3 Questions to help get a Return from Content and Social Marketing

Posted on Jun 11, 2014 in content marketing ROI, content strategy | 0 comments

Does this sound like a familiar story? You get some great advice about how publishing on-line content and using social media will raise the profile of your business and win you valuable new customers. You give it a go but you’re not quite sure whether you are getting a return that makes the effort worthwhile.

Content Marketing ROI

Is this ALL I have to show for all that effort?

If it is familiar, then it seems you’re not alone. A study released this week by E-Consultancy showed that only 19% of businesses rated their ability to evaluate their return on investment from social media as good. 43% said it was OK and a whopping 39% acknowledged it was poor.

With content marketing it was a similar picture: 24% good, 46 % OK and 30% poor.

You could probably dive much deeper into this with businesses that said their ability was OK. What does that mean? Either you can be sure that you’re getting an ROI or you can’t, surely.

Content Marketing ROI – 3 Simple questions that could help

Based on conversations with businesses that have struggled with evaluating ROI there’s often a fundamental issue. And it’s this: they weren’t sure what success was going to look like in the first place. There were usually measurements of activity in place, but no clear progression to what I would call a real business objective.

Unless there’s a defined business objective it’s impossible to evaluate the ROI from any marketing – on-line or off-line.

Without meaningful business objectives people tend to fall back on measuring likes and shares. And if that’s what you measure you can end up doing whatever it takes to get as many of those as possible. But a clownish or even visually impressive viral video could get thousands of shares without doing a single thing to improve the image and trust level of your business with the people who really count.

I’m not saying that shares and +1s don’t matter, but try banking them or using them to pay your staff or suppliers.

So my first ‘simple’ question that will lead to a more meaningful ROI is this:

Who are your customers?

Confession time: I only said the questions were simple, not necessarily your answers.

What sort of customers do you want? Are they the same sort of customer as you have now, or something different? Do you want customers with bigger budgets? Do they work in a specific business sector or in specific companies? Do you want to make existing customers aware of other things you could sell them?

The answers will be unique to your business and will determine the content you need to create and the networks you need to build on social media.

Your view might be influenced by analysing the profitability of the different things you sell and projecting these calculations into the future. Are your objectives focused around the areas with the highest potential for delivering a return?

Trying to please everyone is a trap. Without focus you can end up trying to cover too many topics in your content and getting attention from people who will never lead to profitable business. This is about line fishing rather than trawling.

If you have defined the type of business you want to promote and the types of customers you want, you are getting an ROI when you actually see enquiries and orders coming from these sources.

But knowing who they are is just step one. You then have to understand what sort of content is going to get their attention. So question 2 is this:

What questions are they asking?

People don’t want your sales messages or promotional content – they want help.  There’s really no substitute for research to help you understand what your potential customers want to achieve; what challenges do they have and what questions are they asking to help them get what they need?

There will potentially be dozens of practical questions and concerns that they’ll have before they accept the validity and practicality of the solutions you are offering – does your content offer those answers?

How can you identify the critical questions your customers might have? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Interview existing customers to understand how your products, service and business philosophy adds real value to their business or life. What do they find attractive about what you do and what problems have you helped them solve? Their perspective may be different from yours and getting somebody independent to do the interviewing will give you a less biased view.
  • Interview some prospects to get a deeper understanding of their challenges and potential objections to your solutions.
  • Gather intelligence from customer service and sales staff about the questions they get asked and the critical arguments that tend to close sales. These people are already experts in answering customers’ questions and helping them to solve problems.
  • Carry out active listening on relevant social media channels and forums.

It’s usually a good idea to use this research to assemble customer personas so that you feel you are creating content for a real person.

So you know who you want to reach, and you know what questions they are asking. Job done? Not quite. There’s a third and potentially more difficult question you have to ask:

Why are our answers more relevant and more helpful?

I’m not going to go on about the so-called content shock and how the internet is flooded with mediocre (or worse) articles and top 20 lists of this, that or the other. It’s enough to say that your content has to stand out from the crowd and offer a more rewarding experience for those who read it or watch it.

Part of this is about how well structured and well produced it is, but mostly it’s about how relevant and useful it is.

Here’s where you have to bring the expertise, beliefs and values of your organisation into the equation. Something magical starts to happen when you understand how these overlap with the needs of your potential customers.

The easy way out with content is to find events and news that might have an impact on your customers and just pass that on. The more challenging and valuable route is to take the time to analyse and interpret what that means for the highly specific group of people you’ve identified as your targets. This is what internet marketing guru Jay Baer refers to as the ‘And Therefore’ posts. A blunter version of the informational post might be a ‘So What?’ post.

You need:

  • A mechanism for bringing the expertise and insights of your in-house experts into your content – even if they’re not creating the finished piece.
  • Identified themes and points of view that reinforce your brand values and beliefs, and the unique value you bring to your customers.
  • A content ‘voice’ that represents who you are and what you stand for.

But you can’t answer question 3 without looking at 1 and 2 first. Relevance is not an abstract concept. Your content has to be relevant to a defined audience and it has to do a better job of answering their specific questions.  No chance of achieving that if you don’t know who they are.

Job done? Not quite.

Even from this point there’s still a lot to do. How do you turn interest and trust into leads, for example? And how do you convert a loyal audience into paying customers? But unless you are talking to the right people and delivering answers that build your reputation and trust, there’s little chance of doing any of that.

And the more trust you’ve earned, the less resistance you’ll find to converting new customers and finally getting that ROI from your on-line marketing.

Content Marketing ROI

Richard Hussey, Copywriter, Blogger, and Content Marketing Trainer

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B2B Marketing – Are you Capitalising on your most Valuable Asset?

Posted on May 30, 2014 in content strategy, search marketing | 0 comments

So what is your most valuable asset in B2B marketing? And how can that asset can be used to deliver the maximum possible advantage to your business?

B2B Marketing

Does your content answer the questions your customers are asking?

I’d argue that your expertise is your greatest marketing asset.  After all, it’s why your existing customers stay with you – they know they can bring you a problem and they can trust you to provide the solution. And if your expertise is so powerful in growing business with existing customers , doesn’t it seem logical that it should also be a powerful factor in persuading new customers to do business with you?

But how well do you leverage that expertise when it comes to creating leads and winning new business?

One way of getting new business, of course, is to pound the phones. Set up as many appointments as you can and gradually filter the field down from leads and prospects to potential sales.  Again, success will come down to how well you can apply your expertise to would-be customers’ needs.

The other way to capitalise on your expertise – potentially more productive and less painful – is through publishing content.

Acknowledged expertise, trust, authority, call it what you will – on-line B2B marketing and business development is largely about how you apply your expertise to potential customers’ needs.  In the on-line marketing world it’s also about how you use that process of applying expertise to customers’ needs to generate interest, understanding and trust, and how you convert those factors into sales.

Why do businesses buy anything?

Let’s start with a stark reality. In the B2B world nobody would buy anything if that was possible. Nobody really wants to buy our services or products. That means spending money; and as businesspeople we avoid that wherever possible. What businesses have are problems and ambitions. And they are only interested in buying solutions to those problems and ways of achieving those ambitions.

The good news for on-line marketers is that people increasingly turn to the internet looking for answers and solutions. So, populate your on-line presence with relevant answers and your potential customers will find you and engage with you. Obviously there’s a bit more to it than that but for B2B marketing this basic understanding should be what underpins your on-line marketing strategy. Which brings us back to content.

What content should you publish?

This is a common stumbling block for businesses even after they get the message about content marketing. The answer to this is not always easy to find. You have to think long and hard, and possibly commission research to help you understand the answers your potential customers are seeking.

Once you have that understanding, matching those issues to the specific expertise you can offer will lead you towards a rich seam of valuable content. Headline writing, for one thing, will become less of a chore because you’ll understand the issues and specific words that will get the attention of the people you want to engage.

Ultimately your authority and trust will grow as you use your content and your expertise to help people solve problems and achieve their ambitions.  Which also means you have to go beyond superficial information sharing and offer content with real substance and genuine insight.

And, of course, content doesn’t just appear because you’ve identified that you need it. There still has to be a publishing plan: the who, what, where and when. Responsibilities have to be assigned and time has to be scheduled. But all of this is easier when you have clear objectives and a sense of purpose.

Is publishing enough?

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Well, not really. The greatest content in the world won’t help you much if nobody sees it. Promotion, or content amplification is crucially important. And this means much more than just tweeting links to what you’ve published. You need a concerted strategy for building social media and influencer networks to give your content visibility and ensure it gets shared, liked, +1’d and commented on.

Google also loves your expertise

And now for the really good news. Google is increasingly concerned with interpreting what people are really looking for when they type a search query and with providing relevant answers from sources with high authority. Ultimately, this ‘semantic search’ process will matter much more than matching exact strings of keywords in determining what shows up in an individual search engine results page (SERP).

Content focused on delivering meaningful answers, based on your expertise is not only sound marketing practice, it’s also going to be increasingly good for getting found in searches. If you want to understand semantic search and where Google is heading a bit better have a look at this short video from David Amerland.

Businesses that have relied on old-style SEO practices of all colours are finding that they no longer guarantee a high ranking. Without a robust content plan they’re seeing their rankings slide and SEO businesses are focusing increasingly on content and PR alongside the technical aspects of SEO.

So if you want to give your on-line marketing a bit of direction think about these points:

  • Who are the most likely customers for what you sell?
  • What are their biggest challenges?
  • How can your expertise help them survive and grow?
  • What sort of content could you create to help them access (and appreciate) your expertise?
  • How are you going to make sure they notice that content?

Richard Hussey, Copywriter and B2B Content Marketer

Want to explore these ideas in more detail and create a workable content strategy?

Come to the Content Masterclass, Exeter July 1

 

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Seven ‘P’s to improve your content marketing ROI

Posted on May 30, 2014 in content marketing ROI, content strategy | 0 comments

The case for content marketing makes a seductive argument: publishing the right kind of content not only improves your search rankings, it also enhances the credibility of your business – enabling you to win new customers through your experience, knowledge and expertise. Less cold calling, less hard sell and more potential customers finding you through your content.

The concept is easy enough to grasp; but the reality, and getting a genuine return on the time invested, can prove elusive. Here are 7 Ps that will help you focus your efforts more effectively and achieve a real content marketing ROI .

content marketing ROI

Content marketing – don’t leave it to chance

Personas

Or put another way: who are you creating all this content for? There is no possibility whatsoever of forcing people to view or read content against their will. However much it might matter to you, if what you’re writing about does not touch some essential need in your audience, then people will not engage.

And, of course, you don’t just want any old readership, you want to be noticed by people who are likely to become paying customers. You need to work out who is likely to need what you sell and you need to be clear about their issues, concerns and aspirations. You have to understand the questions they will want answered and you have to work out how what you offer helps them achieve what they want.

Scattering content which is about yourself, or with only a vague link to the needs of your audience won’t deliver a return.

Planning

So vital in every aspect of business, yet how often do people approach marketing, and content marketing in particular, without a plan? A rolling content plan is essential. Identifying topics in advance means that you avoid the panic to publish something (anything!) because you haven’t updated the blog for a while.

A plan also makes sure that you are covering all of your target customers with the subjects you identified as the ones that would engage them. With a plan you can ensure that you address all of your key marketing themes regularly and take every opportunity to reinforce your brand values. Planning helps you get the best value from your content creation by identifying how it can be re-purposed and publicised – critical factors in maximising your content marketing ROI.

Professionalism

People will judge you by the quality of what you publish. They won’t make a whole load of allowances because publishing isn’t your core business. Whatever you do, you need to do it well. A poorly lit, hand-held video isn’t going to create the image you want and badly structured blog articles with sloppy grammar will not have potential customers beating down your door. Be realistic about what you are able to do well and be prepared to hire the professional help you need.

Process

This could also be persistence, as the two are linked. Process is the way that you keep publishing content and keep attracting new customers once the initial flush of enthusiasm is over. It doesn’t have to be complicated: it’s a question of identifying who needs to contribute what expertise and effort, and planning when they are going to do it.

Clear responsibilities and clear scheduling of when things need to happen each week and each month will help your content production withstand peaks in workload and unexpected events that can blow you off course. Content marketing doesn’t bring instant results and you won’t get a return unless you’re in it for the long haul.

Process also includes evaluation. Which types of content are generating the most interest? Are people responding in the ways you anticipated? How is it all feeding into more sales? Evaluation has to become part of your routine.

Personality

You can look on the previous 4 Ps as foundations. Anything you build without having them in place is likely to be a bit shaky. But once you have them you can get into the final 3, which is where the big returns start to happen.

Your content has to stand out. It has to be unique, so that people will look at it and feel that no other organisation could have created the same thing.  Personality means that every piece of content reinforces your brand values and interprets events and issues in a way that resonates with your audience and offers highly relevant insights that they can’t find elsewhere. This is how you build real loyalty to your content and, through that, to your brand.

Persuasion

Content marketing is not about overt or hard-selling – ever! But the art of gentle persuasion is critical. Each piece of content should have a purpose and you should have some action in mind that you want people to take. Actions might be subscribing to your blog, following a link to more content, following you on social media or downloading an ebook, for example.

You also need to understand the process that people go through, from becoming aware of your business to becoming a customer. You need content to help them through each stage; anticipating the questions they will ask and the information they need to take the next step.

Promotion

And finally, how many people are going to find your content if you just post it and hope? Probably not that many. And will they be the people who you really want to reach?

Achieving content marketing ROI involves a clear process for identifying all of the networks and groups where your audience can be found. You need to engage with those networks so that they respect your expertise, are receptive to your content and are happy to share and reference it.

Time spent researching relevant and active groups on LinkedIn and Google+ will never be wasted.

It’s often best to get a feel for each group first by observing what people post and the topics that generate most discussion.  You might also want to establish a presence by commenting on other people’s discussions before you start posting your own content.

You also need to understand who your audience is. It is much wider than just potential customers. You need to look at influencers: people with a respected on-line presence and large and relevant networks that you can tap into. Cultivating relationships with people who have a large existing network can be quicker than building your own from scratch.

Think too about your existing customers and your team – they can all become enthusiastic promoters of your brand and your content.

Once you have all 7 Ps fully embedded in the way you do content marketing, you WILL see a return on your investment. And it’s likely to be a significantly better return than you could get with traditional methods of marketing.

Content Marketing

 

Richard Hussey, RSH Copywriting

Content writer and strategist. Trainer at Content Masterclass, Exeter

Read more of my thoughts on copywriting and content marketing on my blog

 

If you want a return from content marketing come to our next Masterclass, Exeter, July 1 2014

 

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