If you’ve been following my series on the Five Steps of Content Strategy, you know that you start with a vision and goals, then look at the potential audience you’re talking to (persona development). Last time, we spoke of the buyer’s journey (spoiler alert: it’s not dead).
Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s get on to the really fun stuff. As I’ve noted in earlier blogs, content marketing is exactly what companies want to do… share interesting things about themselves, revel in explaining why they do a good thing, and show how they do it well. What’s next? Mapping your content.
Start with Content Concepting
My favorite tool to use for this stage is Hubspot’s Content Concepting map. It takes advantage of the work you’ve done earlier and asks you to consider:
- Your buyer personas, their needs, and keywords
- Key aspects of your ideal customer’s journey of discovery
- The myriad options you have to present your best foot forward
Before you look at formats and structure of content, think about one of the key questions for a content strategist. How much content do you give away versus how much you ask for something in return? In Content Marketing terms, how much of your content do you “gate?”
To Gate or Not to Gate?
As always, Hubspot provides a great piece of content (a flowchart!) to answer this question. I also like the WebInkNow’s thought leadership piece, which talks about the unexpected benefit of offering free content that people expect to be gated. (As a side note, the author offers a course on how to master “newsjacking” — join me?!)
The usual rule of thumb is, content that has a high cost to create — in-depth technical or executive-level research papers — gets gated. That is, a potential customer will be asked to provide contact information to obtain the content. Un-gated content (blogs and social media posts, for instance) are typically a click away.
Many companies who have not measured the results and impacts of gated content will think little of it. They’ll see a few “firstname.lastname@example.org” and dismiss all the signups as fake info. In fact, most marketing automation tools (Hubspot, Marketo, etc.) allow you to block Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail accounts so people can’t use their “junk” email to sign up.
Valuable Customers May Download Your Content
The real truth is, most people taking the time to enter an email address and download your content are good potential customers for you to consider. If an email proves unresponsive in your marketing automation tool, it’s easy to set a Marie Kondo decluttering rule. Release those less valuable customers with joy after a given period of time, keeping your lists clean.
On the other hand, companies may gate too much content, thinking it’s the only way to track ROI. Not true. Marketing automation can keep track of visitors to your content (at least on your site, and elsewhere if you’ve tagged your links).
When and if these readers give you contact information, you’ll be able to see their research process, assuming they use a consistent IP address. In my experience, when my clients release a new piece of valuable content, we’ll see people download these, know they’ve been to our site before, and what they’ve read. Very valuable information from “free” content.
Format and Structure Your Content
Beyond gating strategy, what other decisions do you make as you plan your content?
Does your company have someone with a strong voice who enjoys writing blogs (or providing opinions to your writer for such things)? Do you have a product that lends itself well to YouTube videos? Your decision maker will likely have strong insights about what formats are best.
This is where you get to be creative. For example, say your company has a new product or feature they want to talk about. You will likely do more print pieces than video (cheaper, more places to use). You can slice and dice the information in ways that will appeal to different types of learners, at different points of their buyer’s journey.
I love a good list. (Who doesn’t?) You can’t go wrong with an FAQ. What executive doesn’t want to share their opinion or specific product information? And do NOT forget curation. Bringing in a list of other people’s relevant content gives you co-linking opportunities and a chance to show consensus around your ideas. (And it’s incredibly budget friendly.)
As I’ve said in earlier posts, you may be thinking, “This is all good in theory but when will I have time to do this?” To which I answer… do you have regular meetings with your people? Bring these concepts your meetings and you will unlock opinions, passion, and creativity.
(If you don’t have meetings, well, I salute you! If you get lonely, come to EM Marketing’s next get-together and hang out with other creative, like-minded marketing geniuses.)