While there is no question that content is the vehicle that connects your brand and its story to your target audience, the tactics, format, tools and strategies used in content marketing are evolving at a rapid rate. Gone are the days of haphazard tossing up of random blog topics or indiscriminate postings to social media to see what sticks and what doesn’t. A deliberate and carefully planned content marketing strategy should now be at the forefront of your online marketing efforts.
Stay ahead of the digital marketing curve in 2021 by paying attention to the following content marketing trends and strategies.
1. Original and authentic content
Rand Fishkin, CEO of MOZ, unveiled the concept of becoming a 10X Brand. This introduced the content marketing ideology that whatever content your brand produces, it must be ten times more authentic, ten times better and ten times more referenced than your competitors’ content. Simply put, your content must be good, original and useful.
This content marketing ideology is not only still relevant years later; it is the foundation for ensuring positive user experience. Google’s ability to measure engagement metrics is continually being fine-tuned. Measurement of behavioral patterns, such as a user clicking back to a search results page after visiting a search listing, provides indicators of quality (or the lack thereof) in its search results. Across a dataset of millions of search queries, Google has the ability to gauge search result quality based on these behavioral metrics.
Your target audience is continually evolving as well. Consumers are becoming more averse to click-bait or regurgitated content. Original and authentic content that addresses critical challenges or paints a unique and real presentation of your product or service will resonate with your potential clients.
What this teaches us is that content quality is absolutely critical across all value spectrums including user experience, brand rapport and search rank potential. Task your content production team, or hire an agency or outsourced marketing team, to produce original content that leverages original and authentic ideas.
2. Recognizing the importance of a documented content marketing strategy
Just as you would put pen to paper when setting up a business plan, your content marketing strategy deserves a deliberate planning process. Performing a marketing assessment that identifies your brand’s goals, challenges, lead generation objectives, sales objectives, marketable characteristics that differentiate you from competitors and other unique goals is a critical first step in defining a content marketing strategy.
Identifying various content approaches that will regularly engage your audience in effective ways while also helping your business pursue its goals should be a process that is planned in advance. This fore-thought will make it easier to manage content production resources, marketing budget and determine types of content that need to be developed in advance of their release dates.
3. Including your entire team in content strategy
It’s quite common for organizations to isolate the ideation process of content marketing to the marketing department and upper management. We regularly suggest that all team members have an opportunity to provide input at the brainstorming phase of process and beyond.
Each team member has a different and equally valuable perspective of your business operations. People at different levels of your organization will interact with your customers in a different manner, or at a different point in the sales or service process. These changes in operational perspective will shed insight on unique challenges your customers may face at varying stages of your interaction. In addition, each team member will have a different view of your company’s strengths and value proposition.
Harvesting this valuable insight from all levels within your organization will be crucial for fueling a content marketing strategy that addresses all potential approaches to the benefits of your product or service.
4. Building a dedicated content marketing team
Most businesses that we encounter or partner with generally source content from in-house staff pulling double duty in a primary career role while also generating content as time permits. As the importance of original and authentic content becomes even more instrumental to brand engagement, driving traffic and lead-generation, the importance of the content production process deserves dedicated attention.
The Content Marketing Institute found in a recent study that businesses with the most effective content marketing strategies were those who have a dedicated content marketing team or project leader.
With the increasing need for engaging content, copy and visuals on a frequent basis, a content marketing team or external marketing agency that includes a dedicated writer (or writers) and graphic designers will ultimately become necessary to maintain quality content output that is aligned with business goals.
5. Leveraging micro-influencers in your marketing
In today’s social media dominated world, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the impact of social media influencers. You might have also wondered about the benefits of having Oprah Winfrey mention your book, product or service to her millions of followers. Let’s shelve that unlikely possibility for now!
Given the growing consumer craving for authenticity, the prospect of seeking out micro-influencers, as opposed to celebrity macro-influencers, may actually have a better impact on your bottom line. Micro-influencers typically have smaller followings that are much more topically narrow or dedicated. They could be industry leaders of a specific niche or businesses in a complementary industry or field where a mutual promotional opportunity would be beneficial.
Micro-influencers tend to have loyal followers who will publically advocate and support the influencer’s product, service or partnerships. These influencers also tend to have direct and relevant influence on their followership. A productive micro-influencer relationship is a great way to build brand awareness beyond your traditional target audience.
6. Telling the story behind your brand
Experiences matter and relatable positive experiences are often what sets two competing services or products apart from one another. Question: How does one communicate this nebulous value proposition to clients? Answer: You do it through effective brand storytelling.
The neuroscience of storytelling presents us with some valuable marketing-worthy guidance. People respond and remember stories. Combine these stories with a compelling topic or narrative that is relevant to the person and you’ll have content that grips, motivates and speaks meaningfully to the person.
Weave your company and brand’s story into your content. This isn’t simply about talking about your business – it’s about getting to the core of why your business exists and what it has set out to provide to its customers. It’s about the experience you want to provide or even the joy your organization receives in providing these experiences. It can also be about the experiences your customers have and how those experiences have influenced them.
Leveraging these experiences into relatable and compelling content that excites people, or helps them solve a specific challenge, can be a powerful marketing tool that turns potential customers into actual customers.
7. Consistent testing of content format
We’re all creatures of habit. Sometimes, marketing departments and strategies are the same. Unfortunately, following the same habitual content marketing strategy over and over again, while expecting improvement, is like flooring the accelerator on a car towing a two-ton anchor. If you aren’t incorporating a testing regimen in your content marketing process, your business is dragging an anchor.
Effective testing strategies are often an after-thought. I can’t stress their importance enough. If you regularly produce long-form copy for your content pieces, experiment with short-form. If your headlines are regularly two sentences – try one sentence. If your lead generation form is below your sales copy, consider putting it in the sidebar near the top of the article. If your call-to-action button is red, make it green. The options for testing are as endless as ice cream flavors.
Establishing a testing structure that involves changes to a single variable at a time (like a headline or location of a form), along with monitoring of metrics after that change has taken place, is an effective way of fine-tuning and determining optimal configuration of a site page, landing page, funnel, email, social media post format or blog post. Employing regular split A/B testing procedures and effectively monitoring resulting metrics is critical to ongoing improvement and optimization. Ultimately, this allows you to make data-driven decisions to structure your content format.
As we roll into 2021, there’s no doubt that content marketing will continue to become one of the most (if not THE most) powerful aspects of your marketing repertoire. Establishing a documented content marketing plan and devoting required resources to creative and original content development in a planned and strategic manner, along with deliberate testing procedures, is critical to the impact of your online endeavors. Follow this and the other recommendations in this article to establish a content marketing strategy that keeps you ahead of the marketing curve in 2019 and beyond.