Seven Steps to Produce and Measure Content That Works

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It's all about content.
It's all about content.

If a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it really make a sound? What about content? If content is created but no one discovers it, does it really exist? From a direct marketer's perspective, the answer is a resounding, “No.” With 39% of the average marketing, advertising, and communications budgets now earmarked for content marketing, according to the Custom Content Council, it's imperative that content contributes to marketing ROI.

Here are seven key steps for creating and distributing the type of content that thrills target audiences and delivers quantitative results:

Identify the audience
Content is no different than any other marketing asset—you must start by understanding who will consume it and how to reach that target audience. Are you targeting B2B customers, B2C customers, or a combination of both? If it's B2B customers, concentrate on why they may be interested. For B2C customers, focus on answering what prompts a purchase. Consumers engage a brand when they're seeking answers to questions or need to verify the authority of the brand. 

Research the social marketplace
Learn what people are saying about your brand and industry in the social arena and then develop a plan that allows you to segment your audience and join the discussion.

Social conversations take place across multiple channels and locations, including Facebook and Twitter, business and consumer communities, blogs, search engines, and news channels. Use site analytics and research tools like Sysomos and Hitwise to reveal audience psychographic traits, online behaviors, search intent, and preferred topics of discussion. Next, create marketing personas to represent your audience. Suzie SoccerMom, Roger Rockclimber, and Ted Technophobe, for example, all provide direct marketers with insight into what types of content will inspire engagement for each persona. Focus on hyper-segmentation for more immediate conversions on relevant content. Then, make a list of content types for the personas that aligns with their intent.

Conduct a media review and audit
Determine what content already exists in media locations, such as the company's website, social media accounts, and in articles, blogs, or press libraries. And, just as important, identify the gaps in existing content. Make sure to analyze your competitors' content, as well. What do they have that you don't have?

Determine the best story opportunities
Now that you know what prospects want, where to reach them, where you're missing opportunities for engagement, and where you can differentiate from competitors, it's time to tell your story.

Center the story on the product's key differentiators and answer the questions that are driving social conversations. For example, if you're introducing a video game with holographic images that rise from the playing table, you'll want a story that answers questions about how it's done and how it enhances the playing experience. Write a summary story paragraph and keep it next to you as you write your messaging plan and begin content development.   

Develop content
Determine what type of content is best suited to tell your story on your budget. Scale down your list, get the right creative resources poised to work, and develop a scalable “adaptive” content plan. Adaptive content allows you to split copy into multiple usable pieces that can be repurposed in several distribution channels. Remember to include strong calls to action to support conversions.

Determine distribution channels
Are you depending on inbound traffic or will you use a combination of in- and outbound tactics to engage the users? Since you know where your prospects are, you also know where to distribute your content. If they're predominantly hanging out on Facebook, focus there. Do you have a large outbound mailing list? Use email. Are they reading online news? Try content marketing companies like Outbrain to deliver traffic. If the content you're developing is popular, try sending it into syndication via RSS feeds and content curation platforms like Curata. If your prospects love video, make sure to try Trueview Ads in addition to YouTube posts. 

The goal is to reach your prospects where they live and become part of their social conversation.

Measure reach, visibility and conversions
Content KPIs include a number of qualitative measurements like reach, engagement, and brand awareness. Quantitative metrics include numbers of readers, completion rates, attribution for conversions, and of course direct conversions. How well your content supports conversions or directly converts depends on how well your story resonates with your audience. Relevance is everything.   

Whether you're generating top-of-the-funnel leads with educational downloads, or converting mid-funnel leads into sales using advertorials or special offers, you need to track, analyze, measure, and test in the same way you do with any other media or advertisement. With content it's perhaps even more critical to identify where people enter the funnel to assess intent and conversion latency. For instance, remarketing from content has been shown to be more effective than remarketing from banner ads because prospects are usually in the research stage and thus deeper in the funnel. 

Users new to the brand/product rarely convert on the first visit so it's important to tag and track assisted conversions from the first touch—particularly when launching integrated programs. An attribution plan that fairly allocates conversion value along a path and across channels is a more in-depth and accurate way to assess the success and ROI of a content marketing campaign.

By following these steps, you will not only gain a deep understanding of your targeted audience's needs, wants, and preferences, but you'll also be able to deliver to them content that's relevant and therefore converts.


Cherie Sauer is director of content strategies at WebMetro

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