Make your content pay its way…

With less than half of brands rating their content marketing as effective, how can we be more strategic about the way we approach our content to make it work harder?

By: Helen Gilchrist,   4 minutes

Burning money2

With less than half of brands rating their content marketing as effective, how can we be more strategic about the way we approach our content? Helen shares 5 content strategy tips to make your content work harder.

As 2015 gathers pace, one thing’s blindingly clear: more brands and organisations are using content to market themselves than ever before. Hundreds of statistics from dozens of organisations are as ubiquitous as the content itself – but generally they tell us that around 80-90% of brands are investing more than ever in content marketing. No surprises there.

But what’s interesting is that only around 35-40% of them rate their content marketing as effective. Obviously there are hundreds of articles about this too – but the bottom line is that too many organisations are taking a scattergun approach to producing and distributing their content.

Office Worker with Mountain of Paperwork

Not thinking strategically enough about what you really need your content to achieve; or how it fits with your business goals, brand values and audience behaviours; or how to really measure if it’s working or how to feed those results back into your content production – these mistakes could mean your content marketing efforts are wasting valuable time and money.

I went on a great emarketeers one-day course recently, to refresh and update my content strategy know-how. Here are a few thinking points I from the day I thought it’d be helpful/ interesting to share…

1. It’s not just about what you want to tell people – it’s about what the world at large wants to say.
One of the fundamental mistakes brands can make in their content marketing is bleating on about themselves and their products – thinking that’s the only way to get a return on their investment. Take time to listen to what your customers (and their wider demographic) care about and find an interesting, useful way to connect with them through your content. (Clare wrote a great post recently on why your content should pay attention to people – check it out.)

2. Measurement is key – but don’t measure too much and learn too little.
With so many tools out there, it’s easy to get distracted by endless data. But the most important thing is to know what’s essential to get right, then focus on what specific data you need to guide you in the right direction.

3. Mobile first is key, but not where the deal always happens.
Of course, we all know the importance of mobile, and how usage is only set to grow and grow and grow. So we looked at some interesting ways of customising the way you serve up your content depending on what device visitors are using (and really thinking about the context/ headspace they’re likely to be in) to ensure it strikes a chord.

“You have to be fast on your feet and adapt, or else everything else is useless.” – Charles de Gaule

But one of the most interesting insights came from one of my course mates, a content manager at a large international shoe brand. He told us how they’d identified that their customers often browse on mobile, but buy on tablet or desktop. Often the actual conversion rates are higher here, but the speed/ dwell time is much quicker – reflecting that the purchasing decision has already been made. People might like to browse and think about buying on their mobiles (so make sure any content you produce to support this is mobile focussed), but they currently still feel more reassured/ secure buying on PC or tablet.

4. Don’t talk about launch dates as the big goal – that’s when the real work begins!
Content strategy is about constantly evolving, responding and refining – not just publishing content online and ticking it off your list. You wouldn’t start a conversation with someone and then leave the room, would you? “You have to be fast on your feet and adapt, or else everything else is useless.” – Charles de Gaule (not actually talking about content strategy of course, but helpful to remember all the same!)

5. Don’t ignore the cores.
It may sound obvious, but does your current content really help your users do what they want to do and your business meet its objectives?

We looked at something called ‘The Core Model’ by Are Halland, which made 200% sense. There’s heaps about it online if you look around, but broken down to the basics, it’s essentially about considering:

What are your business objectives? What does your organisation want to achieve, by priority?

What are your user tasks? What is it that people come to your website wanting to know or get done, by priority? (If you’re interested in unpicking this more, Gerry McGovern has developed an interesting method for really getting this right with his ‘top task surveys’)

Core diagram

Imagine a Venn diagram with the answers to these questions in each circle. Your ‘core pages’ are where they overlap – where your users solve their tasks AND you reach your business objectives. So, for example, if you’re a hotel, one of your cores is likely to be the booking page. It’s astoundingly simple, yet something that’s too often overlooked.

Taking time to identify these cores and planning your content accordingly will reap rewards – as shown by the Norwegian Cancer Society example below.

This tool is handy for planning it out and making sure you cover off all the most important questions:

Core model sheet

Inward pages – how will users get to our pages? Eg Google search, magazine article, social media links/ shares, picking up a flyer etc

Core content – what content elements do we need to ensure our users solve their tasks (ie what they want to do or know), while also respecting our business objectives? What’s the best solution for the user and us?

Outward paths – after the user has solved their task, where do we want to send them next? What else are they likely to be interested in, intuitively – and what other content can we tempt them with that’s useful for both them and us?

There’s a great example of this approach in action, and the impressive impact it had, on this Slideshare about the Norwegian Cancer Society website:

Here are some of the most head-turning successes:

  • Cancer line conversations up 40%
  • One-time donations up 198%
  • Regular donors up 288%
  • Sums received from regular donors up 382%
  • Annual income tripled

Thanks to Anne Caborn at In The Content Lab for sharing these insights (amongst many more) and leading a fascinating day.


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