How to research and develop effective content strategies
Did you know, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Content Marketing Infographic, n.d.)
Content marketing is the process of planning, creating and sharing online content with a selected audience.
Business to Business (B2B) marketers reportedly use an average of 12 content marketing tactics varying from blogs, to videos, to infographics, checklists, how to guides, ebooks, memes and many others.
The 2022 State of Media & Content Planning report revealed that the top three goals of content marketing are generating brand awareness, building credibility and trust and educating audiences.
All things considered, content marketing is an intricate part of modern marketing. Yet with so many platforms, trends, keywords and competition, the top challenges markets face with content marketing include creating content that generates leads, finding ideas for new content, and creating content that receives high levels of online engagement.
In theory, releasing content on a variety of platforms should create brand awareness and generate leads, but practically, if not created with a plan or strategy, this way of content marketing could translate to a lot of work and time invested for little reward.
As Niel Patel says: ‘If you’ve been looking to score the top spot or even the first page on Google, here’s one secret to improving your position: have a great content strategy.’
What is the difference between content strategy and content marketing
A content strategy is a plan in which you use content to market your business and achieve your business goals. Rather than simply creating pretty pictures and sharing posts for the sake of remaining visible, the strategy gives purpose to content marketing and, in the long term, adds to its value. In addition, a content strategy:
- establishes a culture of content creation within an organisation
- enhances return on investment and the measuring thereof
- maintains accountability, ensuring content stays on point and relevant
- secures ongoing business results
In essence, the content strategy helps organisations define:
- the purpose of content marketing
- the target audience
- the types of content best suited to meet business objectives
- how content will support and build the brand
- what makes content different and stand out
- how success will be measured
By asking and mapping out the answers to these questions, a successful content strategy aims to attract the desired target audience and keep them engaged through every stage of content marketing.
Stages of content marketing
The marketing funnel phases moves from awareness and first encounters to securing a relationship and continual engagement even after the purchase is made.
These phases include:
Types of content
Similar to an introduction, the aim is to create awareness around who you are and what you do.
Once your audience is aware of who you are and what you have to offer, it’s time to elaborate. In the evaluation phase your audience is considering and weighing up your products and services against your competitors. Provide features, benefits and reasons why they need your products or services.
Conversions are all about providing the reasons to commit and steps to follow. Make it easy and effortless to convert and sign up for your products or services.
Once a conversion is made, it’s important to keep a client or customer engaged and continually notify them that your products and services are relevant, up to date and the best option to meet their needs.
What is a content strategy?
So how do we construct a content strategy for the purpose of optimising this marketing funnel?
A content strategy should be created to ensure all future content is aligned and created to meet specific objectives and can be created in six steps:
Define your goals
For content to be effective it must serve a specific purpose. It must contribute or bring you one step closer to your goal.
Are you hoping to boost brand awareness, generate leads, convert users, re-engage with past customers, improve search ranking results or do you have another goal altogether?
Each section of the funnel may require unique content and tactics to relay a specific message to a specific group of people at a strategic time.
Get to know your audience
Getting to know your audience is as important as creating content.
It’s important to understand the type of content they like to see and platforms they engage with. Once this is identified, purpose your strategy to meet them where they’re at. Create the content they hope to see, and post it where they already have a presence.
Present your worth
Did you know that year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8 x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers. (Patel, n.d.)
Content should be useful, impactful, reliable and unique. Rather than creating content for the sake of creating content, focus on your niche. Show your worth, what makes you different, what is your speciality or expertise. Portray this in your content and make sure each piece of content, no matter how short or long, is valuable and worth viewing.
In an ocean of content freely and easily available, it’s important to stand out with quality content that establishes your authority in your field portraying you as a voice worth listening to.
Measure your results
Stay ahead of the game with continual review and improvement of your strategies. This can be done by measuring your results and adjusting your strategy where needed.
Important metrics include:
Listen to your customers
Measurable results provided by Google Analytics can be incredibly useful, but shows only one half of the story.
Customer reviews, comments and related interactions can provide insights specific to your content, products and services. So can customer queries received from sales personnel or other staff members.
Incorporate responses and answers to frequently asked questions strategically in your plan and marketing content to create awareness and secure engagement.
Amplify your content
Finally, it’s essential to amplify your content by targeting high traffic areas. Post frequently to remain visible and at strategic times to make the most of organic traffic.
Though content strategy can take some time to develop and refine, it’s an investment for future content marketing efforts and well worth the effort.
Also Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing
Types of content marketing research strategies
With a well developed content strategy in place, it’s time to create trendsetting content. As we mentioned earlier it’s worthwhile to focus on your niche and lead the industry rather than follow or duplicate content.
To help you find key topics and trendsetting themes, here are a few research strategies:
Consult your audience
To better serve your audience, learn about what matters to them through casual yet intentional conversation.
Ask questions that will enable you to tailor your content to better serve your customers.
Stick to open ended questions that unlocks as much insight as possible, for example:
Do a quick email survey
If one-on-one conversations are not possible try a quick email survey.
Make sure the survey is short and easy to use. It’s important to ask questions that are relevant and provide actionable information.
Check out blog comments
Your audience is likely looking at similar content from other providers. Have a look at the comments and discussions on other blogs and articles and see if topics of interest or concern stand out.
It’s also helpful to consider the blogs itself:
Explore competitor reviews
It’s possible to identify interests and pain points by weaving through competitor reviews. Be sure to make use of trusted and fair review sites and learn from the bad and good.
Participate in online professional communities
People with similar interests also often share concerns and pain points in online communities and groups. Join in the discussion and see what’s on the minds of your target audience.
Check popular questions on Google
Google handles 92% of all search traffic worldwide. If people have questions, they ask google.
Use Google’s search predictive texts to see related searches.
Or explore the ‘People also ask’ questions for more ideas, key terms and topics of interest.
Review tables of contents
Making use of tables of contents can also be insightful. Consider the topics of a book, blogs or courses and build content around these headings.
Of course, the best way to create content that is impactful and will promote your business as an authority is to conduct a little research on industry trends. Writing original content on hot topics within the industry will set you apart as a leader in the industry. Watch the news, follow influencers, read research papers and keep up to date with the latest buzz words. Translate them into your niche and share your thoughts on the topics to create interesting, fresh and relevant content.
“Don’t sweat the technical stuff. Think of conversion optimization as the process of making a new friend at a bar. Or, if you don’t like bars, think about the Girl Scouts who sell cookies at your local grocery store every February. Their key selling point? Those kids know how to convince their target customers to buy.” – Neil Patel
It might take some time, but with constant, strategic placements, you too can benefit from content marketing and increase your ROI.
Learn more about content marketing in our Blogging, Content Marketing and Vlogging Course.