Maintaining engagement with your audience is increasingly difficult as the digital landscape evolves. From social media posts to blogs to newsletters, the amount of opportunities for customer engagement has grown tremendously. Where content marketing was once a great bonus, it’s now become a requirement for building a successful digital presence.
So what exactly is content marketing ?
Content marketing is the link between brand awareness and lead generation. When executed properly, content can build trust, familiarity and loyalty with current and prospective customers. However, in order to reap all the benefits content has to offer, you must first develop your content marketing strategy. By following these five steps you’ll be well on your way.
1. Document Your Goals, Budget and Strategy
What goals are you hoping to accomplish with your content? How much are you able to spend on content marketing? What kind of content will you be producing? These questions may seem obvious but they are essential to developing a quality content marketing strategy. Goals, budgeting and strategy all go hand-in-hand. A marketing plan without direction is destined for failure. The goals you set for your content can range from developing brand awareness to driving traffic to your website. Once your goals have been identified, it’s important to set up a strategy based on a budget. Larger budgets allow for more expansive strategy options while smaller budgets may require a bit more creativity to execute. No matter the amount of money you can spend, the strategy is ultimately what will determine your success.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Content marketing is less about selling and more about educating, entertaining, or otherwise informing your readers. In order to accomplish this best, you should identify exactly who your audience is across your social media channels, blog readers, or anywhere else you plan on posting your content. Once your audience has been established, the next step is to understand their needs and market directly towards them. For instance, if your target audience consumes content from YouTube more than any other channel, then producing the best video content should be a top priority. Keep in mind that you’re creating content that appeals to your consumers and not yourself; by focusing on their needs you’ll be in a better position to capitalize on their interests.
3. Create a Content Execution Plan
Once a strategy for your content marketing has been determined, create an execution plan. The execution plan adds stability to your efforts, and ensures that you can track the progress of each piece of content at every level. The plan itself should include a schedule, a brainstorm session or outline, and the creation of the actual content.
Assessing your target audience should provide you with some context on how to schedule your content. If your audience is extremely engaged, then you may want to post relevant content weekly or even daily, based off the audience consuming it. Creating a calendar for your content allows for accountability and consistency.
When it comes to the creative process, certain people should be responsible for regularly contributing content ideas. However, the development of your content should be transparent so that anyone who has a great idea can contribute. You don’t want someone to keep an idea to themselves because of restrictions. Once an idea is approved, you can move along to creating it.
Since content creation is the last part of the process, there should be defined roles for all involved. A typical execution process begins with writers and designers who expand upon the ideas developed during the idea phase. Once the content is written it is passed off to a copy editor who may then pass it along to designers. Once the piece is reviewed by all those involved in the process and revisions are made, your content is ready to go!
4. Determine Key Metrics
Measuring the metrics of your content is integral to determining the success of your strategy. The objectives you initially set for your content marketing strategy will dictate the metrics you value. Examples of metrics that can be measured include website traffic, leads, or sales. These metrics help prove the value of your content strategy efforts on a larger scale, which is extremely valuable when dealing with stakeholders who either aren’t exposed to the content marketing side of your business, or who are skeptical of its value.
5. Evaluate and Refine Your Strategy
The key to success in content marketing is the ability to evaluate your strategy and refine it based on performance. In addition to determining metrics for your content marketing strategy, you will need to establish a regular schedule for tracking the performance of your content. Maintaining a schedule for analyzing data allows for you to objectively evaluate your current processes. With digital marketing constantly evolving and new platforms arising, it’s vital that your strategy adapt as well.
There you have it: a guide to content marketing. By leveraging these best practices, you can create an effective content marketing strategy or fine-tune the one you already have in place. It will take some work to build when you’re just starting out, but it will be worth it in the long-run.
A marketing campaign is a coordinated series of tactics used to promote a product or service. It’s a path that you pave for your target customer to follow so they can find you. To produce a highly successful marketing campaign, you need a focused strategy and deliberate execution. This seems like common sense, but without clear direction, the daunting, general urgency to achieve can cloud judgment—and that anxiety can be quite counterproductive to your goals. It’s important to take a beat and assess the situation.
No matter how big or small your company is, and whether you sell million-dollar machines or five-dollar screwdrivers, you must follow a process in order to create successful marketing campaigns. Otherwise, your campaign will be as effective as if you payed people to buy from you.
When our agency meets with any new client for the first time, we ask all sorts of questions to learn as much about their business as we can. The most valuable answers usually come from questions that begin with this word: “Why?” You’d be amazed at how quickly you can get an “aha” moment by simply asking this question. Often, our clients haven’t thought to ask why they want something or why they’ve been doing things a certain way. It’s not because our clients aren’t insightful or sophisticated. It’s because they are so focused on the minutia of the current situation that the whys get lost in the sauce. Remembering to take a step back to ask that simple question will give you a competitive edge in each phase of your marketing campaign.
Why Are We Doing This?
Start your brainstorming sessions with this question: Why create a marketing campaign, anyway? Think beyond a specific marketing tactic or creative piece (e.g. brochure, email, direct mail, trade show booth) and define what you are trying to accomplish in the grand scheme of things. Your motivation might be to raise general awareness of your brand, or it might be to make money from the sales of your cool new product. Look at the campaign’s greater organizational purpose. You need to spend some time strolling through the forest before you start chopping down trees.
What Are We Trying to Achieve?
Now that you know the big picture, let’s get into some details. What action do you want people to take? For your campaign, your goal could be to measure Facebook likes, form submissions on your website, phone consultations, sales, and so on. Choose leading and lagging key performance indicators that are specific, measurable, and attainable according to what you want. For example, when we send out our email campaigns to our contacts, our goal is to get at least 20% of them to click (a lagging indicator). Setting clear goals with measurable results has the dual impact of planning your campaign and evaluating it.
Who Do We Target?
Once you know your purpose and your key performance indicators (KPIs), you need to identify your targeted audience. This can include prospects, current customers, or a combination of both; likely, the prospects you want to get are similar to the customers you already have. Using a customer relationship management database (we use HubSpot), you can hone in on the specific group that you want to reach with this campaign.
When you’re selecting your target audience, and when you’re creating the campaign’s content, it is vital to know the target in depth so that you can make informed choices about what kind of content—relevant to your field—they would engage with. You should strongly consider composing buyer persona s , which are detailed but generalized representations of the types of customers you serve, and creating materials targeted to each of them. Once you’ve determined who your target is (their preferences, concerns, hobbies, and any other important detail you can find), you’ll have a better idea of how to reach them.
How Will We Get to Them?
Your goal, audience, offer, and industry will help you to determine what vehicles you use to deliver your message. The campaign should have multiple touchpoints to ensure that your target doesn’t miss your message. For example, if you are sending an email out to your prospects, how will you follow up? Maybe you incorporate a direct mail piece just to those in your target group who didn’t open your initial email. And online retargeting ads can have a better chance at converting those people who clicked through the email but didn’t answer your call to action.
One company I worked with launched a new product by purchasing all of the ad space at a single train station. The station was strategically located where most of the target audience would jump on, jump off, transfer to bus or drive through on their daily commute. Along with grabbing the attention of their target audience, their campaign garnered publicity for the brand beyond belief when reporters broadcasted the clever idea on national television. So don’t be afraid to innovate.
Building the Campaign
What Do They Want?
Time for the big kahuna. If you have done adequate research and know your customers, it shouldn’t be difficult to come up with a call-to-action that attracts them and compels them to complete the desired action. Identify a need of theirs and come up with a solution they would find helpful.
For example, our clients, who are mostly small industrial brands, tend to reach out to us for help with website design. To supplement our services, we offer a free ebook on exactly that topic to educate them on website design and also to promote our services. Or if you work in sales, you might offer a spreadsheet template for organizing your client’s contacts. And lawyers often offer 30-minute consultations to prospects to hear their concerns and give them essential information. Always look at a situation from your customer’s perspective. If you can throw them a bone, especially something helpful, free, and very relevant, they’re more likely to appreciate you and pursue your business.
T he Creative
This is the meat of your campaign. Your in-house creative team or your agency has to make sure that all parts of your campaign grab the attention of your audience and ultimately drive them to your desired action.
The first step in the creative process is to develop the overall concept of the piece or pieces that will make up your campaign. Your concept should support your goal, remain on brand, and elicit the desired response. Great design will catch your target’s eye, guide them through the piece, and reinforce the message.
Once your company agrees on the concept, you’ll need your copy (the headlines, sub-heads, body text—all the components of the writing). A coworker in my past life once told me, “Every single word on the page should have a purpose. If you can do without it, it shouldn’t be there.” No matter what, copy has to do more than fit in with the overall campaign. Copy has to support it and enhance it—never work against it. Remember, your call-to-action is the most important component to your campaign, and the copy conveys the details of the offer itself.
Making It Happen
We’re All in This Together
You’ve got a beautiful landing page, trade show booth, mailer, brochure… you should be proud of your work. But that’s just the beginning of the campaign. Now you have to deliver on what you promised. Is your team ready? Do they even know about the campaign and its goal?
Everyone, and I mean everyone—not just the key decision-makers—should know about the campaign in order to support it and seal the deal with your target. In some situations, you can simply inform your team with an email including a few images and descriptions for the campaign’s essentials. In other situations, you would be wise to invest in a presentation that details the campaign in depth. It’s up to you, but I highly advise you to be thorough.
Failing to inform your team will cause it to miss opportunities. Fast food companies spend millions on television, print, radio ads, and in-store signage “this month only” campaigns. Yet I can think of many instances when the point-of-sale store clerks didn’t even know about the campaign when I walked in. The staff thought I was pulling one over on them when I mentioned it. Well, the next week the store was decorated from head to tail with signage, and there was a recorded message in the drive through promoting the campaign. Informing the whole team eliminates communication gaps between your company and your customer. Additionally, it brings everyone together under the common goal.
Where it is appropriate, inform your team of the KPIs of your campaign and get their help to track the campaign’s performance. If you do that, not only will your team members have the campaign at the forefront of their minds, but they’ll also all be able to contribute valuable analysis and suggestions directly from each of your campaign’s touchpoints. You should measure your performance throughout the campaign to check that you are on target to meet your goals.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line for all marketing campaigns is to earn more business. Whether it’s YouTube views, leads for your sales team, or money in the till, a successful campaign can sustain and grow your company. Empower your campaign by understanding its purpose and then plotting out the details. You’ll spend less time rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs and more time not crashing into icebergs. Kate Winslet (and your boss) will thank you.
Contrary to popular belief, brand image extends far beyond logos. Everything related to your company comprises brand image. Brand is identity, and a strong brand forms connections and cultivates relationships with others— kind of like you in your personal life .
Question: Which laundry detergent do you use, and why? Is it the smell? The stain-fighting power? The nostalgia? Whatever it is, I can pretty much guarantee that if you have loyalty to any one laundry detergent, it comes down to your emotional relationship with the brand. You buy it time and time again trusting that it will come through for you just like it did the last time. You know that every time you wash your clothes, they will smell like comfort and fond memories, not last week’s BBQ stain. You buy your laundry detergent because of your bond to your brand.
And if you don’t have an attachment to any one detergent, you probably try something new just about every time one runs out—like speed dating. Imagine the laundry detergent companies vying for just a chance at your attention. They lament your refusal to commit. Do you see their sad, jealous faces in your head? Do you want to be one of those sad, jealous faces in the crowd?
When you’re creating your own brand, it may seem like a given that you seem as special in the marketplace as you feel as a person. These are delusions of grandeur, my friend. In today’s world, consumers have a million options in most categories, and only the strong survive. A strong brand helps consumers to make decisions about which vacuum to buy, which restaurant to go to for dinner, or which team to cheer for. It also determines if they’ll buy again.
Branding and identity are one and the same. Your company has a brand/identity whether you meant to make one or not. Many aspects make up this identity. Some are explicitly represented like logos, colors, text, and fonts. Others are implicit, like values, missions, and personalities. These components interact with each other to influence everyone who encounters your brand. Your goal should be to make people think of your company the way you envision your company to be.
Start with thorough market research to understand the current marketplace and your place in it. Market research helps you discover what problems your target customers face and what you can offer them. Unfortunately, just because you think your product is cool, or even if your product has truly innovative and unique technology, none of it matters without understanding your business through the eyes of your customer. That’s the only way to pinpoint the product’s true value. After all, the customer is always right.
Market research can also teach you the common characteristics of your buyers, from their hometowns to their hobbies, and that knowledge can sustain your brand. You can collect new information from your target with focus groups , surveys, or one-on-one interviews with the field’s most enthusiastic consumers. These are especially useful during the development stages of any product, service, or campaign. You can and should also collect data as you go along for all your digital marketing efforts. Google Analytics enables you to track behavior on your website, like the source that led the user to your site, where they went and through what path, how long they remained on a page, the demographics of visitors, and much, much more. If you want to run some paid search advertising, Google AdWords and Facebook offer analytical tools to track performance as well. And for your email marketing , MailChimp offers reports about recipient activity so that you can see who’s engaging and with what. Whatever you do, make sure you have some math to evaluate yourself and make ongoing improvements.
Based on your market research, you can develop a concept that highlights the product’s most desirable features and benefits. The concept should include creative content that connects with your target audience in a memorable and intriguing way. Visually, you can characterize your brand by its own unique combination of colors , fonts, and tones to tell a memorable story that resonates with your audience. Choose designs and styles that sum up your brand. For example, if your company values imagination above all, choose red as one of your central colors.
Once you have designed the overall concept, deploy the creative content strategically. First, submerge your own employees in it so they know what’s up. Next, roll out the concept across all mediums that interact directly with the customer. You might want to create different versions of your content according to the medium and the target audience. This can be as simple as adjusting the formatting of images you share on different social media platforms (Facebook needs a larger image, while Twitter needs a smaller one). Or, if you have very different audiences across social media channels (your Facebook followers are mostly male teenagers who love cooking and your Twitter followers are mostly middle-aged, outdoorsy females), you might want to curate different content for different platforms, catered to each segment.
Reinforce your message in company meetings and in all interactions with other employees. The message of your brand should reflect your company, which means that the people in your company should embody the traits of the brand. Since your brand relates directly to your company culture, it should affect hiring decisions. Bring on people who have the same values and qualities to keep a consistent identity and foster great employee morale.
Having a consistent brand image across all mediums can catapult your brand’s performance. But as the relationship between companies and their customer base changes, the brand should also reflect these changes. As a company, you must understand the evolving relationship between your company and the end user, or you’ll die out. And if a member of your company fails to represent your core values, they can leave a long-lasting bad impression on the people you wanted to attract. On the flipside, if your members have the heart and soul of the culture , they’ll be ambassadors for your brand just by going about their day-to-day lives. That’s great PR at no cost (I mean, if you don’t count all their salaries).
A successful brand requires consistent improvements and innovations to overcome competition demands, but this doesn’t mean changing the story, mission, or values of the brand. Improvements should maintain the overall image and integrity of your brand.
Remember back in high school, how people—not you, but, you know, other people—would change their clothes, speech, and opinions to fit in with a clique? Now, while it’s true that the environment naturally evolves, and Victorian petticoats are not stylish anymore, you realize that you—excuse me, OTHER people realized that THEY—should have just been who they were. It’s the same with branding.
So why is branding important? Branding is your product, service, and company. With an effective brand image, you can build lifelong relationships between your company of real people and the real people in the marketplace.
Advertising and public relations. They’re pretty much the same, right? Is there a difference? Try to answer the question without Google. I mean, there’s a chance you used it to find this article… um… well, now that you’re here, I’ll just explain.
You shouldn’t feel too bad. Marketing, advertising, and public relations are often mistakenly used interchangeably in everyday conversations, loosely defined as strategies used to increase a company’s brand awareness and generate sales. They’re all related to that idea, but they have distinct differences. Let me break it down for you.
Think of marketing as a lovely fruit salad. The fruit salad has various fruit ingredients, similar in their general fruitiness, but different in color, texture, flavor, and nutritional value. In marketing, two important ingredients are advertising and public relations, and one could argue that comparing advertising and public relations is like comparing apples and oranges.
Now, the fruit salad lives in a bowl. In this analogy, the bowl represents the media. Marshall McLuhan wrote legendary research arguing that the medium is the message, meaning that what you have to say and the method by which you’re going to say it are inextricably intertwined. Whether you consume your fruit salad in a bowl, on a plate, with your hands, or through an IV, you transport it through something, and what you choose as that medium affects the overall experience of the fruit salad.
Media—including television, radio, search engines, social media, newspapers, trade shows, snail mail, and even word of mouth—transport the message of your brand to your audience. Both advertising and public relations typically utilize the same avenues of the media, but with different intent and strategy. Advertising jumps into the conversation, and public relations entices the target audience to jump into the conversation themselves. I’ll discuss how you can use the media for both your advertising and your PR efforts as I describe the difference between them.
Advertising—the action of calling something to the attention of the public, especially by paid announcements (Merriam-Webster)
Advertising is a paid message tailored to a target audience, and it specifically requires creating appealing audio/visual content. The content communicates to the target audience and the public through media, including taglines, photo shoots, billboards, magazines, TV, and radio spots or even practicing search engine optimization with paid search advertising .
Successful advertising promotes awareness, creates a desire for the product or service, highlights the image of the company (its brand), and encourages action. Advertising is a marketing tactic that strategically targets the people who would want to consume it. That means advertisements are essentially their own offers; your company trades money for the audience’s time and attention, and the audience trades its time and attention for information, justification, or pure entertainment.
Approximately 111.3 million people tuned in to watch the Falcons and the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2017. The majority of them watched—consciously or subconsciously—the commercials that debuted throughout game time. Aside from $1,000,000 average cost to produce a Super Bowl commercial , advertisers paid about $5,000,000 for 30 seconds of airtime and upwards of another $1,000,000 to market the commercial’s release before the game. Whew, that’s a lot of money, but the Super Bowl’s vast viewership gives power to advertising that can easily make the price worth it. They’re such a phenomenon in America that, for some viewers , the game is just something to watch between commercials.
People enjoy them because great advertisements evoke emotion. You laugh. You cry. You feel something about the advertisement and, by association, the brand. When you create advertisements, it should be a given that you root them in your company’s branding. Brand represents your company’s personality, values, skills, and everything important to your business. Guess what? Those things matter to your customers, too. And that’s where public relations become crucial.
Public relations—the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, film, or institution (Merriam-Webster)
Once released, it’s up to the recipient to decide the message’s meaning and worth. When executed properly, a good public relations strategy stretches the brand’s reach and collects loyal followers that match the brand.
Broadly, the public relations field concentrates on the relationship between the company and the public. (It seems self-explanatory now, doesn’t it?) Here at HeavyDuty, we prefer to get specific, so we call these efforts targeted relations. Targeted relations strategies increase favorability for the company and its products on a scale that advertising alone can’t do. So these strategies usually come to fruition behind the scenes. In contrast to advertising, other than production costs, you don’t pay for the spotlight—relations strategies weave themselves into your target’s conversation. Once you’ve aimed and launched your marketing campaign to the right people, ideally, they’ll circulate your message to more of the right people organically. Then, you need to be involved in every touchpoint of that conversation to keep it alive and well.
The 1999 film The Blair Witch Project grossed $248,639,099 during its initial theatrical run, and along the way, it sparked a new trend for the horror genre, on a $60,000 production budget. The film follows three college students filming a documentary about the legendary Blair Witch in the woods of Maryland. To create hype before the film’s release, creators Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez handed out a few clips of the film around US universities, and the students spread them like wildfire. Myrick and Sanchez also published missing persons reports for the main characters, hosted an amateur website about the story, and submitted the piece to film festivals as a documentary. Thus, the creators fueled the horror factor and the intrigue, securing their substantial viewership by convincing their target audience that the events actually happened—and they absolutely, positively did not. But to this day, people still Google “Is the Blair Witch Project real?” The public recognizes The Blair Witch Project not only as a cult classic with an ongoing following, but also as the catalyst for a new trend in horror—found footage. By taking advantage of the media and the chilling, mysterious nature of the product they sold, The Blair Witch Project made its mark on the industry.
You can do the same. Whether you realize it or not, your brand already has an identity, and you have resources at your disposal. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram have dramatically strengthened and shortened the communication path between a brand and its customers. A customer can instantly broadcast a company’s brand message, which in turn can spread around the world in moments, at basically no cost. That can work for you or against you, so make it work for you with consistency in your tone, attitude, values—all the things that make up your brand identity. And when you mess up—and you will—be quick to respond with sincere respect. Your real-life friendships require transparency, personal connection, and effort. Your brand’s relationships work the same way.
You Need Both
Advertising might seem like PR on steroids, and PR might seem like free advertising. But that’s like saying that an apple is just a red orange—sure, they’re both fruits, but they’re different fruits. You need to push advertising to acquire your audience. You need PR to keep your audience. Advertising and public relations have to partner up to support your marketing as a whole.