With about $135 billion spent on content marketing in 2014, today’s brands are putting more resources than ever into producing great content. But, according to research by CMI, less than 40 percent of all content marketers are effective at content marketing -- which means that a lot of that spending is going to waste.
So how can brands make sure that content is actually performing the way it’s supposed to? It starts with engaging your target audience -- if they’re reading and finding value in your content, it’s that much more likely they’ll convert. But that’s easier said than done. With so many marketers playing in the same space, the battle for consumer attention is only getting fiercer and more high-stakes.
There are multiple ways to attract audience attention -- but in a presentation I gave at BrightEdge’s Share15 conference, I shared five tactics I use to give my content that extra engagement boost. Implementing these is a great first step towards capturing -- and, just as important, maintaining -- your audience’s attention.
1. Establish and legitimize your reputation.
Obviously, you want your target audience to think your brand is amazing, but announcing that through your own content can seem a bit arrogant and self-interested. Naturally, when interacting with a brand, consumers aren’t going to ask the opinion of the brand itself. Instead, they turn to experts, authority figures and their peers for recommendations to avoid bias. So, leveraging any of those groups is a powerful way to draw your audience into engaging with your content.
Try collaborating with an industry expert to produce a guest blog post or highlighting positive customer testimonials and reviews -- which 90 percent of customers say influence their purchasing decisions. However you handle building brand sentiment, though, make sure it’s authentic and human. You don’t want your brand to come across as manipulative or untrustworthy.
2. Get to know each other.
Too often, marketers get caught up in the end goal of increased conversions and struggle to talk to their potential customers like actual human beings. An easy fix is getting to know them! Build out detailed personas of your target audience to give you an idea of who exactly you’re talking to. This helps you identify who’s coming to your site and why and what they’re doing.
To build a great buyer’s persona, you need to do your homework. Try gathering information through customer surveys and interviews. Ultimately, you should walk away knowing who your average consumers are, the problems they’re having and where you can best reach them. For example, if you have an audience that loves mobile, optimize your site for mobile to capitalize on a potential increase in traffic, while making sure you’re addressing your customers’ interests, concerns and touch points. If you show your audience that you’re listening to them, they’ll thank you for it.
3. Surprise people with the unexpected.
Think about the last time you had a really fantastic buying experience as a consumer -- regardless of what made it so special, I’ll bet it involved someone going above and beyond your expectations. For brands, this doesn’t have to be limited to in-person customer experiences. Content marketing offers a huge opportunity to impress consumers digitally.
One tactic I’ve found to work well is providing a discount or other incentive -- but only after someone has engaged with the content. Let’s say you’re promoting a whitepaper. Instead of promoting the whitepaper alongside a 10 percent coupon for your product, surprise the folks who downloaded it organically with that same 10 percent coupon. That way, you’re reaching people who are actually interested and engaged with your content versus those who are just in it for the free offer, surprising them with something unexpected and helping turn them into long-term customers.
4. Be a little disruptive.
A great way to send consumers flocking to your content is by disrupting the status quo. One of my favorite examples of this is Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative, a campaign that urged people to reduce, reuse and recycle their clothing because of how production negatively impacts the environment. A company essentially telling their customers to buy less might seem like a textbook example of what not to do, but the campaign was a huge hit -- annual sales grew 40 percent in the two years following its launch.
But when you’re thinking of making a similarly disruptive move, make sure it matches your brand’s values. Patagonia’s campaign was successful because their business relies on the outdoors, and their customers strongly value conservation -- so think about what your own audience is passionate about, and tailor your strategy to that.
5. Keep it data-driven.
While the tactics above are great rules of thumb, keep in mind that they’re based off of my own personal experiences. In other words, implementing these solutions and assuming they’ll work for you is not the right strategy. To tailor your strategy to your own brand, get informed. Carefully monitor data and look to your competitors for comparison -- and then adjust accordingly to make sure your content performs and your strategy holds up. At Home Depot, I’ve used BrightEdge for years to measure the return on investment of my content and drive performance.
Content marketing is a science and an art -- so when you combine creative ideas with data-driven insights and recommendations, you’re much more likely to improve your chances of content success.