3 Keys to a Highly-Effective Content Marketing Strategy

Zero in on these three areas of content marketing to boost engagement with customers and prospects.
September 17, 2020 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Covid-19 has significantly changed business-to-business marketing plans. As Forrester noted recently, “It’s more than a combination of discrete trends such as rising bounce rates, declining open rates, or increasing churn; it’s that buyers now expect a fundamentally different relationship with your company.” Consequently, creating compelling, relevant and consistent content is a highly effective way to attract and retain your audience’s attention, gain their trust, and, ultimately, to convert them to customers.

In a world full of false advertising and eroding trust, content marketing should be at the heart of any digital marketing strategy. It’s the foundation of all digital marketing channels, including SEO, public relations, social media and traffic generation. According to Hubspot, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing in 2020. Rather than trying to directly sell your products or services, you are offering useful, relevant content to your prospects and customers to help them overcome their challenges. So then, the focus is on content – be it in the form of infographics, YouTube videos, whitepapers, webpages or information in other formats.

Effective content marketing sends a message to potential customers that you are passionate about what you do and that you want to share your expertise with them — for free. To achieve this goal, it’s important to focus on three prongs: business goals, personas, and your sales funnel.

Related: The 17 Best Content Marketing Books You Can Read Right Now

Three Essential Factors to Build Your Content Marketing Strategy

In order for your content marketing efforts to be successful, you need to create a strategy based on these three factors.

1. Business Goals

Step One in beginning an effective content marketing strategy is to be certain it lines up with your business goals. Understanding what business goal you want to achieve or support gives you the needed clarity to set the appropriate marketing objectives. Are you aiming to strengthen customer loyalty and reduce churn? Maybe the goal is to attract new prospects or overcome objections. Once you have defined your marketing goals, you can develop your content marketing campaign.

2. Personas

Developing buyer personas is a necessary part of your strategy, but you have to take it a step further. Find the individuals within your audience that have the influence and enthusiasm that will help grow your company. If your audience is split into several types of buyers, refine your buyer personas to focus on those most likely to convert.

Start by identifying some of your most loyal customers. From there, find the primary decision-makers who championed the decision to purchase from or hire you. There are probably sales or service team members in your company who have close relationships with these people. Find those employees, and use sales data to create a persona – data points like goals/motivations, challenges, background, demographics, common objections, biggest fears and hobbies.

3. Your sales funnel

Vendor research happens online, and what will move the buyer down the pipeline is valuable content being published on your web, email, search and social channels. In order to drive success with B2B content marketing, you need to understand how the content you create fits into the different stages of your sales funnel.

Be aware that your funnel may vary from the norm depending on elements such as your sector, solution, business model, pricing structure and target market. In fact, experts report that “today’s B2B buyer might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to a vendor.” Confer with the sales team about the particulars of your sales funnel, then use that intelligence to create a marketing strategy that addresses leads at the top, middle and bottom of that funnel.

Related: Content and Content Marketing Are Not the Same. Here’s How to Frame the Top 11 Content Formats.

What Can Be Gained from Content Marketing?

There are many benefits of content marketing, including:

  • Addressing pain points leads to sales: When prospects look online for ways to solve their issues, your content is there to help over and over. As an example, marketers who use blogs as a primary communications tactic are 13x more likely to see return on investment.

  • Creating a community: As you establish thought leadership through content marketing, you gain credibility and encourage stronger relationships with existing and future customers.

  • Long-run savings: Good content has legs. It continues to work for you long after you’ve created it, continually bringing in qualified leads. That lessens paid marketing expenses. Demand Metric found that not only does content marketing cost 62% less than traditional marketing efforts, but it generates three times the number of leads.

HubSpot’s content marketing efforts showcase the powerful results that can be produced from a comprehensive strategy. The company is well-known because they produce massive amounts of content. HubSpot sells inbound market, sales and service software, but its claim to fame among marketers is the quantity and quality of its marketing resources, much of which is free. Their repertoire includes case studies, guides, ebooks, blog posts, courses, reports and more. Their content drives free traffic to their site, with the end goal of converting those leads into customers without spending a dime on advertising.

Related: The 5 Cs of Content Marketing Copy

Gaining Leads, Gaining Trust

Compelling and relevant content is the cornerstone of demand generation and lead nurturing strategy. Marketers depend on content to connect with prospects and existing customers in the current communications landscape, but to be successful, it must inform, excite and be worthy of sharing. It should arm audiences to address obstacles and accomplish their goals. If you’re able to accomplish this, prospects will come to trust your brand. This involves prioritizing original content creation to promote that message so it can add value to the lives of your customers. Use the best practices discussed above to begin or refine your content marketing strategy.

Relationships, Relevance, and Content Marketing for Banks: Shondell Varcianna on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Tips for financial services marketers from Varci Media owner Shondell Varcianna, a financial services veteran who helps financial institutions create highly targeted and relevant digital content. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

In this episode of Marketing Smarts, I talk with Shondell Varcianna, owner of content management agency Varci Media, about how banks, mortgage companies, and other financial institutions can create content that serves (and grows) their audience.

Listen to it later:

I invited Shondell to Marketing Smarts to talk about what makes financial services content marketing different, and what banks, mortgage companies, and other financial institutions need to do to win at content.

Shondell came to content marketing after years in the banking industry. First, she worked at Bank of Montreal underwriting million-dollar mortgages. Later, she joined Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation. There, she built relationships with banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, and mortgage brokers, among others.

Having seen what works (and what doesn’t) when creating content for banks and financial companies, Shondell founded Varci Media to help financial institutions get more inbound inquiries by creating content that converts.

Shondell and I talk about writing content for a niche audience, the importance of having a strategy for promoting your content, how to create content that speaks to financial services customers and your target audience, and more.

We recorded this show live in our MarketingProfs PRO Facebook group. If you’re a PRO member, join us there for livestream videos and other exclusive content!

Listen to the entire show now, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by Kronologic.

If you’re generating 100 or more marketing leads per month, you can significantly increase your sales with Kronologicthe world’s first Virtual SDR technology and calendar-first sales engagement platform. Our AI-driven tech engages leads in seconds on your reps’ behalf and schedules those leads in the calendar. See Kronologic for yourself!

“Marketing Smarts” theme music composed by Juanito Pascual of Signature Tones.

Quickly Create Compelling Content for Your Products with This Simple Mockup Generator

Get Mockuuups Studio for just $40.
September 10, 2020 2 min read
Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you’ll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

As an entrepreneur, you have to always be thinking of creative ways to showcase your products or services. Hiring a designer to stage a shopping module or marketing landing page is exorbitantly expensive, but it’s important to present your product in compelling ways. Mockuuups Studio offers a more budget-friendly solution.

Mockuuups Studio is an extremely easy mockup generator that allows you to turn screenshots and basic product photos into gorgeous lifestyle images. With more than 600 scenes to choose from, the app is designed to add drama and effects to all of your products, so you can demonstrate how they work in the real world. Mockuuups Studio is so easy, all you have to do is import an image and the app takes care of the rest, providing marketing materials and visual content for social media or blog posts. Once the image is in, all you have to do is pick the scene that works best for your product, comparing angles, backgrounds, and device types. You can also easily filter mockups based on criteria you enter before you upload your images.

Brimworthy Creative Director Will Swain says, “100% no regrets! Skipping past the fact that this tool works incredibly well, the amount of time it has saved has been a huge benefit to both my company and my clients.”

Streamline your workflow while presenting your products in new, innovative ways. A lifetime subscription to Mockuuups Studio Premium is normally $420, but you can get it today for just $39.99.

How ‘Tangential Content’ Can Elevate Your B2B Company’s Link-Building

Links remain crucial to search engine optimization. But it can be tough for B2B brands, especially when there’s no major launch or corporate-level change to attract publishers. Regardless, you can use “tangential content” to build links throughout the year. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

Links remain crucial to search engine optimization. But it can be tough for B2B brands to build links, especially when nothing major is launching or a large corporate-level change isn’t occurring.

But there are ways to build links throughout the year regardless of what is going on internally. The way to do that is to create your own news and resources that are interesting to publishers.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. But I’ll explain how “tangential content” is key for doing so and how you can incorporate it into your content and outreach strategy.

What is tangential content?

At Fractl, we define tangential content somewhat related, but not directly tied to, your product or service offering.

There’s a sweet spot between content’s being so related to what you do that your content sounds like an ad—and being so unrelated that people can’t figure out why you created it in the first place. Tangential content lies in the sweet spot between the two.

Let’s look at an actual blog to compare topical content with tangential content. The following are some examples of blog posts from SquareFoot, which I learned about when its head of marketing came on our podcast to talk about tying content to revenue.

This piece on the left is an example of topical content. It talks about something directed related to the brand—renting workspace. It helps people make a buying decision.

The piece on the right, on the other hand, is tangential. Rather than being about renting office space, it’s about making your workplace more productive. It’s appealing to people in the general audience, thus helping raise brand awareness and attracting top-of-the-funnel attention.

Why should you use tangential content?

For two primary reasons.

1. Build brand awareness through top-of-the-funnel on-site content

Blog content and other on-site resources can be extremely useful for providing companies with the information they need to convert. But top-of-the-funnel content has a place in your strategy, as well. For people to convert, they first have to know that your brand exists.

Tangential content can help broaden the awareness of your brand. Simply getting your name out there to an industry audience is a huge first step; it’s the first time you begin to establish trust and recognition.

You can do so by creating high-quality content that is likely to rank for a broad keyword or is highly engaging and shareable (or, ideally, both!).

Take the following Shopify quiz, for example. It’s fun content that is targeting its target market, entrepreneurs, but it isn’t about anything specifically related to its brand. It’s just meant to engage with its audience.

As of this writing, it was a Top 10 most engaged-with blog post, according to BuzzSumo, with 700+ Facebook engagements.

To succeed in executing this approach, research what your audience wants and create it for them, even if it’s not strictly related to your brand offering.

2. Build backlinks by pitching the content to media outlets

On some occasions, to help your audience, you use unique insights and data you have, but there’s a finite amount of such information. Which is why you should also have a plan in place for creating other content to help advance your objectives.

That’s why we use tangential content in most of our link-building efforts for clients. When you’re trying to earn media coverage, publishers usually have little interest in running something that’s all about what you’re selling (unless the value to their readers is obvious). Going the tangential angle allows you to explore other avenues of providing value while broadening the appeal to audiences.

Let’s look at an example. (Note: This type of work is successful if you invest in it over time rather than trying it just once.) For a client, Influence.com, we created a project about social media etiquette. We surveyed people about what they thought was inappropriate behavior on different social platforms, and then reported on the results.

The company helps brands connect with influencers (and influencers connect with each other). Our project wasn’t specifically about influencer marketing, though. Instead, we went the tangential route, zooming out a bit and covering social media, where many influencers have built their audiences.

The strategy worked. We pitched the content and earned media coverage and links from MSN, Bustle, Nasdaq, Real Simple, Small Business Trends, Social Media Today, PR Daily, and others.

That’s the link-building power of tangential content.

How can you create tangential content?

The creation of the content itself won’t vary too much from the topical-content creation process. However, the main difference is at the ideation stage. If you don’t find the perfect idea, the entire project will fall flat.

The key is to be open-minded and to practice “zooming out.” Take your specific offering and ask yourself: What general category does this fall in? Then, take that category and write down related topics.

Here’s a top-level example from Porch.com, a site that helps connect people with home-improvement contractors.

We created content about all of the topics you see in the image. At first glance, parenting may not be the first thing you think of when visiting Porch.com. However, if they were to do a study about parenting, you might well think that makes sense: Porch.com is trying to help you build a better home, and this is a similar theme—just in a broader, tangential sense.

* * *

If you’re looking for ways to bolster your link-building and brand-awareness efforts, then creating and promoting tangential content may be just the tactic you were looking for.

Start by considering your general industry and what other concerns and questions your target audience might have that aren’t directly tied to your offering. You’ll be on the right track.

3 Social Media Hacks to Help Your Content Go Viral

Hint: Targeting emotions is key.
September 3, 2020 4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Whether you own a nonprofit or a social impact company, your cause deserves mass exposure. At times, it can feel challenging to utilize social media to unlock this. With so many competing causes and companies, much of it can feel like white noise. Fortunately, thanks to today’s social media accessibility, it’s easier than ever to get shares and more eyes on your cause’s content. A recent report by Statistica found that 95 percent of young adults follow a brand online. Social media isn’t just for friends and social engagements anymore.

Achieving virality is quite random, but there are a few social media hacks that can get you closer. Used consistently over time, these hacks can — at the very least — garner your cause more exposure than any of your previous social media efforts.

Related: Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing

1. Capture attention right off the bat

Especially if you don’t yet have a big name or a significant following, it can be hard to fight for viewers’ attention. Because the average person has the attention span of a goldfish, they have to instantly be interested in your content in order to engage further. Garrett Adkins, the co-founder of Impact Media, says it’s “all about the first three seconds.”

“It is not the consumer’s job to give us their time. It is our goal and effort to receive it,” Adkins says. “We want to hook someone through a bold statement or intriguing question that both catches the eye and still aligns with the context of our message. It’s an art.”

How can you grab viewers from the start? Perhaps a surprising headline, a cliffhanger or a catchy first line. Your goal should be to make the viewer — who potentially has never even heard of your cause before — to read the next line of your caption or watch the next 20 seconds of your video.

2. Incorporate emotions or ownership into the content

Because many causes are rooted in human emotion, impact-oriented startups have a real opportunity in creating content that targets emotions. One powerful example of this was UNICEF’s fifth birthday campaign. Using the headline, “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday,” the campaign asked for viewers to submit a photo of themselves on their own fifth birthday. This did two things: It elicited emotion (especially seeing photos of very young children), and it also incorporated ownership, allowing viewers to contribute their own photos.

It will differ widely for every cause, but consider how you can put viewers in the shoes of who you’re impacting through your organization. How can you give them ownership and make the content interesting and emotional?

Related: A Breakdown of Every Major Social Media Platform for Business Owners

3. Aim to make people laugh

On the other side of the same coin, laughter is a human emotion that’s shareable. If you’ve ever stumbled across a meme or video that made you burst out laughing, you likely shared it with at least one other person. Because social impact companies typically have more serious causes, it can initially seem challenging to create humorous content around the mission.

A marketing campaign that did this well was from Movember, or No Shave November, which encourages men to talk about their mental health struggles through the month of November. Because “it gets better” is a common line in a mental health sense, Movember created a campaign featuring actors from The Office called It gets fuller,” poking fun at growing a mustache and how hard it can be for some. This relatable, funny message still raised awareness for the cause and gained virality.

Get creative with your own ideas using these three guidelines. As long as you target human emotion and aim to capture the viewer right off the bat, you’re in business. It may take a few iterations, but eventually, you’ll create a piece of content or a marketing campaign that gains some serious exposure for your cause.