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Omnichannel commerce | Content Marketing

10 Steps for Efficient and Effective Content Marketing

image: 10 steps written on a chalkboard
Newsletters, podcasts, blogs, and white papers can be vital promotional and sales tools; here’s how to make the most of them

If it seems that just about everyone is using content marketing as a promotional and sales tool, you're right: According to a 2014 study from the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, 93% of North American b-to-b companies and 90% of b-to-c companies are creating newsletters, white papers, blogs, videos, infographics, podcasts...


Whether those organisations are using content marketing efficiently and effectively, however, is another story: Fewer than half of those surveyed thought their efforts were effective.


If you're one of those businesses questioning the value of your content marketing—or if you're among the minority that hasn't even started using content as a promotional tool—these tips from an Oracle white paper, "10 Ways to Calm the Chaos of Content Marketing," should come in handy:



Designate a content king or queen.

A larger company might have a person (or even a department) dedicated to producing content and, just as important, determining which channels—social media, white papers, press releases, blog—through which to disseminate it. Even a small business, however, needs to have one person "own" content. That doesn't mean he has to produce it all himself. But having a point person ensures that all messaging is consistent and on-brand.



Put together a style guide.

Consistency is important, and a style guide makes it easier to ensure that your content is consistent. It should cover such details as how you refer to your business (for instance, do you spell out the full name throughout or use an acronym after the first reference?), product names, employees, and the like. Also head to the bookstore for a language style guide of the sort that newspapers and magazines use, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or The AP Stylebook (in the States) or New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide (in the UK). Adhering to its advice will keep your content looking professional, which of course is critical.



Create customer personas.

Your target audience actually consists of multiple target audiences. One segment might be older and more price-focused; another might be more time-pressed and therefore willing to pay for convenience. Hopefully you already have enough audience research data so that you feel confident in understanding "your customers' wants, needs, and motivations, the things that make them tick, and the types of content that drive them to interact with your brand," as Oracle puts it.


With this information, you can create fictional characters to represent your various audience segments. Price-Focused Pam might be 65 years old, married, on a fixed income; she's on Facebook so that she can keep up with her grandkids but doesn't participate in other social media; she's willing to spend time shopping around for the best price. Harried Helen, on the other hand, is 40 years old and married, with two school-age children and a full-time job; she unwinds at night by scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest on her tablet in bed; she prefers online shopping to visiting stores because she's short on time and doesn't comparison-shop.


These personas will help you gauge what type of content to write for which audience segment and where to place it so that they're most likely to actually see it.



Conduct a content audit.

Chances are your organisation already has a library of content. Press releases, brochures, product copy, email messages, retail signage—they're all content. The content audit will enable you to catalogue all this messaging and judge its quality and effectiveness. Does the one-sheet you distributed at that trade show last year really communicate your brand effectively? Did your most recent blog post speak to any of your customer personas?


Once you've determined which content serves your purposes, think about whether you can repurpose it for a different channel: Could parts of a blog post about gardening, for instance, be incorporated into your in-store signage or your website product copy?


Sounds like a big job, doesn't it? We're not going to lie: It is. "Content audits in large companies can take weeks to complete," Oracle admits, "but the effort is well worth it as it will give you a clearer picture of how to move from being a random creator and publisher of content to an orchestrated, efficient, and results-driven one."



Develop a content strategy.

This is what the previous steps were leading up to: Using your customer personas and keeping in mind the content you already have, you can devise your content roadmap, just as you do your annual marketing plan. What are your goals: more customers, more frequent purchases from existing customers, greater brand awareness? What's your budget? What channels will you use? Which types of content? How frequently: Will you create a monthly enewsletter offering tips and coupons, targeting Price-Focused Pam; post pictures on Instagram once a day for Harried Helen; upload a blog post every week for Life-of-Leisure Laura? Will you launch white papers to coincide with your industry's two major trade shows? Which metrics will you use to determine the success of your efforts?



Map out an editorial calendar.

The edit calendar chunks down your content strategy into actionable steps. It's basically a schedule for every piece of content you want to produce and publish for the year, and it should include not only the date and the channel in which you want the content to go live but also the deadlines for writing, editing, and approving each item. What's more, the calendar should delineate who is responsible for each action.



Implement a production, reviewing, and publishing process.

There are so many elements involved in producing effective content: researching, writing, designing, posting, distributing, measuring effectiveness. Someone needs to be on top of it all, making sure deadlines are met, objectives addressed, optimal exposure is achieved. Setting up an orderly process ensures that steps don't get skipped and that elements don't fall through the proverbial cracks.



Corral contributors.

Remember what we said about the person who "owns" content not having to write it all? We meant it. Ask employees to help; you'll be surprised by how many will be thrilled to write for a company blog. And customers can contribute feedback and ideas for the content.



Spread the word.

Publishing a post on your blog and your Facebook page isn't enough. "Make sure that your social media and SEO teams are a part of your content creation team and are working together to create a unified digital marketing strategy," Oracle advises. If you're a small organisation without an SEO or social media specialist, be sure to promote your fresh content on your Twitter feed, on your LinkedIn page, in your emails, on your store flyers...



Measure, measure, measure.

You've heard it often enough by now: You cannot improve what you don't measure. Some metrics are easy to track: number of Facebook followers, number of retweets... But fans and followers don't necessarily result in sales and profits. So be sure to track more-meaningful metrics, such as sales conversation rate of followers by channel, cost per sales lead per channel, and cost per order per channel, so that you can hone your efforts going forward. For instance, if the number of Facebook followers is five times that of your Instagram followers, but your Instagram posts result in twice the sales conversions, you might want to switch some of the resources you budgeted to Facebook over to Instagram.

author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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