2019 Content Marketing Strategy [Brand Builders Edition]

In this month’s Brand Builders lunch, we had an intimate group of content marketers: Christine of TalkwalkerGerry of Bridge Alliance and Joe, author of Asian Growth Stories.
The conversation builds on a common challenge of coming up with content for different audiences. The group also shares what they’ve each learnt in their experience on what makes content marketing tick.

How To Create Content That Targets Each Of Your Audiences

Christine brings up the challenge of coming up with content for different audiences, and raises the need to curate content with different audiences in mind.
Joe: People often create content for everyone and what happens is that it comes out plain and vanilla. A clever example is that of Hootsuite’s partnership with We Are Social, where they produce one study together and use it throughout their content marketing efforts.
Christine: How do you arrive at this idea then? There is a lot of trial and error involved before figuring out what content type works well with your audience.
Joe: It’s important to first understand your audience and the content that reaches out to them. There are a couple out there that can be somewhat generalised into:
(1) focusing on research and using the research piece as much as you can
(2) the likes of inspirational videos, where people or brands become known for being of that stripe.
You need to figure out what works well with your audience. For me, it’s short how-to videos.
Christine: Do you specifically target folks in this region? Because that will then differ quite a bit…
Joe: Yes, most of the clients I work with currently are based here, but we are soon to expand. It is also true, what you’ve highlighted. For example, folks in the U.S. ask different questions, like how to bridge the cultural gap when working with Asia, be it a boss or a client in Asia.

How To Repurpose & Repackage Your Content

Gerry: One thing that works for me so far in shortening the trial and error phase, is to repackage the content. Have your blog post as the cornerstone of the entire piece, then do spin-offs like video snippets, pull-out quotes, easy-to-digest images or infographics. Using these derivative content on my different channels helps me get a sense of how my audience responds to different content types.
Joe: An example of smart re-packaging of content could also be seen from Neil Patel. He films all his videos in a single day – that does minimise the about of time you’d need to curate content.
Joe: I actually spend a lot of time understanding my audience. It’s interesting to know how Jeff Bezos goes about putting the customer in the business. He has an empty chair in the middle of the room during meetings – that chair represents the customer. This helps the team to always keep the customer (the audience) in mind through their discussion.

How Content Partners Can Boost Your Content Marketing Strategy

Christine: We spoke about working with partners as experts earlier, like in the Hootsuite and We Are Social example. You do that quite a bit too in your interviews. How do you find people to work with?
Joe: These are people whose content I find valuable, and will be valuable to my audience too. My list of content partners is rather small; I focus on quality than quantity. I’d rather have 5 partners and build a good relationship with them. This relationship also makes it easier for me to reach out to other people to partner up. I guess I’m always on the hunt! I also don’t pick brands. Instead, I pick the people whom I want to partner with. I often tell my staff “if you work with me, you are stuck with me”. This means that they can always come back even if they leave, and that I will go to them whenever I see something they can optimise on their LinkedIn.
Gerry: I find that partnerships help me gain scale with comparatively less amount of effort, especially when the relationship is great. However, these relationships do take time to build and it becomes a challenge to balance where you invest your time in.
Christine: It also comes back down to the value you can bring to each other, even though relationship building could take a long time.
Joe: This brings us back to the “lead nurturing” conversation we had in a previous session when we were talking about attracting talent. The same applies to partners. You need to nurture them and I do the same with my emailers and content.

B2C VS B2B Content Marketing: What’s The Difference?

Joe: My wife was shopping for a swimsuit and this brand in the department store had a pretty good idea – they had a sign saying “as seen on Instagram”. It’s interesting how they tap on that content to make it more compelling for the shopper to buy or try on their stuff.
Christine: In my B2C experience, we use images more – that seems to work better for consumers.
Joe: I guess you will need to keep in mind the length of the sales cycle. If it’s long, like in B2B, content marketing is key. But if it’s a decision that’s made fast, you might not even need content.

Content Calendars: Are They Worth It?

Gerry: So does anyone here come up with content calendars and do you keep to it? I used to have it but realised that the business moves so quickly that the plan changes radically.
Christine: As a global team, we do have a content calendar that we stick to. It is useful and helps in coordinating with several team members that are also producing content.
Joe: I do more of a list of ideas. So a list of topics, a list of questions and people I want to partner with. This is more so that I know I have ready ideas whenever I need to tap on it, and choose from the list based on what might be more relevant for that point in time. Another form of iteration I do with my team is to have them pitch their ideas to me – “here’s my idea in terms of adding value to x audience and this is what I expect to achieve”. They are then tasked to do that and we come together to share our learnings after.
On the topic of content curation, I also don’t produce generic content. One of my top performing pieces is on content marketing in the financial services space. Another thing I find helpful is to speak to the Head of Customer Service or the Head of Sales instead of the marketing folks. This is because you need a straight-up conversation about why people buy and don’t buy from you. Most of the time content and messaging are not resonating with your audience because the narrative comes from the inside-out. No one sat down to listen to the customers. If it’s not even in the list of reasons of why people chose you, don’t use that in your messaging.

Tools To Jumpstart Your Content Marketing Efforts

Joe: My newsletter is probably the most powerful tool I have. This is especially so if your audience is not all on LinkedIn. But everyone is on email. And if you get to their emails, you bypass everything and get into that 1-on-1 relationship with them.
Christine: I’m curious as to how you brand these newsletters – is it you or is it your company?
Joe: I try and balance it. I try and add a human voice to it. Most corporate ones are very professional and standardised. While it’s my company’s newsletter, it’s my tone and style.
Gerry: I realise that when I put a face or a person behind my content, it makes for better engagement with my audience. I believe this humanises your brand and your message and people feel more compelled to engage with another person than a brand.
Joe: I see that happen with a lot of big companies, where they get lots of likes, but just 1 comment. Unlike when it’s an individual’s post, you see higher engagement levels.
Gerry: I think another approach that’s often overlooked is social listening. At present I do keep tabs from a PR or reputational point of view, like media monitoring, but I still feel like there’s a lot to be done with that insight. The thing I’m trying to figure out is the ‘so what’? What does this tell me about my audience and should I tap on the trends they’re watching when developing my content? I’m still figuring out how best I should approach or make use of this.
Christine: There are many ways to use social listening and 3 most common ones would be:
(1) PR – making sure your team has a PR crisis strategy in place to protect your brand reputation, then there’s
(2) digital marketing – to understand your audience better, find brand advocates & influencers that you should look to connect with, and get insights on how to create content that resonates
(3) industry insights – for you to track industry conversations, analyse your market, and spot new trends and opportunities.
An example I recently heard about is from the airline industry. They use social listening to monitor even down to the detail of what their customers think about the airplane food. And that information goes to the person looking after catering. So it extends beyond marketing to customer satisfaction as well.
Joe: On the topic of social listening, I also tap into our enquiries channels. So one approach I have towards coming up with ideas for content is to look at the sales and prospect enquiries we receive. Apart from looking at the keywords for a PR and SEO perspective, I also look at the questions that were asked. This helps identify common challenges that I can base my content pieces on.
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