If you’re just dipping your toe in the Content Marketing pool, you’ll want to go back and read my previous post to help determine if this is a good strategy for your business.
If you know it’s an initiative you want to test, you can use the first post to begin mapping out your strategy by determining your high-level goals and the type of content you’ll need based on where your customers are in the sales funnel.
Audience Research for Content Marketing
Whether you already have a treasure trove of great content available to leverage, or you are in the process of creating content, you’ll need to do plenty of audience research to help you decide if your content speaks well to what is most important to your customers.
There are many ways you can go about researching your audience. Here are a few to get you started:
- Talk to your sales team, even join their calls if you can.
- Talk to your customer support team. I love this short list of questions from CMI.
- Leverage social tools like Facebook’s Audience Insights.
- Talk to your customers directly when/if you can to get their feedback.
- Create buyer personas. There are lots of resources out there, but I really like this thorough list of questions from HubSpot.
You might already have current audience research on-hand and if so, that’s great! Use it to evaluate your content with a critical eye and help you determine what content could be the most effective with which to start your test.
Choosing the Right PPC Channels
Each channel has its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, CPCs tend to be high in LinkedIn but their business targeting is unmatched. You’ll get a lot of reach with the Google Display Network and likely some cheap CPCs, but lead quality might be lower than other channels, etc.
The most important question to answer is: where is your target audience? What platforms are they using? You can use the audience research you conducted to help you decide where to start.
The goals you’ve outlined, your available budget, your type of content and where you think your target audience is will help you determine what channels to leverage.
Creating a Content Funnel Strategy
We tested a Content Marketing strategy with one of our clients recently. Our main goals were to grow our Retargeting audience size and help nurture quality leads to conversion by giving them great content and a great experience along the way. We also wanted to see if there would be a lift in Brand searches during and after this campaign run. Here’s a high-level view of the approach we took:
Top of Funnel Strategy
Leveraging our knowledge about our client’s target customer, we outlined a variety of channels and targeting options to help get some quality, top of funnel users interested in our client’s brand and offerings through relevant blog posts.
We chose channels & targeting based on a combination of our knowledge of their target customers as well as targeting options that had worked well for them in other campaign strategies in the past. We outlined all channel/targeting options in detail, then worked with the client to narrow down our best options for an initial test based mostly on the available budget.
We chose a few quality blog posts that we knew would help answer some of their clients’ typical pain points. For KPI at this stage, we set up custom conversions to track 60+ seconds of time on site.
We chose a few pieces of gated content as our mid-funnel offering; two of these assets we had tested before in other initiatives and they had performed well, and the third was new for testing.
In this stage, we segmented our audience a few different ways:
- users who had come through our TOF campaigns (mentioned above)
- all other blog visitors
- users who had come through our main PPC campaigns but hadn’t converted
- users who had registered for the client’s webinars
Bottom of Funnel Strategy
Although our goal for these folks in the bottom of the funnel was to have them request a free demo, our approach with ad copy was softer; it focused on key benefits of our client’s product and the user didn’t see a call to action until they hit the landing page.
For audiences, we went after:
- those who had downloaded content from our MOF campaigns
- all other content downloaders
- users who had visited lower-funnel pages of the client’s website (like pricing)
- audiences we had tested previously with a more direct, traditional Remarketing approach
We ran this test for two months and weighted our budget more heavily to TOF and MOF campaigns in month one to help grow the audiences, and more heavily to MOF and BOF audiences in month two to help drive as many leads as possible.
Our client kept a close eye on lead quality during the run of these campaigns. It didn’t take long for them to identify lower-quality leads and we were able to pause some audiences and channels within a few weeks. We also tested the layering in some additional targeting layers to other audiences to help improve their quality.
We also got good insights into what gated content resonated best with our client’s target audience, as well as top-performing ad creative and messaging.
Ultimately, we were able to generate a good amount of leads within the goal CPL we had set forth before launching our test. However, we encountered some lead quality issues with these campaigns which lead us to implement form validators on our landing pages to help improve lead quality in our legacy campaigns as well as in future test campaigns. This exercise also lead us to rework our target Remarketing audiences to better hone in on higher intent users.
Ultimately, there are many strategies you can take to Content Marketing. For example, we’ve also tested a Content strategy with Search campaigns, as well as industry-specific content strategies in social channels.
While some of these have proven to be effective at helping to drive quality leads, our most valuable strategy so far has been the funnel strategy in terms of key learnings for our clients. Even if your high-level goal for a Content Marketing strategy is as broad as increasing Brand awareness, I’d encourage you to consider testing a funnel approach to help nurture those leads to conversion, build your audiences, and get important insights into what is and isn’t working well in your business’s digital marketing approach.
Have you tried a Content Marketing strategy? Tell us about it in the comments below!