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Digital marketing offers smaller enterprises the opportunity to punch well above their weight against larger competitors – often with little to no financial outlay. But it’s easy to get confused about the channels available. In this series, we present the best tips and advice from marketing industry experts. This time we’re exploring content marketing.
Last updated: 06 May 2020 6 min read
Content marketing is a great way to get your audience’s attention, wherever they are in the buying journey. When used intelligently, content can bring people to your website, convert them into customers and keep them coming back long after that first purchase. We asked a host of industry experts for their best content marketing advice.
Content is an extremely versatile marketing tool but to get the most out of it, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.
“Be sure to have a goal in mind for your content marketing strategy from the start,” says Paula Hutchings, founder of Hampshire-based Marketing Vision Consultancy. “Are you trying to build brand awareness? Drive product sales? Improve conversions? Different types of content work for different objectives, so choose carefully.”
One way to build your strategy is to use a ‘content funnel’. This is a system designed to introduce new leads to your business and then ‘funnel’ them through different types of content until they become customers.
The typical content funnel has three sections:
Top – Content that grabs attention, builds brand awareness and generates site traffic. Examples include value-add blog content, entertaining social media posts and guest articles (branded content published elsewhere).
Middle – Content designed to nurture relationships and turn visitors into leads. Examples include email newsletters, product information and promotional copy.
Bottom – Reassuring content that converts leads into customers. Examples include case studies, longer blogs, White Papers and product-based explainer videos.
Chances are you’ll have a good idea of who you’re trying to reach, but don’t make any assumptions. Use the tools available – social media, surveys, Google Analytics – to build clear user personas before you start developing your content plan. You can then tailor each piece to the right part of your target audience for the best results.
“Prioritise building some relationships before you start developing content,” says Bethanie Dennis from Silverbean, a marketing agency based in Newcastle. “You can have the strongest, most original content in the world but if you don’t get it in front of the right people, it’s a waste of your time and money.”
“You can have the strongest, most original content in the world but if you don’t get it in front of the right people, it’s a waste of your time and money”Bethanie Dennis, senior outreach manager, Silverbean
These thoughts are echoed by Elle Pollicott, consultant at Nottingham-based digital marketing agency Hallam Internet, who says: “Start-ups shouldn’t shy away from content marketing, but don’t create content for the sake of it. Take the time to get to know your customers and find out what their needs and interests are – you can then create content they’ll engage with.”
Gone are the days where outbound marketing was the only way to get results – in 2019, it helps to act a little more naturally. Online, you can do that by creating content that’s genuinely useful for your audience.
This is something freelance content writer Francesca Baker often tells her clients. “By providing relevant advice and useful information on a regular basis, you’ll give people another reason to keep returning to your website,” she says. “Insightful content – whether it’s a how-to guide, review video or detailed White Paper – shows that you know what you’re talking about, and it’s a softer sell than blatant product-based copy.”
To provide true value for your audience you’ll need to offer something your competitors don’t; that could mean improving on what’s already out there or answering audience questions that haven’t been addressed yet. Alexander Jobling did just that, and his music-centred PR company Burstimo is now reaping the rewards.
“We entered a market that was already full of established companies with huge amounts of experience, so we had to do something different to ensure our target audience noticed and trusted us,” he says.
“We wanted to give back to musicians so we wrote advice blogs for an ‘Unsigned Advice’ section of our website; they were incredibly popular so we explored other channels, such as Instagram and YouTube. Together, all of that content helped us become one of the most in-demand and trusted companies in our industry.”
Search engine optimisation is a marketing channel on its own but it’s also firmly intertwined with content, in that any content you create should meet the guidelines and recommendations of Google and its competitors.
You can learn the basics through the search engines’ own Webmaster Guidelines, but the goalposts will change from time to time and it’s important to keep up.
Anthea Morris, whose sexual health business Better2Know has thrived thanks to a comprehensive content marketing strategy, suggests using various sources for your updates: “Google has a complex algorithm to decide who comes top of the search results and it changes often, sometimes without warning – we’ve been impacted positively and negatively by these algorithm adjustments,” she says.
“The more people’s views and perspectives you can get on the latest goings-on, the better positioned you’ll be to keep your site in good shape. Try weighing up the different points you find – see what comes up the most and what makes the most sense to you as the business owner.”
There are plenty of places to find information, too. Heather Horton, co-founder of marketing agency Ecrubox Digital, recommends subscribing to relevant “blogs, magazines, email newsletters and updates from companies leading the way in content marketing”.
“Reading every article can be a time-consuming task,” she adds, “so consider setting up Google Alerts for keywords. You’ll then get a digest of relevant info through to your inbox at a frequency you can manage.”
Sales and Marketing