Successful content marketing takes hard-work, commitment and an awareness of who we’re trying to reach. It also requires a willingness to adapt to new challenges.
Breaking out and making a difference with your content is a tough task.
But take it from us. This shit works!
If you’re struggling to get results (or simply searching for ways to build on your strategy in 2017), there ain’t many better places to start than looking at what key industry players have to say.
They may have been there and done that, they may have a glittering resume - but there’s no rest for the wicked. These pioneers of content marketing continue to evolve their own strategies and, as it goes, regularly share their knowledge and experiences with their audiences.
And so, to help you shape your strategy and build traction with your content marketing, I’ve brought together some of my favourite nuggets of advice under one roof.
1. Jay Baer - Be relevant or be ignored
A wee while ago, we looked at how to create content that doesn’t waste time and resources.
Many marketers have let the bar slip - prioritising volume over value.
They’re publishing crappy content all up in our internet space, they’re making a stink on social and missing the basic reasoning behind content.
I don’t know about you, but I find it fucking annoying.
Since writing that blog post, I stumbled upon this article from Jay Baer. The face and founder of Convince and Convert dives straight in with the analogy that we’ve outgrown the album era of content marketing, and we now have to focus on creating hit singles.
Baer points out that 70% of Convince and Convert’s traffic comes from fewer than 25% of their blog posts. Which is a scary thought. But as is the modern reality of content marketing - only the most relevant bites of knowledge will break through the surface of the ocean of awful.
“When you give your tribe the information they want, in the format they want, at the cadence they prefer, the time they need to consume that information magically appears, like a wizard in a puff of smoke. Relevancy always wins.” - Jay Baer
Quality is the currency for content marketing success - but how do you become more relevant?
The first step is refining and defining your buyer personas.
Baer then suggests you “...determine the stages and steps your prospective customers must traverse before making a purchase from you.” - in other words, get to know the path to purchase and understand how buyers move down your marketing funnel.
Next identify customer questions:
What are people asking about your product and service?
What do they need to know before they shift down the funnel?
The answers to these questions will become future content.
And finally, map your content to reflect the stages in the buyers’ journey at which these questions are asked. For example, blogging tends to serve those in the Awareness stage, whereas pricing comes further down the funnel at the Decision stage.
Jay gives content overview and expands on the purpose of content marketing in this video...
2. Neil Patel - Take inspiration and go one better
Neil Patel is a tank of knowledge.
And wouldn’t you know it, he puts most of it down in words.
Patel digs deeper in this article, revealing exactly how he goes about finding the content topics that matter to his audience.
We already know that Buzzsumo is a potent curation tool, but did you know it’s also super useful for content inspiration?
Enter in a keyword that’s associated to your niche and hit search. If you’re a Big Data company, for example, you might try ‘SaaS’, ‘machine learning’ or ‘algorithms’. Buzzsumo will take that keyword, crunch it, and come back at you with a bunch of related content.
This will give you a feel for which content types and topics are resonating with your audience. From here you can mine even further by narrowing your search term with language that’s relevant to a specific stage of the buyer’s journey.
So, let’s say you’re gearing up to write a blog post for your B2B audience…
“Blog posts can be a good starting point when it comes to content creation, growing brand awareness, and launching your marketing campaign. 60% of B2B content marketers list it as their most effective form of content.” - Neil Patel
This type of content commonly sits at the top of the marketing funnel. It demonstrates your expertise and gives a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to complete a particular task - whilst being void of explicit sales messages.
So why not give it a whirl?
After your initial search you’ll be in the know when it comes to the content topics that tickle your niche’s fancy. Now you can take it one step further and refine your search with something like ‘How to SaaS’ (the search doesn’t need to be grammatically correct), and consider using quotation marks around ‘How to’ to ensure the search is as relevant as possible.
From there you can use the results as inspiration, you can add your own expertise and create a piece of content which is fundamentally better than the other blog posts on that subject.
Note: While you’re at it, be sure to check out what your competitors are publishing and apply the same principle to put your brand first in that area.
You can find more insights from Neil in the video below...
3. Jeff Bullas - Play the attention game
I came across this juicy little blog post from Jeff Bullas not so long ago.
With over half a million followers on Twitter alone, Bullas is the content marketing equivalent of Neil deGrasse Tyson. So listen up.
Stirring snippets of media are big news for marketers looking to create attention-grabbing content. They’re an essential part of your online strategy whether you like it or not.
“In a noisy world that has the human attention span below that of a goldfish we are almost required to resort to the inane to capture the initial response.” - Jeff Bullas
Digestible bites come in all shapes, sizes, sounds and style. With viral credentials there’s every chance they’ll be amplified by your audience. When used creatively, they have the power provoke a reaction from your audience.
Put something in their line of sight that arouses emotion and prompts interaction. Get them hooked, so they simply cannot refuse.
So what types of content drive traffic?
Photos and images
“Use screenshots, authentic and personal content. Images that touches hearts and minds. Pictures that pose a question, pique our curiosity or intrigue.”
- Coloured visuals increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80% (HubSpot)
- Content with relevant images attracts 94% more views than content without relevant images [HubSpot, January 2016]
“Moving images, automatic starting and pop-ups can be annoying. But there is one thing you can’t argue with. They grab your attention.”
And they’ve been proven to boost open rates, click rates, conversion rates AND revenue (Dell) - holy shit!
“Embed them in blog posts and people love to share them. It’s light snackable content. It’s the start of brand awareness building. It’s the equivalent of the baby or cat image for the quasi intellectuals.”
Infographics are extremely shareable. They bring together a whole host of data into one visual asset that can be used in a number of ways.
“Don’t be beguiled by what at first seems a simple skill. It’s where the customer seduction begins. 5 times more people read the headline than the article, advertisement or your post.”
“What is the first thing a reader will see? The headline. These are the words that will count the most. It needs to pack a punch. It needs to get to the point.” (Blog, Sweat and Tears eBook).
Jeff gives some awesome content advice in this interview...
4. Lee Odden - Focus on what matters
“A paradox of choice. That's essentially the daily experience many B2B marketers are having as they are confronted with increased content demands: quantity, quality, variety, and of course, ROI.” - Lee Odden
Making difficult decisions is part and parcel of marketing. But part of the charm that comes with this line of work is that the industry is in a constant state of change. It doesn’t matter who you are, who you work for, how many followers you have on social - it keeps everyone on their toes.
The message is to focus on what matters. No easy task, I know. With content creators shouting about marketing trends and the next big thing, how do we know what’s wheat and what’s chaff?
Odden outlines some interesting, data-backed developments in the B2B space…
Content Hubs - “Blogs are increasingly being augmented or replaced by information resources and content hubs.”
Blogging has proven itself to be a stoic practice in a to-and-fro world... But that’s not to say that it hasn’t evolved. Brands are creating holistic hubs which house all manner of content in one place.
“Many B2B companies are wondering how they will ever be able to maintain the creation demand of all their content investments.
While content volume rises (51% of B2B brands increased content spending in 2016), resources wear thin. Brands must develop a laser-focus, define which content brings the most value to their audience and concentrate on quality.
Data Informed Content
“There is an increased sophistication emerging amongst B2B content marketers when it comes to using data to inform content.”
B2B buyers want facts. Purchase decisions are more personal than you think. Buyers want to know exactly what your product or service can achieve for them. It’s their job on the line after all.
Social Ad Reality
“There continues to be a significant increase in using advertising on social networks and mobile devices across the buyer journey.”
In Beth’s recent post on Facebook Ads, she talks about the power of targeted social advertising and how - in the words of Gary Vaynerchuk - ‘We’re in the Golden Era of Facebook Advertising’. If social is the wood, ads are the petrol.
“Creating useful content across more platforms from desktop to mobile to IoT has become the price of entry for many companies in the B2B marketing world.”
Tailor your content for each platform. Be smart about what you’re creating and make the move towards visual, interactive content. Lay yellow bricks along the path to purchase.
“UGC is beginning to grow up for B2B in the form of participation marketing. People are more empowered than ever to publish.”
In a world where pretty much everyone with a smart device has something to say on social, why not reach out to your employees, customers and the wider community for content? It’ll help to build brand affinity no end.
Personal recommendations, word of mouth and expert content are all on the upswing and co-creation with industry influencers is a prime opportunity for B2B marketers to activate their content.
Ignore this at your peril. With the rise of ad blockers, this corner of marketing is flourishing. Find influential players in your niche, build relationships, collaborate with them, get them to share your content.
Lee spoke in more depth about the state of content marketing at HubSpot's INBOUND 2015.
5. Ann Handley - Challenge your assumptions
Last, but by no means least - the next piece of priceless advice comes from MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer Ann Handley.
We’re a big fan of Ann’s work, and after taking inspiration from her content creation guide Everybody Writes in our recent post on how to write for a B2B audience, we just had to include her in our list!
At the start of January, Ann laid down a message that all marketers should take heed from.
Our marketing is only as strong as our understanding of the world around us. We’re in a time where it’s become somewhat dangerous to sit on our biases and assumptions.
More marketers than ever are aware of the true potential of content marketing. Early haters and critics are sinking into their garden bushes like Homer Simpson. And yet, there’s still a long way to go before this potential is fully realised.
Buyers are changing. And they’re not going to hang around for you to play catch up!
Question everything you know.
Step outside of that framework you’ve so lovingly pieced together and take an outsider's perspective. Poke holes in it. Find faults in it and seek out alternatives and brand new solutions.
“Only now are we able to glimpse how “publishing” can empower marketing and marketers in more fundamental, important ways—beyond checking the box on a bunch of tactics. It can take us deeper into unmapped territory, to help us to flush out the richer story of our businesses, our purpose, our Why.” - Ann Handley
The moral of it all, if that’s what you want to call it, is that those who stagnate and leave others to innovate will have front row seats as their business flounders.
If you’re not rolling with the times… what are you doing?
Watch Ann's talk on 'the fight for sore eyes' below...
Been there, done that, got the t-shirt
There’s always ways and means to enhance your content marketing strategy.
And influencers such as Handley, Patel and Baer each have their own invaluable arsenal of experiences which we can all learn from.
These guys might be at the top of the game, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve got the t-shirt just yet. Content marketing is growing up, and so must marketers.
It’s an approach that can reap huge rewards for your business, but only if you’re prepared to keep your finger pressed firmly on the pulse and adapt your approach when necessary.
Defining and streamlining your processes is an ongoing mission. But it is a necessity.
We’ll have more priceless advice in part 2. Watch this space.