This is the third in a series of four blog posts focused on marketing strategies and tips as companies set plans for the new year.
With your key audiences mapped out and your budget in hand, you are ready to move on to the next level in elevating your brand. Content marketing is a great way to engage and establish connections with your audience. Many confuse content marketing with social media; while social media can be one aspect of content marketing, there is so much more to it.
In simple terms:
Content marketing is a marketing strategy that produces relevant content (typically) across digital channels that leads to conversations.
It is about the value we provide to our audiences through content and the touch points we gain as a result of that content. Content marketing relies heavily on using digital communication tools–websites, blogs, video, audio, social media–to produce content that is focused on relevance, education and audience interests. It is not product marketing or sales. It’s the notion that our customers want to build a relationship of trust with us before diving in to what we are selling.
Content marketing is a way to appeal to your audience and showcase your brand’s values and personality. Customers enjoy it because it gives them the chance to learn and engage at their pace; it’s a way to humanize our brands.
Sound like something you’re interested in incorporating into your brand’s strategy for growth this year? Here are my starter tips:
7 content marketing strategies for growth
Marry your sales and content teams
Sales professionals who were used to in-person meetings, client lunches and customer happy hours had to pivot significantly in 2020. They found new ways to connect with customers through digital channels, content and outreach. Sales teams that did this well embraced using social media channels, personal emails and hundreds of Zoom meetings, webinars and video content to meet their prospects ‘in person’.
Your sales team and marketing team should work hand-in-hand to create memorable content experiences. While most of us hurried through changes and new ways to reach our customers in the ever-changing year of 2020, it’s likely we did so without strong documentation or conversations with all of our team members.
Schedule regular meetings between sales and marketing; review what worked, what didn’t work. Ask your sales team to bring what they know about the customers to the table and have your marketing team be prepared to listen. Likewise, task your marketing team with demonstrating where business is coming from and where conversations are happening online; marry the two to develop a strong content game together. As they say, teamwork makes the dream work.
Plan for the unexpected
By now, a change in plans won’t surprise many of us. Setting your marketing strategies up in a way that can account for change will set you apart from your competitors. If you have not done so already, map out the following:
- Who will monitor, pull down and/or reschedule social media content if an unforeseen event happens in your town, community, city, country (i.e. US Capitol siege, BLM movement/protests, 911, etc.)?
- How will you respond to good things or spur-of-the-moment brand shout-outs and hat tips?
- What will your marketing department look like if you lose key accounts, gain traction in sales or add more initiatives to the mix?
- When will you communicate key changes (good, bad or otherwise) to clients, customers or other audience members?
- Do you have a protocol for negative feedback, comments, tags or posts on your digital channels?
It’s all about crisis communication. Document these protocols ahead of time and talk about them with your team. Ensure that you have the right eyes and ears on the ground to make any changes in the plan that need to be done in real time. Use marketing timelines and planning documents to stay organized and know that your marketing plan is a living document; change will be inevitable.
Use visuals to start the conversation
Explainer videos. Decision trees. 3-step graphics. We’ve all come across visual content that speaks to us and helps us understand complex concepts or details about products and services. Adding visual elements to your content marketing mix helps connect with your audience outside of words alone. Consider how you can create valuable content in way of:
- How-to videos
- IG TV
- Facebook carousel ads
- Twitter fleets
- Instagram guides
- Personal email videos
Get comfortable with podcasts
Podcasts have seen an amazing increase in the past 18 months; some of that is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some of that is due to people looking for alternative ways to get their education and information. More than half of all US citizens over the age of 12 years old listen to podcasts and 75% of them do so to learn something new (source: Statista).
If you have something to teach others, if you are great at disseminating new information, if you want to facilitate dialogues around things that are important to you (and your brand) podcasting can be a great way to do that.
Not ready to jump in quite yet? Use podcasts as a way to learn and grow your business. Follow and listen to podcasts in your industry. Hear what others are talking about and are interested in. Consider running some ads on podcasts that make sense for your target audience.
Personalize your emails
Many brands personalize emails with a customer’s first name, but this year I challenge you to take your email marketing to the next level by personalizing who that email is from. Make the recipients of your emails feel the love and make it easy for them to connect with a real person in your company. A few ways to do that:
- Check the ‘from’ area in your email marketing software. Is it generic from your company or do you have a person assigned as the sender?
- Use a real person’s name within the email — your CEO, your executive director, your marketing director or sales lead — whomever would resonate with the recipients
- Insert a handwritten signature or head shot of the person sending the email; these are easy to add into email marketing templates even if you use a service such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp.
Be authentic in your email personalization. Don’t just slap someone’s name on it and call it a day. Show personality, encourage a follow or connection on LinkedIn, ask leading questions; encourage the recipients to truly be a part of the conversation with you through this medium.
Forget about polished, embrace live features on video and social media platforms. Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Clubhouse — you can have some great conversations in real time with people interested in what you have to say. And, while your audience sees this content live you can still plan for these segments ahead of time. Set a cadence for your live broadcasts and schedule them into your content calendar or marketing timeline each month. Here are a few live content ideas to get you started:
- Give a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at what your team is doing, a new product or design being worked on, a teaser for an upcoming event
- Provide a quick explainer video that walks viewers through a feature on your product that you’ve received questions about
- Teach a short workshop or 15-minute ‘quick tips’ class — this is also a great option for those in the wellness, fitness or healthcare industries
- Interview a donor, a service recipient or volunteer to get their take on your organization or why they’ve involved
- Schedule a weekly “CEO Chat” that feature your leader taking Q&A live from followers
- Showcase your team volunteering in your community together
Tell your followers about your live broadcasts through emails, website event listings or social media posts. And hey, even if you don’t have a live segment planned but you’ve come across something important to share in real time, go for it! Part of content marketing is embracing the unplanned.
Choose your channels wisely
You don’t have to be all things to all people; in the same way you don’t have to be on ALL digital platforms. Get a solid handle on where your primary audiences hang out online and build up your digital channels there. That is different, however, than being active on the channel(s) that you’re most comfortable with (unless you embody an uncanny resemblance to your target customer).
Outline priorities of channels within your marketing plan. Choose channels that not only make sense for your business but that you know you can maintain on a regular basis. Streamline, cut and focus on digital channels with the greatest potential reach and engagement.
As you work through these content marketing strategies, think about the pain points of your customers. What do they want most from you? What are they struggling with at this point in time? What will be their needs in 6-12 months from now? How can you use the above tactics to develop and deliver content that supports their needs and resonates with them?
That is content marketing.