Content underpins all forms of marketing. The likes of General Electric, Colgate and Procter and Gamble are all leading the way for brands, and are living proof that seemingly uninspiring businesses still have much to gain from content marketing.
But understanding how to craft engaging content in an always-on media landscape is no easy feat—especially when your content department consists of no more than one or two people.
The truth is that there is so much content nowadays that it’s virtually impossible to get noticed—unless, of course, your content is a) fantastic, and b) your customers are actually able to find it. And both of these must exist in equal measures to achieve success. That is, great content can’t overcome a lack of distribution, and good distribution certainly can’t overcome bad content.
In order to cut through the noise, marketers must think of producing content not so much as a form of “black magic,” but instead as a simple formula or a machine—one with several components that must be sufficiently oiled in order to function as it should.
If you were to try to put content marketing success into a simple equation, it might look something like this:
Concept + Creation + Core Foundations (SEO, Landing Page) + Non-Paid Distribution + Paid Amplification = Content Marketing Success.
We understand that launching an entire campaign around your business’s original content may seem like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be.
This guide outlines a tried-and-tested blueprint to ensure that your content gets seen by the right people and puts you on course to meet your goals—whatever they may be.
So you’ve created kickass content. Now what?
You may be tempted to begin celebrating, but hold your horses—you’re not done just yet. All too often, people make the mistake of publishing content on their website, crossing their fingers and simply hoping that their ideal customer will stumble across it. But before you break out the balloons, it’s important to first ask yourself two important questions:
- Is my content sufficiently optimized for search?
- How will I promote my content to my target audience once it’s live?
These issues represent common stumbling blocks for many content marketers, who might be fantastic brand journalists with the ability to create compelling and gripping content for readers, but fall short when it comes to the all-important “marketing” half of the equation.
Which begs the question: What can you do to get people to notice (and with any luck, ultimately convert on) your content?
A good rule of thumb is to spend equal amounts of time on content creation and promotion. That is, if you spend eight hours writing your content, you should spend at least eight hours amplifying it. After all, there’s no point in pouring your effort and valuable time into a piece of content if you haven’t yet planned a strategy to help your target audience find it.
Step 1: Lay the foundations of your campaign
Oftentimes, there’s more than one person involved in creating a piece of content. You might have a designer, a writer, a proofreader, a social media specialist—the list goes on. It’s important for the whole team to be on the same page in terms of the goals and messaging of this project, and be aware of how you want to position it. Try and nail the positioning of your content from the get-go so your whole team is aware of what the objectives are. It’s worth coming up with a brief or summary of sorts that can be shared with the team. This will allow them to start thinking about positioning for social media posts, calls-to-actions (CTA), and design elements.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to be using an ebook as an example to demonstrate content distribution tips and lead generation hacks.
So without further ado, here’s your five-step blueprint to help you plan to plan, position and launch your kickass content:
1. Build a landing page
A landing page needs to contain three elements: key points (in bullet form for easy reading), a catchy headline, and a concise summary of the content explaining what the reader will learn by viewing your offering. The landing page, of course, also needs a form that captures the reader’s information so the lead can be qualified. Often, data such as name, job title, company size and industry will be included in a lead-capture form and will provide you with enough basic information to get a better idea of exactly who that customer is. These leads can be used by sales teams to start personal conversations with these contacts, and can also be used by marketing teams to continue to guide the user down the sales funnel with more content.
2. Create a “thank you” page
Next stop: your “thank you” page. This is the page that your readers will see after they’ve filled out the form. Oftentimes, this page will include a link to the content you’re offering, along with icons for easy social sharing should the reader want to promote the content amongst their own networks. On this page, it’s wise to consider including a secondary CTA. This CTA should direct your prospects to a piece of content that guides them further down the sales funnel. Your goal could be to get a soft conversion, where the reader is prompted to read a suggested blog post, download a thought-provoking white paper or attend a webinar, or it could be a harder conversion—perhaps a free trial or demo of your product.
3. Set up automated emails
The final step in the lead generation planning process is the automated email. This is what your customer will receive immediately after they've downloaded your offer. It’s always a good idea to include a link where the prospect can download the content again (in case they closed the “thank you” page without downloading the ebook), as well as more social sharing icons. These modules typically come as standard in most marketing automation platforms. This email should be short and sweet, summarizing the offer and providing links to more content recommendations that might be of interest to that reader.
4. Generate buzz on social before content goes live
Social media is a great tool for content distribution—that is, it’s a great platform for promoting your content after the fact. But what about before it’s complete? In the run-up to the release of your offer, create some hype around your upcoming content piece on social media with snippets, insider info and teasers with eye-catching graphics. You might also consider joining LinkedIn groups with members who you think will find your content valuable, engage with that community, and then once your content is ready, share a link with them.
5. Grade your content for SEO
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could generate leads in your sleep? Well, lucky for you, optimizing your content for search will help you generate leads for years to come without you even doing anything.
Step 2: Distribute your content
Now, here comes the moment you’ve been waiting for: publishing your content for your audience. But it’s important to put some weight behind your offer on launch day so that you can kick off your promotion with a bang.
Organizations who are seeing a positive return on their content investments are those that leverage as many channels as possible and cross-promote amongst each of them, creating a coordinated and cohesive campaign. They’re also thinking long-term, and are already considering long-tail projects they can work on to help further increase lead generation over a more extended period of time.
Let’s go over how you can use each promotional channel to amplify your lead generation content. Bear in mind that when your content goes live, promotion isn’t just a one-and-done thing. You should plan to continue to push your content over the next few days, weeks, months and years after it was first launched—as long as the content remains relevant, of course.
1. Social media
Let’s start with the basics. As we all know, social media can be a powerful tool for unpaid content distribution and as a means of driving traffic to content. When used properly, hashtags can also be a powerful tool to encourage conversation and engagement. Once you’ve created your initial post to announce the launch of your offering, keep using the same channel to grow awareness by simply altering the messaging and imagery associated with the post.
Now that we’ve covered the social media 101 refresher course, let’s break down the ways in which you can kick your amplification efforts up a notch or two across all your social channels.
Customize your accounts: Consider customizing your company’s cover photo and brand it online with the new content you’re promoting. Similarly, you can customize your cover photo on Twitter to feature your latest offering. You can also pin the original tweet announcing the content to the top of your Twitter page.
Create a unique hashtag: Unique hashtags allow you to monitor discussions surrounding your content, and gives you the chance to start conversations with your readers.
Consider hosting a live chat: Twitter chats are a great way to promote your brand and grow a social media community. Host a chat or Q&A session on a specific date at a specific time, and promote the event with another unique hashtag.
Launch a contest: Incentivize your followers to share your event with their networks by holding a contest. It could be a gift certificate, a discount offer, or anything you think your audience (and by extension, their audience) might want.
2. Your database is gold—use it.
For almost all companies, emailing your database can be an incredibly effective means of promoting content. It’s renowned as being one of the most effective channels for reaching your followers. Why? Because your email list has opted in to receive your messages. This means that they’re primed and ready to open your correspondence and click-through to, or engage with, your content. In fact, according to research by the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing offers an ROI of 4,300 percent.
But email marketing is by no means a marketing silver bullet—there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to create an effective email marketing campaign. One of which is mobile optimization. 48 percent of all emails are opened on mobile devices, which means that if your emails don’t translate well to mobile devices, you’re not properly reaching almost half of your list.
And then of course there’s segmentation of your database. It’s no secret that segmenting your email-marketing lists helps you get better open and click rates. By narrowing your focus and sending messages to targeted groups within your lists, your recipients will find your campaigns more relevant—and more relevant campaigns get better results. After all, no two buyers are the same, and on top of that is the fact that your customers may all be at very different stages in the sales cycle.
But identifying your business’ customer personas and the different stages they fall within in the purchasing funnel is just the tip of the iceberg—there are in fact myriad ways in which you can break down your email list, including:
- Geographic location
- Content preferences
- Job title
More best practices for email marketing include:
- Split testing subject lines
- Personalizing emails
- Making your emails visual with images and GIFs
- Leveraging content for use in email lead nurturing campaigns
- Incorporating social sharing buttons
- Using tools like Click to Tweet to create pre-made tweets that readers can easily share
Remember: seemingly minor adjustments can make for big upticks in conversion rates. But when you do find a system that works, be sure to continue testing and changing up your email formats to find out what works best for your particular audience and to ensure your emails don’t become stale.
Step 3: Invest in paid content amplification
All too often, content marketers spend hours, if not days, crafting that perfect piece of content. And then when it’s finally ready to be introduced to the world, it’s simply uploaded to a blog—an infinitesimally small segment of the entire worldwide web—and shared on the company’s own social media channels. Then, the author sits and rests on his or her laurels hoping that the right people will magically find it, which, quite often they don’t.
Enter paid content amplification.
Content amplification is the practice of marrying valuable content with paid marketing tactics. It allows marketers to put content in front of their target customers across multiple channels, including websites and social media networks. Once content appears on these platforms, marketers are then able to direct traffic to their owned media properties.
If you’ve yet to figure out how to effectively amplify your content, these handy tips should offer some insight into how to best use your marketing budget.
Promote content through social
Social media makes a second appearance, but this time you need to put some money behind it to give it a boost and increase your chances of visibility. Almost all social sites now have paid content amplification options (e.g. Twitter’s sponsored tweets, Pinterest’s promoted pins, LinkedIn’s sponsored updates, etc.) that are customizable and allow you to reach targeted audiences easily and efficiently.
Content discovery widgets
In recent years, several companies have emerged to help facilitate the sharing of online content. Their products—often referred to as content widgets—allow brands to embed standalone applications in third party websites, often used to promote additional content or help readers easily share the content they’re currently reading.
Mostly an unknown term until just a few years ago, native advertising is growing at an explosive rate. In fact, it’s anticipated that digital ad spending will pull in close to $5 billion in 2015 in the US alone. Native advertising is, on its most basic level, the paid strategy of reaching target audiences with branded or sponsored content, and its growth is largely attributed to the rise of content marketing. As more brands invest in producing value-adding content, they seek non-interruptive ways to reach consumers with it, and native advertising is emerging as a channel to accomplish just that. Why? Because its fundamental premise is to seamlessly integrate sponsored messages in a user’s experience. These native ads are positioned closest to—or surrounded by—contextually relevant, publisher-produced content. Native advertising offers businesses targeted audiences that align with their marketing goals, and allows them to reach consumers on a platform they already know, love and read everyday—without disrupting their consumption habit
With so many channels and avenues to distract marketers, it is easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole. Retargeting allows you to reach your visitors across multiple channels at once, and with one budget.
This online advertising method is targeted to consumers based on their previous Internet actions, in situations where these actions did not result in a sale or conversion. So when someone visits your site but doesn’t convert or make a purchase, you can put your content in front of them again and again as they navigate their way around the Internet.
The key takeaway of this guide is that content isn’t all about creation, and distribution—paid or otherwise—should never be an afterthought. Once you’ve completed your content marketing campaign, from conception, to execution, to launch, to amplification, it’s important to measure your success and assess whether you hit the goals you were hoping to achieve.
Once you know how your campaign performed overall, and then how well each individual channel performed in promoting that content, you’ll be able to take this information and leverage it for the future.