Did you know that only 7 percent of marketers think their content is exceptional?! This means that if you asked 100 marketers what they think about their content only seven people would tell you that their content is worth looking at. Now that’s crazy, especially in a field where just about everyone has some form of a communications degree. Clearly, the only way to do better than this is to plan to do better. After a year of one unexpected drama after another, what could be better than to enter 2021 with a well-laid plan for content that resonates with customers and prospects alike? Let’s do this.
Step 1: Survey Your Target Audience
Sometimes the best way to figure out where you need to be is to ask for directions. We recommend creating a short, but rewarding survey that asks your customers these five questions:
- List two blogs that you regularly read/view.
This question enables you to gauge the style of content your customers prefer, i.e. in long form vs. short form, funny vs. serious, etc.
- What are your top three most pressing work challenges?
This question gives you a topic list for producing valuable (useful) content.
- Check your three favorite content formats?
○ Email ○ Text ○ Mail ○ Video ○ Podcast ○ Webinar ○ Social Media ○ Blogs
This question tells you which channels are worth your budget dollars.
- How often do you like to hear from the companies you do business with?
This question enables you to determine how often you need to create and send content.
- What is the email address or mobile number you would like your gift card sent to?
This question shows them that you are serious about rewarding them for their time.
Step 2: Use Survey Results to Segment Your Audience
Mailchimp recently conducted a survey in which they found that segmented campaigns enjoy a 14.31 percent higher open rate and a 101 percent increase in clicks over non-segmented campaigns. If you haven’t already, divide your customer lists into thoughtful segments that group people according to their industry, company size, job title, etc. Next, use your survey results to segment customers according to their communication preferences (formats), content styles, and frequency. You can also segment customers according to their most pressing challenges (personal interests) by using a Content Automation Tool (CAT). A true martech marvel, a CAT scans available content from all connected sources throughout your enterprise and uses data attributes to automate the process of collecting and sending personalized content to everyone on your list via their preferred channel. It’s what makes ABM a scalable endeavor regardless of the size of your list. Lastly, use a data dashboard to ensure your segment data is perpetually kept clean, complete and enriched.
Step 3: Brainstorm Content Ideas and Create a Calendar
Whether you have a writer in house, or you plan to hire a writer to develop content for you, you will need to provide your content creators with clear directions. Doing so will help you make the most of their time, which will save you money in the long-run. Here, a good old fashioned brainstorm with folks at every point of service for the customer can be extremely helpful. For example, host a topic session and invite folks from sales, customer service, and any other department that may have insights on topics that regularly come up with customers. Next, arrange the topics into a monthly calendar with specific themes for each month. Depending upon the type of industry your target audience is in, there may already be a natural calendar of topics to cover for each month. Be sure to take into consideration how often your customers say they want to hear from you. Yes, Google rewards you when you are constantly churning our fresh content, but it won’t matter how high you rise in SEO numbers if you have irritated your opted-in audience with too much information.
Step 4: Make the Most of Your Content Budget
The good people at MarketingCharts recently shared that the number one challenge most CMOs (47%) report in developing effective content is their budget. There are many things you can do to stretch your content budget, and we’ve listed a few of our favorite tried-and-true methods below:
- Use a CAT – As we shared in step 2 of this blog, a CAT is a lifesaver when it comes to repurposing content. CATS scan all your connected sources, such as your marketing automation platform (MAP); Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system; and other martech, etc. for content that can be reused. More importantly, it can take the same content and repurpose it across a variety of channels, ensuring you get more bang for your marketing bucks.
- Hire a Good Writer – Scan your favorite blogs and take note of the writers who consistently get things said in a way that makes you happy. Contact those writers and see if they are available for your projects. If they aren’t, ask them for a recommendation since talented people usually know other talented people. If their prices are outside of your budget, ask them if they would be willing to edit pieces written by your staff. Make sure the pieces you give them are polished enough that they only require edits and not a complete rewrite.
- Take a Trickle-Down Approach — Review the content pieces on your calendar and identify the ones that are likely to require the most time. For example, a white paper typically takes 24 to 50 hours; and a well-written and researched blog takes around six hours. If you use a professional writer to research and write your white paper, you can then hire a less expensive or junior level writer to repurpose content from the whitepaper for SMS campaigns, emails, direct mail, etc.
- Share Partner Content — Your kindergarten teacher was right, sharing really is good for you. If you have relationships with non-competitor companies in your industry, then consider inviting them to do a guest post. You can also ask their permission to repost one of their blogs on your site that is of interest to your customers. Hopefully, as you develop these kinds of relationships, your newfound content friends will scratch your back in return by sharing your content with their customers.
Step 5: Be Flexible
Once you know your audience and the type of content they want, and you have it lined up on the calendar, it can be easy to go on content auto-pilot, but don’t. Give yourself permission to interrupt your regular broadcasts to bring special and timely messages that will impact your customer’s business lives – or lives in general for that matter. When your content periodically reflects the current climate and cultural changes being experienced (i.e. a pandemic), your readers will recognize that you are in touch with reality and not just plodding along only concerned about your sales records. As Zach Cutler said in his article on Entrepreneur, 6 Ways to Do Well By Doing Good, “Nowadays, being a leader in a company is more than just turning in profits and attracting great talent. It’s also about creating a company that truly cares about the community.” A great way to show people you care is to simply say so via your content.