In Content marketing

Creating content that resonates with your audience is the primary goal. The article below shares critical tips that can help guide you in creating content that yields engagement. CK

Article written by Joe Lazauskas originally appeared in Contently on January 8, 2020.

The temptation with any “2020 marketing trends” content is to pack it with jargon and talk about the AI-powered revolution that’ll reinvent digital transformation across the enterprise.

We’re happy to report in that in our 2020 trends webinar last month, we did not do that. Instead, we focused on data and insights that you can easily use to create more effective content. Find all seven trends below—plus a recording of our presentation, for all of you crazy webinar junkies out there.

1. Invest in multimedia content (the data backs it up)

We’ve been talking about the importance of video and infographics for years, but marketers have been slow to make the investment.

That’s starting to change, and you need to keep up. Video spend on the Contently platform increased nearly 50 percent this year, with a spike over the past six months. And as we revealed in our financial services benchmark report earlier this month, videos and infographics greatly outperform other formats.

average social shares content marketing

But don’t just create any old video. Your 50-year-old CEO’s monotone monologue is going to drive an average view time of about 2.5 seconds. Instead, invest in animated explainers and educational series at the top of the funnel and product videos and case studies for the middle and bottom of the funnel.

average social shares content marketing

2. Embrace deep relationship metrics

When we were first building Contently’s Performance Analytics, we wrote a mantra on our whiteboard wall: People, not Visitors.

relationship metrics

The idea was that vanity reach metrics weren’t what mattered. Instead, we needed to measure the relationships our customers were building with people.

Content marketing has gone through an ROI evolution over the past six years, since content marketing first became a thing. Initially, everyone touted reach metrics like followers, impressions, and pageviews. By 2016, there was a deeper focus on engagement metrics like shares, return visitors, and time on site.

In 2018, we witnessed a hard turn towards “transactional” metrics, as CMOs challenged content marketers to prove their value through traditional last-click attribution. (Which is a very limited way to measure the value of content.)

evolution of content marketing

In 2020, marketers will embrace a more sophisticated approach by prioritizing the relationships they’re building with people, and tying those relationships to revenue. They’ll focus on newsletter subscriptions and return visitors as key KPIs, and use Google Analytics’ attribution modeling to track how their audience converts within a 90-day window.

3. Ungate your content

In B2B, there’s one easy tactic that’ll help you build stronger relationships with people: ungate your content.

We wrote about ungating your content at length two weeks ago. When companies gate content, they often unwittingly throw their prospects into the marketing funnel of hell. Here’s how it goes:

Step 1: Marketing gates a valuable report.

Step 2: One hundred people arrive at the landing page for the report. Eighty of them leave immediately because filling out that form will unleash unspeakable hell upon their inbox. The other 20 fill out the form.

Step 3: Marketing gives the contact info for those 20 people to the sales team.

Step 4: Sales harasses the people who downloaded the e-book with passive-aggressive emails and cold calls, even though all they did was download a piece of content.

Step 5: These 20 people who downloaded the report now regret doing so. In fact, they kind of hate the company, making this an incredibly masochistic exercise for everyone involved.

marketing funnel of hell

That being said, there are scenarios in which it makes sense to gate your content—webinars, educational courses, exclusive subscription content, and PQL (product qualified lead) projects. But even then, you need to be extremely thoughtful about how you follow up.

marketing funnel of hell

In the long run, you’ll gain way more customers by making it easy to access your most valuable content, instead of hiding it behind a lead form and driving people away.

4. Get creative with compliance

The greatest feats of creativity we’ve seen in our time at Contently have come from marketers at highly regulated companies who have to figure out how to work with compliance.

In financial services, healthcare, and other highly regulated industries, a poor working relationship with compliance can kill a content program. But we’ve seen some tactics that help:

content marketing compliance

In addition, your life will be much easier if you invest in workflow technology that provides audit trails, comprehensive record keeping, flexible workflows, and off-platform approvals. This helps you integrate compliance into the production process without drowning in a sea of spreadsheets and email chains. Contently has a ton of financial services clients, and without these features in our platform, I’m not sure how we’d get anything done.

content marketing compliance

5. Create data-driven stories

Brands have one key content advantage over media companies: proprietary data and research.

Original research is by far the easiest way to drive social engagement, press, and backlinks. One of our favorite examples is athenahealth’s flu season dashboard. It’s both helpful (to medical professionals and reporters tracking the spread of the flu) and a little terrifying—especially if you live in Pennsylvania, where 8.37% of all primary care visits involve flu-like symptoms.

data-driven content

Athenahealth’s content team did a fantastic job turning the company’s anonymous healthcare data into a dynamic piece of content. Take a closer look, and you’ll likely find some newsworthy data being crunched inside your company, too.

data-driven content

6. Invest in smarter distribution

The biggest mistake a lot of marketers make is failing to invest in the distribution of their content.

If you want to build an audience, paid media is your friend—particularly on Facebook, which remains one of the most cost-effective content distribution channels. It just makes sense. If you’re going to spend $500 to produce a piece of content, why wouldn’t you spend another $500 to ensure that three times as many people see it?

And if the content is really good, paid distribution has a tremendous trickle-down effect. It helps you generate more email subscribers and social followers, and can even drive an SEO boost. We call this the compounding returns of content.

compounding returns of content

One good place to start: your search budget. The average CPC on Facebook is only $1.72, which is five-to-ten times cheaper than the CPC on Google for equivalent topics and industries.

average cpc facebook

7. Think like a teacher

We love this quote from business author and professor Adam Grant: “Good communicators make themselves look smart. Great communicators make audiences feel smart.”

The best content marketing teaches an audience something new and helps them make smarter decisions. There’s no better way to build relationships with people.

This can look like Patagonia helping their customers plan the perfect outdoor adventure, or a tech startup in New York helping people create content that doesn’t suck. We call this buyer enablement content.

buyer enablement content

It may sound easy, but teaching someone something new requires careful communication. A few tips:

1. Meet the audience where they are, on their terms and at their level of knowledge. Aim for simple language. If concepts are complicated, break them down first.

2. Don’t be afraid to rely on a ghostwriter. Being a subject matter expert and an expert writer are two very different things.

3. Create content in a variety of formats, and use visuals whenever possible. Most people are visual learners, which is why effective teachers use whiteboards, PowerPoints, and physical objects in their lessons whenever possible.

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