We make an infinite number of choices every single day—everything from what time we’re going to wake up to what we’re having for lunch.
As marketers, we need to understand that our consumers make the same daily decisions we do and that becoming part of their decision-making process means understanding how those decisions are ultimately made.
What is a Digital Content Strategy?
A digital content strategy, or web contents strategy, is a plan for developing relevant, high-value written content to target and convert potential customers or leads.
The digital marketing landscape is filled with choices and content marketing is shaping the future of how consumer decisions are made. Audiences are continually bombarded with messaging and consequently develop a shorter attention span fueled by an always-connected expectation in which instant gratification is a must. Even how we consume content is becoming a decision.
The way in which messaging is being delivered is constantly evolving and shifting, which means what worked in the content marketing space yesterday, may not work today.
If you want to stand out and create an incomparable customer experience, your content needs to get smaller, more consumable, and more accessible to feed the growing demand for a constant stream of quick information. In this article, learn how your marketing team can create more effective content marketing strategies. Or, check our our previous article about the power of digital media.
Best Practices for Content Strategy
In working with our customers, within both B2B and B2C industries, Consider the best practices below to help you create strong brand and customer loyalty:
Cater to the connected consumer:
Consider how you use your own smartphone or tablet, or better yet how your customers use these devices:
- Do they read email on their phone?
- Do they follow links to articles?
- Do they follow updates on social networks for business or consumers?
Thanks in part to mobile devices, how content is found and consumed has been completely altered. Consumers are more connected than ever before, but they not only expect the right content to be instantly available on the device they’re holding—they also expect it to be consumable on the most convenient screen.
This is driving marketers towards more atomized content, thereby creating an opportunity for completely new digital experiences as visitors move across channels.
Leverage digital content and commerce:
It all starts with optimizing and improving online customer experience online. That’s where you can engage current customers and develop long-term relationships to build brand loyalty—the core of selling. Once you have small, digestible digital content prepared for several channels, find a way to place your products or solutions close by.
Many cutting-edge e-commerce sites are beginning to provide short content that informs the decision-making process with convenient “product placements” as we’ve seen done in the film and television entertainment industries for years, as well as offering an alternative to grid-style navigation.
Stop selling and start informing:
You know all the great reasons you think someone should be interested in your product or service—but don’t forget to think from the customer view and ask what else might they want to know to help them make a purchase decision.
Many times this information comes out in ratings and reviews, so consider creating this sort of digital content if UGC is not part of your current portfolio.Consumer demands are higher than ever, but by intertwining digital content and commerce to create meaningful experiences for and relationships with customers, marketers can sell without actually selling. This is a critical component of the new age of content marketing.
Develop shorter, more consumable high-quality content:
Consumers need content and messaging that they can processes quickly and effectively. Small, “bite-sized” chunks of content instead of tedious, lengthy white-papers hold the most weight and marketers must format content for quick consumption to impact purchasing decisions.
We’re just a couple of months into a new year, and there’s still time for organizations to start fresh and integrate new techniques to improve their marketing strategies. By implementing new approaches to reach target audiences, marketers will improve relationships with their consumers and ultimately drive business results. Producing high quality content is how to generate leads.
6 Facts about Digital Content Strategy
- Fact #1: Most companies that create marketing content don’t have any strategy. In fact, only 44% of B2B marketers and 39% of B2C marketers have a documented digital content marketing strategy, according to Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) “B2B Content Marketing” study. The research also found that fewer than half of the marketers surveyed thought their organization was effective at content marketing.
- Fact #2: Only a small number of marketer create content with specific targets in mind. Only 12 percent of respondents say they create content with specific customers, targets, markets or industries in mind.
- Fact #3: Most marketers still only rely on owned channels to convert leads. Marketers still rely on owned channels like corporate websites, email to known databases and social media promotions, even though only four percent say their current channels are highly effective at delivering quality leads.
- Fact #4: Most companies do not have a strategy for content syndication. More than 25 percent do not have any strategy for content syndication, distributing it on an ad hoc basis.
- Fact #5: Many believe content does not reach intended audience. Over 40 percent believe content does not reach decision-makers, or the intended audience at all. Facts two to four found in CMO Council report.
- Fact #6 : Many customers feel content marketing develops a relationship with companies According to a study by Roper Public Affairs, 70% of respondents said content marketing helps them feel closer to the sponsoring company, while 60% said that company content helps them make better product decisions.
5 Steps to Creating a Digital Content Strategy that Generates Customers
Content marketing is changing the way we do business—in how we engage our customers and position our brands in the digital space. Whether generating leads, supporting sales efforts, or improving search engine visibility, digital content strategy plays an increasingly important role in successful marketing programs.
Following are five actionable steps that will help you develop a stronger digital content marketing strategy:
#1 Develop strategies, not tactics
This may seem like common sense, but many well-intentioned marketers jump into tactics before developing a focused digital content strategy. Content marketing is just one component of a larger integrated marketing program. First, you need to understand the audience and what motivates them. Next is message development, which informs what tactics and channels will best engage your audience. Next, schedule out your tactics on a content calendar. Finally, remember to include measurement.
Your content marketing program should leverage your core go-to-market strategy, orchestrating scenarios that drive awareness and move quality prospects through the sales funnel. Regardless of the tactics employed, stay disciplined.
#2 Don’t overlook internal opportunities
Once you’ve established a solid digital content strategy it’s time to start filling the pipeline. Certainly, you will leverage your thought leaders, but there are hidden gems throughout your organization. Consider the perspectives of your sales team and customer service representatives. They’re engaged in dialog with your target audience everyday and can share insights that are meaningful to your customers. Also consider your company’s internal education sessions.
- Do you bring in outside vendors to educate your staff?
- Do you hold Lunch & Learns to share the latest industry trends with your employees?
- Would your customers and prospects benefit from this information, as well?
Sometimes great digital content is in hiding in plain sight. You just need to find it and use it. Manage content with the idea of being able to use it in the future for many purposes.
#3 Be opportunistic in and outside digital channels
With a solid content strategy, an organization can be more agile and strategically opportunistic in identifying great digital content. This means being prepared and understanding the difference between on-strategy content and just making stuff.
We ran into this issue recently with a client. The team was at an international trade show and we knew some key customers would be in attendance. Our team worked to orchestrate potential content opportunities in advance. We were looking for moments of meaningful dialog and insight—interactions with customers. We captured a great three-way discussion between one of our client’s best customers and the editor of the industry’s leading trade journal.
Because we were prepared and opportunistic, the client has a great piece of relevant content.
Continuing on on with this point, social media platforms are digital channels that can amplify your content. Instead of leaving content alone on an owned website, we can create digital marketing campaigns with relevant content. Having a set plan to execute content opportunities comes on all digital platforms will help you adapt to the omnichannel future of marketing. Lead generation can come from all angles once content is produced.
#4 Make the right investments
Effective digital content marketing is only possible with the right resources in place. Designate a team that can share the responsibility of creating content. Consider an outside agency to partner with your internal team. Content marketing requires a depth of resources, and a partner that focuses on these needs will lead to more consistent outreach and better content. Understand your business objectives as a company.
A digital content strategist should also implement quality assurance and messaging consistency review process. But mandate quick approvals to keep content strategies timely. You must also hold your team accountable. Making digital content creation a priority adds a new level of responsibility. Just as content marketing is changing the way we do business, we must reshape our teams to do it right. Digital tools can help accelerate the speed of content creation.
At the end of the day, you want to make sure the ROI is contributing to your business goals.
#5 Make it actionable
It’s crucial to evaluate how your content will motivate the audience to take action. Effective content marketing doesn’t sell; it educates and assists. Creative teams want the audience to reexamine their approach and thinking. We want to produce “aha” moments for our customers. This is how you open the door and build relationships that boost sales opportunities.
Don’t be shy about sharing your digital content. Readers become invested in the result when you help them understand a complicated topic or provide great insights. Ultimately, they’ll either view you as a reputable and valued source of information, or they’ll turn to you for your help and expertise.
4 Components of an Effective Content Strategy
#1 Brand Strategies:
Perception and trust is the name of the game, so start by putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience to continuously evaluate whether your brand provides digital content that your audience identifies with and finds valuable. Now mix in trust by ensuring that you’re creating customer-centric content which will develop trust and deepen credibility with your consumers. Bake in these two aspects to your brand strategy and you’ll find that affinity will increase and relationships will become stronger over time when the foundational elements of your brand are layered with benefits to your buyer.
#2 Online and offline strategies:
Do you have a cohesive online strategy? Can you effectively connect the dots of how you’re telling your story online and where your content intersects into offline avenues of storytelling?
When companies present anything less than a complete and unified presence online and offline, people notice. Really, they do. Those people may shrug their shoulders and carry on with their tasks on your site (albeit with less satisfaction and ease.) Or, in the absence of any info online, they may give up and go to a competitor.” So think about how you engage, both online and offline so as not to leave your audience hanging. Simple FAQ blog posts can keep your customer engaged instead of searching for online tutorials.
#3 Research strategy:
Is your story (the content, the message, the overall design) making the grade? Evaluate it and don’t forget to ask those that matter to you the most by performing periodic assessments. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience. They’ll tell you what’s up.
#4 Governance strategy:
Consider the SAS model as a guiding principle for developing and driving good governance practices. Have the leaders from each relevant business unit meet weekly to discuss and coordinate content activities and prioritize future initiatives.
Just like baking a good cake, the top four strategies are the essential ingredients to your cake batter. What can make a great cake exceptional is the layering of flavors, frosting, decoration, and good plating. That’s where the remaining five pillars (email marketing, social, mobile, search engine optimization, and campaign strategies) add the additional depth and character to your content marketing efforts that will take your brand presence and storytelling to the next level. So, what are you waiting for? Get cooking. A thoughtful holistic strategy may take you some time to design but will be devoured by all. Digital content management is a greater study about governance strategy.
Templated Framework for Creating a Content Strategy
A content marketing program must answer three questions to be effective:
- Is it driving revenue?
- Is it saving money?
- Is it creating happier customers?
Instead, the approach marketers often take is to try to find digital content to fill each channel.
As content marketing continues to grow in importance due to customers’ changing purchase and engagement habits, so, too, does the need for marketers to craft a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to it. This includes such elements as strategy, content type, and distribution frequency.
We devote a lot of space here to exploring methods and technologies which afford marketers the opportunity to deliver contextually relevant content to the right leads and at the right time. Deliver content like the ones below:
- Trends in Industry
- Listicle (Top 10…)
- Company Feature
Let’s think about how we would carry out content projects. When producing content, think of both prospective clients and search engines. Keyword research can help you determine valuable content ideas. Produce content by answering a few questions that the user might have about the article. Then, work on developing content around the post idea. Like discussed earlier, in this new age, customers want content that is compact, visual, and quick.
Create an editorial calendar to execute content. To get more value out of your content, coordinate content strategists with mangers of social channels to publish blog posts as visual content.
After you publish content, measure success by conducting a content audit later on. Work closely with Google Analytics and other tools to ensure success. Watch for user behavior and develop your market research. The digital tools are out there, from marketing suites which offer predictive analytics or fire alerts as prospects reach hit new touch-points, to journey management offerings and real-time email personalization. It sometimes seems that finding ways to automate and scale the personalized customer experience is all we right out.
All of this is said, but a lot of brands are still not paying attention.
According to existing research, more than half the digital content created for B2B marketing purposes isn’t used, and where it is used, it has limited impact on conversion rates.
What’s clear is that many marketers are still relying on mass distribution of content created for a mass audience–throwing it at the wall and hoping it sticks. At best, the leads generated might consist of name and email, even though–as the report points out–most marketers agree that high quality leads should incorporate much more granular information about the prospect.
And to the extent there’s any distribution planning at all, it overlooks the enormous and growing importance of third party channels. Almost 70 percent of B2B buyers start their journey with a search engine, and not with a vendor website: “Objectivity, thought leadership and neutrality trump all else.” It’s possible to bring content to this value target audience, but it will require a change of mindset. Let’s hope this article helped you expand your mind to a larger content marketing strategy.
Marketing technology is clearly only part of the story–although it’s an essential part, given the scale of the challenges. Marketers need to get aboard the personalized (and neutral channel) content train in their digital marketing strategies.
About the Authors
This article combines the work of co-authors:
Bob Egner is the VP of product management at EPiServer, a provider of multichannel digital marketing and e-commerce software. Egner regularly interacts with customers who are working to improve the results of their online and mobile presence and customer engagement. Matt Daly is vice president of client solutions at JPL. Najwa Smith is the director of content strategy at Rosetta.
This article was co-written written by Adogy, a Digital PR and SEO firm that specializes in digital media. Our team of SEO and brand marketing experts can build your digital content strategy, and place your company in valuable publications. Schedule a call with us and learn how we can help advocate for your brand.
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