Content can mean a lot of different things. As marketing has changed, so has the meaning of content. It’s no longer just written word — it’s anything that communicates, so it can be written and verbal words or visual communications. In this episode, you’ll learn how to unlock demand by creating and promoting content to attract better leads.
INTRO: Building a great company is a marathon not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and the team TANK New Media take on growth challenges explore technology and interview business leaders that are always upping their game. If you're ready to build scalable systems to drive your business forward. This podcast is for you.
KRISTA: Hi everyone today we are with Kristen May who is a Content Strategist at TANK New Media, she has tons of experience writing for nonprofit, destination, and overall agency marketing. In general, she helps clients create strategic compelling and consistent content for their brands which is perfect because today we're going to be just discussing how to unlock demand by creating and promoting content, which leads to overall better leads for your company. Welcome, Kristen!
KRISTEN: Hey, thanks for having me.
KRISTA: Absolutely, so why don't we just kick this off by talking a little bit about what is content in general? We use that word a lot in agency speak, but why don't we just let everybody know kind of what we're talking about.
KRISTEN: Yeah, so normally when we think of content we think of words on the page, you know we think of blog posts, anything that's on our website that is readable, but really content has gotten so much bigger than that. It's really anything that communicates, so it can be written words but it could also be verbal words and it could also be a visual piece that communicates something. So content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable relevant and consistent content, right? So now knowing content is so much more than just the word on the page we need to think about yes websites yes blog posts but social posts, emails, content offers — which would be your ebooks, quizzes, checklists — even your digital ads there's words there people are reading those, infographics, memes, of course your videos, podcasts just like we're on now, and webinars all of these are really pieces of content that are consumable by people and so we need to make sure they're making it valuable, relevant, and consistent so that we can drive action. We can gain an audience and drive action from them.
KRISTA: Wow it seems like there's a lot of different ways to kind of get the word out these days.
KRISTEN: There really is.
KRISTA: For sure. Yeah, so why is that important why is it important to create content across all of these channels?
KRISTEN: Well we want to grab attention, we want to establish brand awareness, we want to educate people, we want to delight people, but for us marketers we are always thinking about how we can nurture leads through the buyers journey, right? We want to capture their attention with something relevant and valuable which we talked about but we don't want to just leave it there we want to be able to push them through the-the buyers journey from awareness to consideration to decision.
KRISTEN: But content is also super important too because it helps us to establish thought leadership, to provide that for them, and one thing too that I love so much about creating content and why it's so important; it tends to be the gift that keeps on giving and and what about what I mean by that is what if people find something they like something that is valuable to them and relevant, yes I know I keep saying those words, but when they find things like that they're going to want to share it with other people, and as they share it with other people brand awareness grows, education grows, traffic is driven to the website. From your website, there's more content and that content is hopefully also helpful to those people who've come that way. So creating content is so important this day and age.
KRISTA: Yeah absolutely, I mean just a couple stats that go along with that, you know, from Business to Community, convert traffic to customers content marketing can help your web conversion rates soar nearly six times higher so just by using some-some good content marketing you can really improve your overall conversion rate. And, you know, back to your point about you know educating customers, you know, vendor content was cited by 65% of B2B buyers as having a significant impact on their choice of what to buy and again that was Business to Community. So even in the B2B sector, we're really seeing people doing a lot more research these days and really wanted to be educated about you know the products that they're buying.
KRISTEN: Yeah it's that, it's again gonna go back to the different ways that content can be dished out. So they want to see words on the page but also videos, graphics, images, anything that's going to help them.
KRISTA: Definitely and I know one thing that I hear a lot you know when we talk about-talk about content we talk about who we're writing for you know what are we trying to say, well I write for everybody, you know, our contents for everybody, anybody who, you know, and I think it's probably really important to narrow down you know your target audience about who you're writing to. Can you just talk to me a little bit about that?
KRISTEN: Yeah I mean it sounds great to want to reach everybody who doesn't want to reach everybody? But, you know, it's not particularly helpful or realistic and what I mean by that is, so instead of casting a wide net and in that net you're getting all sorts — I'm not a fisherman by any stretch as a matter of fact I'm vegetarian — but if they're catching, if we're going with the fishing metaphor here, right, we're casting a large net and in that large net you're gonna get fish of all types, you're gonna get all sorts of sea creatures that you weren't necessarily aiming to get, and end up throwing them back in any way. Was not necessarily what you wanted but if you choose that lure that specific lure that captures a very specific type of fish that you want, there's great satisfaction in that and you're doing yourself a favor; because you spent specific, you spent time and energy and strategy to a very specific target audience and you're able to serve up to them things that are helpful. So in understanding your audience, you're wrapping your brain around their problems — how your product or service can address their problems and it's specifically to them. So it's good news feel as though they're being talked to and who doesn't like that? Who doesn't like to feel like they're being thought of?
KRISTEN: So as we narrow down our target audience it's a matter of figuring out who these people are, who we would call our buyer personas and then figuring out how we can address that target group.
KRISTA: Yeah, specifically. I know it's always good when we can really hit on specific problems that that group of people has and really you know speak their language, understand where they're coming from. You know, that'll help in their research process and really create more value for them overall it seems like.
KRISTEN: Yeah and you know what if I'd be so bold to say this I would go back to my ninth grade psychology class when I first learned about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, right? So there are very basic needs that everybody has: the need to feel included or feel safe or feel loved. Usually, those problems can be traced back. When people are researching things at the bottom of what they're searching for can usually be tied back to some of those pieces of Maslow's hierarchy, so if you're addressing a feeling of security when you're trying to sell a shed, for instance, you're connecting two really important pieces together that are gonna resonate with that target audience.
KRISTA: Wow that's a really great point, really really a great point, sometimes we like look at the service level of it you know but there really is something deeper that people are usually looking for even if they don't even realize it. Yes.
KRISTEN: Yeah, always is, people are people are people no matter what century you find yourself in right or what day and age.
KRISTA: Definitely. With technology. Definitely, and I know one way that we kind of look at content here is we're really trying to kind of systemize the process of making it; so who are we talking to you water what are some of the topics you know that that we can create for a particular client. Do you want to talk just a little bit about, you know, systemizing that because that can be kind of an overwhelming thing for a lot of people?
KRISTEN: Well there are a lot of practical pieces to the systematizing and i know that in this podcast we want to focus on the owners, the c-suite people, but they're not and you all aren't always the practitioners, but it is good to know the value of systematizing and thinking through these things because it does affect how content is given out which ultimately will affect the bottom line. So one reason to systematize your content, I'm sorry, your content creation, is for efficiency nobody wants to waste time or money so being efficient, knowing who you're writing to, keeping, you know, you're keeping them engaged, you're letting them know what to expect from week to week or from page to page or from a social post to social post, so not only is it helping the audience it's helping your internal team because of efficiency because of organization through what we would use as a content calendar. It keeps us on point to make sure we're addressing different aspects of a buyers journey, make sure we're focusing on a specific target audience, we know what we're writing about, we know who is writing it, all of these pieces come together in a systematizing of your content creation. Which again at the end of the day is to drive the bottom line but it's also to make sure everybody's time is efficient and used well for the most maximum ROI.
KRISTA: Yeah definitely, and kind of right along with that thinking about systematizing keeping things consistent, you know, we can see consistent branding increases revenue by up to 23%, and that's from INC Magazine. Which is huge. So can you talk a little bit about you know having a consistent brand while creating content?
KRISTEN: Yeah, so I'm a huge believer in a style guide. I feel like that's one of the foundational pieces every business should have. That piece that says who you are, what kind of language you use, it could include gramatics, how you grammatically write things, you know, some people like the em-dash versus the en-dash, and I know I'm getting to be too deep into the woods here, but having a style guide keeps your brand looking the same across all platforms no matter what you're writing or where you're writing it.
KRISTA: All those different channels we looked at earlier?
KRISTEN: Exactly yeah, so for consistent messaging yes and messaging can not it not only includes the content of the words but the contents of your videos and also what your website looks like. You know, and the images that you're serving up in correlation to all of these pieces, they all work together to establish your brand. And you want to have brand recognition and you want to establish trust with your audience — both your current customers and potential customers. So having a style guide, sticking to the style guide sounds bland and boring I get it but in the long run it's that branding that makes such a huge difference.
KRISTA: Yeah and I think it's also learning to be creative within the boundaries you know being creative within the voice and the tone and the style of the brand that exists.
KRISTEN: And you make a good point I am a type-a personality and I like to just kind of work linearly — in a line from A to B to C to D and that I have that comfort in the style guide but the style guide also gives liberties and freedoms to be able to work within the realm of your creativity and all of your creatives and your writers and your designers, right? So you're right it's a matter of the balancing being consistent but being creative, for sure.
KRISTA: Yep definitely, definitely and one piece of I think the content puzzle that so many people resist or miss is the idea of promoting your content once you create it. What's your take on content promotion?
KRISTEN: Well number one you should be writing your content, your words for organic search number one. So I know promotion, as we think about it, is usually in, like through social media or through paid opportunities. But just keeping in mind first and foremost making sure everything you write is search engine optimized, is SEO friendly, because you're gonna get organic promotion. So there's also paid promotion, and that is important too. Whether you do any sort of paid ads, you know, PPC, retargeting, social ads, or even if you take something and you promote it through your social channels and I don't mean necessarily by-by paying for it. So using all of their social channels to get the word out about your blog post, your video, your, you know, one of your-your product pages, your service pages but getting all that content out through every channel you can think of. Promotion can also include reposting blog posts, their LinkedIn you can republish, Medium you can republish or repost. So there's a lot of ways to promote your content, to repurpose your content too, which I knew is not specifically what we're talking about — repurposing it and promoting it in every way you can — just allows you to reach more people in your target demographic and it will entice and draw in more top of the funnel leads, which will push more traffic to your website, which provides more opportunity for conversion and sales. so promotion is important.
KRISTA: Well yeah definitely, just getting the word out and if you're gonna create it you know you want to make sure you can find it. You're gonna spend the time, you know, making sure that it's out there, you know, hopefully people-people find it, for sure. For sure, so we've talked a lot about why these things are important but if we move a little bit into some more of the execution there's a lot of challenges that people have overall with creating content. You know, 60% of people find it hard to produce content consistently according to Zazzle media. 65% of people find it hard to produce engaging content, according to Content Marketing Institute and 62 don't know how to measure the ROI of their campaigns, which is again from Content Marketing Institute. So there's a lot of challenges out there that people are really having when they're trying to do content marketing. Are there, are there systems? Are there strategies that you utilize, that maybe we could talk a little bit about say to help ease that?
KRISTEN: Yeah this is a big conversation I feel like we could probably talk about for the next two hours and that would probably just scratch the surface but for the sake of our audience listening — so producing content consistently, making it engaging even creating the strategy in the first place, can sometimes feel so overwhelming. When do you start, where do you begin, why even think just brainstorming and having a strategy session. Just brainstorming what is it that we should talk about, who are we trying to meet, you know, reach with this, how is it helping them? So just thinking, just taking time to think through those things I think is this super place just to start. Shouldn't end in there though. It's a great place to start.
KRISTA: I think a lot of people skip that piece too. Like okay wait who are we talking to, what, why, what matters to them. For sure.
KRISTEN: Yeah and then taking that a step farther and thinking through the execution of this. Well okay we kind of know who we want to write to, what we want to write about, what action we want them to take, how we think it's gonna help them, but who's gonna even write this piece. Oh yeah. How is it, you know, and is it going to be a blog post, is it going to be a social post, is it gonna be an email drip campaign? Thinking through those pieces how to optimize those pieces, there's different ways to optimize different content vehicles. If it's an email is gonna be different than a website page which might be even slightly different than a blog post depending on what you're aiming to do, and then figuring out where you're gonna publish it, where this is gonna live, and then, of course, the promotion piece which we've already talked about. How are you getting it out there? Do you have some budget to put behind this? And then in that last piece, which is just so important, is just analyzing it, you know, what kind of, what are you getting from this? Are the goals that you hoped to meet being met? Just yeah, looking at the analytics — analyzing what was done, figuring out what you can do better or tweak. And that's one thing great about publishing to the Internet is that these pieces are living and breathing. So if you have a website page, if you have a blog post, you have a landing page, a content offer, any of those pieces can be tweaked, AB tested, and analyzed on a consistent basis. As a matter of fact that should be, that's one of the best practices of inbound marketing is constantly looking at that, seeing how it's working, and then making tweaks to get the most mileage out that you can. Out of all the content you're producing. And if we're talking about systems, Krista I would be failed to not mention a content calendar. I did mention it earlier, but literally having a spreadsheet or a document or a software in which you can record week by week, or however often you do your content, every other week, monthly, quarterly, however. But you are, but you track who your target persona is your target audience, the keywords you're trying to hit, what it is you're writing — again is it a blog posts a video whatever you're trying to produce — the content calendar shouldn't, content calendar should include your CTA, what action you want them to take. These are just such, these are things that should come out of your strategy conversations, you're brainstorming meetings. The content calendar is just a place to put it down, so they're sure to be organized. And going back to we talked about earlier, being efficient. Being efficient with our time and getting maximum ROI. A great tangible way to start this is by having a content calendar and then occasionally, which I probably suggest maybe quarterly maybe by semi-annually, doing a content audit. Let's validate the relevance in the, in our consistency in our messaging and what we're putting out and then finding opportunities and gaps of where new content could be created. So it's a never-ending effort but it keeps you out there, it keeps people finding you because you're answering problems or answering questions, you're solving problems, you're offering solutions, you're educating, all these things which people are looking for all the time you just get to serve up your product or service as the answer. Right?
KRISTA: Yeah that's awesome. I mean that's a great system and in with that you know it seems like there's a framework there to really kind of make this process more repeatable and kind of set some foundational pieces that people could use kind of as they start working on this for themselves. So when we look at some of those foundational pieces that you've mentioned you know so overall determining your niche audience is kind of one of the first things we ought to do. So figuring out who are we talking to and then where do they spend their time you know what medium should we be putting this on is it on sites email social channels kind of all of those pieces. So who are we talking to you where are they at and then what kind of content resonates with them. So you know not necessarily trying to promote or sell our product but how are we solving their problems, you know, how are we providing value to them you know through the content overall. And this could be through tutorials, checklists, educational material, you know, all of these good pieces of content that people, wonderful people like you, create all the time. And then it's really serving those up and getting those out there through blogs, infographics, content offers, podcasts. Making sure that we are getting them, getting them published and then promoting them. You know, kind of as that last piece is, you know, how can people, how can the target audience find the content that we're creating. You know, and then wrapping that all up with overall analysis and then you know kind of keep going through that process. Does that sound pretty close?
KRISTEN: You nailed it Krista. What we talked about in the past what 10-12 minutes? You succinctly said in about 30 seconds. Yeah exactly, you're starting with your target audience, which in developing personas is a interesting practice in and of itself, but starting with your personas, you know, targeting your audience all the way to analyzing, you know, that entire process there is what should happen on a regular ongoing basis. But yeah, you summed that up very nicely.
KRISTA: Wonderful, well thank you so much for spending time with us today Kristen. I know, like you said, I feel like we barely scratched the surface here but I, you know, as we were talking I jotted down a few more notes of things that we could definitely dive, dive deeper into in other podcasts so I'm sure we'll have you back on here soon.
KRISTEN: That sounds great.
KRISTA: Wonderful, thanks Kristen.
KRISTEN: Thank you, talk to you later, bye.
KRISTA: For tools and resources, visit manufacturinggrowth.com
Co-founder & VP, Client Services
Krista also has more than a decade of professional experience under her belt. Her expertise lies in graphic design, project management, and digital marketing for both high-profile and growing businesses. Currently, she functions as the VP of Client Services and lead strategist.
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Each week Krista Ankenman and her team at TANK New Media take on growth challenges, explore technology, and interview business leaders dedicated to growing better through continuous improvement. If you’re ready to build repeatable and scalable systems to drive your business forward, this podcast is for you.
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