Content Marketing, Marketing Strategies

How to use content marketing to finally unify marketing strategies

by Gregory Lee, 16 Apr 2017

The first step toward unified marketing is usually unified reporting. But really, this should be the last step. The real dream is to get teams working together on a cohesive strategy and then measure effectiveness. Content is the common thread that crosses all channels. Most marketers today are doing some form of content marketing. But the majority does not have a documented strategy. A 2016 study by Content Marketing Institute found that 48% of B2C Marketers meet daily or weekly to discuss their content marketing programs. But, more than half do not have a documented strategy. How do you know what to do or if you are doing any good? How do you apply media, let alone optimize it? This post will show you how to:
  • Create a content strategy
  • Document your strategy in a content matrix or content map
  • Outline a unified media plan
  • Begin building unified reporting

The Blind Approach to Content Marketing

Many marketers are busy keeping their content machine running without knowing how to optimize it for best results. The common thought is to generates blogs (etc.), loop in SEO and push out content on social media -- keep the content calendar full and at the end of the day watch results in traffic, engagement and conversions. This is a good start, but what if you leverage content marketing beyond SEO and social media? “Content Is King” has been the SEO mantra since it was spawned by Bill Gates back in 1996. That same year, you could take a course in content marketing from Social Media U. By 2016 according to Seismic and Gatepoint research, more than half of B2B marketers still used content marketing solely for SEO, but even more gave it broader objectives of brand awareness, lead generation and demand creation. Usually these objectives are met by a mix of media. And so, we see people throwing media at it. In fact, a 2017 Clutch survey shows paid ads as the top means of distributing content. But this does not mean there is a cohesive strategy. The content marketing process from start to end touches a lot of areas that are often siloed. And the entire body of content ideally spans the full customer journey that throughout the journey (over a period of time) builds a relationship with the audience and shapes the brand. A few agencies have begun restructuring to provide a truly unified approach to clients’ content and media. This article on integrating content marketing and SEO by @TrondLyngbo introduces some of the challenges to integration. We agree with Trond that it is even more important today, than the day he wrote it. But we think it’s only the beginning. To see how content marketing uses all media, you must see where content marketing lives across all phases of the user journey and conversion funnel.

Marketing Funnel and Self-guided Customer Journey

Most modern marketers now accept that users are taking a self-guided journey through the conversion funnel. The funnel still exists. But as consumers, we want to come and go as we please – dart in and out of any phase. Look up a quick fact and leave. Come browse around a showroom (online or physical) when we feel like looking…for as long as we want. And leave on a whim. When we want to leave, we don’t appreciate a salesperson trying to push us to the next phase. We want to be able to raise a hand at any time and have a salesperson come help, give exactly what we want, and then leave us alone. Good online marketing enables customers to do this all online. But as consumers, we still expect and actually WANT the funnel. When it’s time to move to the next phase, we want to easily find the door. We just don’t want someone pushing us through it. But if we can’t find the door when it’s time to convert, we will be disappointed. We want to call, sign up, buy or donate whenever it suits us. All the familiar conventions of the funnel need to be ready and waiting when the consumer is ready: calls to action, contact forms, online chat, phone numbers, local stores with products you can touch, feel and try – all need to be easy to find and access.

Content Planning -- Content Fills the Funnel

Don’t make this common mistake. Many marketers start building their content marketing machine with the content calendar. First, create a content matrix (or content map). Take a look at your audience and your existing content. Determine content segments based on customer personas, product categories or business units. Then divide those segments according to the stages of the customer journey. There should be at least three stages. Conductor gives some helpful material to create a content map; the table below sums up one of our favorite resources.

Awareness

Content should educate, entertain and engage your audience. This is where you cast a large net and build brand awareness using content that aligns with your audience interests and problems.

Consideration

Content should help your customer identify needs and solutions, differentiate or choose a solution, and in B2B create a business case for change that aligns your solution with the business needs.

Decision

Content should validate the decision to move forward.

Now You Can Create a unified Content Marketing & Media Strategy

If you are doing content marketing, how are you actually MARKETING your content? How are you getting it in front of your audience? SEO is a given. If your audience is searching, make sure they can find it. But is SEO your only means of marketing a brand? Of course not. Like any type of marketing, content marketing should have a media plan with objectives, strategies, tactics and measurement. The only difference in media for content marketing is that you have two audiences:
  • Your direct market
  • Their influencers

unified Marketing Reports

As you can guess, running a content marketing plan takes a lot of organization, collaboration, measurement, communication and optimization. To support this, existing marketing tools and platforms as well as some newcomers have launched a wide range of content marketing tools that help you research and track results. Here are a few of our favorite content marketing tools.
  • Moz Keyword Explorer - Better than Google Keyword Planner, has countless guides and workflows using features like relevancy and opportunity scores.
  • Buzzsumo - Excellent tool for finding trending topics, content and influencers
  • Buzzstream - Influencer research and outreach tool that has roots in SEO link building
  • Conductor Content Map - Part of an enterprise SEO tool, has tons of help material on setting up a matrix or content map, ties in with Google Analytics to track KPIs in your content map
  • BKV Trade Desk - Programmatic digital with hyper specific targeting, useful for pushing content to influencers or running native advertising to your direct market audience
Documented strategy and measurement of your content marketing shows you exactly what marketing teams must unify for each effort. With this information and the tools available, there is no excuse not to plan, document and measure content marketing. Here is an example of the easiest way to turn measurement into unified media reporting.
  1. Pick a KPI for each media channel, for each phase of the journey
  2. Pull your KPI’s over time and total them
  3. Create a stacked bar chart and animate it over time using Tableau
  4. Or create a stacked line graph over time
If you want to get fancy, you can weight each channel or phase to create a weighted total that you can graph over time. But you may need to do some attribution modeling to determine how to weight the channels or phases. This of course should not replace individual reports and optimizations within channels. However, it gives you an overview of the total effort. And over time, it should help you learn the relationship between channels, how performance in one affects the others, as well as the overall bottom line.