John Lynch

Building a content marketing strategy for your digital channels

There is no one-size-fits-all content marketing template as how many channels and in what format you need to document your strategy is unique to your business. However before you enthusiastically start pumping out reams of content, my advice is to map out a basic strategy and below is a guide compiled from reading many different approaches.

SO WHAT IS GOOD CONTENT MARKETING?
The Content Marketing Institute recently updated its definition of content marketing as ‘a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and ultimately to drive profitable customer action'.

In short if your content is not contributing to your bottom line it’s not good content it’s just noise. Good or remarkable content (blog post, infographic, video, image etc.) clearly explains your brand proposition and why customers should chose your brand over the competition. It speaks to your audience, not every audience, in the right tone to engage them personally. Its both content which is most frequently viewed prior to a desired goal or has a long term positive brand benefit that indirectly leads to a goal. Its what makes your digital presence more efficient and ultimately gives you a better return on your digital presence and media spend.


START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
A first step is creating a framework for assessing your existing content to determine what can be repurposed, reused or retired, as well as identifying potential gaps requiring the creation of new content. 

If you are updating your web presence it also gives direction on the migration of old content onto that new site. It also provides key information for the User Experience, Creative and tech teams to use when concepting and detailing a solution.

In this audit, to determine what is still good content you need to understand your audience engagement cycle. This is where you define the journey/funnel your audience go through as they familiarise themselves with your brand. Just as in real life when you meet someone, determining what you want to say is actually a combination of two things:

  • Content: What do you want to say?
  • Context: What is the best time and way to say it?


BUT REMEMBER, successful content needs to be relevant and helpful to your buyer, and answer the questions they are asking. It also needs to hit them along the engagement cycle ideally in a “one of a kind way”, i.e. it shouldn’t appear anywhere else on the web, and be what Rand Fishkin called Uniquely Valuable.  

The funnel below is an example of a basic approach. At each stage you need to be sure that you mustn't repeat yourself and draw them closer to the trust and buy moment. 

You then build out a matrix of each audience persona and their particular sales funnel. Filling in the cells with your existing content. This highlights where you’re content marketing is either light or too heavy.

Once done you create a plan of action. That would likely involve a combination of the following approaches:

  • Reuse existing content. Veave in situ or if moving to a new site this can be do
    ne in two ways. 
  1. Programmatic –  Developers write custom scripts that move content directly to the new site, content is reviewed by a Content Editor and then QA checked for language, dates and formatting.
  2. Manual - Move of content is led by a content editor. Junior resource may be used for some of this and or a mix of client side staff if desired in order to keep costs down.
  • Created or repurposed– New content can be created (especially in Video format if you haven't got any) or older content repurposed by a combination of content editors, designers and copywriters. In addition style and tone of voice guides can be created, enabling client side staff to create quality content on an on-going basis. 
  • Retire or archived – Old content can be removed permanently or archived if its required in future.

DETERMINING KPI'S

So you are all set to go, the next phase is to benchmark and measure the success of your content. This needs to be looked at as a hierarchy of measurement requirements.

1. Brand impact

Any content KPI must fit into the overall Brand’s higher purpose and start with a solid understanding of why the business exists. So there is a top-level KPI that you need to define and align to, based on your business purpose and your marketing goals overall. This is not an easy task, and therefore we also recommend that you look at the more immediate tangible impact of good content. That understood there are three main areas to set KPI’s.

2. Share of Conversation 
Share of conversation (SOC) starts with a fundamental belief that marketing is now a conversation. Not starting one, mainly it is about joining one and ultimately about leading one.

SOC is also an extremely customer-centric goal. It forces you to think bigger than your business and to focus on providing value to your target audience with content around your topic.

You can benchmark this through social tool that can defined the percentage of brand mentions you get around the topic you want your brand associated with. You can then seek to grow that SOC.

3. Reach. Engage, Share
The next layer down gets a little more traditional and should always involve a balanced view across these 3 goals: Reach, Engagement and Sharability.

Reach - Reach is measured to see if you are broadly attracting your target audience. It should be a combination of paid, owned and earned reach of the right audience and for the topic you want the brand to be associated with. You can look at the classic metrics such as growth in overall visitors, unique visitors and visits from specific search terms (related to your brand topic), visitors from mobile and social, etc.

Engagement - Engagement is all about how the content is capturing the visitor’s attention once they make it to your site. This can be measured with metrics such as pages / visit, dwell time, video views, new versus repeat visits, social shares and if you have the facilities any comments made.

Sharability – If your audience decided that whatever you say is worth sharing (remarkable content) you are doing something right. So one other hard metric will be the increase in social shares of new content, how many people have tweeted it, liked it on Facebook or on whatever audience relevant social channel. Set a benchmark and measure the impact of new content on that benchmark.

4. Conversions
Every site has or should have an event conversion goal or goals that could include anything from an application, a subscription to a newsletter or even as simple as click through to a contact us page. As long as these are tractable they can be measures and improved through good use of content. 

For some brands, the ultimate conversion is sales. If this is the case the more immediate results at this level allows you to effectively set up AB testing with different content to determine which one is more effective at driving immediate conversions. But beware, few buyers will move from not knowing who you are, to buying directly from you as a result of an amazing piece of content, the journey tends to be more non-linear.

Word of caution - The Need for Balance
It is important to keep in mind that it is easy to “game” these metrics if you only focus on one. As mentioned, you can always buy reach or become obsessed on immediate conversion at the expense of longer term goals. You can also drive up pageviews through techniques by adding page breaks to your content or creating slideshows with multiple pages and forcing your visitors to click through. These approaches almost always come at the expense of the user experience and in the end dilute your brand value. So when you conduct tests of your content marketing designs, content types or topics, look across all four areas to ensure you aren’t sacrificing too much of the overall picture. 

DETERMINING RESOURCES NEEDED OVER TIME

Any content strategy sets out how you will use content to meet our audience needs and deliver your digital business objectives. However it must also do this over time and therefore you need to think about the people components the other half of the content equation.

So who is going to do all the work? The resources required to undertake the creation/migration of content are variable depending on the strategic ambition. But consideration must be paid to governance and workflow.  You need to plan out who has the ongoing responsibility for producing regular, quality content that delivers against the strategic aims.

SUMMARY  

1.    Content components.  

  • The substance of the required content: How do we align the content with the overall strategy? What message should our content convey? What kinds of content do we need?
  • The structure of the content: How should it be organised and displayed onsite, How is content prioritised? What taxonomies and architectures are required?

2.    The people components.  

  • Workflow: Which process and people are required for creating and maintaining content? How is content prioritised?
  • Governance: Who makes decisions about content and content strategy? Who is responsible for quality control?

 

Make sure your content is…

  1. Is uniquely valuable  
  2. In an engaging format
  3. In the most appropriate tone
  4. Is designed/written for a clear audience
  5. Understand the context in which they are speaking to that audience
  6. Is labelled intuitively
  7. Is actionable - Have a clear next step
  8. Is tagged and trackable
  9. Is owned by someone - to keep fresh and monitor KPI's


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John Lynch Digital Ministry John Lynch
Company: Digital Ministry
Position: Editor
Involved in the digital media and Marketing industry for many years, through working at the Economist Group (uk), Universal McCanns, Zivo, emitch, OneDigital, IBM (client side), Agency.com & now TBWA NY Now in Bath, UK working as a consultant

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