Five Ws (and an H) for Content Marketing Success

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting the opening session for the current MarketingProfs University Content Marketing Crash Course. Entitled “Capitalizing on the Content Marketing Obsession,” the session reviews the core elements of creating a lucrative content strategy. Here’s an abbreviated version of the course to help ensure that your core content marketing elements are in place:

Why… are you producing this content?

“Start with the end in mind” may seem obvious to say, but without specific, measurable goals you won’t be able to track whether you’ve been successful in driving desired customer behaviors. These goals may be attracting prospects, building engagement (e.g., time spent reading a piece of content), encouraging shares, converting browsers to buyers, or retaining customers. And you may have more than one goal. Whatever the number of goals, they need to align with your overarching marketing objectives and strategy. Once you have your general content marketing objectives in place, you need to boil them down to specifics. For example, encourage X percent of visitors to Y product pages to view instructional videos and then drive Z percent of those viewers to purchase. If you’re not achieving those goals, then optimization is in order: different placement of the video, new call-to-action, revised video, etc.

Who… do you want to reach?

Think of your content planning the same way you would think of your campaign planning: like a matrix. Use specific types of content for express customer and prospect segments at certain times in their purchase or lifecycles (e.g., in response to specific actions) via a relevant mix of channels. All of this should center around the customers and prospects you intend to reach with your content. For instance, you may want to use content to help convert prospects who resemble your current high-value customers. Keeping that target prospect group in mind will help you better select the types of content, channels, and timings.

What… content will you use to reach them—and your goals?

Some marketers tend to default to the written word when planning their content marketing. But video is growing in popularity, too.  Road shows, trade shows, and customer conferences are also overflowing with content. And don’t count out roundtables and online communities, which are often brimming with user-generated content and can be especially powerful for engaging and converting. Content formats should not only match your goals, but also your customers’ preference. There’s no point in writing reams of whitepapers if the majority of your customers prefer instructional video. Adjust accordingly. You’ll also want to ensure a mix of “snackable” and long-form content, whether that’s a mix of tweets, blogs, and whitepapers or a blend of video, webcasts, and live events. Determining what types of content will interest and engage your customers and prospects takes testing and learning—just like running any other type of marketing campaign.

In terms of topics, there are many idea sources, including customers and prospects themselves, salespeople and customer service reps, popular discussion groups, subject matter experts, and the like. Along with providing content that’s entertainment-oriented, be sure to address customer pain points and provide “discovery”(i.e. insight on subjects or issues that customers or prospects may not realize are important but are or haven’t yet learned about but should).

When… in their lifecycle will you provide content?

Inextricably linked from your content marketing objectives are the timings for reaching your customers and prospects with content. If you’re aiming to move specific target segments of prospects through the sales funnel, you’ll likely want to present content based on specific behavioral cues that show, for example, level of interest or extent of prior research. If you’re aiming to retain customers, you’ll likely present one type of content during onboarding and another prior to, say, a contract renewal. The goal is to avoid “random acts of content marketing” and instead be purposeful.

Where… will you reach customers and prospects?

As with all other marketing campaigns, you want to be where your customers and prospects are. But you also want to present content where it makes the most sense. If you have a visual product, you may prefer Instagram over tweeting or blogging. If your customers and prospects are big Facebook users or enjoy live events, these may be the right options versus a private online community or webcasts. Similar to determining the right types of content, selecting the right channels requires a mix of feedback, observation, and research: Where are your customers and prospects currently getting their content? Where are they most receptive to specific content types?

How… will you support your efforts?

Just because you’re writing a cool and pithy blog doesn’t mean that your customers know about it or, if they do, will make the effort to find and read it. You have to treat and market your content similar to the way you treat and market your company’s products and services. Think about when you host an event: You want attendees, so you need to run a campaign to drive registrations. The same applies to other types of content. Use email or social to direct customers to content on your website, for example; support new content with online ads for a one-two punch. Getting attention for your content is the first step in getting customers and prospects to engage with and respond to it.

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