With the new year, well and truly under way, the biggest threat to your 2017 content marketing strategy is to delay it any longer.
But it’s important you’re careful not to get lost in the crowd by producing stuff that doesn’t stand out from the deluge of content that's already out there.
First you need to understand that developing an effective content strategy is not about creating as much content as possible, rather to create content that is relevant and that resonates with your target audience.
Often the best way to approach this is to create one large piece of content which you can draw upon for different purposes and audiences, over an extended period of time.
Jason Miller, Global Content Marketing Leader at LinkedIn gave a widely-shared presentation at last year’s Social Media Week in London, in which he made the case for creating so-called ‘Big Rock Content’
As one example, he explained the power of presenting content in the form of a ‘guide’, taking the audience through his ‘Sophisticated Marketers Guide to LinkedIn’, a piece of ‘big rock content that generated an ROI of 1,800 %
So, considering the potential for the right content to achieve these sorts of amazing results, let’s start thinking about what it is you want to write and how to begin.
Step 1- Defining Your Key Question?
Having a great content strategy isn’t about producing lots of content.
While it might feel like a good idea at the time, adopting a scatter-gun approach in the form of multiple blog posts or EDM messages is rarely effective, while often being time-consuming and expensive.
The first task at hand is to think about content that is relevant for your specific audience. What are the topics and discussions of most interest to get them to engage?
Next – and this is the most important part – try to think about how your content helps address a particular problem, or answers an important question your prospects are asking related to your goods and services.
In other words, ask yourself ‘what is the question I want to own?’.
Approaching content in this way will greatly increase your chances of being found online, driving more targeted and valuable prospects to your site. You might also want to check out of free tools like answer the public or ubersuggest to help you narrow-down the keywords and phrases that best apply to you and your target audience.
At the end of the day, the key to developing a successful content marketing strategy is to understand what messages, what questions resonate most with what your audience and customers think and feel.
So, before you get started, ask yourself is my content:
Useful? Does it answer a question? Does it solve a problem?
Enjoyable and engaging? Is your prospect likely to get through the entire piece of content?
Inspired? If your content doesn’t inspire your prospect to take the next step in the buyers’ journey, then why create it at all?
Step 2- Making Your Content Stand Out
LinkedIn’s Jason Miller argues that making content stand out is part art, and part science. Therefore, anyone who tells you it’s all in the data is only half right: creativity is still a big part of the game.
Attendees at Miller’s SMW talk in London had this fact explained to them through the example of iconic rock bands like Kiss, Meatloaf and Motley Crew.
Naturally, he drew plenty of laughs from the floor, but his points about the potential power of popular culture like music and TV to help craft more effective content marketing messages was quite serious.
We’ve all seen presentations using popular programs like Mad Men or Game of Thrones as a vehicle to help convey a specific marketing message.
In the interests of keeping closest to reality here’s 3 Content Marketing Lessons we can learn from Mad Men
Inspiration can come from anywhere, so try to think more broadly about what ideas, concepts and phrases you might borrow from popular culture as you fine-tune your content, including headings, subheadings, captions and the like.
Step 3 – Slicing & Dicing your Content
We’ve already discussed the fact having lots of content isn’t the right approach for getting the right message to the right audience.
However, once you’ve created that piece of ‘big rock’ content that really hits the mark, it’s worth considering how you can slice and dice it to work across different audiences and digital platforms.
Whether it’s a video or audio clip, blog post or some other form of message, try to think creatively about how you might use it to fuel your ongoing social, lead-gen, ecommerce and acquisition efforts. You might find you can extend the lifecycle of your content for an entire quarter, or even longer!
It’s what Rebecca Lieb from marketing intelligence specialists, Altimeter has popularised as the Thanksgiving Turkey concept:
Here’s 5 of the choicest cuts explained:
1- Blogs can be made up of the subsections of your ‘guide’ or other content which have a call-to-action to download it
2- Infographics can include information including such as reports on your social media channel posts, while also being posted into blog posts
3- Short-form video can be a great way to engage quickly with your audience and drive them to download parts or all of your content. See our post on why you should adopt a ‘video-first’ strategy as part of your content marketing
4- Webinars are a great vehicle to present key take-aways from your content pieces, while you should also consider your options around live-streaming and podcasts.
5- Slide presentations linked to your landing page slide presentation are a great way to drive downloads of your big rock, especially via powerful new platforms like LinkedIn’s slideshare.
Step 4 - Distribution – Don’t just set and forget
The biggest mistake we see today with content marketing strategies is the tendency amongst businesses, having gone to the effort – and expense – of creating a great piece of content, to then publish it to their website, dabble in a little organic promotion through their existing channels, only to then walk away and forget about it.
In order to squeeze the maximum value from your big-rock content, it is critical to have an always-on approach that brings together the key members of your marketing and management team in an ongoing conversation about how best to promote it.
The First 30-Days should focus on your own channels, building the organic reach of your content via the following:
- Partners & Advocates
- Influencer outreach
The diffusion of adopters (below) as defined by Everett M. Rogers can be applied to our big rock piece of content.
Looking at the bell-curve above, Rogers estimates that ‘innovators’ and ‘early-adopters’ make up about 16% of the potential audience.
This is good news if you’re yet to build a strong following and / or a buzz around your offering as both these groups are already somewhat pre-programmed to be interested in your content.
Moving to the right, once you start getting traction with early-stage SEO activity combined with a little paid advertising, you’ll move towards capturing the early-majority, which is of course the sweet-spot all businesses should be aiming for.
The key thing to do at this point is to remain active and constantly watch, listen and update. Understand that there is potentially always someone new about to discover your content, which is why you see of the most successful bloggers recycling theirs on a regular basis.
The Second Thirty Days
As you move into the second thirty-days, you’ll more than likely have used-up most of your organic reach. The task now is to start building your 2nd degree connections using the following 4 points as a guide:
1- Continue to slide, dice and repurpose your content
2- Plan a program of paid advertising
3- Reach out to influencers who might be interested in your content
4- Run PPC and native advertising across platforms like outbrain and the Google Display network
Step 5 Optimising your Big Rock
The most important thing to consider when distributing and recycling content is who you want to read, hear and see it. It’s important therefore that you develop the ability to craft specific messages for specific audiences.
For example, if you are targeting with your Social Ad’s on LinkedIn, understand that:
CMO’S will be interested in insights to transform their business
Social Media Managers will be interested in driving engagement
Marketing Directors will have their eyes on ROI
Likewise, on Facebook with your Ads you might be targeting those people who have:
Visited your website through your Facebook Pixel
Created a look-alike audience from your existing database, or
Follow one of your key competitors and / or Facebook page that is relevant to the topic of your content
Testing formats and imagery used is vital to the success of your content so it is worth spending the time seeing what works and what doesn’t.
For example, the following pieces of creative from LinkedIn’s Sophisticated Guide to Marketers vary significantly in terms of how words and images are used, as well as showing different options for presenting things like statistics and quotes.
One of the more startling revelations from the LinkedIn guide is that simply by using the word ‘guide’, instead of ‘e-book’, resulted in a 100 percent better rate of click-through!
Even more impressive, using a picture of a person on the front of a piece of content, as opposed to a graphic or generic image, can improve conversion rates by almost 300%!
Step 6 Measuring Your Content Effectiveness
In addition to the ongoing testing and optimization you should be conducting with your special piece of content, you need to think about how to track and monitor its progress.
An easy way to do this is by setting up tracking tags in Google Analytics. This will let you track engagement, website visits, downloads and leads being driven into the funnel all the way to purchase.
For every piece of content you create it is possible to assign a page value based on the value of conversions it is driving at the end of the funnel.
Once this is assigned a custom report, it can be set up to show which content pages have generated the most activity, and therefore delivered you the best ROI.
It is worth noting that once set up, this content effectiveness Index can be used across all your other web-based content. This is an important differentiator for any serious content marketer.
If you’re thinking this is only for big companies with the resources think again and read examples like plastic surgeon David Reath’s Guide to breast augmentation which has to date been downloaded over 10,000 times, or Marcus Sheridan’s Riverpool & Spa’s Guide to comparing fibreglass and concrete pools.
Both cases are proof-positive that the ideas and methods outlined above can work for any size of business.
So, get ready to start driving real business results for your content marketing in 2017 with your first piece of big rock content.
Once you’ve achieved that, then you can look forward to quickly scaling the process to create multiple ‘targeted’ pieces of big rock content throughout the yearly business cycle that make it easier for your customers and prospective buyers to find, engage, be inspired and ultimately do more business with you.
Five Great E-book/Guides Examples
Want to find out more about writing and planning a content guide for your business?
Ping Evolve Social principal David Wesson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to receive more content like this? Sign up for our weekly newsletter here