4 Common Threads Found in the Most Successful Content Marketing Pieces
The most successful content marketing campaigns are those that are produced as a result of a consistent strategy, which is integrated throughout the organization. A sure sign that your content is effective is when you see more engagement from your audience, you improve brand awareness and loyalty, and drive quality leads into your sales funnels.
No wonder, then, that 84% of companies in the U.S. are using digital content marketing to connect with their customers at every touchpoint along the buyer’s journey.
Obviously, some brands are better at creating and marketing content than others. What makes them so? Let’s get down to the details and see if there are any basic components that make a post, article, or other piece of content more effective than the average.
1. Well-Researched and Targeted
At its most basic level, content needs to be relatable. In order to better target their messaging, many companies start by segmenting their customers by demographics, and coming up with ideal consumer profiles or “personas.”
While demographics and characteristics are important for understanding who your customers are, they tell you virtually nothing about what customers want. This is why customer intention is so important for businesses of all sizes to understand. Ask yourself:
- What are their biggest concerns?
- How do they talk?
- What issues do they face on daily basis?
These are just a few questions to help jumpstart the process. One of my favorite places to start is social media. We are lucky enough to live in a time with tools that can listen in to what audiences are talking about, all across the world in real-time. Tools like Mention and Brandwatch give you the ability to track your business name, competitors, or certain keywords across the web to learn as much as you can about a particular subset of online users.
These insights are great for learning what stage consumers are in in the buying cycle, their attitudes, and how to craft content to play to their interests.
2. In-Tune With the World Around It
Let’s take the Super Bowl, for example. Due to its extremely high following, this event has become a staple in many businesses’ messaging. Pet accessories retailer PetSmart found a way to relate its product to football by showcasing doggy images on Instagram:
The post is as cute as it is relevant!
Another one of my favorite examples is Virgin America’s post following gay marriage legalization across the United Kingdom.
— Virgin Holidays (@VirginHolidays) February 5, 2013
By celebrating the success of this bill, they immediately appealed to new demographic in this simple, yet powerful post.
This type of opportunistic promotion is by no means a new concept. But, thanks to the Internet, topics in pop culture are transmitted to vast amounts of people at a much higher speed. Audiences these days are much more receptive to messaging around public causes and interests. To maintain a strong presence, it’s a smart move to take advantage of current events for adding value to your content.
As cultural marketing begins to infiltrate more and more business campaigns, top brands are pulling out all of the stops to find creative ways to leverage mass media for the benefit of their messaging. This is yet another one of the many reasons why social media is such a valuable asset for content marketing.
Again, there are media monitoring tools to help you align your strategy around trending topics. If you have your own hashtag (or use a widely accepted one) to voice your brand opinion on a certain topic, you can use a tool like Talkwalker to track reach and engagement around that hashtag.
This will help you conceptualize and run location-specific or time-sensitive campaigns that generate a positive sentiment around your brand. Throughout the process, you will learn all about your audience and what types of issues spark their interest.
There are many ways to improve your content’s readability.
- Use Shorter Words. Depending on your audience, avoid using long and complex terms. Remember, people are looking through your material in search of answers to their concerns, not an English lesson. Unless you’re appealing to a very specific niche, keep it simple.
- Write in a Conversational Tone. This will obviously depend on the nature of your brand and the type of content you are creating. For popular forms, like blog posts or social media updates, do your best to humanize the messaging. If you read through your content and it sounds like it’s coming from a robot, take your time and add some pizazz.
- Break It Up. No one likes reading a giant wall of text. If you have a lot of words on the page, break it up into easy-to-skim sections with headings.
Keep in mind, simplifying your content too much is not a good route to take. For instance, if you are a B2B business writing for professionals, there will inevitably be some industry terms you will want to include. A good strategy is to identify the extremes in your target audience. Say your company sells cloud software. You will likely be creating content for first-time startups, all the way to big enterprises. Try to find a good middle ground of expertise and apply your messaging accordingly.
4. Standing Out
In the current business landscape, there are thousands of companies out there talking about the exact same things. However, there are a small percentage of those who are considered thought leaders in their respective industries.
What Is It That Sets Them Apart?
They don’t buckle under the fear of voicing their honest opinions, however unpopular that might be.
When it comes to content marketing, “playing it safe” will only get you so far. While a conservative approach isn’t necessarily bad, properly planned risks can serve as enhancers. Consumers want to see personality and innovation in brand messaging.
There are a lot of ways you can go about taking risks to bring your content to the next level:
- Take a Stance on Controversial Topics. Some of the bravest strategies have a mission to make a difference, extending beyond their business goals. For example, many brands have openly boycotted Donald Trump over the course of his presidency.
If you want to show your customers you’re really serious, make sure you put your money where your mouth is. Lighting and furniture company Bellacor cleared away its whole line of Trump Home products in a quick sale to make its position clear.
While you may alienate a percentage of your audience, you can also create a more polarized customer base of those who agree with your views.
- Make Predictions. A great way to catch people’s eyes is to write about how a particular industry might look in the future. A couple of years ago, Mark Zuckerberg predicted the end for smartphones, and claimed AR glasses would be the future. It remains to be seen if Facebook has enough clout to prove him right or not.
The best part about using this approach is that the risk isn’t particularly high (in most cases). Should you be wrong, it was only a prediction. If you are right, you essentially stamped your ticket to becoming a thought leader.
- Experiment With Your Content. There is unlimited scope for experimentation in content creation and marketing. You can start marketing on a new channel, change the tone of your content, or try out new content formats. IKEA is well-known for pioneering augmented reality in its brand catalog, with great success, so far:
While innovation comes with a price, the reward of generating a higher level of customer interest and engagement can be huge.
Over to You
Content marketing is all about building a level of authenticity that sparks actionable results. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith every once in a while. Just as in stock investing, you must ensure each risk is calculated, so you know what you’re getting into. Always keep abreast of current affairs, emerging trends and the latest tech tools, and follow your competition closely to be ready and raring to go at every opportunity to interact with your customers via content.
Rohan Ayyar is the regional marketing manager for India at SEMrush. His blog, The Marketing Mashup, covers digital marketing from the perspective of B2B, B2C, lead generation, mobile marketing, SEO, social media, content marketing, database marketing including predictive analytics, and conversion rate optimization. In addition, he'll look at emerging marketing technology and how marketers can use it. Reach Ayyar at firstname.lastname@example.org.