Content Marketing Isn’t a Strategy: It’s a Set of Tools
Earlier this year, the Content Marketing Institute reported that 61% of content marketers still say they do not have a documented content strategy. While that may seem surprising to some, at Cup O Content, we get it. Who has time to create a stand-alone content marketing strategy when your overall marketing strategy takes up so much of your time?
That’s why we’re not really fans of creating a distinct strategy for content marketing. Instead, we recommend that you examine your existing marketing strategy and think about how content marketing tools can enhance it. As much as we like to pretend that content marketing is somehow distinct from other kinds of marketing, it’s just an industry name for a set of tools - blogging, SEO (search engine optimization), email marketing, and social media marketing. That means that instead of creating a whole new strategy, you should be looking for ways to use these tools to meet your existing marketing goals.
Increase, Integrate, Upgrade, or Replace
Organizations can use content marketing tools to supplement or replace parts (or all) of your current marketing goals and strategies. Depending on your marketing objectives, you can add blogging, SEO, email marketing, and/or social media marketing in ways that help you meet your business goals.
Content marketing tools can help you boost your marketing plan in four ways.
Use a new tool to increase your efforts.
Integrate a new tool into existing efforts.
Use a tool to upgrade or improve existing efforts.
Finally, you can replace low-performing tools from your current marketing plan with more effective content marketing tools.
Increase Your Marketing Power
If you’re ready to step up your marketing efforts, content marketing is a great place to start. Because content marketing tools are usually easy to implement, relatively affordable, scalable, and simple to measure, they're often the first choices of start-ups and small businesses.
Small businesses often use these tools to drive lead acquisition, create new customer bases, and increase awareness. Increasing followers on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube create a loyal audience that is predisposed to your products and messages. Email campaigns are a simple way to share new products and services, deliver timely messages and offers, and even drive sales. Better SEO improves search engine rankings, builds web traffic, and can even increase the number of calls to your business.
How does this work? Here are a few examples:
Sam’s Printing wants its sales team to talk to more customers every day. In addition to buying lists, they start running ads on LinkedIn, offering 10% off a first print order for new customers. People clicking on the ad must enter their email to get the coupon. The emails are sent to the sales team for follow up.
Sara’s Bakery often has many baked goods left over after the morning rush. To reduce waste (and increase profits) they run a Facebook ad every morning at 10 am – 12 pm offering 20% off remaining baked breakfast pastries, while supplies last.
George Glass not only wants to increase his number of paid speaking events, but he also wants to increase his fee. He publishes regular blog posts and runs ads promoting the blogs. He hires Cup O Content to build his number of followers. More followers and more relevant content increase his credibility, build his position as an expert, and help him get higher speaker fees.
Integrate Content Marketing into Existing Efforts
Are you finding that your radio campaign isn’t producing as well as it used to? Is your TV campaign feeling stale? Are your blog posts just sitting there, without much traffic or interaction? If your efforts don’t’ seem to produce the same results that they used to, it may be time to integrate content marketing into the mix.
If you’re doing a radio remote broadcast, promote it with Facebook ads. These ads are affordable, and you’re able to target within one mile of your location. An effective Facebook campaign will turbo-boost awareness and increase your event’s attendance numbers.
If you’re running TV ads, repurpose them as social media ads. Big brands do this all the time to increase awareness and increase frequency (the number of times a person sees an ad.)
Supplement printed newsletters with e-newsletters. Content is usually easy to repurpose, and because there are no print or postage costs, e-newsletters are relatively inexpensive.
If you spend a lot of time creating blog posts but aren’t seeing much traffic, you can use a variety of tools. Repurpose your content into social media posts, and post on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, or other relevant social media sites. Consider paid ads on social media to drive traffic. Your blog posts may need tweaking to ensure they are formatted in ways that enable search engines to find and categorize them easily. Even changing your blog’s meta-tag in the right ways can increase your readership.
Use Content Marketing to Upgrade Your Marketing
Like so many things, marketing tactics can age or deteriorate over time. The Content marketing toolbox offers ways to upgrade marketing in ways that refresh and revitalize your existing efforts. For example, if you run coupon inserts in the local newspaper, add a special, high-value social media coupon that can only be found on Facebook (or Pinterest, or Instagram, or LinkedIn – you get the idea). Conversely, run a social media campaign that highlights your best coupons, encouraging online users to look for them in the local paper.
Content marketing also gives you opportunities to upgrade the content of your message. If you’ve been running ads that promote your expertise in auto repair, make sure you deliver on that promise on your website and in your digital ads. Creating blog posts on certain types of repair will also allow you to demonstrate your expertise. Creating short videos ads with tips on simple maintenance you can do at home is also the kind of helpful advice that increases visibility and positions you as an expert. When you upgrade your marketing efforts, you’ll find all parts of your marketing perform better.
Use Content Marketing to Replace Underperforming Tools
Over time, consumers change. Their habits change, and their media consumption changes. If you have a limited marketing budget, it may be time to replace underperforming tactics with more affordable, measurable content marketing strategies.
For example, if you’ve been buying into coupon mailers without much success, try funneling that money elsewhere. For the same investment, you may be able to blanket your market areas with a social media ad and get more people to your location.
If you’ve found that your print newsletter isn’t getting much attention, try sending an e-newsletter instead. If no one is paying attention to the literature in your office, try posting it on your website (and driving people to those pages with social media ads.)
You can even replace content marketing strategies. If Twitter ads haven’t been successful, you may want to try Pinterest.
Test and Learn. Test and Learn. Test and Learn.
In our humble opinion, content marketing is most effective when you continuously test new strategies. If you want to sell red balls online, run ads that test two images, two headlines, or two offers. It’s quick and easy to run these kinds of test, and over time, you’ll be able to increase results dramatically.
Here’s an example of how test and learn might work. Let’s stick with the red ball example.
You run a Facebook ad. You run ads with one photo of a red ball, and another with a photo of a girl with a red ball. Twice as many people click on the ad with a photo with the girl, so you stop using the ad with a photo of just a red ball. It's called A/B testing, and you should be doing it.
You run the same ad, again, but this time you test the image of a girl with a red ball with a photo of a boy with a red ball. The girl gets twice as many clicks again.
Now you feel confident that the girl with the red ball is the best image. You can now test two headlines. One says, “Get 10% off now” and the other reads “Click here for great discounts.” The “great discounts’ headline gets six times the clicks. So now you know which headline performs better.
You run the same ad on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Over time, Facebook gets twice as many clicks as Pinterest, and ten times as many clicks as Twitter. However, Pinterest engagement is three times as high as Facebook. You want clicks and engagement, so you decide to keep Facebook and Pinterest in the mix and eliminate Twitter ads in the future.
As this example demonstrates, your content marketing agency should constantly be testing and experimenting, in short bursts with limited spends, to find out which combinations work better for you.
Can Your Marketing Get 20 Times Better?
At Cup O Content, we find this kind of test and learn approach invariably increases the effectiveness of ads over time. For some clients, we’ve been able to increase ad effectiveness (measuring in impressions, engagement, and clicks) up to 20x over the course of a year. While results vary based on spends, timing, and client consistency, for every client we are constantly evaluating images, formats, messages, and platforms in ways that allow us to continually improve marketing performance over time.
Are You Ready to Increase, Integrate, Upgrade, or Replace Your Marketing?
Content marketing tools can be used in hundreds of ways to produce the results you need to create success within your business or organization. Contact us today, and let’s start talking about ways to supercharge your existing marketing strategy.
Want to read more blogs about digital strategy? Check out these Cup O Content articles.