It goes without saying that Content Marketing has changed the rules of the game for New Age Marketers today. The Crux of Thought in Content Marketing is that a lead that you’ve managed to educate, entertain and nurture is most likely to purchase from you. With firms becoming increasingly inclined towards the promising avenues of Content Marketing, the new age marketer is faced with a new set of challenges, very different from those pertaining to traditional marketing. Creating awareness about your offerings via Content Marketing is just the tip of the iceberg; a far-sighted marketing team today is well aware that each and every stage of the buying cycle needs to be fuelled with compelling content, funneled to prospective clients through relevant channels. Therefore, it is critical for the success of any business that a full-fledged Content Marketing Strategy be formulated, one which emphasizes on all the important areas – Content Creation, Scheduling, Management, Distribution, Reuse and so on and so forth.
The Concept of Content Mapping
Content Mapping is a powerful strategy that enables you as a new-age marketer, to streamline the flow of content across the different stages of the buying cycle, so that your potential clients can be presented with exactly what they want and when they want it in the buying cycle. It is similar to formulating a blueprint depicting the flow of your content through specific channels in a timely sequence. For instance, initial queries of your target audience could be best answered through unbiased and informative blog posts, while those that chose to liaise with you further ahead in the buying cycle, could be nurtured with something more personalized, such as invitation to a webinar on a topic that is relevant to them. Moreover, the evolution of Content Marketing itself over the past couple of years, has established that referencing of your content inventory is as important as unique content generation, as the same piece of content can be re-worked into different formats, thereby increasing the efficiency and overall value of your content. Therefore, the key to overcoming the challenges of Content Marketing lies in effective Content Mapping.
Down to the Basics
Amidst plenty of articles talking about the various aspects of Content Marketing in depth, an average marketer often loses sight of the basic question- what is content and how should it be distributed? Many of us mistakenly limit our definition of content to textual matter that serves as information that the consumer is looking for, just prior to making a purchase. The bigger picture in Content Marketing defines content as anything that your target audience finds engaging, relevant, entertaining, interesting, educating, reliable, timely and enlightening, be it in the textual form, or in the form of images, audio, video or anything else. Not to forget, your target audience need not be limited to only those who intend to make a purchase decision in the near future. Apart from befitting the requirements of those who are in the middle or final stage of the purchase cycle, content marketing also aims at the long term prospects of catering to visitors who are just “casually strolling by”.
Augmenting the Buying Cycle with Powerful Content
The “Buying Cycle” or “Sales Funnel”, as many marketers refer to it as, comprises of five broad stages.
• The first stage is when the potential customer realizes that he or she has a specific need. It is important not to undertake pushy selling at this stage. On the contrary, your content needs to be designed to provide unbiased, detailed and relevant information that can reinforce the specific need in the first place.
• The second stage commences when the potential client starts to do a little market survey in order to adjudge the options available in the market. You can facilitate this pre-decision making process by providing comparative information, without appearing too compulsive.
• The third stage is the formulation of a purchase decision, wherein your content needs to be crisp, concise and project your best foot forward in terms of what you are offering. With email capturing, you can send them free whitepapers, or slideshows or invite them to a webinar, and so on and so forth.
• The fourth stage comprises of the actual purchase, wherein you need to ensure that you let them know about the best deals and offers that you have for them, and connect with them over social media to establish a long term relationship.
• The fifth stage marks the after-sales process, wherein you project fresh content periodically via social media and email marketing to ensure that the client keeps coming back to you for repurchasing, as and when required.
What Constitutes Effective Content Distribution
A painstakingly created piece of unique and high quality content will fail its purpose if it is not distributed well, or in other words, innovative content generation needs to be coupled with an equally good content distribution network, so that it can reach out to the right people at the right time. And obviously, the larger the number you manage to reach out to, the higher are the number of leads generated. For any company, there are two broad categories of content distribution channels within the realm of digital marketing- the Paid Channels and the Earned Channels. While the Paid Channels largely constitute Outbound Marketing Techniques that include Paid Advertisements or Press Releases on Media Outlets, Sponsored Posts in the Newsfeed of Social Media Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Pay Per Click Ads, and Sponsored Content posted on a Third Party Website or Newsletter. The Earned Channels have more to do with Inbound Marketing, which is in vogue now and involve very little investment. Examples include earning back-links from Guest Posting, Directory Listings, Citation of your Content on a Forum, Third Party Blog or Website and Promotion by a Niche Influencer on Social Media.
It is vital for every marketing team to brainstorm and come up with the most effective ways of distributing content based on the type of product or service being sold, the marketing budget of the company and the psyche of the end-users. Here’s a look at some of the best practices when it comes to content distribution:
• It is of foremost importance to ensure that the audience that you are reaching out to is actively involved with you, even if their numbers are not very large in the beginning. Dishing out content to a large number of passive users is an exercise in futility.
• Your content will automatically receive widespread coverage if some of the key influencers in your industry, be it individuals or companies, promote and share your content. Identify and jot down a list of all the key influencers in your industry. If you are able to have your guest posts published in a few of their sites, forums or blogs (which should not be very difficult if your content is of high quality and abide with their standards of guest posts) from time to time, a higher number of people will automatically begin to notice you.
• Social Media Sharing is one of the most popular and effective ways of content distribution today. When an end-user feels that a particular piece of content is noteworthy or fun or entertaining, the first thing he or she will do is to share it. Having your colleagues, employees and friends share your content with the relevant audience also heightens its overall reach.
• The traditional email marketing where marketers used to go ahead with outright selling, is of course redundant now, but a lot can be achieved if you try to find innovative ways to share your content via email marketing. For instance, you could send prospective leads the first three slides of a slideshow on a topic that you know they would be interested in, and thereon request them to reply in case they are interested in receiving the rest of the presentation.
• Content Syndication aids in driving more engagement with your content, by having it shared out by a third party site. Depending on whether you want to increase your website traffic, or you need to capture the emails of prospective clients, you can work out on your mode of syndication.
A Closer Look at Recycling of Content
In today’s times when websites, blogs and forums are jam-packed with content on a massive range of topics, content developers need to work really hard to create innovative and compelling pieces of content that draw target audiences towards them. This scenario makes it all the more necessary to make judicious use of content, and this is where Content Recycling comes into picture. For instance, an intelligent marketer will ensure that a recently conducted successful webinar is converted into a descriptive blog post, so that the same content can be used to reach out to a larger number of users. Similarly, the ideas from an infographic can be converted into a slide share, which can be emailed to your prospective leads. While some people prefer textual content, others are more inclined towards audio-visual content, and therefore, soliciting feedback from users is a handy way of knowing their preferences, and streamlining your content accordingly. For beginners, the concept of content recycling might sound complicated, but it is in fact one of the most powerful ways to reach out to a large number of end users simultaneously over different platforms and channels, and thereon leverage your content to multiple groups of users with varied preferences.
When the Content Marketing Era had just commenced, the market was abuzz with the catchphrase “Content is King”, and a lot of mediocre content was being churned out by firms in their quest for higher quantity. However, time has given way to an evolved form of Content Marketing with a very different set of trends today. Today, the focal points include the quality of content, as opposed to the quantity, mapping of content in order to lay down an effective groundwork for content management, making content shareable for wider access to social media users, choosing the right distribution channels and platforms to reach the right people at the right time, intelligent reuse of content to multiply the number of people with varied preferences, being catered to simultaneously and last but not the least, using the right metrics to adjudge the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.