There are many marketers out there without a clear direction for their content strategy. The result is content campaigns that produce little to no impact on the bottom line. For many of those cases, the problem doesn't lie in the execution of the campaign, rather, in the topics and focus of the actual content.
So, how do you create an effective content marketing strategy to drive performance, influence behavior, and produce real impact? All successful marketing programs have a single principle that guides and shapes how they create amazing marketing: buyer personas.
For those not familiar, a buyer persona is a fictional profile of an ideal customer that includes both business and personal context. You create your different buyer personas by bucketing your ideal customers based on a common set of characteristics including needs, problems, objections, goals, demographics, etc.
Creating an accurate persona profile requires true collaboration between different parts of your organization. Talk with your sales team to find out what questions, comments, points of pain, etc. they are hearing. Talk to your customer support team to see if they have any valuable insight to share on each persona. The more input you can get, the more accurate the profile will be and the more content ideas you'll have. You can learn more about building personas here.
Now that you have your buyer personas clearly defined, it's time to start generating content topics that your personas will actually care about. If your persona profiles are complete, you can simply look at the points of pain, objections, obstacles, etc. and spin all of these into amazing content; however, keep in mind that you're not limited to just this information for topics.
For example, your sales team identifies the most common objection is, "Your product is very expensive." Then you will want to create a number of topics around the quality and value your product has that justifies the price. Again, this may take some collaboration with different parts of your company to help generate ideas, but the more topic ideas you can generate, the better.
The next step to this process is to take all these topic ideas and start mapping them out around that persona's typical lifecycle based on what information would be most relevant to that person at that particular stage.
Put yourself in that person's shoes and think about the types of things that would be going through your mind at each stage. Top of the funnel will have more general information about the industry, products, or services, whereas toward the bottom of the funnel it will probably be more focused on feature comparisons and deciding which vendor to partner with.
In the price objection example I used above, we created a handful of topics that speak to the value of our products in order to educate your audience and overcome their price objection. This content should be delivered in the middle funnel so that by the time they reach the sales team at the bottom, this objection will have already been answered. This will help shorten the sales cycle and produce more qualified leads.
Once you have all your topic ideas, the last step is to take the biggest and most critical topics at each stage of the funnel and create larger, premium-style content (e-books, webinars, white papers) around those topics.
For our price objection example, we may create a short video presentation that's geared toward a specific persona in the middle of the funnel. The video title might be, "From Idea to Your Home: How Our Product Travels," which shows all the steps the product takes to be created. In this video you would want to highlight specific reasons that your product costs more but is of much higher quality and value.
Once the premium content is created, then create smaller supportive content pieces such as blogs, video teasers, infographics, etc. around that central idea that you can use to help promote and drive traffic to your bigger, premium piece of content. This also can help when targeting specific long-tail keyword searches on organic traffic. This concept of creating a premium piece of content and then developing supportive pieces around that piece of content I call building "content trees." You can learn more about developing content trees here.
By specifically creating content that "speaks" directly to a specific persona and positioning that content based on which stage of the lifecycle the persona is currently in, this will create true impact, influence behavior, and result in a higher lead conversion rate.
This is just a global overview of how to start thinking about content strategies within your inbound marketing program. If you have specific questions or comments on content strategies, please post in the comments and let's discuss.
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Luke is an industry leading inbound marketing specialist and an expert in progressive strategies integrating content, relationships, automation, and communities to drive lead generation and build brands people love.
He is the Director of Inbound Marketing at Savvy Panda where he helps lead web and marketing success stories for medium to Fortune 100 companies. Additionally, Luke is also the head instructor of Master Inbound, a comprehensive online inbound marketing training course. Find Luke on Google Plus.
March 19, 2014