If you’re reading this, we’re guessing you have a lot to shout about. Maybe even a cheeky photo op with your CEO reclining regally on a new office desk. Content marketing is the megaphone that tells your audience what you do, why they should care and how your business’ personality infuses it all with heart and soul.
But, that megaphone needs a point for every message. It also must be aimed at the right people, precisely tuned to cut through countless other demands on our attention. You have to keep feeding quality content into that funnel on schedule, too. Otherwise words are just words — not the conversion magnets you dream of.
Semrush reveals that 78% of successful content marketers pin their wins on a clear strategy. Yet, that strategy can face plenty of challenges. We’re going to help you beat them. From subject matter and discoverability to the finer details of a content calendar, let’s break down 5 factors standing between you and marketing mastery.
1. Giving Your Marketing a Purpose
High-quality writing is always going to draw more eyes to your website or email marketing, but it must be more than a good read. It has to have a goal in mind. Every line, paragraph and call-to-action (CTA) should push an audience toward an outcome.
This goal depends on the type of content you’re creating and who it’s targeting in the sales funnel. A prospect who’s never seen you before, for example, will want to know more about the problems you’ll enable them to overcome or erase — building trust from scratch. On the other side of things, you may want to give scorching hot leads a sense of urgency, such as a limited-time deal or access to assets that reinforce your value.
Broadly, here are 4 key purposes that should guide your content strategy at every turn:
Build Brand Awareness
To stand out from your competitors, you need to maintain a unique brand that speaks to your target market and the values they share with you. What that brand sounds and looks like, of course, is completely down to you (or the brand guidelines in place at your company). Whether you’re quirky or a calm voice in a storm, this type of content should shed light on the reason why your business exists as well as the language and visuals that reflect your approach to a solution.
- Your homepage and About Us page.
- Introductory emails.
- Social media.
- Facebook ads.
Generate and Convert Leads
Content creation eventually leads to, well, leads, but nurturing them can take a while. Without knowing who’s searching for businesses like yours or what they want to read, your strategy will fire blanks. The trick is to identify concrete pain points and give people information on a topic they care about, nudging them gradually to learn more about your solution.
Lead-generating content often thrives on keyword research and bold CTAs. To qualify a lead, give them an action to take once they’ve absorbed your content— a number to call, for instance, or a link to a demo or newsletter signup. You can then capture their email address, phone number, browsing behavior and other details that allow you to feed the prospect more relevant, quality content en route to conversion.
- White papers.
- Case studies.
- Service pages.
- Paid Google ads.
Stoke Customer Loyalty
What about people who’ve already converted? They could be ripe for a re-buy or upsell. Content marketing challenges include deciding how you’ll keep loyal customers on the hook and encourage them to sing your praises via word of mouth. This is all about adding more value to their lives over time, expanding or doubling down on your value proposition when they’ll truly appreciate it.
- Social media competitions.
- Seasonal email marketing campaigns.
- Webinar invitations.
- Exclusive (free) content downloads.
Get Feedback or Testimonials
Your business’ best bits could always be better. A content strategy can provide insight into what you do well, what’s due for improvement and how you might grow offers, services or commitments that chime with an audience’s desires. It’s more of a two-way conversation, rewarding the reader with something — such as a hefty industry guide, free trial or discount code — for their opinions.
Alternatively, you can ask for direct testimonials through email, following up a successful conversion by asking them to describe their experience with you. People like the chance to be listened to, even if they don’t take the bait.
- Post-sale emails.
- Transcribed interviews.
- Social media quizzes.
Aren’t sure whether your content marketing strategy has enough direction right now? A SWOT analysis can uncover the cracks and add more purpose to your pitch. You might’ve heard of this: it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
- Strengths: Look for the advantages you have over similar businesses in terms of what you provide, service delivery, the technology you use, the locations you serve and why customers might return. These will form core selling features to promote and wrap around your educational or inspirational subject matter.
- Weaknesses: Likewise, drill into the ways in which your business or relevant content might be underserving a target audience. For marketing, that might include weak CTAs, random topics, sluggish posting schedules, an inconsistent brand identity, a confusing mess of a UI or backlinks that don’t add more value following on from larger content pieces (what we call “pillar content”).
- Opportunities: What marketing topics are your competitors missing? Do you have access to data, market research or expertise that isn’t surfacing in your content campaigns? Use every piece of knowledge and wisdom you have to not only shape content creation, but also discover more about the people who will find and appreciate it.
- Threats: Some great content is evergreen. Other pieces are time-sensitive and tied to industry, economic or political news. If the latter type flies out at the wrong moment, it’ll land with a thud and squander all the hard work you’ve applied between the lines. Try to examine what content performs badly and whether there are any corollaries in execution or delivery.
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2. Making Sure Your Content is Found
So, that’s a wrap on the reasons for writing anything at all. However, there’s no point finding a purpose if your blogs, landing pages, white papers and case studies are going to stay in the shadows, coughing politely while other digital marketers hog the limelight.
Do your pieces justice by giving them every chance to be found. It’s one of the most consistent content marketing challenges, because you require a decent understanding of what readers are searching for and why, as well as how they’ll move logically from one message to the next.
First though, we should examine one of the most important techniques for getting noticed: search engine optimization (SEO). It’s pivotal for increasing your domain authority, and many marketers don’t nail it.
Stirring the SEO Formula
Yep, quality information and backlinks make your content rise in Google’s search ranking with every click. Eventually, this means your webpages will climb higher on their own merit. We can’t ignore SEO, though. Relevant keywords match the queries your target audience is searching for. Researching and choosing the right keywords before sprinkling them through landing pages, blogs, case studies and meta descriptions is a superpower for your marketing strategy, helping any content ascend the search engine ladder.
Still, everything has to come together beautifully. Persistent marketing challenges for SEO often involve:
- Uncertain investments: If you can’t tell which phrases are motivating user intent (i.e., leading to clicks and conversions) then you might spend too much on too many low-impact keywords. A DataBox survey, for instance, tells us that around 50% of companies agree that $500 is a solid SEO investment budget for a new site. You have to ensure that spend is worthwhile.
- Keyword overload: As tempting as a carpet-bomb approach to SEO can be, Google penalizes you for stuffing dozens and dozens of keywords into a single page. It’s spammy and a waste of funds and words.
- Ignoring your niche: Generic, expensive keywords might be more searchable, but hundreds or thousands of similar companies could be bidding on them too, potentially ahead of you already on the search list.
So, what are smarter SEO practices? Thanks to over 15 years as content marketing specialists, we have a lot to share …
- Match topic to search intent: Instead of arbitrarily throwing keywords at the wall, make them a cornerstone of what you’re writing about. Focus on 1 for your anchor, then complement them with 3 or 4 related terms with high search intent and several uses of more specific phrases.
- Write a killer title: One way to encourage clicks is to help your title, which should also contain the focus keyword, stand out from the herd. Instead of saying “An introduction to X” or “What you need to know about Y”, think of a special hook e.g., “The truth about X” or “5 ways to approach Y”.
- Clean up URLs and metadata: Google’s algorithms treat hyphens and country-specific domains in your URL much more kindly than long-tail keywords, underscores and special characters. Likewise, you should review all metadata (meta page and image descriptions) so they fit a short character count, as well as adding a tier-1 keyword to your subheaders.
There’s way more to say about SEO for content creation, including higher search rankings for visual content, local keywords and enterprise projects.
Beyond optimizing your content, we also have some quick tips for spreading it further online:
Feature Blogs in Your Newsletters
Themed newsletters are a blast — your audience wants to see your take on industry news or topics, and if you can add relevant blogs to the mix, they’ll dive deeper for a longer read.
Spotlight Articles and Case Studies on Social Media
With a snazzy picture and caption, you’ll court more clicks to your website. Try to spread different subjects and types of content (e.g., a company report vs. praise for an award win) out over the month, so your social media followers know you’re dependable for variety.
Link Off to Relevant Content for Pay-per-click (PPC) Ads
Unsure what PPC is? We have an intro here, but it’s basically a paid form of digital advertising that shoots you above relevant search queries. Great landing pages pepper links to other pages that explore a topic, service or example of your work in action more thoroughly.
3. Finding Your Content’s Voice
As far as content marketing challenges go, tone can be troublesome. Why? Because, as we mentioned in our discussion of brand identity, it’s the marker of a business that knows what it stands for and represents in a crowded market. A wavering, contrasting tone of voice implies that you don’t understand why you’re unique, reliable or attuned to the issues your audience is facing.
It’s never a simple case of “casual for B2C and buttoned-up for B2B” either. Professional business content can differentiate itself with humor, wit or pared-down language: a refreshing voice that makes tough subjects more entertaining and easier to grasp.
However, you shouldn’t start high-fiving prospects through a screen if you’re handling delicate work with serious consequences. Financial, legal and insurance services are just some of the areas in which a light touch can undermine what you’re trying to say. B2B content marketing must balance clear expression and dashes of personality with a respect for solutions that may decide whether a company thrives or fails.
With that in mind, think about the following factors to help your brand sound pitch-perfect:
Attach Values to Your Mission and Vision
A mission (what you’re attempting to achieve now) and vision statement (where you see the company’s role in the future) strips your ambitions down into a couple of sentences. That’s a good start, but to craft a voice in sync with them, consider translating those big ideas into 5 or 6 characteristics.
For example, let’s say you’re selling a tech platform that streamlines memberships for gyms and fitness centers. Your mission could be something like, “We encourage more people to stay fit and active in any gym they prefer.” The vision might focus on becoming the No. 1 booking provider for fitness across the country.
What values can we draw here? Well, your market is tied to physical activity, so one value might commit to active language — using a lot of verbs, avoiding passive construction and modulating syntax with short sentences where they’ll leave an impact. Additionally, the software is all about ease of access. Therefore, another value can introduce a welcoming tone to your copy: inspirational, anyone-can-do-this messaging that mentions flexible options.
Even if you’re marketing to gym owners in this case, not their members, they’ll still start to realize that the product serves the emotions you’ve conjured. Content and context match up.
Look at Your Buyer Personas
While we can’t lump everyone into demographics and assume the same content appeals across the board, customer profiles should influence your tone of voice. An investment banker in her mid-50s will probably talk very differently from a graphic designer in his early 30s. They’re likely to have divergent interests, budgets, priorities and social circles.
So, what do they care about? Market research is your best friend. Competitor analysis, surveys and observing communications will work wonders. You can, for instance, check out social media pages to see how these people tend to talk, or read the content they like to share on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Merely discovering whether your persona is a decision-maker or not can shape your tone. A C-suite prospect will have a lot of responsibilities and expectations at their feet, so they’ll enjoy content that cuts straight to the point and deploys stats or use cases for backup.
Review High-Performing Content
What’ve you written and distributed already? How did it perform? We’ll talk metrics soon, yet stacking marketing content side by side and seeing what’s netted the most views, clicks, inquiries or sales tells you that the language at the heart of it may have struck gold.
Gather your team for their views on descriptions or expressions that stand out. From there, select choice examples for future content — not a template, per se, but a style to imitate. This is especially important when you’re helping readers understand a complex tool or subject. A clear, creative summary can solve any head scratching in an instant.
4. Rolling Your Content Strategy Out of the Door
Our advice so far helps ensure that your marketing megaphone is well-positioned — loud, confident and free of static. The thing is, we have to maintain it, too. Keep feeding it. Give content writers and marketing managers the visibility and foresight they need to nurture an audience.
All of this kicks off with a content calendar.
Why Calendars Are Critical
A content calendar brings your marketing team into alignment for what to create, who’s writing or designing it, when it should be published and which channels it’s bound for.
Without it, you’ll struggle to stay on track with what’s in progress or has been distributed. Calendars should also link to the draft or published piece for reference, so you remember what you’ve covered and whether it can be reused for one-off campaigns.
A Top-Class Calendar Template
Deciding how to build the calendar is up to you. Something as basic as Google Sheets can be sufficient, like the template we have here. Or you can launch more specific, advanced tools like the Brafton content marketing platform, which has a calendar that allows you to plan blogs, posts and new landing pages in the months ahead.
If you prefer, color code blocks by “completed”, “scheduled” or campaign themes. Keep each month separate as well. Reams and reams of scheduling will be more confusing than helpful.
The Big Question: Quantity or Quality?
Handling content creation in-house? You’ll have to determine what’s feasible for your content marketer and how much time they can spend on a topic while fitting it into the rest of their workload. Plus, there’s the danger of oversaturation. Too little content, and your audience will start to forget about you. Too much, alternatively, stretches your budget or manpower.
Stick to these rules if you’re unsure what’s doable or are still very much testing the waters for ROI:
Social Media Marketing — Several Times a Week
You don’t have to post every day to stay relevant. A couple of times a week is fine. However, ensure you’re doing this across each of your social channels. Repurposing the same content limits the chance for cross-channel engagement and doesn’t account for unique social audiences.
Blogging — At Least Twice a Month
Weekly blogs are better, but bi-monthly articles, announcements and case studies will generate a healthy back catalog before you know it. According to Orbit Media, writers spend roughly 4 hours on a blog post.
Newsletters — At Least Once a Month
These might ramp up if you have a special campaign or seasonal offer on the table. B2B content marketing, for instance, can respond to fast-moving industry or political developments with more updates and opinions on what your readers should do next.
eBooks, White Papers and Reports — Ad Hoc
Long-form content can take weeks to craft and fine tune. For that reason, plan well ahead of time, and use 1 or 2 large pieces for lead nurturing over the year.
5. Measuring That Sweet Marketing Success
Metrics matter. We can’t ignore the impact stats have on your content strategy, even when those creative juices are flowing and ready to be bottled. All of our advice runs dry if you can’t measure and optimize performance.
Handily, though, there aren’t too many metrics to worry about. You can use some of these tools to uncover and stay on top of them:
- Google Analytics.
When you come to deciding which metrics are worth your attention, we should mention the main content marketing challenges they might present, before you set off with a stick and calculator in hand …
Useful for: Having a solid idea of how long a visitor spends on your web pages before heading elsewhere. A bounce rate measures the number of users who hit a page and leave without reading another.
Potential challenge: Your website might be loading too slowly (people have very little patience for this). The content itself, of course, might be the issue. Vague, uninteresting or irrelevant writing and design often contributes to a high bounce rate.
Click-Through Rates (CTR)
Useful for: Grading the results from your PPC advertising. When CTR is low, people aren’t clicking your ad, but when it’s healthy, you’re enticing them with a clean hook and CTA. It also improves your ad ranking on Google.
Potential challenge: CTR is only useful if you’re absolutely sure it’s relevant to specific user intent. For instance, bidding on the keyword “cleaning services” can mean several things to various web users — such as “data cleaning,” “house cleaning”, “office cleaning”, etc. Visitors might be clicking for the wrong reasons (with no intent to convert) or find that your landing page content doesn’t have much to do with the ad, in which case CTR is pretty redundant.
Useful for: Also known as pages-per-session, page depth reports state how many pages (ahem) your visitors are heading on an average browsing session. As you might guess, it’s brilliant for determining quality content that tends to offer the most interest and practical value.
Potential challenge: A page might be performing incredibly well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re converting as healthily. High-depth pages should reinforce why you’re worth contacting right now for a quote, demo or discussion — not just give people a good read. Furthermore, you might be able to reuse these for campaigns or they’re slightly squandered.
Useful for: Revealing who’s coming back for more content and when prospects tend to drop out of the sales or nurturing cycle. Retention is essential for a full strategy.
Potential challenge: Pitfalls abound, however, in determining the customers your content may have influenced versus those who move toward a sale based on one-to-one dialogue or, for example, payment agreements. Are they engaging with your email campaigns? Simply renewing a contract? Making a call on a whim?
As the numbers rack up, you’ll have more layers to unpack for a marketing strategy that makes sense. Calendars are all about reviewing what works and justifying your choices. With good writers on board, you’ll also have a stream of opinions for shaking the calendar up, tinkering and experimenting with the content you’ll become known for.