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The Difference Between Content Marketing & Content Strategy (& Why You Need Both)

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In a world where people pay money just to escape ads, content marketing allows you to connect with prospects organically.

If you’ve dabbled in it, you’re one of those who might have begun creating content and posting regularly on your blog.

Soon enough, you may begin noticing a few changes.

People are starting to engage with you.

You’re seeing growth.

But it’s not what you expected.

You expected to soar like other brands using content marketing, but instead, you’re stuck with mediocre ROI.

You’re spinning your wheels.

If this is you, you need to get clear on one thing:

Content marketing alone isn’t enough to build a powerful brand and real ROI.

You also need content strategy.

How Are Content Marketing & Content Strategy Different?

Content marketing and content strategy complement each other perfectly.

But they’re not the same thing.

Here’s what makes them different.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is simply the creation, publishing, and distribution of great content.

It works because it doesn’t directly sell a product or service.

For instance, look at this post from The Tony Robbins Blog:

Tony Robbins blog - great content example

As the title suggests, this blog is about strengthening relationships through learning how to apologize.

Taken by itself, the content doesn’t promote any service.

It’s simply a thoughtful, value-rich guide for people struggling with saying sorry.

This is an example of powerful content marketing.

Since the blog belongs to Tony Robbins’ website, it builds trust in readers and brings them closer to hiring Tony Robbins as their life or business coach.

Here are other resources you can find on the website:

Tony Robbins resources

As a whole, content marketing is organic marketing.

It involves giving value to people so they recognize your brand as a trustworthy solution to their needs and desires.

What Is Content Strategy?

Content strategy, on the other hand, is the foundation on which successful content marketing is built.

Think of it as a map. If content marketing is the journey toward brand success, content strategy is the blueprint that directs it.

So, how does content strategy work?

1. Content Strategy Answers the Question ‘Why’ You’re Publishing Content

Every piece of content you publish should be centered around a goal. And content strategy helps you determine exactly what your goal is.

For instance, you write a lead magnet to grow the size of your email list. You compose emails to gain clicks to your website. You write blog posts to establish authority in your industry.

All these pieces of content are created at the right time, set before the right audience, and then measured for success.

See how content strategy works?

With the right strategy in place, you’ll never again create a random piece of content that doesn’t get you closer to your content marketing goals.

2. Content Strategy Determines Who You’re Reaching with Your Content Marketing

Part of content strategy is finding out exactly who your audience is.

  • What are their major pain points?
  • Why are they reading your content?
  • How can your product or service help them improve their lives?

Imagine writing a letter to no one in particular.

No matter how beautiful the words you use are, your letter will lack real feeling and substance.

On the other hand, writing to someone you know deeply will make your words and paragraphs come alive.

Also, because you know who this person is, you know what he wants or needs to hear.

Here are a few tips for implementing your content strategy to speak to your audience.

  • Create content personas. Gather information about your audience and make fictional characters you can address each time you write content.
  • Remember the buyer’s journey. Your audience will be in either the awareness, consideration, or decision state when they read your content. You need to know what pushes their hot buttons in each one of these stages.

3. Content Strategy Is About Deciding What Kind of Content You’ll Publish

There’s a ton of different kinds of content you can publish online.

There are blogs, infographics, ebooks, podcasts, and social media messages.

What’s more, you can publish long or short content.

You can publish content on your website, on social media, or as a guest blogger on another influencer’s site.

Content strategy is taking a deep look into your brand’s needs and goals.

It’s finding out exactly what kind of content you need, where you should promote it, and setting a schedule to create and publish it.

4. Content Strategy Is About Deciding Who Will Create Your Content

If your company is small, you might have to write all your content yourself at first.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this forever.

As you grow, you can set a budget for high-quality content.

You can hire expert writers to keep your content flowing steadily.

You can hire a content manager to help you with your content calendar.

A content strategist is also an excellent addition to your team.

5. Content Strategy Is Setting Metrics to Measure Content Marketing Success

As you pursue your content marketing goals, it’s important to be aware of how well each piece of content you publish is doing.

For example:

  • Do your blog posts hold readers’ attention?
  • Are your emails gaining clicks to your website?
  • Are your case studies converting prospects into buyers?

Content strategy will help you answer these questions because as you work on your strategy, you come up with metrics to determine content success.

Some of these include bounce rate, time on page, and scroll depth.

Why Content Strategy Matters

Content marketing is good, but without content strategy, it’s like going on a trip without a set destination.

Without the right strategy in place, you’ll waste valuable time and energy writing content that’ll only earn you mediocre ROI.

On the other hand, when you use content strategy as the foundation and blueprint of your content marketing efforts, you’ll see amazing results.

Every piece of content you create will be a well-chiseled puzzle piece that helps craft your brand’s story and message.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, February 2020

Searchenginejournal.com

MARKETING

How to ask customers for reviews (and actually get them)

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ss-rating-review-stars

ss-rating-review-stars

Outside of the food and hospitality industry, it can be a real struggle for businesses to get positive reviews.


Consumers don’t typically review their landscaper, gym, car rental agency and many other business types that they interact with on a daily basis unless something goes wrong.


Because of this, we talk daily with companies who do outstanding work and have a great real-world reputation but have more negative online reviews than positive ones.


For business owners, this disparity between offline and online reputation is beyond frustrating. So what’s a business owner or general manager to do when they find themselves in this situation?


Ask happy customers for reviews.


Tip the review balance back in your favor by getting those happy customers to be your online advocates. Below, I’ll share some tips, best practices and tests you can run to get more positive reviews.

Is it okay to ask for reviews?


But first, you may wonder: Is it okay to ask for reviews? For Google, the answer is a resounding “yes.”


Yelp, however, has much stricter guidelines when it comes to requesting reviews. Currently, Yelp prohibits businesses from requesting reviews in any way, shape, or form. One potential loophole to these guidelines is to request reviews verbally, either over the phone or in person.


You can ask a customer to search “[business name] Yelp” in Google, or “[business name] [location] Yelp” if your business has more than one location. This should lead the customer right to your Yelp listing.


You’ll also want to make sure the customer does not leave a review inside of your office/store, as Yelp may see the location and flag the review as solicited. One of the most important things to remember is to never offer a direct link to your Yelp listing, as this is one of the quickest ways Yelp can flag a review, or set of reviews, as solicited.


If you’d like to avoid Yelp guideline violations or potentially having your Yelp listing removed altogether, we suggest sticking to Google and other review platforms when requesting new reviews.


Remember to check each review site’s guidelines, as they may differ on what requests avenues are or aren’t allowed.


Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive in…

The gold standard: Asking in person


There’s no better way to ask for, and get, reviews than to do it in person. The person-to-person request is incredibly effective, particularly if the requester has spent much time with the customer. We’ve found that asking in person can garner you seven to eight times more reviews than asking via email.


Let’s take a furniture store as an example. A sales associate might spend an hour or more helping customers pick and customize just the right couch for their home. They get to know each other over the course of that time and talk about where they’re from, their families and so on. A mini-bond is built in the time spent together.


At the end of the sale, there is now no person better positioned to ask for a review than this sales associate. The associate can explain that it helps other customers who are researching them and gives a true perspective on the business.


If you’re thinking about asking customers for reviews, try to figure out the customer touch points and who within the company builds the deepest relationship with the customer. That is likely the person who should be asking for reviews.


To make the process as simple as possible, you can display QR codes at the checkout counter or on a promotional flier given to the customer that links directly to your review site.

The ‘tip’ trick


The “tip” trick is one of those review growth hacks that can work great in particular industries. The strategy is that someone who has spent a lot of time with a customer then asks for a review but throws in the kicker of, “If you had a good experience and include my first name in the review, the company gives me a $10 tip.”


This little “sweetener” gives a customer the extra incentive to leave an online review, particularly if he or she had a good experience.


We’ve seen this strategy work best with services provided in and around customers’ homes. This includes landscapers, exterminators and movers.


The service providers work hard, and people sometimes want to tip them for their work; this strategy gives customers a free way to tip someone who did a good job.


For the right companies, this can drastically accelerate the number of reviews that come in.

Asking via email


Asking for reviews via email is a bit trickier. There are cases where you don’t have a lot (or any) face time with a customer. In those instances, email may be your only option.


If you’re going to ask for reviews via email, we strongly encourage you to pre-screen your customers via an internal survey before following up with another email asking them for a public review. While this may sound like cheating, it’s no different from what you would do in person.


If someone is clearly upset, you wouldn’t ask them for an online review. Likewise, using triggers from an internal survey allows you to apply this same human logic, just algorithmically.


Here are some of the best practices for your email request letter:

  • Have the email come from a real person’s email address (Even better, have it come from a name they’d recognize, such as someone they worked with).
  • Have the email written as a personal request from that same person.
  • Have a very clear call-to-action link/button. Remove random social media or website footer links — just as with good conversion rate optimization, have a singular goal of users clicking the review button.
  • Test using a plain-text email versus an HTML email.
  • Test different subject lines: We’ve found that using the person’s name in the subject line works well in many instances but falls completely flat in a few others.
  • Test different email copy to see what performs best.


As with any good campaign, test everything until you’re getting the best conversion-to-review rate possible (not just open rate). Email will almost never perform as well as asking in person, but it can still be very effective at scale.

An organizational initiative


We’ve seen that reviews tend to be a slow trickle until getting them is truly adopted as an organizational initiative, not just some side project done by marketing.


The best strategies for making reviews a priority across an organization include:

  • Making better reviews a top-down focus. Executives need to communicate the importance.
  • Obtaining organizational buy-in on the importance of reviews by helping employees understand the direct impact they have on the business.
  • Training key employees on how to ask for reviews.
  • Developing a scorecard that tracks reviews by locations (similar to our SERP score, but for reviews).
  • Providing bonuses and awards for the locations that have the best online reviews.
  • Putting the C-suite behind the online reviews initiative is the absolute best way to get action to be taken.

Fight back


Simply asking for reviews starts to put the power back into your hands. Many business owners just throw their hands up in the air and assume there is nothing they can do. But as you can see, it’s quite the opposite.


Asking for reviews requires no special tools or technology, just a commitment to see it through. Using these strategies, you can fight back against the phenomenon of businesses (outside of the food and hospitality industry) only getting negative reviews.


This article was researched and written with the help of Dominique Jabbour.

use of this, we talk daily with companies who do outstanding work and have a great real-world reputation, but have more negative online reviews than positive.

For business owners, this disparity between offline and online reputation is beyond frustrating. So what’s a business owner or general manager to do when they find themselves in this situation?

Ask happy customers for reviews.

Tip the review balance back in your favor by getting those happy customers to be your online advocates. Below, I’ll share some tips, best practices and tests you can run to get more positive reviews.

But first, you may be wondering: Is it okay to ask for reviews? For Google, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Yelp, however, has issued conflicting statements on whether or not you’re allowed to ask customers for reviews. I asked Yelp directly, and they told me that it is okay to ask for reviews as long as there is no incentivizing (See #2 in “5 Yelp facts business owners should know”). For all of the other review sites, you’ll need to check their terms of service and guidelines.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive in…

The gold standard: Asking in person

There’s no better way to ask for, and get, reviews than to do it in person. The person-to-person request is incredibly effective, particularly if the requester has spent a lot of time with the customer. We’ve found that asking in person can garner you seven to eight times more reviews than asking via email.

Let’s take a furniture store as an example. A sales associate might spend an hour or more helping a customer pick out and customize just the right couch for their home. They get to know each other over the course of that time, talk about where they’re from, their families, and so on. A mini-bond is built in the time spent together.

At the end of the sale, there is now no person better positioned to ask for a review than this sales associate. The associate can explain that it helps other customers who are researching them and gives a true perspective on the business.

If you’re thinking about asking customers for reviews, first try to figure out the customer touch points and who within the company builds the deepest relationship with the customer. That is likely the person who should be asking for reviews.

The “tip” trick

The “tip” trick is one of those review growth hacks that can work really great in particular industries. The strategy is that someone who has spent a lot of time with a customer then asks for a review, but throws in the kicker of, “If you had a good experience and include my first name in the review, the company gives me a $10 tip.”

This little “sweetener” gives a customer the extra incentive to leave an online review, particularly if he or she had a good experience.

We’ve seen this strategy work best with services provided in and around customers’ homes. This includes landscapers, exterminators and movers.

The service providers work hard, and people sometimes want to tip them for their work; this strategy gives customers a free way to tip someone who did a good job.

For the right companies, this can drastically accelerate the number of review that come in.

Asking via email

Asking for reviews via email is a bit trickier. There are cases where you don’t have a lot (or any) face time with a customer. In those instances, email may be your only option.

If you’re going to ask for reviews via email, we strongly encourage you to pre-screen your customers via an internal survey before following up with another email asking them for a public review. While this may sound like cheating, it’s no different from what you would do in person.

If someone is clearly upset, you wouldn’t ask them for an online review. Likewise, using triggers from an internal survey allows you to apply this same human logic, just algorithmically.

Here are some of the best practices for your email request letter:

  1. Have the email come from a real person’s email address (Even better, have it come from a name they’d recognize, such as someone they worked with).
  2. Have the email written as a personal request from that same person.
  3. Have a very clear call-to-action link/button. Remove random social media or website footer links — just as with good conversion rate optimization, have a singular goal of users clicking the review button.
  4. Test using a plain-text email versus an HTML email.
  5. Test different subject lines: We’ve found that using the person’s name in the subject line works well in many instances but falls completely flat in a few others.
  6. Test different email copy to see what performs best.

As with any good campaign, test everything until you’re getting the best conversion-to-review rate possible (not just open rate). Email will almost never perform as well as asking in person, but it can still be very effective at scale.

An organizational initiative

We’ve seen that reviews tend to be a slow trickle until getting them is truly adopted as an organizational initiative, not just some side project done by marketing. The best strategies for making reviews a priority across an organization include:

  1. Making better reviews a top-down focus; executives need to communicate the importance.
  2. Obtaining organizational buy-in on the importance of reviews by helping employees understand the direct impact they have on the business.
  3. Training key employees on how to ask for reviews.
  4. Developing a scorecard that tracks reviews by locations (similar to our SERP score, but for reviews).
  5. Providing bonuses and awards for the locations that have the best online reviews.

Putting the C-suite behind the online reviews initiative is the absolute best way to get action to be taken.

Fight back

The simple act of asking for reviews starts to put the power back into your hands. Many business owners just throw their hands up in the air and assume there is nothing they can do. But as you can see, it’s quite the opposite.

Asking for reviews doesn’t require any special tools or technology, just a commitment to see it through. Using these strategies, you can fight back against the phenomenon of businesses (outside of the food and hospitality industry) only getting negative reviews.


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



About The Author

Brian PattersonBrian Patterson

Brian Patterson is partner and co-founder of Go Fish Digital, and is responsible for researching and developing strategies for Online Reputation Management (ORM), SEO, and managing web development projects. He blogs on the GFD blog and can be found on Twitter@brianspatterson.

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