According to Kleiner Perkins’ 2018 Internet Trends report, consumers are spending a record amount of time (almost six hours!) online per day.
More time online means more information fatigue. And the battle for consumer attention is only becoming fiercer. E-commerce is growing at double-digit rates, and consumers have more options than ever before.
Rather than treat potential customers and users as numbers to add to the bottom line (a transactional mindset), today’s businesses must break through the digital noise by building relationships with their audience.
Driving sales with content marketing
One powerful strategy is content marketing, which builds trust with prospective customers through information-rich content that adds value to the lives of its readers. While content marketing is by no means a new idea, strategies on how to maximize its impact are constantly changing.
Amplification, amplification, amplification
When reading blogs on the topic of content distribution, you will likely be guided down the rabbit hole of social media and search engine optimization (SEO). Unfortunately, these two channels have become overcrowded in the last several years. The average Facebook user, for instance, is bombarded with 300 updates a day out of a possible 1,500. And these were statistics from four years ago.
Today, nobody really sees your organic shares anymore. SEO can work, but it takes a long time to rank and be discoverable. The answer to the distribution dilemma lies in a hybrid strategy that leverages fresh and uncrowded channels, as well as paid distribution.
Unfortunately, there is no shortcut or guide that will point you to the right channels. By the time there is a top 10 list of new websites or platforms, it’s already too late. Discovering new platforms demands tedious and, sometimes gruesome, sleuthing in all corners of the digital (and sometimes physical) world.
Often, it can be as simple as critically looking for what channels, websites, and podcasts you engage with. And with that, seeing if there are opportunities to get involved as a guest or a sponsor. In such cases, look for properties that have a lot of activity and new content, then start with smaller ones to get quicker traction.
The reality with new channels, however, is that some of them will go nowhere – you can be active, post content, and engage with users, but in the end, it might not drive any business for you (Google+ anyone?) And that’s okay! The strategy here is not to succeed in every channel, it is to find one or two that work and put all your energy into dominating them.
The perceived downside of paid distribution is that it costs money. The reality, however, is that there is a cost to everything. Squandering time and effort has a hefty price tag attached to it. The benefit of paid distribution is that you can control exactly where your message appears and who sees it – as well as the exact amount you want to invest into the strategy. And importantly, you can get eyeballs to your content instantaneously.
There is no black-and-white answer to how to execute a successful paid content distribution strategy. Often the answer lies somewhere in the middle, where you can tap several channels at once to create a holistic communication strategy.
Two sub-channels worth exploring:
- Programmatic native advertising through platforms allows you to target only specific audiences based on their content consumption. Importantly, programmatic channels and price campaigns can be optimized with tangible success metrics that are more precise than just clicks (i.e., time-on-site, completed video views, or conversions).
- Influencer marketing can be quite effective, but only if the product you are promoting is closely aligned with the influencer. Users today are savvy and can see through empty product pitches. Ideally, the influencer creates content around your product and doesn’t just plug a sales pitch. You can work either with platforms that aggregate influencers or influencer marketing agencies.
Putting it all together into a sample campaign
But how do you drive sales? Let’s suppose you are a consumer-packaged goods brand. (Similar strategies can be employed by companies in other verticals. The thing that will change is how you measure the success – for other industries it may mean measuring in-store sales lift or increase in foot traffic.)
- Starting line: Start with having an entry blog post. This is where the buyer journey begins. You should keep SEO in mind, but not at the expense of quality.
- Hybrid strategy: Use organic (social media) and paid channels (programmatic native advertising) to expose new audiences to this content.
- Retargeting: Retarget audiences that have read your content with a) more content and b) a message that drives users to the product pages. Finally, retarget based on the products your users have looked at (dynamic ads) to bring them back to complete the purchase.
- Optimization: Optimize the type of content needed to reduce the number of touches required for a sale — in other words, lower the cost of conversion. You can separate campaigns and split test the number of content touches that are needed to drive more efficient conversions.
Always be closing
It’s probably no surprise that content creation is just one piece of the puzzle. After all, the term “content marketing” suggests that content creation is only one side of the coin. After the content is created, you must then market it.
You can have the world’s best content, but if no one takes notice, it creates zero ripples in the universe. Struggling artists don’t have a content problem; they have a distribution problem. As Mark W. Schaefer of The Content Code puts it, “Creating great content is not the finish line. It’s the starting line.”
So now that you’ve written your first, second, or perhaps hundredth blog post, it’s time to put down the pen and think seriously about the distribution strategy that best suits your business’s needs.