Content marketing can build a business out of nothing, establishing you as a leader in your industry, developing authority and attracting new customers. However, content marketing doesn't come cheap. Employing videographers, designers and copywriters can easily add up and leave you with an enormous bill.
If you're investing money in professionally made YouTube videos, slick infographics and quality long-form articles, you've got to be sure to squeeze every bit of value out of your content assets as possible.
In this blog, I'm going to look at five techniques you can use to make your content work harder and earn better results for your business.
What does your content planning process look like? Predictions from a crystal ball? Blog titles out of a hat? Copying popular subjects from Epic Beat?
All good options and they all might result in content which your audience wants to read However, there's a better way, a way to identify exactly what your audience wants to read.
All you have to do is listen to your customers.
Listen to the questions they ask, the problems they experience, the ambitions they have and challenges they face. Listen to everything they say and use it as a framework for your content.
Now, it's all well and good saying that but doing it is another thing altogether. How do you actually get in a position to overhear your audience?
Two words: watering holes.
In marketing, a watering hole is an online space where your prospective customers gather to discuss work-related things. Here is an example from the Glasgow Entrepreneurs group on LinkedIn.
Watering holes grant you amazing access to the inner thoughts of your prospective customers, allowing you to listen in on what they're talking about.
Now, imagine you run a financial advice firm and need to plan some new blogs. Jump over to discussion site Reddit, head to the personal finance section and you immediately have access to thousands of posts by people discussing common financial problems.
If you see certain questions or discussions popping up again and again, build blogs around them and slot them into your content calendar.
Some subject matters experience sporadic interest and activity. For example, searches for Hackgate(the scandal over phone hacking) skyrocketed in mid-2011 before dwindling to almost nothing one year later.
Here is a snapshot of searches for Hackgate since 2004.
If a subject matter experiences this sort of irregular and intermittent interest, it's called trending content. Trending content generally enjoys immense popularity for a period of time before quickly dying off. This sort of content lets you tap into a gargantuan audience but only if you're quick enough.
The alternative is writing about subject matter which has a consistent and steady level of interest and activity. For example, searches for How to buy a house are steady throughout the year.
Subject matter that enjoys this sort of regular interest is called evergreen content. It's stuff that people are always searching for and thus gives you access to a permanent audience.
Evergreen content doesn't date and continues attracting traffic for a prolonged period of time. This allows you to build a strong regular readership that will continue growing without any effort from you.
An engaged audience is good. It creates a buzz around your business and helps amplify your content. Sadly, most readers are pretty bad at taking the initiative and engaging with either you or your content.
Readers are all content to click, read and leave. Even if someone enjoys your blog, chances are they won't leave a message or share the link.
And if I'm honest, I'm exactly the same. I might occasionally mention a cool article to a friend but I hardly ever share content publicly.
If you want to kick start your engagement, you've got to make it happen.
One of the easiest ways to incite engagement with your content is by setting a good example. Proactively engage with everyone you come into contact with. If you quote someone in a blog, give them a heads up and ask them to help promote your article. If someone leaves a comment, write them a unique and personalised reply. If another company mentions your content in another blog, jump over to their blog and start a conversation. This works for two reasons.
One, it shows you are willing to talk to people and that's important because readers don't want to be ignored. Showing that you are willing to talk to your readers, removes that obstacle.
Two, it's a way of bringing your audience into your content creation process and, as we all know, user generated content is the content marketing equivalent of golden nectar.
After all, if a user sees their content on your platform, they are substantially more likely to share it, granting you access to their network contacts.
Each piece of content is a permanent asset for your website, living on the web and providing an entry point to your website.
However, the internet is a big, busy and competitive place. If you leave something lying around for any length of time, it will get lost in the noise. To keep your content delivering top notch results, you've got to regularly dust it off and into it.
Every piece of content we produce goes through a thorough re-publication process, which seeks to maximise the value of every word, image, animation and video. Sometimes it's as simple as lining up some promotional posts on social media, other times it's segmenting content and syndicating it out to third party sites.
The truth is, what you do isn't the most important thing, it's that you do something.
As we mentioned back at the start, content marketing isn't cheap. Whether it's dedicating your own time or bringing on specialist staff, content marketing will take its toll on your bank balance.
And spending money hand over fist on YouTube videos nobody's watching and infographics no one is reading makes absolutely no sense.
During your campaigns, carefully record the time and resources required for each activity. When your results are starting to tail off, compare the results against your original investment.
Keeping track of a number of KPIs - unique visits, comments, shares, links, lead generation, etc - will give you a clear idea about which strategies are actually delivering results and which just aren't working.
Don't be afraid to ditch poorly performing channels and test new ones either. The only way you'll find your perfect strategy is through a process of trial and error.
David Valance, Digital Impact