Name a major company, and you can bet it invests in content marketing. Among those with 100 or more employees, 84.5 percent use the tactic to build awareness and generate leads. So why is it that barely half of B2B marketers think it produces “good” ROI?
The reason is simple: Not all content converts. Content must be aligned with its audience, on brand, compelling, and helpful to actually make a dent. On top of that, it needs to be part of a marketing funnel that drives readers to take the desired action.
Even if your content is producing some conversions, it could almost certainly create more. To optimize your content marketing:
1. Personalize, but don’t get carried away.
Customized content will always outperform generalized material for a simple reason: Consumers want content that’s relevant to them.
Email is one of the most effective channels for customization, but today’s readers expect more than just a customized greeting. Persona-specific emails can improve click-through rates significantly, and they’re particularly effective for companies that cater to diverse audiences.
Hook your audience by building meaningful personas based on demographics and psychographics, but know when to stop. B2B agency Renegade’s CEO, Drew Neisser, points out that the law of diminishing returns applies to personas — a lot of brands waste money by over-segmenting. That over-segmentation can lead to a splintered brand message, so Neisser emphasizes cohesive messaging. Don’t let personalization take you too far away from your brand story.
2. Deliver real value.
At the end of the day, you want your content to be useful to those who see it. Consumers are smart enough to spot thinly veiled product pitches. To ensure you’re delivering value, Lindsay Kolowich, a team manager at HubSpot, recommends writing to a single person.
Think back to those demographics and psychographics. What problem is your user trying to solve, or what opportunity might she want to tap? Then, consider how your product or service fits in. You don’t want to pitch it directly, but do steer the content in its direction.
Say you sell lawn and garden equipment. A homeowner might simply want a faster way to cut the grass, but a professional landscaper may care about beauty above speed. Before writing the first sentence of your post, determine which person’s need you want to address.
3. Pick platforms wisely.
Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are just the start. Newer sites like TikTok, Kik, and Houseparty offer additional options for reaching your audience members where they are. Yet many marketers continue to treat social media monolithically, blasting the same content regardless of site.
Each platform has a different set of rules — written and unwritten — that dictate which posts are successful. Shopify’s content marketing manager, Braveen Kumar, explains that snark, sarcasm, and inside jokes resonate with Redditors. Kumar also emphasizes the importance of choosing the right subreddit and participating in discussions.
Before posting from a branded account, spend an hour scrolling through top posts. If the community seems like one that would be receptive to your brand, comment on others’ posts. Avoid making too much of a splash until you know how you’ll be received: Posting a few times and then abandoning the platform looks worse on your brand than skipping the site altogether.
4. Promote the right way.
With different platforms come different promotional tools. When Instagram announced its new promotion mechanism, the photo-sharing site revealed that 68 percent of all users come to the platform to engage with content creators. No wonder branded content ads and influencer marketing are particularly successful on Instagram.
Other promotion options exist outside social media. Via Google, many content creators invest in paid search, a model in which the advertiser only pays when a user clicks through to the target site. Search engine optimization is a popular alternative: SEO focuses on optimizing the target site and content itself to encourage Google to list it higher in search engine results.
With any promotional tactic you can name, studies exist showing it’s the most effective. Instead of treating any one as gospel, experiment. On YouTube, for instance, you might invest a little in pre-roll ads, a little in skippable ads, and a little in overlay ads. Scale your investments according to performance.
5. Default to video.
Cisco reports that this year, video will account for 80 to 90 percent of all traffic on the internet. Although that figure might make you worry about your video getting lost in the shuffle, don’t be: One reason video claims so much bandwidth is because consumers love to share it. If your goal is to boost brand awareness, video is the obvious path forward.
The difficult choice is picking the right type of video. Should you go for a six-second short that makes people laugh or a long-format one that elicits deep engagement? Think back to your goals: If you’re looking for leads, something brief with a call to action at the end is your best bet. For awareness, longer features may be better.
With either option, skip celebrities and show real people. Lexus’ “Takumi” is a 60,000-hour documentary that honors the Japanese craftsmen behind its cars. Not only would the video be prohibitively expensive if Lexus had hired big-name actors, but it also wouldn’t have had the sense of authenticity Lexus was looking for.
6. Be human.
Speaking of authenticity, the most impactful content is rarely the flashiest. According to SEO expert Kristopher Jones, authenticity boils down to honesty. Authentic content is upfront about its value, casual in style, and unapologetic about its author’s perspective.
Spend time with your content. Don’t be afraid to throw away the first draft, and don’t worry about whether it makes you sound “smart” enough. Deliver tips plainly, but with ample explanation. Lastly, make sure you byline someone specific. Unless you have reason to believe the content will be a magnet for trolls, allow users to respond and engage with comments.
In the world of content marketing, conversion is the name of the game. But producing conversions isn’t as simple as posting memes or pumping out product guides. Think about what your readers want to know, address them directly, and don’t be afraid to have some fun with them.