3 Keys to a Highly-Effective Content Marketing Strategy

Creating compelling, relevant and consistent content is a highly effective way to attract and retain your audience’s attention, gain their trust, and, ultimately, to convert them to customers. To achieve this goal, it’s important to focus on three prongs: business goals, personas, and your sales funnel.  


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Covid-19 has significantly changed business-to-business marketing plans. As Forrester noted recently, “It’s more than a combination of discrete trends such as rising bounce rates, declining open rates, or increasing churn; it’s that buyers now expect a fundamentally different relationship with your company.” Consequently, creating compelling, relevant and consistent content is a highly effective way to attract and retain your audience’s attention, gain their trust, and, ultimately, to convert them to customers.

In a world full of false advertising and eroding trust, content marketing should be at the heart of any digital marketing strategy. It’s the foundation of all digital marketing channels, including SEO, public relations, social media and traffic generation. According to Hubspot, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing in 2020. Rather than trying to directly sell  your products or services, you are offering useful, relevant content to your prospects and customers to help them overcome their challenges. So then, the focus is on content – be it in the form of infographics, YouTube videos, whitepapers, webpages or information in other formats.

Effective content marketing sends a message to potential customers that you are passionate about what you do and that you want to share your expertise with them — for free. To achieve this goal, it’s important to focus on three prongs: business goals, personas, and your sales funnel.

Related: The 17 Best Content Marketing Books You Can Read Right Now

Three Essential Factors to Build Your Content Marketing Strategy

In order for your content marketing efforts to be successful, you need to create a strategy based on these three factors.

1. Business Goals

Step One in beginning an effective content marketing strategy is to be certain it lines up with your business goals. Understanding what business goal you want to achieve or support gives you the needed clarity to set the appropriate marketing objectives. Are you aiming to strengthen customer loyalty and reduce churn? Maybe the goal is to attract new prospects or overcome objections. Once you have defined your marketing goals, you can develop your content marketing campaign.

2. Personas

Developing buyer personas is a necessary part of your strategy, but you have to take it a step further. Find the individuals within your audience that have the influence and enthusiasm that will help grow your company. If your audience is split into several types of buyers, refine your buyer personas to focus on those most likely to convert.

Start by identifying some of your most loyal customers. From there, find the primary decision-makers who championed the decision to purchase from or hire you. There are probably sales or service team members in your company who have close relationships with these people. Find those employees, and use sales data to create a persona – data points like goals/motivations, challenges, background, demographics, common objections, biggest fears and hobbies.

3. Your sales funnel

Vendor research happens online, and what will move the buyer down the pipeline is valuable content being published on your web, email, search and social channels. In order to drive success with B2B content marketing, you need to understand how the content you create fits into the different stages of your sales funnel.

Be aware that your funnel may vary from the norm depending on elements such as your sector, solution, business model, pricing structure and target market. In fact, experts report that “today’s B2B buyer might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to a vendor.” Confer with the sales team about the particulars of your sales funnel, then use that intelligence to create a marketing strategy that addresses leads at the top, middle and bottom of that funnel.

Related: Content and Content Marketing Are Not the Same. Here’s How to Frame the Top 11 Content Formats.

What Can Be Gained from Content Marketing?

There are many benefits of content marketing, including:

  • Addressing pain points leads to sales: When prospects look online for ways to solve their issues, your content is there to help over and over. As an example, marketers who use blogs as a primary communications tactic are 13x more likely to see return on investment.
  • Creating a community: As you establish thought leadership through content marketing, you gain credibility and encourage stronger relationships with existing and future customers.
  • Long-run savings: Good content has legs. It continues to work for you long after you’ve created it, continually bringing in qualified leads. That lessens paid marketing expenses. Demand Metric found that not only does content marketing cost 62% less than traditional marketing efforts, but it generates three times the number of leads.

HubSpot’s content marketing efforts showcase the powerful results that can be produced from a comprehensive strategy. The company is well-known because they produce massive amounts of content. HubSpot sells inbound market, sales and service software, but its claim to fame among marketers is the quantity and quality of its marketing resources, much of which is free. Their repertoire includes case studies, guides, ebooks, blog posts, courses, reports and more. Their content drives free traffic to their site, with the end goal of converting those leads into customers without spending a dime on advertising.

Related: The 5 Cs of Content Marketing Copy

Gaining Leads, Gaining Trust

Compelling and relevant content is the cornerstone of demand generation and lead nurturing strategy. Marketers depend on content to connect with prospects and existing customers in the current communications landscape, but to be successful, it must inform, excite and be worthy of sharing. It should arm audiences to address obstacles and accomplish their goals. If you’re able to accomplish this, prospects will come to trust your brand.  This involves prioritizing original content creation to promote that message so it can add value to the lives of your customers. Use the best practices discussed above to begin or refine your content marketing strategy.

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10 Step Content Marketing Strategy

How to juice social networks, become an authority in your niche, and grow your tribe with content marketing

How to juice social networks, become an authority in your niche, and grow your tribe

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THE CONTENT ENGINE: 

Step 1

Create one piece of pillar content. A pillar can be a white paper, a podcast, a video of a speech, or anything else substantial. Traditionally it’s long-form written. But video can be good pillar material. Written and audio versions can be created from the video.

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Step 2

Recreate the pillar content in all sensible ways. E.g. a video may become an audio and a white paper. You now have multiple versions of the same pillar.

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Step 3

From the pillar piece create (typically medium length) pieces of content that bring value in their own right. Bring context or developments to them to make them more than just extracts of the pillar. E.g. articles, expanding on the points in the pillar; video interview excerpts with new commentary. Use parts of the pillar that’re likely to resonate with your audience.

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Step 4

From the pillar piece make short pieces of content. Some of these can be, in effect, ads for your pillar; others can bring value in their own right. Creative take offs, memes, quotes, quotes graphically presented, audio snips… Absolutely anything. Different media. Again use parts of the pillar that’re likely to resonate with your audience.

Be creative with the short pieces. They should be inspired by the pillar. They shouldn’t be only excerpts.

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Step 5

Post all versions of the pillar on all appropriate social platforms. E.g. the white paper goes on medium and Linkedin. The video version goes on youtube and Linkedin. Etc. Etc.

When you post a pillar, explicitly ask people to tell you what part of the content strikes them most.

Post the pillar on your website also. Your website is structured for a library of content of different types. Content has ‘read later’ buttons, for the user to get content sent to email. It has email and SMS signups (though content may not be behind a wall). It has links to your social platforms so your users can choose which platform/s they consume your content on.

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Step 6

Post a first round of short and medium length pieces to your social networks. This first round, the focus is on the social networks where the pillar isn’t posted.

Do this soon after posting your pillar. A few mins later is fine.

From these pieces, link to the pillar – whatever version of the pillar makes sense. E.g. one might link to the video version on youtube. Another might link to the readable download on your site.

You might prefer to bring users to one place, e.g. to build your subscriber count on youtube or to get more email signups on your website. Do this where it’s fine for the user; but you will need to sacrifice the tightness of your funnel to cater to people’s preferences. Think: where does the user want to go from here?

For example

Your pillar might not be on Instagram. It might be on Facebook and Linkedin. So link from Instagram to Facebook. (Instagram’s algorithm will be more friendly to Facebook than to Linkedin).

Different networks…

…have different ideal image sizes, ideal video lengths etc. Have a list to hand and repurpose each item for each network.

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Step 7

Post your remaining short and medium pieces. This time you’re including the networks where you posted your pillar. Same deal: link to the pillar. These posts can be the day after posting your pillar and later. (See later note on time distribution.)

Which social networks?

LinkedIn, Quora, twitter, fb, medium, email list, youtube, podcast networks…etc. etc. If in doubt on whether to include a particular network in the list, include it – at least for a while as a test.

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Step 8

Look at comments and engagement. Not just figures – but what are people saying?

Create more short and medium form pieces based on what people are talking about. Post them. Link to the pillars.

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Step 9

Create another pillar. May be based off what you learned of people’s interests in the previous pillar. May be something completely different.

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Step 10

Repeat all steps. Ad infinitum.

What’s the schedule / time period to do all this in?

Calculate this based on when your next pillar will be ready. If you’re creating 1 pillar per day, distribute your 20–50 short and medium forms across all networks in 1 day. If you’re creating 1 pillar per month, distribute the 20–50 short and medium forms over the full month, posting more shorter pieces earlier in the month, and the medium pieces more evenly over the month.

So precisely how many short and medium pieces…?

What and how much you’re creating is contextual. You’re creating short and medium content based on what makes sense in relation to your pillar. With an overall figure of 20–50 short and medium pieces per pillar, including first and second rounds.

How much is too much content? How much social network activity is too much?

There’s no such thing as too much good content or too much good social network activity. The social network algorithms will show less to people less interested. More to those more interested. If people say “Hey you’re all over the internet,” they are at minimum slowing on your content as they scroll. You want people saying this. Even if that person is a friend who doesn’t really need to see the content, it’s a good indication re others (of course, you also have engagement analytics).

If your content is getting traction, more content means more traction, which ultimately means more sales. But many of the sales won’t come right away. So how much content is a question of what resources you want to put into it. This also relates back to other activities such as the balance of outbound sales versus inbound sales expectations; with some related sales-marketing tie-in considerations outside the scope of this document.

You might decide to put a hard-and-fast figure on number and scheduling of your short and medium pieces

But the answer to the following question should be enough to give you a solid approach:

How frequently will you produce a piece of pillar content?

Easy?

It’s a long, work-intensive, creative process.

What else on social media?

  • Add in PPC / performance marketing to grow your tribe faster
  • When you post, you could add a comment yourself with a useful piece of info
  • Staff could make comments on posts to bring some activity
  • Always respond to users’ comments. So people feel listened to, and to increase activity on your social platforms
  • Do all your other social network stuff in addition to the steps in this document – reposting stuff, interacting, posting other updates, etc

You can hire Richard to help with your Brand Strategy, Brand Writing, and Lean Marketing.

7 Ways to Monitor a Competitor’s Content Marketing Strategy

A few creative ways to keep an eye on the competition’s content marketing strategy. Image credit: Robert Daly | Getty Images November 26, 2019 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Monitoring the competition’s content marketing efforts is an essential step for brands developing their own content marketing strategy. Finding out…

A few creative ways to keep an eye on the competition’s content marketing strategy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Monitoring the competition’s content marketing efforts is an essential step for brands developing their own content marketing strategy. Finding out what works for a competitor allows brands to gain insights about the type of content their audience might also respond to and their needs.

There are plenty of tools marketing teams can use to dig deeper into content analytics and monitor a competitor’s content marketing strategy. Here are a few creative ways to keep an eye on the competition.

1. Sign up to receive email updates

According to a survey by BtoB Magazine, 59% of marketers reported that email is the most effective channel in generating revenue. This proves that marketing teams should be monitoring the emails that competitors are sending to their prospects and customers. Brands should subscribe to a competitor’s website using a personal email address, or one that doesn’t include their company name if they wish to be more discrete.

By signing up to a competitor’s email list, marketing teams can learn more about the company’s culture, business news, seasonal campaigns, types of content and frequency of publishing content, and how their competitor addresses their target audience.

2. Analyze video content

A Cisco study shows that by 2019, 81% of consumer Internet traffic will be video. Many brands include video as an integral part of their content marketing strategy. Marketing teams should check whether or not competitors are using video and look for interactions, such as comments, views, and shares.

Engagement is a good indicator of content performance. Check to see which videos have the most views, evaluate target keywords in the video title and description, and document anything noteworthy. Brands should also subscribe to a competitor’s YouTube channels to get alerts for new videos.

Related: How Content Marketing Can Help Your Company Do More For Less

3. Track social media presence

Many companies are active on numerous social media channels. Therefore, brands should be tracking competitors on all of the networks where they have a presence. Monitor a competitor’s activities by following or turning on notifications for any updates. Brands can observe the tone of their posts, the images they use, and the effectiveness of their overall social media strategy. If a particular type of content a competitor shares receives high levels of engagement, then brands may want to consider using a similar approach.

A useful tool to monitor a competitor’s social activity is Rival IQ. The tool helps companies see how quickly competitors are gaining followers, how often they post, their average engagement rate, and their most successful posts.

4. Review top-performing content

Brands can learn about their competitor’s content strategy by looking at their best-performing content. Social shares are the best metric to evaluate this content when no other metrics are available.

For instance, companies can use Buzzsumo or Social Animal to find and analyze a top-performing blog post for any competitor or topic. These tools dig deep into each article, showing total social shares, main keywords, article length, and more. Brands should consider what differentiates the popular content and what makes it so compelling. For example, what questions does the content answer and which keywords does it target? Reviewing a competitor’s top-performing content and gathering insights about what attracts an audience to the content can help marketers develop new content topics and ideas.

Related: 7 Steps to Start Your First Content-Marketing Campaign

5. Identify the best keywords to target

Selecting the right keywords for content dramatically increases the chances of a company’s website appearing in an online search. Ahrefs helps marketing teams monitor their competitors by revealing associated keywords, data on search volume, and the keyword proficiency for top-performing posts. The tool also shows users the competition for each keyword.

Knowing which keywords are driving traffic and have less competition, brands can find related keywords to target with each piece of content they create.

6. Attend a competitor’s webinars

Content Marketing Institutes says 61 percent of content marketers use webinars as part of their content marketing strategy. Webinars often delve deeper into a particular topic and brands can find out what interests their competitor’s audience by attending one of their webinars.

Webinars typically have a question-and-answer session at the end, so it’s important to stick around to hear questions from the audience. Brands can then address those questions through their own content or generate topic ideas based on the information shared during the webinar.

7. Monitor changes to a competitor’s site

Lastly, brands should monitor a competitor’s website or blog for any significant changes in design or messaging. For instance, marketers will need to know if a competitor launches a new product or service, and how their own site’s copy and messaging strategy. It’s important to evaluate the competitor’s overall content experience. What colors and fonts do they use on their site? How do they organize content on the site? Is it easy to find information? Brands should be aware of how competitors are delivering content and make sure they can give their audience a better experience.

Related: 4 Simple Steps to Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

There are numerous ways for marketing teams to monitor their competition. Keeping track of a competitor’s content is essential to develop a content strategy that continues to grow and evolve with the business. As new competitors enter the industry, brands must be willing to make changes to their content strategies to adapt to the marketplace. Those that do will find themselves ahead of their competition.