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.

Free Webinar | Sept 29: How to Develop a Winning Go-To Market Strategy

Join Henry Schuck, ZoomInfo co-founder/CEO, as he discusses how his company became the global leader in go-to market intelligence solutions and practical leadership advice.
September 15, 2020 2 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As the pandemic continues to give a boost to the stay-at-home economy, sales teams have gone completely digital in the pursuit of new clients while traditional marketing channels such as trade shows and conferences are on hold. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in business development is an area seeing disruption thanks to mass adoption of this technology. With the data-driven lead generation market benefiting from AI automation megatrends, the opportunity for growth remains massive and is expected to remain in red-hot demand post-Covid — as proven by the most talked about tech IPO of 2020, ZoomInfo.

As a subscription-based SaaS platform that sells access to its database of information about business people and companies, ZoomInfo helps sales, marketing and recruiting professionals more quickly identify, target, and convert leads into sales. In the next episode of our C-suite leadership series, Comparably co-founder/CEO Jason Nazar sits down with ZoomInfo co-founder/CEO Henry Schuck, just three months after his company’s high-profile IPO (despite the U.S. entering a recession, ZI’s stock price surged on its first day of trading, closing nearly 62 percent above its IPO price). Recently named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list for 2020, Schuck will share how the company became the global leader in go-to market intelligence solutions and practical “If I Knew Then…” leadership advice. Other topics that will be covered include:

  • How to develop a Go-To Market strategy & revenue-driving sales team from scratch
  • Top mistakes to avoid when building a company from the ground up
  • Best practices for fundraising and M&A
  • The future of data & analytics
  • Measuring workplace culture, employee & organizational performance

Register Now

Jason Nazar is co-founder/CEO of Comparably, a leading workplace culture and compensation site that provides the most comprehensive and accurate representation of what it’s like to work at companies.

5 Ways Marketing Strategy Has Changed Permanently

Marketers who embrace these changes will be able to grow their brands even if the downturn continues.
August 5, 2020 8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The global crisis has permanently altered our world. Universities that do not go online while still engaging students will go bankrupt; many small businesses will struggle and collapse; some even say this is the end of the U.S. economic power. On the positive side, skies are bluer, we have all learned to practice better hygiene and appreciate infectious diseases, and we have learned to connect on a deeper level. Large groups of workers will never return to physical office space, allowing better cost efficiencies and a greater work-life balance, and higher education may become more affordable.

Marketing, too, will forever change. Marketers who embrace these changes will be able to grow their brands, even if the economic downturn lasts for years and becomes a depression. Seventy-six percent of people have picked up new habits, and 89 percent of these people plan to keep their new habits. Thirty-six percent of consumers plan to stay loyal to new brands they have used during the crisis.

Peloton is the perfect example of how a company can create new loyal customers amid disaster. As gyms around the world shut down, there was an ideal opportunity for regular exercisers to join an online and at-home exercise brand. People who exercise regularly tend to be “addicted” to working out. It is not something that can be stopped cold turkey (like Starbucks coffee). Here, there is a brand loyalty level and engagement level beyond what happens when people are loyal to a brand of clothing. Peloton fits into a category like Apple. The product filters into everyday life and becomes part of who a person is. Peloton instructors even name the users “Peloton.” Most workouts start with “Let’s go Peloton.” Through a combination of great hiring, great programming and the inherent nature of the product, customers become more and more loyal to the point where canceling the subscription is never an option. During the first few months of economic shutdowns, Peloton subscriptions jumped 94 percent,Q2 sales were up 66 percent and the stationary bikes temporarily sold out. Twenty-five percent of Americans never plan to go back to the gym. Peloton will keep most of these new customers.

Related: An Exercise-Bike Company and At-Home “Botox” Business Had Nothing in Common – Until They Did

Consumer behavior in the fitness market and other industries has changed – permanently. Some industries will see smaller changes than others, but all will see changes. It is up to the marketer to understand how their industries are changing (rapidly!), adapt to these changes, be agile with marketing strategies and implement marketing strategies to attract new customers and make them brand loyal.

Online strategies

Marketing has been moving online for a couple of decades now. The global crisis has pushed this change even further, almost at warp speed. Internet usage is up by 50 to 70 percent. Mobile data traffic went up 380 percent in March 2020. TV spending dropped by 25 percent in Q2 of 2020, and experiential and sponsorship spending was cut by 75 percent as live sporting and entertainment events were canceled. Our screen time has never been higher and will stay that way.

Person-to-person sales had already transitioned to roughly 90 percent online. It will now be 95 percent or more online. Companies that rely heavily on a sales force must understand how to create value-focused, engaging sales calls when consumers and salespeople are not physically together. These companies must embrace technology and utilize AI to aid with all stages of the sales process. From prospecting to negotiating, AI can be the workhorse to develop relationships, increase efficiency and create loyal customers. In the same regard, it is hard to imagine trade shows operating in the same capacity in the future. Sales reps will need to communicate with the marketing department as leads will come more and more from marketing efforts and, most likely, content marketing.

Even as screen time increases, direct-to-consumer marketing of all types may have some resurgence as more customers stay home and as more retailers close physical locations. Catalogs were already enjoying a resurgence. Catalog response rates have increased by 170 percent from 2004 to 2018. Catalogs excite millennials. They were not adults during the peak of direct mail and did not become “burned out” on it to the same degree as older Americans. Catalogs enable consumers to see the product vividly. Email campaigns, coupled with catalogs, increase the average sale by 15 percent, higher for loyal customers.

Content marketing

An essential part of an Internet promotional strategy is content marketing, but it is even more critical now. A recent study found that a customer’s No. 1 determining factor now when choosing between brands is the company’s ability to provide useful information in content strategies. Content marketing creates powerful online connections and builds credibility. Doctors in a healthcare system can write about various medical conditions, drawing customers to their brand, increasing credibility and helping customers ease health concerns, especially if page visits have a follow-up strategy. Through content marketing, you are establishing an ongoing conversation to create meaningful relationships. Video content marketing is just as important. Instead of experts merely writing an article or blog, they can bring their expertise and exciting content to life. Different demographic groups prefer various forms of media. Providing content in multiple types enables companies to reach a variety of both segments and disabilities. Engagement should be the goal of most marketing strategies. The single best way to engage consumers is through content.

Related: 4 Social Media Strategies That Can Help Bring in 23 Percent More Profits

Socially responsible marketing

A 2018 study found that 73 percent of customers consider a company’s social responsibility efforts when making purchase decisions. A study done in March 2020 found that 83 percent of customers care about CSR. Consumers are looking for companies to give to charity, help with local health initiatives and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Having a socially responsible marketing strategy does not imply running a string of “We’re all in this together ads” that seem cheap and forced. It also certainly does not mean using the words “unprecedented times” repeatedly. Having a socially responsible marketing strategy means that your company does good work for the community. Starbucks continued to pay wages for workers even when they could not work. Many healthcare systems have provided free healthcare. Old Navy donated $30 million worth of clothes to those in need. These types of actions endear customers to a brand and promote brand loyalty.

Customer service

Customer service has always mattered but matters now more than ever. Quick, reliable home delivery matters more. Efficient customer service matters more when the customer does not have a physical storefront to visit. The global crisis has pinpointed how rapidly a company’s phones can become bogged down. Customers will only try so many times before giving up. One of the most important things to change in a company to impact customer service is to break down silos and make sure that every aspect of a company provides the same message. Marketing must say the same thing as sales; hourly workers must understand the core mission and communicate it the way the owner envisioned it to be. Every customer touch point must have the same message. Seventy-five percent of consumers expect consistent interactions across all touch points. Customer service blueprinting can make sure these interactions are positive.

Related: 5 Customer Service Rules to Boost Your Profit by 18 Percent

Health-based messaging

Of course, the health crisis has made consumers think more about health, healthcare, infectious diseases, cleanliness and hygiene. This interest will likely decline some in the future, but it will remain a heightened concern. People will never think about a dirty environment the same way. A handshake will never be offered again without people cringing at the thought of germs. Businesses must detail their cleaning programs and commitment to health. But these new values go beyond simple cleaning. A survey found out that new concerns for consumers are hygienic packaging, care for the health and safety of employees and the company’s overall mission towards health and safety. Restaurants will forever need an even greater focus on cleanliness; hospitals will need to thoroughly convince patients that it is safe to return for checkups and routine care. Referring to Peloton, those brands that already focus on health and improved quality of life have an advantage. Those that can shift their marketing messages in that regard will be able to grow.

Customers tend to be more loyal to companies after a service failure has been resolved properly than they would be to companies where nothing particularly wrong happened. Likewise, going through trauma together makes people stay loyal. Many brands will fail. Marketing will be different. But those companies that can rapidly adjust to changing needs and environments will grow and thrive from this momentous time in history. Companies must meet or exceed customer expectations, analyze data to understand customer needs and use data to produce high-quality content marketing. Messaging must focus on social responsibility and health. Companies must integrate all departments and personnel to provide a consistent message and offer a high level of customer service, which will contribute to brand-loyal consumers.

Related: Only Conscious Brands Will Survive The 2020s

Simplify and Unify Your Marketing Strategy With This $20 Tool

Automate email, SMS, and more with ease with mPonics.
July 30, 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.

Convenience is everything in marketing. Customers—especially ones shopping online—have no shortage of options when it comes to retailers. As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to make sure your operations and marketing are making it as easy as possible for potential customers to learn about your products and buy them. Automating marketing is a great way to save time and money, but it can complicate things for customers.

That’s why mPonics was created. This straightforward marketing automation system is a central hub of tools you need to help your small business thrive. With mPonics, you have a CRM, email management, SMS management, workflow automation, and more all in a single hub. The integrated AI advisor uses lead source prediction to predict where your most valuable leads will come from, helping you to plan campaigns, while the interactive CRM helps you stay organized and manage your leads and prospects in one simple system.

With mPonics, you can launch email campaigns to current and potential customers, validate your brand with social media campaigns, create personalized SMS campaigns, and more. Then, you can use the surveys and analytics features to gather feedback and improve customer engagement, loyalty, and brand awareness across all of your marketing channels. Automation simplifies everything, shortening the amount of time it takes to build and schedule campaigns on email, SMS, and social media. mPonics even has a conference room tool to help your team stay connected and on task while working remotely.

mPonics offers all of the automation tools you need with none of the complications. Right now, you can get lifetime access to a Standard Plan for just $49.99. Alternatively, a two-year plan is just $19.99, while a one-year plan is just $9.99.

SEO Keyword Strategy for B2B Content Development

Your B2B SEO strategy must be geared toward reaching the right decision-makers. If your sole intention is simply to rank for a keyword, your B2B keyword strategy is already a lost cause. Here are some handy tips to get it right. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

As a B2B marketer, you are targeting other businesses—vendors, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, others—and, more specifically, buyers within those businesses.

Your B2B SEO should be ensuring that you reach the right professionals at those companies via Google and other search engines.

Though some have been predicting the death of SEO, especially since Google tweaked its algorithms to eliminate the old practice of keyword stuffing, SEO is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

However, as search algorithms become smarter, your B2B SEO strategy has to keep pace.

Today, it is no longer about the number of times keywords appear in your website content but how relevant that content is to searchers’ intent.

That means investing some time to know your target B2B audience—their interests and their needs—and creating relevant content related to those.

In short, you content must address user intent, but if your sole intention is simply to rank for a keyword, your B2B keyword strategy is already a lost cause.

But keywords still matter, so how do you know which keywords to use?