Content marketing has come a long way today with more and more champions finding it very compelling for their businesses. Globally, marketers have been allocating as much as 40% of their budget to content, and for 57% Indian marketers, content marketing has displaced social media marketing and emerged as the top strategy for marketers.
If you’re using content to market a business, you need a strategic framework so you can get the most out of your time and efforts.
In this article, we will discuss a content framework that includes the 3 key pillars of an effective content strategy which can be used as a reference guide for creating your content strategy.
Marketers who weave content without working on how to align with the users’ buying and thinking cycle ceases to make an impact. When it comes to selling your brand through content, remember, not one size fits all. When you try to narrow down on your buyer persona, you can compartmentalise them into emotional or rational decision-makers and between unaware to purchase stage in the buying cycle. In this era, where product and differentiations are fading away owing to easy access to technology and automation, emotional benefits are the only things differentiating competing businesses. Its examples are all around us — Flipkart vs Amazon. Ola vs Uber. Swiggy vs Zomato. We often prefer one product over the other on the basis of how we feel about them, the way they talk to us and how much we can relate to a brand. Content drives these emotions.
Your content must venture to Educate, Engage, Convince and Inspire. Here is a simple content matrix to understand how content can help a business achieve its goals. I have divided the content based on its purpose:
Engaging content is used to reach people right at the very top of the sales funnel who might not even be aware of your offerings. Engaging content has an emotional rather than rational appeal. It is the sort of content that is easily shareable. The positive emotions that it triggers are “Energetic” and “Stimulated”.
Educational content is also used to reach people right at the very top of the sales funnel looking for answers to their problems. Content supported by facts can work wonders here and will appeal to the rational user and evoke a feeling of “Interesting” and “Exploratory”.
Give people a reason to believe you. Just like you, they also care about their ROI. You need logical content giving your audience the last push they need to become customers. This content typically uses a rational rather than emotional appeal and triggers emotions like “Trusting” and “Safe”.
It goes beyond to establish a deeper, emotional connection with the audience. When you establish such an emotional connection with your customers, they become more involved with your brand. In the process, you push your loyal customers into brand advocates. Inspirational content uses an emotional rather than rational appeal and leaves the consumer with a “Happy” and “Valued” emotion.
There is no rule book for content. However, there are formats because users engage in different ways, and while there are time-tested formats, there is also a divide between how the elderly will engage with your content versus how the youth consume it.
The right way to go about it is to do some study on the demographic, psychographic and behavioural data of your consumers.
For example, if you are selling cosmetics, your content could be more visual and focussed on women — a video might work great.
If you are selling hiking shoes — your content could be around the adventure it brings along, a must-do listicle might fit perfect.
If you are into medicines or real estate — there is a broader set of users in all age groups. Thus your content must be crafted to appeal sensitively. A well researched long-form article might do the trick.
Packaging your content is a significant decision you’d be taking for your brand.
Unlike yesteryears, content has spiralled into multiple formats. Let’s assume your user is on-the-go, browses through pages for information. Your content needs to be striking for this user. Infographic, for example, with all the information could be rolled into one quick content binge for this user and he’d appreciate that. New-age formats such as Facebook or Youtube live, podcasts will also appeal.
Let’s try to fit this theory to our content marketing framework:
To appeal to an emotionally aware user, formats that best work is surveys, quizzes, slideshows and social media posts. One could explore new-age formats include stories, OTT content, news through Alexa and Google Home. These could stimulate senses beyond reading and deeply engage your user too.
A rational purchaser is always looking for more. Content should prove to such a prospective user that his doubts about your brand are unfounded. Product features, case studies, events, white papers, interviews of experts work to convince such users and help them trust your offering. AskMeAnything formats can also help convince your user about your transparency.
Some users will also seek validation. They choose to be inspired by you and may wait till they find out how your brand has helped others. If your forum content speaks of your brand’s calibre, if ratings and review approve of your offering, testimonials and celebrity endorsements adorn your brand- you have appealed to this sect of users.
Similarly, you could explore other means depending upon the level of engagement and connect you intend from your user.
Perhaps the most significant bit after delivering content is to measure the right output.
Unfortunately, most businesses choose to neglect it. Measuring your results will show you how you are placed, where you missed, and where your focus should now be instead. From the very start when you set goals, make them measurable, attainable and time-bound. Have a clear path to measure — ‘Has my content created the magic I intended?’
It’s tough to quantify magic though, isn’t it? How about we replace ‘magic’ with a more academic term — Net Emotional Value (NEV) — and track it as a metric to measure the ROI on our content efforts.
NEV is beyond behavioural metrics that you are accustomed to analysing — traffic, bounce rate, page views / session, etc.
You must dig deeper to find out if you have been able to build a connection with your consumer? He/She will most duly oblige your effort by adding up as a follower, subscribing to your future content and feed as well.
If you have convinced your user, mostly you will see your leads translate into conversions.
If you have inspired your user, you will see their engagement at heightened levels. One of the examples could be how they recall your brand. It could be a tagline, a jingle your video content.
NEV would be the sum of all parts depending the medium and content structure you have been using — increase in subscriber count, open rates to emails, reduction in support tickets, likes to your posts, kudos to your articles, increase in retention, rise in referrals and of course, increase in your revenues.
It is important that you create an infrastructure to gain visibility to these metrics, and even more important to have the openness to go beyond traditional metrics when measuring the NEV on your efforts.
It’s a mindset shift from the old ways of doing things. It’s a difficult road to travel. But the rewards you gain from it, will be well worth the effort.
Content is also hypnotic at one level. You will appeal to your users if your content successfully triggers positive emotions in them. For example, if your user feels valued and energetic, s/he will come back to you to explore more. You would have sparked her/his interest in your brand, and therefore her/his curiosity is quenched. At the other end of the spectrum: does your content create imbalance amongst your users? Does it leave them hurried, unhappy, dissatisfied or stressed? If yes, your brand had lost much before it attempted to strike a chord in this case.
It is not just essential to create content, but it must lead you to the nirvana that your brand is seeking. Content Nirvana is when the user feels connected with the brand because s/he knows the brand is not wasting their time and, in fact, is striving to help them. Such content provides a trigger to users to learn more about your brand on their own.
Silo approaches do not work for content or drive your purpose. A user may also choose to appreciate you for a nice product; but left at that (i.e., if the brand does deepen relationship), users might switch over to another company that convinces them better. This is a natural outcome of the silo approach. Content Nirvana is when your content is able to lead a motivated user to you.
PropTiger/Housing has been using a healthy mix of all these content types to keep the audience in a net positive emotional state. PropTiger/Housing use news and views on real estate and urban living to keep the audience Educated. PropTiger/Housing dissect and explain any new government policy for the customers to keep them abreast with the latest in the sector. Polls, surveys, how-to, DIY videos have helped PropTiger/Housing keep their audience Engaged and coming back for more snackable content. PropTiger/Housing get into serious analysis and data-backed research when it comes to advising their customers. There is a trust deficit in the real estate sector, and PropTiger/Housing use their content to bridge that gap and Convince their users. To build a deep emotional connect and Inspirecustomers to buy a place of their own and enjoy its benefits, PropTiger/Housing have frequently been sharing real-life stories of homeowners who have gone against all the odds to buy a house they can call home.
Content marketing has helped position PropTiger/Housing and group sites uniquely in the market. Their blog sites are by far one of the biggest real estate content destinations in India with nearly 2 million monthly sessions and over 1.5 million followers on social media.
Drip Capital, trade finance company that provides working capital, has created several content products/properties geared towards helping the brand reach out and develop relationships with various stakeholders of the trade ecosystem. For example, Drip’s native blog covers a wealth of topics and commonly-asked questions in the trade ecosystem, from queries about the ins and outs of setting up an export business to jargon-busters. This content helps Educate the audience about various aspects of exports and imports, while also building brand credibility. Similarly, Drip Capital management frequently writes commentary and opinion pieces for publication on reputed third-party platforms, such as news websites. This helps the brand Engage with wider audiences while building a reputation for credible and robust thought leadership. Quarterly reports and a weekly newsletter are key content properties that showcase Drip Capital’s technical knowhow, helping Convince audiences of the firm’s capabilities. Drip Capital is also keenly aware of the impact of its offering beyond just helping export businesses get working capital. From helping with job creation to boosting local economies, Drip Capital is creating impact at the grassroots level, and the firm is in the process of capturing this impact in the form of case-studies and detailed research pieces to Inspire audiences and internal and external stakeholders.
Content marketing, can help in driving leads and sales. But its real value lies in building an emotional relationship with your audience. A relationship that leads to trust. Buying leads is easy, any marketing channel can help you get there. Gaining trust is hard. Extremely hard. Content marketing helps you get there. Use your content to educate readers and build awareness of your products, but remember that people are emotional creatures and tends to make buying decisions based on their emotions. Harness the power of emotion across your content helps build a strong connection between your customers and your brand. You will appeal to your users if your content successfully triggers positive emotions in them.