Many digital marketing managers are finding themselves in the new position of having to brief a content marketing provider to achieve tangible business results.
This can be difficult if the business is completely new to content marketing, or if they have previously engaged in other activities such as PR or SEO which have shaped the way they think about content, traffic and customer journeys.
Quba have been advocating content marketing as a method for achieving links and growing brand awareness for a few years now, so we’ve put together this guide to help you consider the key questions before you brief your content marketers.
We also have a content marketing brief template which you can download and fill in as a first step to planning your content marketing campaigns.
Understanding your target persona(s)
If you are a mature business with established customer personas this can be a straightforward case of passing those personas to your content marketing agency. Your agency will develop and expand these existing personas to fully understand their online behaviours, particularly their content consumption and social media habits.
If this is the first time your business has engaged with personas, the first piece of advice is simple: don’t panic. Your content marketing agency should ask you the right questions to help them understand your target audience. In these cases it’s useful to have someone from your sales team to help answer these questions, as they often have more direct experience of your customers than anyone in the marketing team. It helps if you start asking questions about your customers early on, for instance:
- What actions do you want your customers to take?
- Do different types of customer behave differently or buy different products?
- What else can we infer about the customer from their browsing and buying behaviour?
These ideas form the bedrock of your target personas. Your content marketing campaign won’t necessarily focus on products or services, but it is vital to fully understand your customers.
Regardless of whether you have existing personas or are starting from scratch, your content marketing agency will be able to draw out the relevant information and create personas for your key customer groups. In particular they will focus on:
- The motivations of that persona
- The pain points of that persona
- The interests of that persona (what content they consume and where)
- The online behaviour of that persona (particularly on social media)
These principles apply for B2B content campaigns just as they do for B2C or ecommerse marketers. A B2B content marketer still has exactly the same requirement to understand the motivations, influences and habits of their customer - even if that customer is not the end user of the product.
The information you provide at this early stage will be vital for understanding your audience. It will allow your content marketers to produce content that meets their needs, and ultimately this will help you achieve your objectives. Which brings us on to...
Setting objectives for your content strategy
In order to develop a strategy and create successful campaigns, your content marketing agency will need to fully understand your business objectives.
Most content marketing campaigns fall into one of four categories, so before working with your agency to determine precise objectives, you should have an idea of which of these is most appropriate for your business:
1. Content marketing for SEO
This strategy aims to create content that is of interest to relevant third-party websites and gain links from them to increase organic search traffic. Inbound links remain the single biggest ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, so a strong link profile is essential for good SEO performance. Content marketing for SEO has effectively taken the place of old-fashioned ‘linkbuilding’ as a means to achieve inbound links. Typically this approach to content marketing is taken by businesses who see the bulk of their sales come via organic search and are looking to build on this.
2. Content marketing for social media
This strategy aims to create content that is highly shareable on social media, thereby increasing social reach and referral traffic. Typically this approach is taken by businesses who see social media as an effective sales channel in itself, or by businesses looking to raise awareness of their brand among a targeted demographic.
3. Content marketing for digital PR
This strategy aims to create content that is of interest to relevant digital publications, with the objective of achieving press coverage in front of a large, relevant audience. This content tends to be timely, newsworthy or otherwise relevant to publications that have been identified as being read by target personas. Typically this approach is taken by B2B content marketers who have a clear understanding of the value of PR and are looking to raise awareness of their brand among a very specific demographic.
4. Content marketing for conversions
This content strategy aims to convince customers to make purchases or enquiries. If you are a B2B operation it might be that an overhaul of case studies or product comparison tools is needed, or if B2C then maybe an improvement to your customer reviews or product configurators will do the same job. Either way, the right content can be invaluable in selling products and services. Typically this approach is taken by businesses that already achieve substantial traffic through other channels and need to improve their conversion rate.
Note that a campaign may achieve more than one of these objectives (for instance, a campaign that aims to achieve links for SEO may also achieve a link and therefore a mention from a large digital publication) but generally it is helpful for your content strategy to have a focus.
If you’re unsure about which of these objectives is most appropriate for your business, you can discuss your other digital marketing activity with your content marketing agency and see which deployment of content marketing is likely to work with your other marketing activities to yield the strongest return.
Understanding what content types are appropriate for your business
You are likely to need a range of content depending on your objectives, so it is useful to understand any limiting factors before you brief your content marketing agency to begin content creation. Here are a few common examples to get you thinking:
Does your website impose any limitations on your content creation? For instance, if you have a blog are you only able to publish text articles, or can you publish videos and infographics? Do you have the option to upload an html file in order to create a standalone page of content? If a lot of your interaction is on forums or social media, consider how content published on these channels will complement content published on your website. It is important to understand any limitations before you begin the content creation phase.
Will stakeholder expectations shape your content strategy? For instance, if stakeholders expect to see sales-focused content then you may find that that content is less likely to get linked to and shared. Can you shape your stakeholders’ expectations about what content marketing will involve and what it will deliver? If not, can you work with a provider who will help you articulate this and get buy-in from your stakeholders?
Are there any content topics that are off limits for your business? For instance, if aspects of your work are confidential or politically sensitive then you may want to avoid producing content that touches on these subjects.
If you come armed with an understanding of the three areas outlined above, you’ll be in a strong position to brief your content marketing provider. In order to create an impactful content campaign you’ll need to understand your audience, and you’ll need to understand your objectives in order to measure the impact of that campaign. Finally, understanding any limitations can help manage expectations and avoid confusion.
These are all ideas that your content marketing agency will help you explore in detail, but thinking about them ahead of time will ensure that your initial briefing session is as productive as possible.
If you have a project you want to talk to us about, feel free to get in touch on 0114 279 7779 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Alternatively you can download our content marketing brief template to help you plan your content marketing campaigns.