Content marketing: a useful strategy for companies
Content marketing is the branch of marketing that includes the set of techniques to create and share relevant and valuable textual and visual content around a brand or product/service, so as to create an engagement that also guides the purchasing process of users.
What is Content Marketing
The set of techniques for creating and sharing relevant textual and visual content around a brand or product: this is how content marketing can be briefly defined.
However, there is no univocal model of content marketing plan that knows how to embrace the plurality of strategic approaches and marketing objectives, especially since when trying to list virtuous examples of content marketing, one can only range between different “experiments”, from Michelin guide to the magazine on cuisine and surroundings distributed by the low-cost supermarket chain.
An example of content marketing: the michelin guide
The history of the first in particular, which has now become an institution in the world of top-of-the-range catering, is intimately linked to that of the French tire company of the same name: originally it was, in fact, a publication that provided advice on where and what to eat and maps. detailed roads, just the kind of content that could be useful to those who had a laundry and needed alternative solutions to continue their journey by car.
It is therefore much more correct to employ a framework that helps build an effective plan based on seven essential points.
Content Marketing Strategy: How to build an effective one
The first point is planning which includes identifying a business case or a simple mission on which the entire plan is to be built; it is then necessary to clarify what are the differentiating factors of the company’s products or services, the expectations in terms of redemption, the consistency with respect to the marketing plan last but not least, a thorough understanding of the company is needed: who we are, where we are and where we want to go.
The second factor to take into consideration is the reference audience, possibly distinct (and segmented) into two macro-categories: on the one hand the stakeholders, on the other the reference market, with all the appropriate considerations to be made on the type of users/customers to be involved, the identification of one or more types of buyer personas, the socio-demographic segmentation and the corresponding differentiation of needs and expectations.
Once the plan and the audience have been defined, the crucial point is reached: history understood in the broadest sense of the term. It is the idea on which the entire content marketing plan is developed, the principle on which to differentiate the experience of potential customers and obtain a distinctive positioning on the market.
There is no univocal narrative rule nor the reference to the term “story” must necessarily suggest a beginning and an end. The storytelling element is essential for building a bond of involvement with the target audience and identifying the right key to interpreting a story capable of expressing the company’s challenges, passions, and identity. Only with a compelling and engaging story can you get an effective content plan.
A story must be conveyed through the right means, consistent with the marketing objectives and the editorial plan: for this reason, the next step after storytelling is the identification of the most effective means to disseminate one’s content and involve the target market. It is not a question of identifying a single communication channel but of finding the solutions that best suit the expectations and needs of the public to be involved.
Creating a content marketing strategy, identifying target segments and channels, implies creating a real process. Every single phase is suitably assessed, monitored, and assigned to specific business sectors or functions.
Content strategist: who he is and what he does
An ad hoc professional figure, that of the content strategist, should certainly take care, downstream, of supervising and harmonizing all the activities that have to do with the creation of brand contents or that are in any case part of the corporate editorial plan.
With companies from all sectors allocating increasingly substantial investments in content marketing, the content specialist is one of the most sought-after new digital professions today. More than other figures, even similar ones, such as that of the content editor, for example, a good content specialist is equipped with technical skills, soft skills, and strategic vision that help him to make the content suitable for achieving business objectives such as increasing traffic. organic and referral to the site, the acquisition of inbound links, the increase in brand conversations on the Net and on social media, and so on.
After all, they cannot do without two phases, such as the listening phase of conversations, especially in the places and forms that are most followed and animated by their target audience, and the monitoring phase, starting from some simple questions:
Finally, a content marketing plan must aim for exclusivity. Planning exclusive content means offering your audience a vast amount of information that they could not find elsewhere, creating a sense of greater involvement between the company/brand and customer base, and above all, it means experimenting with new methods and new communication perspectives.
Just think of the corporate videos that reproduce the production cycle of a given asset, providing valuable information on the resources and processes used, or the interviews with prominent personalities that can highlight the contribution provided by professionals – experts, employees, managers – of a company and know-how or, again, training contents – webinars, white papers, etc. – which offer information and insights on a business and which are a source of knowledge sharing that significantly increase the reputation of a brand or company.
The so-called “behind the scenes” effect should not be underestimated: any content – video first, but also dedicated blogs, images to be conveyed on social media, newsletters, case studies, etc. – that reveals an unprecedented and exclusive perspective of a company and a brand can represent a formidable tool for success – also in terms of sales objectives – both for the brands most loved by the public and for small semi-unknown companies.
In this perspective, the power of storytelling, combined with a transmedia and multi-channel logic, can give life to a promotion strategy with surprising results in terms of reputation, visibility, and recognition of a brand.
Content is King, Distribution is the Queen
The weak point for many marketers is not the production, therefore, but the distribution of content; after all, without a valid strategy on the correct use of contents, not only its scope and potential are diminished, but every possibility of control and management is compromised, including the ROI.
What, then, are the essential strategic elements to give visibility to the contents? The possible answers are summarized in three key concepts: accessibility, maximization of spending, and distribution.
- The accessibility of content is not only linked to the concept of visibility: the contents must be available and easily found by the users for whom they were created.
- The maximization of expenditure in the production of content translates, on the other hand, into an apparently self-evident truth, that is, to produce relevant content. Why was an expensive whitepaper never downloaded? Why were webinar signups so low? Why has the registration form for access to gated content been practically ignored? Every marketer should ask themselves the right questions in the planning stage to make sure that the content produced has been welcomed by their target audience; the most useful tool, in fact, is the search for feedback: it is, therefore, necessary to develop a performance orientation also for the contents, analyzing the methods of use, investigating the demographic data of the audience, reconstructing a journey capable of describing the weight of each content in the production process. Tracking, measuring, and analyzing are the three key concepts for monitoring the performance of an eCommerce, but also for evaluating the effectiveness of a webinar: the product or service does change, true, but the approach is the same.
- Last – but certainly not least – the concept of distribution. The approach that many companies have today is similar to what companies once adopted in the period of maximum diffusion of analog television: that is, it aims to create content and then simply hope for the best. In reality, today the creation plan cannot be separated from an effective content activation platform aimed at maximizing ROI and able to convey the contents based on the decision-making process of purchasing the audience, declining them in a cross-media logic without undermining their effectiveness. , always presenting them in a personalized way and supporting them with valid analysis and monitoring tools, to always evaluate their capacity for involvement.
A content activation platform is able, in fact, to perfectly calibrate the distribution of content by encouraging interaction, engagement, and, of course, conversion. It is not only necessary to create a convincing and consistent story with the objectives and positioning of a brand and a company; it is even more essential to rely on the most effective distribution platforms by choosing channels based on the browsing habits and interests of one’s consumer base, to create anchor points – from events to video or whitepaper downloads, from sponsored articles to viral campaigns – all strictly traceable to monitor the interaction with the target audience and the effectiveness of the contents themselves.
The pyramid of content marketing
A content marketing strategy must not be guided by content but by what is intended to be achieved through content: it is on this assumption that the model of the Content Marketing Pyramid is based, defined as the development of a content plan through the main company assets to supporting and reinforcing specific themes and messages through a wide variety of formats and specific distribution and promotion channels – the so-called owned, earned and paid media – in line with a company’s marketing objectives.
From a structural point of view, the Pyramid is organized on the basis of three specific macro-areas:
- the core content, i.e. those original contents such as guides, eBooks, white papers (generally these are gated content, accessible only after having released their data through a registration form). These are complex contents that require a considerable effort in terms of productivity, research, and originality and for this reason, they are subject to a limited schedule;
- derivative assets, in the sense that they are strictly connected to the core content and constitute its declination: presentations, infographics, blog posts, content written by contributors;
- Frequent, concise, conversation-oriented promotional micro-contents help to expand the content plan on a large scale across all assets: short blog posts, updates, and status on social media, newsletters. They are also derivative in nature but have a decidedly more promotional nature. Such a structured model is not only effective in increasing the brand awareness of a brand or a company but can strengthen the positioning of a company in its reference market, provide messages that are coherent and focused on specific objectives. through all channels and above all guiding the lead acquisition process. In this way, the contents are not produced randomly, but according to a clear process aimed at obtaining value and increasing ROI.
Implementing such a developed pyramid system requires a consistent effort in terms of planning, allocation of resources – human and financial – and above all requires a specific workflow based on four fundamental points:
- a strategic approach and an in-depth understanding of the contents to be produced based on the different buyer personas and every single step of the purchasing decision-making process;
- the management of production processes and human and financial resources for the creation of the contents, based on clear scheduling and following an indexing criterion;
- distribution: the contents must then be published through the most appropriate owned, earned, or paid channels and possibly promoted through the related advertising platforms;
- analysis: that is, it is necessary to measure the effectiveness of each asset by combining the data from Analytics and the contributions induced by both marketing and sales force automation.
The evaluation metrics
Before deepening the discussion on measuring the effectiveness of content, it is necessary to proceed with two clarifications: the contents must be functional to the business objectives of a company and cannot be separated from these; secondly, it should be clarified that there is no single metric to measure and monitor content but four distinct categories of evaluation indices, to be modeled appropriately to have a complete and performance-oriented view of a content marketing plan.
The first category concerns the consumption and enjoyment of the content. How many users have used the published content? Through which channels? And with what frequency and depth? This type of metric is easily accessible from Google Analytics or YouTube or Facebook insights – just think of page or video views, the number of downloads of a document or white paper – and is oriented towards measuring brand awareness and to the analysis of user traffic, with all the appropriate distinctions between new and returning visitors, traffic sources, several pages visited and duration of the visit in the case of a site or a blog or between the opening rates and the CTR in the case of content conveyed through an email marketing plan or even between the number of fans/followers and the reach reached in the case of a Facebook page or Twitter profile.
Most content managers focus only on this type of analysis, neglecting perspectives and scenarios of no secondary importance, such as asking themselves if the users who have enjoyed a given content – the download of a whitepaper – have returned, if they have released their data to be contacted and, above all, if they involved or reported the content to other visitors.
And this is where the categories of sharing metrics come into play, a clear index of appreciation and quality because users share from their profiles only the contents deemed interesting, informative, and capable of creating added value.
While there are no valid tools to measure the sharing of an email or a newsletter – unless it is possible to track the forwarding through links or buttons integrated into the body of the email – the sharing analysis tools for the contents published on a site or a blog are many.
Just think of the social insights that can accurately report the number of retweets or shares of any content or, thinking from an integrated perspective to tools such as SharedCount that allows you to have a unitary and explicit picture of the shares of content across a vast amount of networks.
Once content has been enjoyed and shared, how can it turn into a quality lead? It is to answer this crucial question that the third category of metrics emerges: those oriented to the evaluation of lead generation.
This type of metrics is closely related to content marketing goals. The completion of a form and the subsequent download of unlocked content are, for example, traceable through CRM or a URL tracking system, as well as the volumes of subscription to a newsletter or blog.
Last but not least, the conversion rate, i.e. the percentage of users who use a given content and turn it into leads. This metric is closely related to the lead conversion rate: for example, if you estimate the average conversion rate for a site to be 2%, an eBook, or any other lead generation content that converts to 1% it is obviously below the standards of the site.
It is a relatively short step from lead to monetary goals. The ultimate goal of a content marketing strategy is to grow a company’s business; the measurement of sales metrics, therefore, responds to the need to generate sales and increase the volume of business through content.
Among the functional metrics for this type of analysis, we find, of course, the volumes of online and offline sales, traceable through CRM and complex analysis programs such as Hubspot or Marketo, which allow you to assign a specific economic value to each content.
Such a strategy presupposes an almost perfect tracking system of the entire communication flow that originates conversions and sales, on a large time scale and with an in-depth perspective, capable of considering every single step of the lead acquisition process.
The choice and modulation of these four specific areas make it possible to develop an analytical approach to content marketing capable of going beyond the mere production of good content; after all, content is a tool, but the ultimate goal remains business.
Content Marketing and B2B business
The times of interruption marketing are over for any type of business and today more than ever it is necessary to talk about content marketing even for companies operating in a B2B market.
The B2B buying process tends to be highly emotional and often prey to irrational and inconsistent behavior; B2B buyers are often afraid of taking excessive risks and compromising their reputation and professionalism. It is this mix of fears and lack of trust that in many cases turns a lead and a prospect into a hopelessly lost sales opportunity.
The winning approach today is aimed at creating demand for goods and services through a content marketing plan that encourages conversations between prospects, increases the company’s authority and brand awareness, and increases credibility and reliability concerning the ” audience of prospects and leads.
A process made possible only by creating a flow of information and content aimed at educating B2B buyers through a wide variety of communication tools such as articles, eBooks, case studies, guides, online courses, podcasts, videos, webinars, datasheets. , presentations able to create added value and increase the leadership of a company by sensitively orienting the purchasing process.
How, then, is demand stimulated through a content marketing plan? The starting point lies in the ability to increase lead generation activities through the creation of original content, not merely promotional, but which convey information, educate the target market and inspire prospects.
Such content should also be promoted through paid traffic acquisition plans, even if the most effective channel remains the stimulation of conversations and promotions between bloggers and influencers, social media, and print ads.
Without forgetting that the signing of forms – and the related acquisition of data released by users – for access to content to be downloaded is an essential condition for the creation of qualified leads.
However, once you have obtained a list of prospect customers or more simply of users generically interested in a given service or product, it is essential to create a ranking of interest to establish what are the real probabilities of transforming a lead into an acquired customer.
In other words, it involves applying lead scoring logic to the acquired database, placing each lead in a precise point of the purchase process, focusing on the prospects most inclined to conclude a sale and, on the contrary, initiating quality conversations in a ‘lead nurturing for leads who are still far from the conversion goals. In summary, the demand is generated by creating relevant content, studied based on the state in which a buyer is in the purchasing process: this is, in fact, the discriminating factor based on which the generated content can prove to be effective.
Each phase of the purchase cycle requires relevant content: from information and educational material, intended for prospects who are at the first steps of the process and on which brand awareness action must be exercised, to specific documentation (reports, statistics, case studies) intended for prospects looking for precise solutions for their business, up to materials focused on precise solutions targeted based on specific types of companies that will be conveyed to those prospects who are already significantly involved in the purchasing process.
It should be noted that there is no single recipe for establishing the most effective content and means: each prospect will certainly have their own criteria for using information and content.
However, it is essential to consider that a company truly manages to generate demand for its products or services only if it manages to intercept the needs of its prospects by offering solutions, information, references, inspiring new models and business opportunities, and providing answers relevant to the individual. stages of the purchasing process.