Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Content is king is a phrase we’ve heard more times than we can count. For most companies, sprinkling in a few SEO optimized blogs here, a newsletter there, and a social media post every other day seems like a good strategy. You see an uptick in site traffic and more purchases from customers. But then you experience a plateau. What was working suddenly isn’t, and you can’t understand why you’re not reaching more customers. Even worse, you start to see less and less engagement from your core audience.
There are a few reasons why this happens. Businesses tend to work backward when it comes to developing a content marketing strategy. Most companies create content they think their audiences want to read, hear, or learn about. Content is king – but only if you’re creating and leveraging content in the most impactful way possible. Writing blog topics that you find interesting doesn’t matter if your audience doesn’t care. Tweeting on Twitter to reach your audience doesn’t matter if that’s not a social media channel they frequently use.
When you strip it down to its most basic purpose, your content marketing strategy needs to accomplish two things:
1. To help you acquire a customer
2. To maintain customer retention through active engagement
So as a business owner, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself as you develop your marketing strategy:
Who are my customers, and why should they care about my product?
How do I reach them where they are?
What kind of value am I providing, and how are they digesting it?
How can I anticipate changes in their interests over time and create a content strategy that can account for any value shifts in my customers?
There are five things to consider so that your content is helping (the right) customers move through the marketing funnel:
Audience Differentiation: What segments make up my audience, and what are their buying personas?
Brand Awareness: What do I have to offer that no one else can?
Reputation Awareness: How does your audience see you in the digital world?
Brand Engagement: Why should your customers stick around and continue to support you instead of your competition?
Brand Loyalty: Why should they care enough to return consistently?
Answering these questions will help you determine what types of content to create to sustain a powerful marketing funnel. Let’s dive more deeply into each.
Audience Differentiation: appearances can be deceiving.
How well do you know your audience?
Do you understand everything about them?
What are their interests or hobbies?
How do they consume content?
Are they podcast consumers?
Are they into short, snackable videos?
What tugs at their heartstrings?
These are questions that help you get closer to understanding all aspects of customer behavior.
Jane might use Instagram to look at skincare products because she wants to see real people using a particular skincare product. But, she might prefer a fun infographic to learn more about the ingredients instead of watching a 3-minute video (pro tip: if producing video as a form of content, keep them under a minute).
Build buyer personas that include the necessary information to understand your customers. This can include age, income, job title (if this matters), and more. From there, build a profile for them. Once you have this, you can start crafting content that not only gets noticed by the right people but also drives up interest in your brand, not just your product. Here are a few templated worksheets that can help you break down your buyer personas.
Brand Awareness: if your company was a person at a dinner party, who would it be?
One of my favorite Hubspot articles states, “To leave an impact with your audience, you’ve got to define yourself as more than a company that sells stuff. What words would you use if you had to introduce your brand to a new friend?”
Threaded throughout every blog post, video, and social media quiz is the core of your identity–a consistent and familiar voice. As potential customers discover you, they should get a sense of who you are and what you stand for. Play around with how you create and present your awareness-type content.
Can you imagine if a unique local artisan coffeehouse that had spent years attracting loyal coffee lovers suddenly started calling their largest coffee size a “Venti?” Their customers would begin to wonder if the brand was “selling out.” So, it’s essential to create content that introduces your audience to you and your brand first. Write blogs or create content on topics not related to your products but are still of interest to your audience, but be sure to maintain an authentic brand voice.
Reputation Management: do I even know you?
Two vital statistics to remember:
“Research shows that over 50% of brand reputation comes from online sociability. Being social leads to greater awareness and simply being known.”
“a large majority (84 percent) report that their brand’s sociability is not yet up to world-class brand standards, despite the fact that nearly all of them (87 percent) say they have a social media brand strategy.”
A lot of companies boil reputation management down to just social media. While that is probably one of the most important ways to build your reputation between your audience and your brand, it isn’t the only way. If brand awareness allows you to craft content to introduce the right audience to your brand, then reputation management is what gives them the additional confidence to continue on the buyer’s journey. It falls in the MOFU or “Middle of Funnel” range, and it’s typically the point where potential customers have their research cap on and are looking to learn more about your company, brand, and products.
Aside from the technical aspects of managing your reputation (Google reviews, responding to questions or negative reviews on Facebook, and more), you can leverage customer testimonials (B2C/B2B) or case studies (B2B) as a way to boost your overall reputation online. Share on your site, on your social, or create a video if that’s how your audience consumes content and promote it! Get creative! Have other brands that you work with vouch for you in their blog content and share it in an email blast to subscribers (if you have them). Managing your reputation online can make the difference between someone choosing to finally learn about your specific product or going to your competitor.
Brand Engagement: you better hook me with what you got, or I’m gone.
This could be an entire blog article in itself, so remember this one thing: build connections and add value. “It’s critical to add value to your interactions. Don’t make it about sales—your goal is to form an emotional connection through your brand interactions.” Your content has to form an emotional connection to motivate the potential buyer to return enough to purchase from you and become a customer.
Brand Loyalty: “Loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.”
What does brand loyalty mean? For your customers, it means reading or sharing your blogs or subscribing items like your YouTube channel or newsletter. To create more brand loyalty, for example, provide how-to guides, surveys, interactive video, anything to create value in the eyes of your customer continuously. Create content so irresistible that they can’t help but want to share it with their entire network. Have them become your cheerleaders! If done right, you’ll have a lifelong customer, and as we know, it’s more cost-efficient to retain customers than it is to secure new ones.
If you commit the time to understand your audience and capture their attention with your brand, it will elevate your business. By consistently providing value, you’ll create content that helps develop lifelong customers. And lastly, continue to build your reputation to help your customers feel more confident about you and your brand.
Ruka Osoba is a fully immersive storyteller with a strong background in content creation and strategy. She has 7+ years of experience working as a marketing strategist for small, medium, and enterprise-sized companies across multiple industries. She’s the founder of LocalHop and works full time for a tech company.