Your business is up and running. You have a great-looking, fully-functioning website. You understand who your ideal customers are and exactly what you can do to make their lives easier. You know your industry inside and out, and keep up to date on trends.
So, what’s the problem?
Overcoming the Content Bottleneck
To grow your business, people need to find you. How do you make sure that happens? You’ll need to create a steady stream of quality content. You need to reach the right customers at the right time with the right message.
As simple as that sounds, that’s much easier said than done.
What is effective content, anyways?
As a species, humans are wired to connect. Our need to belong and form relationships is as basic as our need for food and shelter. Our brain has even evolved so that when we have down time, our reflex is to go social. Perhaps this explains why it’s so tempting to check our social media feeds when we are stopped at a red light.
“I can have the most brilliant idea for an invention, but if I can’t convey that to other people in a way that they’ll help me build it and market it to other people, it’s just an idea in my head. If we’re not socially connected, even great ideas wither.” – Matthew Leiberman
In the digital space, we connect with others through words, images, and video. As we wade through a sea of information, we quickly filter out what does not resonate with us.
Content that is effective is:
Authentic. We have the unprecedented ability to alter, embellish and carefully curate what we share. At the same time, social media has removed barriers and allowed us to see each other for who we really are. Instead of seeking out the perfect, we are drawn to what’s real. Sharing our failures, as well as our successes, and what we have learned from them can create trust and goodwill. One example of this is Real Simple’s @WomenIRL campaign.
Engaging. We are inherently curious. We seek out new ways of seeing the world. Stories can help build a lasting relationship with your audience. Engaging content helps spur conversation and interaction. J. Peterman creates a story behind each one of its products, which aligns well with its customer base.
Compelling. Ultimately, we are using content to spur action, so we want to empower our audience to want more from us. We want to attract attention and keep it. We want to enlighten and entertain our target audiences. This might be an extension of the company brand, to help align the company’s values with customers. One example of this is REI’s #OptOutside campaign, which won over a legion of fans wanting to spend Black Friday outdoors instead of in stores.
Valuable. We are lifelong learners. Content is only useful if it adds value. Having a unique understanding of a potential customer’s needs can help create content that is both relevant and makes their life easier. For MailChimp’s What’s In Store campaign, the company set up a small business to tell the step-by-step story of how to best use the product and bumps which might occur along the way.
Inspiring. With so much injustice in the world, we gravitate towards that which lifts us up. Learn about the passions of the audiences you want to reach, and how that connects with your business. A great example of this is Johnnie Walker’s “Ode to Lesvos” short film.
Now, more than ever, quality content matters. Search engines reward sites with relevant content with a higher ranking, so it’s easier for your potential customers to find you. You’ll need to make sure to refresh your content, as well, as new content can get a “freshness boost” if it aligns with a spike in search volume.
What gets in the way of developing content?
When you are running a business, you have a lot on your plate. In 2014, the National Federation of Independent Business asked its members how they spend their time. Not surprisingly, over 34% of the average day is spent providing services, while about 21% is dedicated to managing finances, 18% on communications and 13% on sales. The remaining time is spent managing employees, dealing with logistics and customer service.
Developing content is likely very low on the list. Before you know it, your website is outdated, you have slowed down on your social media posting and you missed this month’s newsletter.
How to create a digital content strategy
Given the demands of running a business, it’s important to give some time to think through how you will most effectively communicate across all your digital channels.
To develop a digital content strategy, you need to fully understand:
- Your goals and objectives. Ultimately, we want our digital marketing efforts to lead customers through all the stages of the buyer’s journey. We want to create SEO-optimized blog posts so that potential customers can find you. You want to use social media to continue to engage them. Email newsletters can help spur conversions.
- Who you are trying to reach. Who are your ideal customers, and what influences their decisions? What are their “pain points” and what are their buying triggers? Developing personas can help you further flesh out and prioritize your audience segments. The more detailed you can get, the easier it will be to create quality content for them.
- How to best reach your audience segments. Where and how do your target audiences consume media? What platforms make the most sense for your business? Quality is more important than quantity.
- What type of content is best at each stage of the buying process. Where do your customers find out about you? What content best draws them in? What obstacles do you need to address before they make a purchase?
- How you will use each piece of content. Once you develop a piece of content, you need to make sure it’s distributed in a way that it reaches your intended audience. That might mean a paid campaign, media relations or guest blogging, or it may just mean social posting.
- How you will measure success. Developing the right metrics at the start will help ensure that all your tasks support your overall strategy. Use Google Analytics, analytics built into social media platforms and third party tools to gather data, and find someone on the team to collect and analyze it on at least a monthly basis. A mix of process and outcome measures can ensure you are working your way to your goals and allow you to make adjustments along the way.
Content at Different Stages of Your Buyer’s Journey
Once you have a content strategy in place, you will create an editorial calendar to help guide you as you work towards your objectives. Here are the different types of content which correspond to the stage of the buyer’s journey:
The buyer is either just learning about your business or the problem they have that you could solve
Content pieces: whitepapers, ebooks, checklists, how-to videos, blog posts
The buyer is evaluating whether your company is best suited to help them with their problem
Content pieces: case study, FAQ, demonstration video, emails
The buyer is ready to purchase
Content pieces: coupon, estimate, free trial
How to Create Consistent Quality Content
Now that we know how to develop a content strategy and the types of content you’ll need during the different stages of a buyer’s journey, you need to determine how this content will actually be created.
Get Everyone Involved. Share your editorial calendar on your existing workflow management system, or even a Google spreadsheet. Involve your marketing, customer service and sales teams in the process. Create a central repository for images, videos, and all important documents. Spread accountability by building a team to share the workload.
Get Outside Help. You may not have the bandwidth to create all your content, and that’s OK. Utilize freelancers to help write blog posts or to help with design tasks. Consider outsourcing your social media management. See if any aspiring writers would like to guest blog on your site.
Ask Your Customers. Having an ongoing dialogue with your customers can help you keep up with what’s important to them. Asking them directly for what they would like to learn more about or questions they have can give you ideas for future blog articles or website updates.
Hire a Digital Marketing Agency. Having a partner who has the expertise to advise you on developing and executing digital campaigns can be invaluable. Not only can an agency fill in your gaps, but they can also stay abreast of the ever-changing digital landscape so you can focus on what you do best.
Keep on Trucking. The most important takeaway is that content creation is an ongoing process. See what works and keep doing that. Find the intersection of the content you like to create with what’s the most compelling for our audience and keep pushing it out.
Content Creation Tools
There are many, many tools available to help create effective content. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
Feedly is a news aggregator application which allows you to customize your news feeds to gather information which may be relevant to your target audience. Your feed can help you keep up with what’s trending, helps inspire blog posts and can provide you with content to share with others.
Canva is an image design software which allows you to create email headers, blog graphics, social media posts and other types of visual content. Images can help break up text, attract attention and inspire.
Answer the Public helps you better understand what people search for online. Simply type in a word or phrase and find out what questions people have that you might be able to answer or address through content.
Grammarly takes the guesswork out of producing clear, error-free copy. Just paste your content into the interface and you’ll get suggestions on how to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
Quora is a website where members create and answer questions. Members can be seen as experts by having responses “upvoted”. Filters can be put in place so that you receive an email to track certain topics. Members can follow one another.
Making it happen
Although content challenges will vary, depending on your business and strategy, overcoming the content bottleneck is a real struggle many businesses face.
Investing the time and effort to consistently create compelling content as part of your larger digital marketing strategy will help you reach your ideal customers and ultimately grow your business.
Need help developing a content strategy?