It seems that not a day passes without someone somewhere declaring that content is the “next big thing” in marketing. In fact, content has been at the heart of marketing for some time, and all that has changed is the proliferation and accessibility of the channels that disseminate it. The power of content to communicate a message has finally started to be recognised beyond our industry.
As marketers we now find ourselves joined on the content frontline by a growing army of brands who not only understand the value of compelling content, but now want to start authoring it themselves.
Research by the Content Marketing Institute has found that 86 per cent of B2B marketers are now engaged in content marketing in some form. However, only 38 per cent of marketers feel that their content marketing efforts are effective, despite 70 per cent of the marketers creating more content year-on-year.
What this demonstrates is a disconnect between the amount of content being produced and the effectiveness of the content in driving results. What’s more, as marketers create more content, we run the very real risk of content pollution, which in effect hampers efforts to grab the attention of our target audience.
The internet has democratised content generation, but that doesn’t always mean that the results are compelling or even engaging. In fact, what the accessibility of the internet has proven is that it takes time and effort to understand the audience and develop a narrative that engages them. That engagement then needs to be nourished and curated over time to build a relationship and ultimately drive a positive business outcome, whether that is loyalty, recommendation or sale.
The content production process can be broken down into a simple, four-step methodology: Insight, differentiate, engage, and assess (IDEA).
While a potentially large and nebulous term, insight is vital to the production of any compelling, relevant piece of content. Understanding what drives your audience, what compels them to complete an action or make a decision, is key to defining what it is your content is trying to achieve. Other considerations include:
- Audience motivations: Why do they buy a product or solution? What drives our audience to choose one solution or product over the other?
- Trends: What is influencing and shaping buying behaviours? What social nuances are driving purchases? How is technology shaping habits?
- The buyer journey: How does your audience make a decision? What are the questions that he or she asks at each stage of the process and what are the considerations?
- Channels of information: Where does your audience get their information? What is influencing their opinions?
Understanding the audience motivations and trends give us a 360-degree view of why people buy, and that brings us to the next stage of the content-development approach.
Having defined the theme of your content, the next challenge is making it stand out. In a content-rich world, differentiating from the crowd is more important than ever if your messages are to be heard. Readers today are faced with a deluge of information, and unless your content has the edge to catch their attention, it risks being drowned out. What’s the trend behind the trends? What’s going to be different in two years’ time? What do you think people should be talking about...but aren’t? These types of question will help identify the unique angle and hook for your piece of content.
Differentiated content helps grab the attention of the audience, much like how an outstanding resume helps get a foot in the door for the interview. However, you still need to engage the audience and evoke a response. This is where your call-to-action becomes crucial in helping close the loop for your brand. You need to give your audience a reason to take action, and while there are many ways of doing so, emotional storytelling is a powerful tool to evoke a reaction.
A great example of this is Dove Chocolate’s Chinese Valentine’s Day Campaign a few years back, which was run entirely around the premise of helping a lovestruck guy propose to his special one on the special day, with the assistance of Dove. The campaign succeeded because it revolved around a compelling narrative which many people could identify with: the universal theme of love. Dove cleverly gave the story legs to run on across social and digital platforms by documenting the entire proposal via blogs and social networks (Weibo) in China. The end results were impressive: a 226 per cent rise in Dove’s chocolate gift set sales that year.
Following the above trifecta will help create a compelling, unique piece of content that tells a story and engages key audiences. The final step in the process, and the one that is finally beginning to gain significant traction in the industry today, is the analysis of a content marketing campaign to identify success (and failure), and ultimately maximise ROI. Techniques such as A/B testing, audience segmentation and channel-specific content delivery mechanisms can help hone content before it is disseminated to a wider audience. Optimising at this stage can translate into significant successes and efficiencies further down the line.
In today’s world, quality content drives not only increased eyeballs and awareness (which are the typical metrics that marketers and communicators would measure), but also has the ability to drive business impact if used smartly. It starts with an understanding of the audience and the industry drivers, a knowledge of what content can stand out, followed by a powerful call to action, with the entire content generation process being supported by analytics which allows content creators to optimise as they go along.
Julian Chow is digital consultant and senior account manager at Text100 Singapore