Five key questions to ask of your content marketing

Five key questions to ask of your content marketing

After our recent webinar – “Common content marketing mistakes you should avoid”, hosted by expert copywriter and CIM course director Chris Lee, we’ve compiled the key takeaways for those of you in a hurry. Lee took us through the do’s and don’ts of content marketing and presented the key questions you should be asking to make sure your content marketing is successful.

When creating content there are several key questions, we need to ask ourselves that will help us create content that is specific and targeted towards our consumers. In this article, we answer the five key questions - who, what, where, when and why - of content marketing to help you avoid the most common content marketing mistakes.

Who is your audience?

Really taking the time to get to know your audience and understanding them will make it that much easier for you to create content that provides them with true value and hopefully come back for more. Some of the key questions which Lee suggests asking to truly understand your audience are:

  • How do they think?
  • Where do they work?
  • Who influences them?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What is it they want from the content?

Whilst taking the time to assess your audience in this much detail may seem superfluous, being able to answer these sorts of questions is going to pay dividends. Knowing exactly who it is that you’re targeting will help to inform your editorial decision-making and will make it clear what themes will be of greatest value to your targeted demographic.

Lee believes that: “it's really, really important that we understand the audience, we never lose sight of the audience, because I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes […] that content marketers do make.”. He continues: “we have to take ourselves away from that, sort of step away from the brand and just say, look, it's not about art, it's about the audience.”.  Producing content with the audience in focus will help to ensure that your consumers find value in the content you produce and is a hugely important first step in building positive engagement.

Is your audience human? This may sound like a silly question to ask but as Lee says, we have two bosses when it comes to content marketing, one of which is human, and they are “sitting there going what's in it for me?” This audience needs to be entertained; they need to be moved emotionally which is why storytelling is such an important aspect of content marketing, we are attempting to engage with people on an emotional level and get them to buy into our story.

Our second boss, as Lee puts it, is slightly more mysterious in nature, the algorithm. Algorithms dictate how content will rank on searches and will also dictate to whom each particular piece of content is displayed. So, it is important to consider the algorithms as, essentially, part of your audience when creating content. When posting content on social media, it is particularly important to think about each social channel in isolation as networks such as Twitter encourage people to link out whereas Facebook encourages users to stay within the confines of its platform and as such the respective algorithms will rank content differently.

What is content?

During his webinar, Lee outlined the ways in which “one piece of content often begets other bits of content”.

“What we're doing right now is content marketing, it's a webinar, it's going to be available as a playback. So it's available as a video. You know, when we're creating webinars, we can create transcripts as written content, and we can edit that and put that up as a blog post. There's another piece of content right there.”

Some of the other forms of content Lee mentioned during the webinar were: blogs, video content, images, infographics, social media content, short-form [video] content, games, gamification, polls, surveys, and podcasts, to name but a few.

Content creation is a time-consuming process so when one well-thought-out piece of content can become the basis for a whole stream of other content the upsides are very clear. Long-form videos can be broken down into bitesize clips, tweets and social media comments can form the basis for articles exploring a particular topic and webinars or podcasts can be re-purposed as articles or blog posts. As Lee puts it, “everything we create is content and that’s the way we should look at it.”.

This further emphasises why it is so important to be in tune with the wants and needs of your audience. If your judgement is slightly off or your research is incomplete then investing your time and resources in producing one piece of content which isn’t properly aligned with what your audience want, will lead to a trickle-down effect where the next three or four pieces of content produced off the back of that initial piece of content, also won’t align.

Why is content marketing important?

Content marketing is an extremely useful strategic marketing tool. It allows us to engage with consumers for a variety of reasons. A good content marketing strategy will provide value to users generally through educational materials such as podcasts, articles and videos. The effect this has is to build awareness of your particular brand and to develop its reputation. Developing a reputation through the consistent output of high-quality content will help to build trust amongst your audience and eventually develop consumer loyalty to your brand. Lee neatly surmises that content marketing is “designed to inform and persuade people to side with us […] and consider us as part of their journey”.

Content marketing can also provide opportunities to generate leads and can drive sales. Lee mentions that it can be particularly effective to address content creation from a sales perspective as “they’ve got access to customers, they know exactly what challenges they’ve got” but crucially, “they also know who the success stories are. So right there, you’ve got great content stream ideas”.  This shows why content marketing can be so transformational to business as it allows engagement with consumers, based on data-led foundations, which are then able to solve real-world problems for consumers, and if you’re able to help someone once, chances are they’ll come back to you again.

Where is your content being consumed?

Consumer habits have changed massively over the last few years and where people consume their content of choice is something which is constantly evolving. An example Lee used during the webinar was the commute. Pre Covid, people were consuming content during their journey to work, whether listening to a podcast in the car or on the tube, to productively pass the time. But with the necessity to work from home, these habits changed, and people were consuming content in different formats over longer periods of time.

How does this affect content marketing? Simply put, if you’re producing content in an article format, it is less likely that people will consume this during the commute; commuters want easily digestible content like podcasts. Similarly, with webinars, they are more likely to be consumed by people during their lunch breaks at work from a desktop so there is little value in releasing a webinar during the morning rush hour. Having a solid understanding of where your audience prefers to consume content is instrumental in finding out what format to produce your content in for optimum engagement.

When will we know if it's working?

There is no easy answer to this question. As Lee puts it, “content marketing is an iterative process that kind of never ends, it has to be a continual focus and has to be analysed continuously”. Understanding the most appropriate ways to measure the performance of content is a fundamental first step. There are a wide variety of tools available to measure the performance of the various types of content.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re using the right tools, whether we're using the tools for our websites, their performance, whether it's on social media tools as well, [or] monitoring other sales related tools, if that's something we're using.”

The technology to help us analyse our content’s performance is continually improving. There is a huge variety of software which can be used to help paint a picture of how everything is performing but this can be quite complex to understand in some cases. It is becoming more and more important for content marketers to be able to interpret their results and show the efficacy of their strategy, whether this is through things like conversion metrics or by page views, there needs to be some way of quantifying what success looks like. Lee continues:

“We need a human to interpret what that means for us what that means for our content, how well it's performing, what's falling down, what […] could be better, which bits we need to kill off.”

There is a certain art to curating an engaging library of content, in fast-moving sectors like technology, content can quickly become redundant and be either misleading or outdated. Conversely, if you have a particularly high-performing piece of content, it makes sense to display this prominently and use it to direct traffic to other pieces of content.

CIM members can watch the full webinar on demand now to discover even more tips and tricks to help you craft compelling copy that converts. Not a member? Why not sign up! Becoming a member gives you access to a huge range of resources to help develop your marketing career.

Bryndley Walker PR Executive CIM
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