The Who, What, Where, When and Why of Content Marketing
Bill Gates famously said once that “content is king” and for brands and retailers, this couldn’t be more true. In one way or another, every marketing strategy includes content.
Content marketing is defined as a strategy to create and distribute valuable content that is relevant to a clearly defined audience, with the intention of attracting and retaining customers.
But, too much of content marketing efforts focus on creation rather than promotion and evaluation. It’s crucial to measure the performance of your content to inform future strategy and assess the value of the work. Below are the six questions you should ask before producing content, to help ensure each piece is relevant, measurable and does what it’s meant to – attract and retain.
Too often, this question is skipped and it is the most critical question to ask. Why are you creating this piece? What is its purpose? Do you need it to rank for a particular search term? Do you want it to generate lots of backlinks? Is there a lack of information on a subject that you want to write a helpful and informative piece on? Are you trying to catch the wave of a current or emerging trend? Do you want to gather information?
Think carefully about the purpose of your content. It should inform the rest of the questions we ask below.
Now you know why you need to create the content piece and the purpose it is serving, you need to determine the format it’s going to take. Educating visitors requires something like an article or infographic. Improving search rank may be best served with a long-form article. Shareability might be better served with a funny or thought-provoking image-based piece or quiz. Gathering information is obviously achieved through a survey or poll, etc. You get the idea that ‘content’ can mean many, many things and some are better suited to your objective of that piece than others.
A final key consideration is whether you need to create all the content yourself. In some cases, simply curating and sharing great content may meet your goals in the ‘why’ question.
If you answer the ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions first, then the question of ‘where’ may be simple. But you might equally think about ‘where’ immediately after determining ‘why’. In this case, you should determine whether your strategy revolves around your website, a third-party site or a social platform. From there you plan the content piece accordingly. You might decide to do a Facebook poll because you have a ready list of followers to engage with and can easily reach more people through sponsored/boosted content. You might partner with a media outlet to promote the poll/survey if you are willing to share the data with them.
This question is in two parts. Firstly, who is the content being created for and secondly, who are you in providing the content…
For the former, you will hopefully have developed one or more personas that represent your target audience for the content. If not, you need to. This might be overall personas for your campaign, or perhaps even just for that content piece if it’s large enough or important enough. Then write to that person. Write in a language they will understand and in a way that will resonate with them. Some content may need to be business-like, or technical, or even comedic. The best reaction and engagement will be when the reader sees that the content is for them and realises it from the very first sentence.
For the latter, you must determine who you are in this conversation. Are you trying to be a trusted advisor (a little like this piece), a technical professional consultant, someone sharing the issues that the reader has? Your tone of voice will be determined by this.
For instance, you may be writing to a 45-year-old parent, but as the persona of an angst-ridden teenager. Extreme example, but it highlights the thought process.
OK, so with PR, immediacy is important, not too early as to be irrelevant, or not too late as to be, well, irrelevant! But with other content, especially online content that you want to be visible at the right time, you can never be ‘too early’, and what you think is early, is already late. One example is Prom Dresses. Prom dress season is around April and May, so many people in that business aim to get their content up in mid-March, thinking they are early. However, if you look at the sales trends, you’ll see that searches around that term spike in January and sales peak in February. So, the content you worked so hard on and posted in March is not as useful as you might think.
The only way you can answer the ‘when’ question is by reviewing your data and any other industry data you can get your hands on. If you don’t have that data, then simply plan to post the content in the middle of the preceding, plus one, season. So, if you want your content about summer travel to be relevant to summer travelers, who will be searching about this in the spring, you need to be posting in the winter.
As we have seen, no matter your size, everyone has a lack of resource and a penchant for insourcing as much as possible. Consider whether this is your best option. It may well be, but in this case, you need to balance creative minds with analytical minds. Typically, SEO people are, by their nature, very good at data analysis. They, therefore, make for a perfect partnership with creative writers and designers.
Bottom Line, You Need Data
By now, you’ve probably noticed a common theme in each stage of the content creation process. You need data. Both beforehand, to plan and create your content, and afterwards, to determine whether your content was successful. Your ability to justify your strategy or its ongoing implementation is reliant on having the data that shows its impact.
Most people look only at impressions and maybe engagement. If you really want to prove the benefit of your work, you need to find a way to relate it to much more tangible successes. Always go back to the ‘why’ question to determine if the goal was fulfilled. The Call to Action at the end of your content needs to do exactly what it says on the tin… inspire your users to act and measure their action.