Content Marketing.   When it comes to content, value is everything.
Content marketing is the engine behind Trekk's inbound philosophy. This marketing approach relies on valuable, relevant content to attract potential customers and create brand awareness. We use this high-value content across channels to convert leads to customers and customers to brand ambassadors.
What is content marketing?
Over the last two decades, consumer behavior has shifted significantly — and so has marketing. Now, rather than passively consuming television ads, consumers search online to find answers to their questions and products they may be interested in. They pull the information rather than waiting for brands to push it. They usher themselves through the buyer’s journey, most helping themselves through 60 - 90% of the traditional sales process before ever interacting with a salesperson.
Because of this fundamental shift in consumer behavior, we advocate a content marketing approach that meets customers where they are organically searching with content that is helpful and valuable. To achieve this, we work with our clients to get into the minds of their buyer personas, understand the information or tools that would be most valuable throughout the buyer’s journey, and create content that leverages that insight.
Content marketing puts the focus on your audience, where they spend time, and what their needs are, with the goal of creating marketing that’s not annoying. Our philosophy: don’t interrupt what people want to consume — be what they want to consume.
Determining a content strategy.
It’s crucial for all content to have a clear purpose — to you, your company, and your audience — and each piece should achieve that purpose within a higher-level, long-term strategy. When we first start working with a client, we almost always begin by performing a content audit. The content audit helps us get a comprehensive understanding of all the client’s existing content and informs our recommended multi-channel content strategy.
During a content audit, we catalog every piece of content — blog posts, email templates, landing pages, social media profiles, and more — along with each piece’s metadata. The metadata is what gives context and meaning to a specific piece of content; think title and description to keep you organized but also performance statistics, which will help you decide which pieces to archive and which content types to focus on next. We did this as part of our own rebrand; we cataloged every page of our existing website and blog, all our images and videos, our content offers, and pretty much every other piece of collateral we could find. After compiling the list, we assessed what to do with each piece: keep, edit, or archive.
The brilliance of a content audit is that it helps you shape a content strategy organically. Surveying all your content holistically allows you to easily recognize which content performs the best, as well as which pieces of content are aimed at different buyer personas and varying stages of the buyer’s journey. Having a comprehensive understanding of all the past content created, its performance, and its aim will help you figure out the path forward.
Why invest in content marketing?
Every one of our clients wants to reach their audience in an effective, personal way. We employ content marketing as part of a larger inbound strategy because of its proven effectiveness in three main areas.
- Brand awareness. Publishing content in your area of expertise can increase site traffic and brand visibility by boosting organic search engine optimization (SEO). While SEO is nuanced and search engine algorithms are constantly changing, the whole point of search engines is to point searchers toward the most useful content relevant to their query. Publishing high-quality, authoritative content is a foundational step toward better SEO.
- Brand preference. Providing free content that actually helps your target audience can increase the goodwill that individuals feel toward your brand. Marketers call this making a brand deposit. Help out a potential customer once and they’ll be more likely to convert — and to trust you again in the future, which can build your relationships with individual customers and lead to brand loyalty over time.
- ROI. As your trove of content grows, your reach can grow exponentially, as each new piece of content builds upon your established authority with search engines. Over time, our clients generally see better and better ROI on their content marketing efforts.
The building blocks of content marketing
We work with each of our clients to determine the content strategy that is right for their brand and their audience, and nearly every inbound strategy involves these two essential components.
Valuable content offers
An effective content strategy takes into account every step of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, conversion, and retention. When working with our content marketing clients, Trekk creates at least one high-value content offer for each of these stages in order to turn inbound leads into engaged customers. We use these content offers on social media, within blogs, and in email campaigns to attract leads and improve the brand’s SEO.
When it comes to offers, we consider both quality and quantity. Since 47% of buyers will view 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales representative, it’s important to focus on building a robust library of content offers that are both helpful and relevant to the target audience. These offers tend to be downloadable and digested over time — and can often be used multiple times. This content tends to be longer and more in-depth and includes things you might not even think of as content, such as tools and other interactive resources that help customers along the buyer’s journey. This is high-quality content that one might even expect to pay for, but the content marketing philosophy is to offer it for free to help to move customers toward conversion.
Targeted Landing Pages
Content offers usually live on custom landing pages with targeted calls-to-action designed to either convert potential buyers or deliver warm leads to your sales team for personal follow-up. We often use landing pages in tandem with Google Adwords campaigns, email marketing, and social media to reach the intended audience, and we optimize them for search in order to capture organic searchers as well.
What makes a valuable offer?
- E-Books — generally offered as downloadable PDFs, these tend to follow a narrative format and include impressive visual design. E-books are intended to educate but keep the language consistent with your brand’s voice.
- Infographics — information and graphics combined to share facts or statistics in an attention-grabbing way. The graphics should help to illustrate the facts, not the other way around.
- Templates — useful tools that consumers can download to insert their own information. The type of template you provide will depend on your industry, but it should be something that can help make your ideal customer’s life or job easier or help them accomplish a necessary task.
- Apps — a branded way for you to engage with your audience via mobile. Delivering content in a unique form like an app catches attention and feeds your audience information without being too pushy. For example, we use our Paper to Pixels app as a digital, living AR/VR portfolio that allows potential clients to get a feel for the work we’ve done and what we have to offer.
- SlideShares — publicly available presentation decks. This may be a good content fit for a B2B company whose ideal customer is in sales — offer a free, high-quality deck that makes your target audience’s job easier and you’ve earned that individual’s attention.
Brands as publishers
In addition to creating targeted offers and landing pages, a holistic content marketing strategy also involves ongoing content creation across multiple channels in order to achieve maximum reach. Our client strategies often include a mix of these ongoing content marketing activities.
A brand's blog often serves as a main pillar of its content strategy. A blog offers a behind-the-scenes look at the brand, a unique perspective that only it can provide, and blog content can help to establish a brand as a thought leader in its industry. With proper SEO, a blog can also attract potential leads and convert those leads using direct calls-to-action, thereby streamlining the sales process. Posts should include visual content — images and videos — to appeal to mobile users. Video, in particular, can help bring the content to life and illustrate concepts that tend to be more visual, such as showing how to do something.
If you’re just getting started, consider one or more of these blog post formats:
- How-to. Instructional in nature, these posts teach the reader how to accomplish something or perform a task.
- List posts. This style tends to be light and entertaining: it’s simply a list on a theme. Don’t be fooled by its reader-friendliness, though; list posts can be about serious topics, too, and are sometimes even more effective that way.
- Thought leadership. Industry-based, these posts position a company as an expert in its field, often highlighting original insights or research.
- Trending topics. Essentially, these posts just cover the news in a specific industry. Writing on topics people are already talking about can help you gain organic reach and allows for real-time conversations where you can add your unique perspective.
An active social media presence is an important part of an inbound content strategy, as awareness must be cultivated within the mobile channels customers are already using. Our strategic approach helps to automate the posting of social content and establish an organic audience over time.
By 2020, 75% of global mobile data traffic will be video, and social media platforms and search engines are beginning to favor video content — these days, video is basically required to capture the customer’s attention. This is why Trekk’s in-house video production team creates libraries of custom video content to help bring our clients’ brands to life on social.
We focus on establishing an audience on the platforms that your target audience primarily uses. Our goal is to create an environment where your ideal customers can stumble upon your company through shares, likes, and links and “discover” you for themselves.
After they’ve downloaded your offers and invited you into their inboxes, nurture leads with email campaigns tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey. As the majority of consumer emails are opened and read on smartphones, all email marketing should be optimized for mobile devices in order to capture the attention of consumers on the go.
We develop custom email marketing strategies with campaigns that focus on lead generation and conversion; campaigns are targeted to segments of the client contact database based on where each lead is in the buyer’s journey. Our content strategists use a research-based approach to ensure your emails are engaging and actionable. If consumers know that they can actually benefit from the content in your emails, they’ll look forward to seeing your name appear in their inbox and maybe even share your emails with friends. We like to use email as an element of a brand’s overall content strategy, as it helps to foster a relationship with consumers, instead of being purely transactional.
Podcast use is growing at an astonishing rate. As of 2017, 112 million Americans had listened to a podcast, and this number has been growing every year. These handy pieces of content are similar to blogs in that they can show who you are and help establish you as an industry thought leader. Because your audience will grow accustomed to your voice over time, podcasts are a great way to establish trust. This audio format also makes a great complement to the visual content on a blog or on social media and makes it easy for your audience to connect with you while they’re commuting, walking the dog, or cleaning the bathroom — all times you wouldn’t have been able to easily capture their attention before.
A podcast conducted as a roundtable can be especially useful to brands, as this format allows many voices and perspectives to be represented — something that’s harder to capture in a written piece. Check out other options in our roundup of popular podcast formats. And don’t be afraid to keep the conversation going on your other content platforms; engage with listeners on social and ask them which topics and guests they’d like to see. While podcasting is a resource- and time-intensive form of content, the payoff can be great.
Content for every step of the way
While on their way to making a purchase, consumers go through the buyer's journey, which consists of four stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, and retention. It's important to deliver personalized, effective content every step of the way.
In this stage, consumers know they have a problem to solve, a question to answer, or a need to meet, and the content created for this stage needs to catch the attention of potential customers and make them aware of you. Consider creating:
- Written content (think blog posts, e-books, and whitepapers) that answers common questions with which your target audience might grapple
- Educational videos, courses, or certifications aimed at someone with a beginner’s knowledge of your industry
In this stage, the consumer is actually pursuing your product, company, or service and determining the best fit or solution for their problem, so content that will establish your brand as a thought leader or expert in the industry and set you apart from the competition is crucial here. Think about:
- Product webinars, case studies, FAQs, and demonstration videos that highlight your unique value propositions.
- Guides, webinars, live videos, reports, and whitepapers that contrast your features and benefits to those of the competition
- User-generated content such as testimonials, reviews, and unboxing videos
Here, the consumer is ready to make some decision, or commit to working with a company in some way, so your content needs to give a final nudge and a compelling call-to-action. Provide:
- Case studies or product literature to give them a final bit of compelling information they need to take that final step to purchase
- Purchasing guides or checklists to make buying the easy choice
This final stage is all about brand loyalty; content here should show you care, be helpful, and make them want to be a customer for life. Think about:
- Guides on how to make the most of the products or services they’ve already purchased
- Exclusive webinars with bonus content just for customers
- Emails with sneak-peek information about upcoming product launches or complementary services they might be interested in
So, you have some questions…
How do I know who I’m producing content for? Who is my audience?
This is where buyer personas and a holistic inbound strategy will come in handy. We work with our clients to create buyer personas based on real data mined from past consumer behavior, market research, and customer surveys and interviews. We then use the objectives, values, and challenges of each buyer persona to create meaningful content for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
How do I produce content that will make me a thought leader in my industry?
First, look at the content your audience is already consuming — content that’s about your industry but is not coming from you. Study what your competitors are doing well, and think about how you could add your perspective to the conversation. Then, list the topics on which you have authority that aren’t getting enough coverage and create that content!
We also recommend taking a look at high-performing content from other industries to get ideas and best practices that you can apply to your own industry.
Do I really need a blog?
No! Blogs are not for every brand. If you have a lot of written content that you think your potential customers would find valuable, a blog is one avenue. If you’re struggling to come up with content or can’t handle posting regularly, however, your resources may be better spent on content types that come more naturally. Most importantly, think about where your buyer personas hang out and how they consume content so you can meet them where they are.
How do we know if our content is being utilized?
Measurement varies based on content type. For downloadable content, you’ll measure engagement based on views, clicks, and downloads. If you’re publishing content on social media, you can measure how many shares, mentions, and interactions you get.
Beyond that, though, if you want to know if your content is really making a difference with your customers, just ask! Survey your email subscribers, social media followers, or podcast listeners and ask for feedback. Follow up with the people who download your offers to gauge whether or not your content is actually helpful (and, if not, how you could make it more valuable!).
How do I know what type of content we should be producing?
This, too, goes back to your buyer personas. If you figure out where they spend their time online and what kinds of problems they’re trying to solve, you can better determine what might help them. Remember: don’t create content just to create content. Invest time in content that your ideal customers actually want or need.
Social media is an excellent way to gain customer insight — look at your social media mentions or comments to see if consumers have any direct questions for you, and then look at hashtags within your industry and search for questions. Use these real people with real questions as a jumping off point for content creation.
Content marketing used to be the future of marketing, but now it’s the present. Work with us to develop a content strategy designed to attract and convert leads — and retain customers for life.