Instead of worrying how others, even your competition, are doing content marketing, you need to focus on your own content strategy. In the end, if you’re going to reap reward, others will follow; they may try and copy yours, but they will realize, sooner or later, that they have to do what’s right for them.
All you have to worry about are the following 4 pillars of successful content marketing and publishing strategy:
Planning is essential. No matter how much we may want to ignore it or be spontaneous, sooner or later (better sooner), you’ll discover it is necessary. Tons of people have already stressed this dozens of times, many of us based on our own experience. I’ve really learned this the hard way.
Planning includes a comprehensive long-term content strategy and, during the execution phase, a detailed editorial calendar.
Only after you have a confirmed and sensible long-term comprehensive content strategy you can begin to implement it.
Just doing it, won’t be enough. In the end, even the greatest content marketing or publishing strategy in the world won’t suffice, not even the best editorial calendar ever if you don’t regularly assess its impact.
Why measure, you ask? So that you can adapt immediately, and improve, get better results and achieve or even surpass your business and marketing goals.
Research – A Part of Content Marketing
Recent researches confirm the fact that 44% of business marketers employ some kind of research as part of their marketing program. This number has almost doubled in the last 12 months. Why? Marketers are finding that good, sound research can be the core, compelling subject for an ongoing content marketing program.
How to Approach Research For Content Marketing
So many times, companies engage in a research project to prove out a key product feature or benefit. If you want your research output to be shared and talked about, don’t go this direction. Research projects should answer key questions from your customers. Think about:
- Who will primarily read your research?
- What do you want to tell your readers? What’s your hypothesis on the research? For example, our CMI research hypothesis was that marketers are spending more time and resources on content marketing.
- Do you understand the key informational needs of the target audience? What are their pain points? If you can solve the pain points of your audience with your research, that will make all the difference.
- Do you have a firm grasp on the types of keywords to focus on that your customers are searching for? (see Google’s Keyword Tool) This is important in determining critical topics for your research.
- What kind of research has already been done in this area? How can your research story be different? (Please don’t duplicate another study!)
- What is your ultimate goal in doing the research? Is it brand awareness, lead generation, link building, thought leadership? Whatever the reason, make sure you put your objective into some kind of metric goal. This could be a number of leads, number of particular companies, links from direct coverage and so on.
You’ll find that most companies will just use a web survey tool (like Survey Monkey), send out to a few lists a couple times, and that’s that. If you want your research to be credible at all, work with a third party to handle the distribution of the survey and tallying the final results. You can save money by creating the survey questions yourself, but we run everything by a professional research firm to make sure everything is as it should be. The worst thing that could happen is someone questioning your research practices.
Here’s a few best practices:
- Only ask questions integral to your research.
- Limit the amount of questions to no more than 10 if possible.
- In your initial direct email, tell them exactly how much time it will take to complete the survey.
- Whatever email system you send from, make sure you don’t send reminders to people who’ve already completed the survey. Any basic email provider should be able to handle this.
- Set a time limit, like seven days, for them to complete the survey. Honestly, if they don’t open the email right then and complete, they probably won’t get to it…so create a sense of importance and urgency.
- For completion, give the responders early access or full access to the results. In my experience, that’s always been the best incentive.
And finally (I can’t stress this enough), work with partners on your research. Find other organizations that help give your project credibility or access to a database for responses. You may even consider partnering with a leading trade magazine or media company on the research (for that added credibility). If funding is a problem, work with a partner who can contribute funds to cover the costs of the research.
How to Package and Distribute the Results
This is where most organizations go wrong. A company puts so much time and effort into the creation of the data, they forget best practices when it comes to distribution and marketing. The result = no one reads or shares the results.
Best practices on packaging and distribution include:
- The new format is the eBook (not the white paper format). Use a horizontal setup, with high quality design. Make it look sexy. If it looks like the same old boring report, no one will share it.
- Before distribution, solicit feedback from key industry influencers. Ask to include their comments in the back of the research. This will assist you in getting the project shared and spread.
- Look at your content assets for the research. The end-result (eBook) is just one form to use. From the eBook, you can develop multiple infographics, charts, short reports, blog posts, interviews and more from the report. Any sound research report should generate at least 20 pieces of content to use.
- Paid Distribution – Look at using tools like Outbrain, Zemanta or even Pay-Per-Click to help spread your research to targeted searchers.
- SlideShare is a must. You may get your best sharing and downloading of the research there.
- Don’t Gate It – it’s so tempting to put a form in front of your research. Don’t. If you do, recognize that the content won’t be shared at all, which will hurt your search rankings. If leads are a must, then create two versions, one gated and one un-gated as a teaser, but with enough information that people will actively share.
- Good Old PR – It’s worthwhile to send your results out on the wire (using a service like PR Newswire) with a link to your report.
- Media Relations – Connect individual with key industry influencers and media sites about the report. Be personal, and consider sending an abstract of what the story should be for that particular audience.
In summary, research reports can and should be a core part of your content marketing program. If you decide to invest in this area, use the points above to do it right. So many research programs die silently…make sure yours is not one of them.