsheet of your competitors’ content marketing strategies deconstructed. Looking at a combination of the quantity and quality by topic will reveal areas to stay away from and gaps to fill. In other words, you will create a map that shows how to differentiate and win with your content marketing.

Get more from the source: How To Do a Competitive Content Marketing Analysis 

Vet your ideas for viability

Sometimes the problem isn’t coming up with great topics and ideas but knowing which ones are most worth executing. A system for prioritizing projects helps you avoid wasting time on content that isn’t likely to help drive your goals.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t coming up with #ContentMarketing ideas – it’s knowing which are worth executing, says @millanda via @joderama and @CMIcontent Click To Tweet

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First, see if your idea has legs with this four-question content vetting process from Stacker’s Amanda Milligan:

  • Is it something your audience wants? Does your idea fall into those curiosities or concerns heard by a sales representative and a customer service representative (if applicable)? You can also do keyword research to see if your idea addresses a question people are asking.
  • Has the idea been done? Often, figuring this out can be as simple as a Google search. But don’t just look for direct matches – check related keywords and associated ideas. You might be able to pivot and find an even more interesting approach.
  • Does the idea align with your marketing goals? Every content piece should have a primary and secondary goal: helping prospects understand your offering, converting visitors, building backlinks and brand authority, and so on. Your goals can overlap, but make sure the primary goal shapes each piece.
  • Will the idea elicit a reaction? For audiences to care, your content should provoke a response or emotion or help them achieve some satisfaction. Will your idea inspire them or help them overcome an obstacle? If the answer is no, the resulting content isn’t likely to matter to your customers. Move on.

Make better decisions about video

When face-to-face communication paused, video swept in to fill the connection gaps. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every situation.

Consider the intended message and interaction at the start of every video project. Those intentions should factor into all creative decisions. Answer these questions to ensure you’re making the right choices from the start:

What is the primary goal for your video?

  • Customer service: Do you want to distribute information or technical assistance to customers who have purchased your products?
  • Brand awareness: Do you want to generate initial interest in your brand or increase awareness of its offerings, vision, and values?
  • Sales enablement: Do you want to generate demand and leads or help the sales team generate revenue?
  • Thought leadership: Do you want to promote your executives’ subject-matter expertise or generate new business partnerships and opportunities? 

What level of participation will you provide?

  • Do you want to create a collaborative dialogue between your brand and the audience?
  • Do you want to offer your brand’s unique perspective on a topic?

What is your tolerance for risk, and what’s your desired level of control?

  • Is it critical to deliver a fully vetted message, or is there room for spontaneity and creativity in your delivery?
  • Do video scripts need approval?
  • How will stakeholders react if your video isn’t polished and perfect?
  • How skilled and comfortable on camera are your presenters?

What do you want viewers to do while they watch? After they watch?

  • Do you prefer to create a passive or active viewing experience?
  • Can viewers react and respond in real-time, or should they follow up separately?

With these criteria determined, you can match your goals with the most appropriate video experience. Use the graphic below to help:

Click to enlarge

Get more from the source: How to Create the Right Video Experiences for Your Brand

Choose content distribution channels wisely

Some content distribution decisions work better for some content goals than others.

To increase your potential for success, develop a channel plan with a clear understanding of the pros and cons for each and how strongly they align with your audience, brand voice, and goals.

In our latest guide on content distribution, we outline some of the top factors to consider.

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Evaluate each channel using this checklist to decide which is the best fit:

  • Audience characteristics: What audience are you most likely to reach on this channel? Does this match your target audience or personas?
  • Rules of engagement: How often is this channel’s audience be open to hearing from brands like yours? Are specific topics off-limits? Do they want lengthy, text-based content, or are images and videos better fit?
  • Communication style: Are your tone, voice, and style a good fit on this channel? Could conversations of a sensitive nature put your brand at risk?
  • Brand resources and capabilities: Do you have the right resources to engage consistently? Are you prepared to listen, respond, participate in existing discussions, and start conversations?

Explore paid opportunities to extend your content’s reach 

With organic reach on social media in sharp decline, search trends shifting due to privacy regulations, and other algorithm changes complicating the playing field, consider amplifying your content’s power with paid promotion.

Take advantage of more strategic, subtle, and immersive means, such as:

  • Native advertising: Rather than disrupting the reader’s editorial experience, native ads align with the tone, format, and topical focus a reader would expect to find on the third-party site.
  • Branded content: Branded content works by partnering with relevant publishers your target audience trusts. This technique can take a more immersive, sensory-driven approach to storytelling, making the experience more entertaining, valuable, and memorable.
  • Paid search: Pay-per-click ads or other sponsored listings appear near the top of search engine results pages (SERP) when consumers search for information relevant to your content.
  • Influencer marketing: Enlist the assistance of strong voices in your industry – people who have the ear of your target audience – to help bring your content to their attention. But exercise caution with influencer campaigns. Some questionable practices can keep your business from achieving optimal results.
  • Paid social media promotion: Boost your content’s reach further and faster by building paid promotional campaigns around your strongest content assets and special features on FacebookInstagram, Twitter, and other platforms.

Prepare online influencers

If you want today’s social tastemakers to amplify your content’s reach, you need to supply them with all the tools they’ll need. Here are some to-do items for each collaboration:

  • Make sure your influencers’ channels make sense for your audience.
  • Provide your company’s social media guidelines and style guides so they know which conversations are appropriate and which topics should be avoided.
  • Outline your evaluation process, including the performance benchmarks and tracking tactics, especially if you tie their compensation to traffic/engagement milestones. (You’ll find more details on metrics in the ROI section below.)

Then, empower your influencers to meet their commitments – and equip your internal content team to reap the benefits of their evangelism:

  • Detail the program’s goals and the role of the influencer to help them feel more vested in the collaboration.
  • Create a pre-event briefing outlining key terms of engagement such as relevant topics and keywords, target timelines, project deliverables and requirements, and even starter ideas.
  • Draft social media messages the influencers can pop into a post and publish.
  • Craft eye-catching graphics, charts, screenshots, and other sharing-friendly image files.
  • Develop trackable URLs/codes for easier performance measurement.

Get more from the source: How to Turn Influencers Into a Powerful Content Force

Optimize existing assets

Your content has been published and promoted, but do you know how well it’s performing? Did it help achieve your marketing and business goals?

Ann Gynn suggests creating a dedicated performance review process to help provide the answers. Here are her tips on how to develop one:

  • Create a standard report format that contains the content’s details (topic, headline, keywords, format, distribution platform) and a column or two for metrics that connect to your content marketing goals.
  • Download those metrics at the appropriate time (every metric-related goal should have a timeframe).
  • Compare the results to the goals.
  • Share the report with all stakeholders.
  • Identify which content achieved its goals and which did not.
  • Determine which topics to repeat, repurpose, or promote further (and which to avoid).
  • Compare analytics reports from quarter to quarter and year over year to identify trends and troubleshoot ongoing issues.

Get more from the source: Want More Method and Less Madness? Check Your Content Operations

Recycle high-performing assets into evergreen classics

Once your most successful content assets are identified, explore ways to optimize their reach and impact, reinforcing your brand’s value in the minds of your audience. One effective technique is to repurpose and reuse those assets, so they can be discovered by new audiences and resurfaced for anyone who may have forgotten them.

Choose one of these recycling techniques based on the asset’s current performance and its potential to serve a new purpose on a different platform or in another format:

  • Republish it: If an asset’s value hasn’t diminished, but its performance has slipped, simply republish it (making sure to replace any outdated information).
  • Repackage it: Deconstruct your long-form content – blog posts, white papers, and e-books – into smaller, modular assets. They can be combined with other relevant information to form a new piece that might attract different audiences.
  • Repurpose it: Like repackaging, repurposing involves deconstructing your original assets into individual pieces that form a new conversation. The message remains mostly intact – it’s just tailored to suit a different purpose or platform.
  • Syndicate it: You can partner with news sites, trade media, and other like-minded mass media outlets that might be interested in republishing your content on an ongoing basis. Syndication can take several forms (both paid and unpaid), and you’ll likely get some added link juice in the deal.

Get more from the source: Content Distribution: Everything You Need to Know Right Now

Accomplish more without doing more

You don’t have to work round the clock to make an impact in content marketing. These tips and ideas just scratch the surface of ways you can work smarter and accomplish great things. Explore the linked resources on this page and the articles I drew from for even more ideas.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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MARKETING

8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

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  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.

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As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.

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Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”

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