You have a freedom to speak. The freedom to live. The freedom to be your true self. Do it now.
A few years ago, athenahealth debuted athenaInsight, its data-driven news publication, to make a serious investment in content marketing. According to executive director of content and communications John Fox, the marketing team made a choice to adjust the brand’s point of view as they prepped for the launch.
“At various points in our history, we’ve talked a lot about what’s wrong with healthcare, what’s broken. We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that in terms of thought leadership,” Fox said. But we’ve made a conscious move to point the way toward a solution, being that voice of hope and optimism to help doctors and others.”
Since athenahealth’s initial goal was building an audience, the team was “obsessed over growth metrics like unique visitors.” But they also operated with a long-term view of business metrics, so their plan also accounted for pageviews per visit and visits per reader—data points tied to loyalty.
Let athenahealth’s early steps serve as a framework for getting your content program off to a clear start. “You can’t stand for ten things,” Fox said. “You need to stand for one thing and have a clear message for what you’re putting out in marketing. Align everything behind that as much as possible.”
In content chaos, the first mistake marketers make is leaning too heavily on intuition. They either try to reach everyone, or they trim their focus too narrowly on the person who has the most purchasing power. Gut instinct has a place in content marketing, but not if it goes unchecked.
“When I work with large technology companies, all they want to do is reach the CMO. And all they’ll ever tell me is their audience is the CMO,” said Rebecca Lieb, a research analyst and strategic advisor who co-founded Kaleido Insights. . “I push back. It’s not [just] the CMO. It’s the VP of marketing, it’s the SVP of marketing, it’s the assistant to those people, and the interns. They can be so laser-focused on the final decision-maker that they ignore everyone else in the decision-making process.”
Interview your existing customers to find out more about their demographics, habits, and preferences. What publications do they read on a regular basis? What level of education do they have? What are their biggest problems? What topics interest them the most?
For a general audience, you’ll also want to gather high-level data on age, industry, company name, title, etc. Contently conducts an annual survey at the end of every year to test assumptions about our audience. Sure, we want to reach the CMO, but we also want to help editors, managers, and other senior marketers who care about content marketing on a more granular level.
That’s pretty simple too. Without a content strategy, you’re basically taking shots in the dark, creating piecemeal content that isn’t as effective as it should be, and working off of hunches instead of solid data. At the end of your campaign, quarter, and annual cycles, you can’t even evaluate your success because you never had a strategy to begin with.
While data analysis can be an immensely useful tool, it gives you only black and white figures on a spectrum that encompasses a lot of subtleties. Access the rest of that spectrum by really listening to your customers. Your customers need to know they are being heard on social media, so ask them for feedback and suggestions and engage with them regularly.
Also, speak to other members of your staff to get a better understanding of the needs of your customers. Sales teams and help staff who are speaking to your customers on a regular basis are better positioned to have thoughtful insight into how customers perceive your business. Then, reaching out to your customers and responding to their feedback enables you to gather valuable data, whilst also showing them that their opinion matters.
Virgin provided an excellent case study by showing how they utilized big data. They incorporated search terms used on the web, people being followed on social media platforms, and views and interests expressed online.
Using the data below, they dug deep and incorporated it into their communications, successfully giving audiences the right message at the appropriate parts of the customer journey. Find out more here.
The first step to creating a content strategy should be to define your goals. From there, you can make decisions about what your processes should look like, who your target audience is, what your publishing schedule should be, etc.
Expect to encounter roadblocks and go through lots of trial and error. Once you have a recipe for success, though, all you’ll have to do is rinse and repeat to see the kind of audience growth you’ve always dreamed of.
Using our step-by-step guide will push you in the right direction to creating a great content strategy, whilst also making sure you are paying attention to key metrics that can make or break the success of your content. Remember: starting your content strategy on the wrong foot is guaranteed to waste your time, and publishing your content on the wrong platforms for your audience means you won’t generate the leads you desire.
He is the co-founder of NP Digital. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.