Author: Simon Penson / Source: Moz Incredible, isn’t it? Despite all the fanfare and pageantry that has followed content marketing over t
Incredible, isn’t it? Despite all the fanfare and pageantry that has followed content marketing over the last few years, fewer than 6% of marketers confidently claim to be executing content marketing strategies properly.
It’s just one of a handful of eye-popping stats to come out of the State of Content Marketing Survey, a major new survey of senior UK marketers this month as part of a campaign to help create healthy debate around the misunderstood tactic.
With more budget than ever before pouring into the approach (60% of those surveyed said they were opening the purse strings further in 2017) 92% admitted to not knowing exactly how they should execute.
To check out all the results from the survey, click below (opens up in a new tab):
The biggest pain point of all to come out of the State of Content Marketing survey?
“Producing engaging content, consistently.”
I had been reading all the results with mild interest until those words stopped me dead in my tracks.
You may think the source of that concern stemmed from the fact that such a thing should be easy to manage, but it goes deeper than that.
Success with content is predicated entirely on your ability to consistently produce content that engages, resonates and adds value to your audience’s lives. And if producing that is the single biggest barrier then we have a problem!
You see, investment in content is a waste of money if you don’t have a well-designed plan to deliver constant content.
It doesn’t matter how brilliant your campaigns are if your audience has no other content to come back to and engage with.
And this is where the constant content plan comes in…
The concept is a simple one: no content plan is complete unless it’s based around delivering content consistently.
To do this requires a focus on strategy, not just on a few blog posts and the odd bigger campaign.
The best way to explain this is to visualize it in a different way. Below, you’ll see a simple diagram to throw light on my point.
Here we can see how a campaign-led strategy exposes holes in your plan. While we have plenty of activity going on in both our owned and earned channels, the issue is what goes on between large content launches. Where do those people go during those periods of inactivity? How do we keep them engaged when there’s no central content hub to pull them into?
This kind of approach is something we see often, especially from larger brands where budgets allow for more creative content campaigns to be run regularly, and here’s why it doesn’t yield positive ROI.
As human beings, we like variety. To keep us hooked, content delivery needs to reflect this. Campaigns need to be designed as part of a whole, becoming a peak content moment rather than the only content moment, pulling new audiences back to the constant content activity going on at the center of brand activity.
You see it in the way magazines are organized, starting with an initial section of often short-form content before you then hit a four-plus-page feature. This is done to ensure we keep turning the pages, experiencing variation as we do so.
This is something I like to call content flow. It’s a great strategic “tool” to help ensure you design your overall strategy the right way.
The approach to strategy
The key is actually very simple. It focuses the mind on the creation of a content framework that enables you to produce lots of high-quality regular content and the ideas that flow from it. I call it the “Constant Content Plan.”
The right way to approach the content planning phase is to create a process that supports the building of layers of different content types, like we see below in our second diagram:
In this example, you can see how we intersperse the bigger campaigns with lots of owned content, creating a blog and resources section that gives the new visitor something to explore and come back to. Without it, they simply float back out into the content abyss and onto someone else’s radar.
That consistent delivery — and the audience retention it creates — comes from the smaller content pieces, the glue that binds it together; the strategy in its entirety.
“Smaller” doesn’t mean lower-quality, however, and investing lots of time through the ideation phase for these pieces is critical to success.
Creating smaller ideas
To do this well and create that constant content strategy, a great place to start is by looking at the ideas magazines use. For example, these are the regular content types you often find in the best-crafted titles:
- What I’ve learned
Advice piece from a heavy-hitter. Can sometimes be expanded to what I’ve learned in my 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.
- The dual interview
Get two people together for an interview. Write an intro as to why they’re there, and then transcribe their chat. Bingo: unique content.
- Have you ever/What do you think of?
Pose a question and ask ten people for their responses. Good reactive content to a particular event that might pertain to one of our clients.
- Cash for questions
Get an interviewee/expert and pose them a series of questions gathered from real-life members of the public.
- A day in the life
What it says on the tin — an in-depth look at someone of interest’s working day.
- Person vs person debate
Start with a question or subject matter, get two people, put it to them, and record the results.
- Master xxxxxx in five minutes
A short how-to — can be delivered in pictorial or video format.
This style of regular series content lends itself well to online strategy, too. By running these regularly, you create both variety and the critical stickiness required to keep the audience coming back.
Of course, with such variation it also then allows you to create better newsletters, social strategies, and even inbound marketing plans, maximizing that return on investment.
The strategy allows for informative content as well as entertaining pieces. In doing so, it gives your brand the opportunity to build subject trust and authority, as well as capturing key opportunities in the purchase funnel such as micro-moments and pain points.
This combination of informative and entertaining output ensures you’re front and center when your customer eventually falls into the purchase funnel.
One way of bringing this to life is to look at brands already executing well.
One of the best blog strategies I have seen in some time is the one by Scotts Menswear. One of the key reasons for its quality is the fact it’s run by a very experienced print editor.
If we reverse-engineer what they’ve been doing on-page, we can clearly see that much thought has gone into creating variation, entertainment, and usefulness in a single well-rounded strategy.
Take the last ten posts, for instance. Here’s what we have and how it flows:
- Seven Films We’re Looking Forward to in 2017 – Video-based entertainment/lifestyle piece.
- Key Pieces for Your January Fitness Drive – Trending content with useful advice.
- Style Focus – A great regular piece that jumps on trending “news” to discuss the implications for fashion.
- Updated Classics from Puma – A news article on a new trainer release.
- Polo Shirts: A Wardrobe Staple – An in-depth guide to a key piece of clothing (part of a series).
- Our Guide to Valentine’s Day – Lifestyle guide that helps convey brand positioning, tonality, and opinion.
- Nail Your Valentine’s Day Outfit – Helpful guide to getting it right on a key seasonal event in the audience’s calendar. Clearly, they see Valentine’s as a sales peak.
- Get Your Overhead Jacket Kicks – Guide to a fashion staple.
- 5 Brands and Acts Tipped for Greatness – Lifestyle piece tapping into the music/fashion brand positioning.
- Our 5 Favorite Trainers Online Right Now – Great list feature to help the consumer buy smarter.
You can clearly see how they’re using structured thinking to create a blog of real variety and value. By combining this with a strong big-bang content plan that sucks in new visitors, you can build a hefty retained audience that improves critical metrics such as dwell time, returning visits, engagement, and sales.
Building our own plan
I know what you’re thinking. “Sounds great, for a brand in fashion. It’s cool and interesting. But I work in a ‘boring’ niche and this type of stuff just isn’t possible.”
While it could be a little more difficult that doesn’t mean it is impossible by any stretch of the imagination.
To prove the point, let’s look at a fictional example for a company in the medical products sector.
Here’s the deal: A2Z Medical is a company built up in the ’60s and ’70s. They have a huge B2B footprint but want to bring their marketing strategy…