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Gus Ryan: So, first thing Michaela, just tell us where does content marketing fit in an overall digital marketing strategy?
Michaela Simpson: I suppose content marketing is a bit of a minefield. We’d often start with a client by building a content marketing strategy with them. Just figuring out what it is they want to achieve and laying out the path for how we’re going to help them achieve that.
We also then get stuck into the actual content creation. It could be blog posts, we have a creative department that makes animated video, infographics, eBooks, website content, email newsletters, you name it. It’s all content and the list is endless.
Being a content team in an agency, we really sit in the middle of a lot of different digital marketing disciplines.
We have to be close to, as I mentioned, the creative team who help us with video and graphics. We need to be extremely close to the SEO team as well as the social team who might be responsible for distributing the content that we create.
So we just have to make sure that we stay integrated with all of these other channels at all times. Because content is just so central to all digital marketing disciplines.
Gus Ryan: So now we know where it fits, what it is content marketing?
Michaela Simpson: Well I think the first thing to point out is that content marketing isn’t a new thing it stretches back to 1895. John Deere, they’re the farming equipment manufacturers, and what they did in 1895 was smart.
They didn’t just go and publish a brochure. What they did was they published a magazine called The Furrow and all this magazine did was reflect on the challenges and the issues that farmers had in their day to day work. They produced articles and content to try and help them with those challenges, with the ultimate goal just being to make them more profitable as farmers.
Once those farmers did become more profitable, it was time to invest in more farming equipment… who’s the first brand that you think they’re going to think of when it’s time to make that purchase? It’s going to be John Deere.
That’s been so successful for John Deere. It’s still going on today and published all over the world. They were playing the long game with that. And that’s still at the essence of content marketing today for SMEs.
Content marketing has gone through a bit of a renaissance with the expansion and accessibility of the internet.
With access to all of this information all of the time, consumers are pretty much doing all of their research by themselves. They’re self-directing their research before they even make contact with a brand or a salesperson.
70 to 80% of the buyer’s journey is conducted by themselves and by self-research. And this is the nub of it if you want to be involved in that 70 or 80% of the decision-making process, content is how you’re going to insert yourself into that conversation.
Gus Ryan: So could you maybe give us an example of how that might work for another type of business?
Michaela Simpson: I’m a digital marketer and if I wanted to offer email marketing as a service to clients, which is a decision I was looking at a while back, I might be googling things like “what is the return on investment of email marketing?”, trying to figure out is this worthwhile?
These are the questions that an email service provider could be answering for me in the form of their blog. Helping me tease out all of these questions along the way and then when it comes to me actually pulling the trigger and purchasing software to help me with this, it’s going to be them that I turn to.
Gus Ryan: How do you know what content to create?
Michaela Simpson: This is actually a great question because so much content is created, whether it’s by experienced content marketers, experienced digital marketers or just people dipping the toe-in, that just goes to waste and the content is ultimately never seen.
I think a great place to start in informing what content you should be creating is to talk to your customers. Nothing fancy, no tools or anything like that. Talk to them.
Then think about all the frequently asked questions that you get from your customers. If you’re a slightly larger SME, maybe it’d be worth talking to your sales team or your customer service reps, or maybe it’s yourself who’s got the most contact with your customers on the day-to-day. Just make a list of all of those questions that you get asked all of the time. That’s a great place to start when thinking about what content to create.
Gus Ryan: So let’s say you didn’t have the budget to survey customers or you were a brand new business and you didn’t have any customers to survey, are there any online resources you could use to gain some insights?
Michaela Simpson: There might be a case to be made for actually hiring an SEO expert and asking them to carry out some keyword research for you. They would use some complicated tools to pull together a report basically saying, here’s the search terms people are typing into Google every day relevant to your business, here’s how many people are searching for them, here’s other terms that are kind of related to that and if you create content around this, you’re going to give yourself a good chance of appearing in search when people are querying these questions.
Gus Ryan: SEO Sounds technical, almost like you’d have to have a lot of prior knowledge before diving into it. Are there any logical first steps?
Michaela Simpson: If you are thinking about SEO and you’re not really sure where to start or how advanced you want to go with it or how committed you want to go with it, committing to some keyword research and maybe an audit of your site, first of all, would be a really good place to start in helping to inform your content.
Gus Ryan: So what’s the best content to create?
Michaela Simpson: A really good way to think about this is just to put yourself in the shoes of your customer.
From the moment that they experience a challenge and the journey, they go on to researching what the solution might be for that challenge. And finally, what final bits of information they need when before they pull the trigger and make a purchase.
Gus Ryan: Could you maybe give us a real-life example of what you mean there?
Michaela Simpson: To give a personal example, my hobby is CrossFit.
So CrossFit involves a lot of swinging out of gymnastics bars multiple times until your hands hurt. Sometimes your skin will rip and tear and it can be extremely painful. This is a journey that I went on where I was googling ‘how to treat a ripped hand’ when I got home from the gym that day.
And after it healed a little bit I was thinking, ‘okay, how do I prevent ripped hands in the gym?’ These are all terms that I would have popped into Google trying to find some content giving me advice on that matter.
It started pointing me in the direction of gymnastics grips, gymnastics grips could be a great way to help protect my hands. Okay, that’s interesting. Then I might start researching, okay, so what gymnastics grips are best for CrossFit, and then I’ll do some more research there.
These are all challenges a gym accessories seller can share their expertise on an early start to enter my consideration when it comes to shopping for my grips. And again, that’s what content marketing is all about.
So now that I’m considering this particular seller to buy my gymnastics grips from, I’ll need content that sells the grips I’m looking at. And answers questions like ‘how do I measure my hands’ to make sure I’m picking the right size, or ‘how thick or thin is this material’? I’m not in the shop, I can’t pick it up. So the content needs to sell and describe the product to me to help me make my decision and eventually press buy.
Gus Ryan: So is the key to content marketing is answering questions, is that the key takeaway?
Michaela Simpson: Yes, the lesson is to keep answering those questions, all the way through telling me about your offering and then finally getting to the more sales copy at the very end to help entice the sale.
Gus Ryan: And how do you ensure that the content you publish will get found?
Michaela Simpson: Again, that’s a critical question. As I said before, so much content does get created and just tumbleweeds, it’ll never see the light of day. No eyeballs will ever land on that content. So it’s really important when you’re thinking about creating content, how are you going to make sure it’s seen and you can’t neglect that.
There are two methods – discovery and distribution.
- Content Discovery is again, circling back to SEO. People are typing searches into Google, are they going to find my content? There’s an awful lot that goes into SEO. It’s based on technical features like how your site is set up. It’s based on the content that’s on your site and how relevant that is, and it’s also based on authority. So Google will have a look at signals and see, are there other reputable websites across the web linking back to your website? And if so, Google is going to take that as a signal that yours is an authoritative website and you’re going to get a little bump in the Google rankings. So as you can imagine, that’s not easy to do without help. But when it’s done right, traffic from SEO is highly profitable. So it is worth considering whether that’s an avenue you’re willing to commit to and go down.
- Content Distribution You have other channels at your disposal such as your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, a YouTube channel, email that you can share your content on. If you’ve got a strong email list, you’re in a really good position. Maybe you’ve got a story that you think might actually be newsworthy and if so, it’s always worth time preparing a press release and disseminating that and seeing how you get on. You might just get the pickup if the story is good.
Gus Ryan: There’s been a lot of talk in 2018 in particular about the declining reach on social. Is it still worth a shot?
Michaela Simpson: When it comes to social media I suppose it can be a little bit more complicated nowadays as I’m sure some people might be aware that reaching people on social now without paying can be pretty tricky.
Statistics show that a brand might reach if they’re lucky, say 2% of their fans on Facebook when they post organically without putting any money behind it. So it’s often worth putting a little bit of spend behind content that you want to make sure gets seen. The good thing about that is that you can target your content then to people who aren’t necessarily already your followers, so you can reach new people and Facebook’s targeting is so powerful.
I guess the main point here is, it is so important to not just go ahead and create the content and forget about it, how you’re going to get it out there should be at the forefront of your mind before you even put pen to paper.
Gus Ryan: So have you got a couple of key takeaways on content marketing to make sure that SMEs don’t waste their efforts?
Michaela Simpson: Yes, absolutely.
- Number one put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Content marketing is all about them, it’s not about you. I think that’s the most important thing to remember.
- Secondly, don’t rush into creating content. Take some time, think about what you’re creating, why you’re creating it, who you’re creating it for, and how you’re going to get it to them. You’re going to save yourself a lot of time, a lot of wasted effort, a lot of wasted resources. If you just take the time to be a little bit strategic about what you’re doing.
- And thirdly, which we didn’t touch on, but measurement. I think measurement is really important. This is how you can tell if your content is making an impact or not. Google Analytics would be a great place to start. Through Google Analytics you’ll be able to see how your website, it’s content is performing, where your traffic is coming from, and these kinds of things. Google Analytics also do free training online as well, so it’s very easy for anybody to get started. Social media and YouTube, they also have their own built-in analytics as well, so it would be worth jumping into those and having a look to see what content seems to be resonating. Ultimately, this just lets you learn continuously. What’s working, what isn’t. And from there, just make smarter decisions about what content you create. And I think that’s the key point. Always be learning, always be optimizing, always be iterating and making smarter decisions.
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