Elements of Content Strategy: Field Notes from a Search for the Best Digital Content Strategy Online
Over the last few weeks I’ve scoured the Web for the best content factory online, a search that eventually led me to three innovative brands engaging in creative content marketing strategies and issuing content that sets them apart from the rest. Let’s take a look at the elements of content strategy these companies have mastered, and how you can adopt their content marketing best practices to transform your own digital content strategy.
My search began with a look inside GE’s ecomagination.com, the corporation’s microsite and brand concept devoted to imagining, discussing, and building innovative clean tech solutions, where I found stunningly visual, high quality content built around larger issues, rather than individual products and services.
From there I visited another highly inventive content creator, marketing automation SaaS company Eloqua, which utilizes a winning mix of award-winning content and content marketing strategy to engage with visitors and guide them through the sales funnel progression to become customers.
Finally, I turned my attention to another B2B marketing software company whose name seems to pop up in nearly any discussion regarding content and inbound marketing: HubSpot. With its well-stocked “hubs” and kits providing its audience with plenty of resources on a variety of topics, and not to mention one of the best marketing blogs in the biz, HubSpot produces a plethora of content aimed at guiding visitors down the funnel to the next stage of the sales process.
What were the qualities that made these three examples stand out?
Elements of Successful Content Strategy
Each company realizes that the Web is becoming more highly visual with each passing day, and that in order for their content to connect with their customers, first it has to grab their attention. While ecomagination makes use of vivid photography, Eloqua and HubSpot have also both invested in creating a signature design style that’s easily recognizable and makes their content more compelling.
How you can do it, too:
- Use more images on your web pages and in your posts
- Work with an outside designer to create templates for your higher impact content such as eBooks, reports, etc. (Ex: Eloqua’s work with creative agency Jess3)
- Experiment with data visualization and video
The best content marketers know that getting content to a customer is only the first step. After all, content isn’t an end in and of itself, it’s a means to conversation and conversion. Therefore, truly successful content factories aren’t built simply for output, but rather for input from customers, as well. They have to have the ability to generate and host discussion.
Ecomagination features a series called “thinktank” that encourages online engagement by posing weekly questions to ecomagination’s followers and posting the best of the replies from Facebook and Twitter. HubSpot is well known for its interactive webinars, and Eloqua boasts a community site called Topliners that provides questions, answers, and discussion via variety of forums, even ranking users based on participation.
How you can do it, too:
- Start off small by writing more open-ended posts posing questions as well as invitations to join the discussion
- Use polls, quizzes, other interactive formats to encourage participation
- Bring the interaction happening via your social media channels to your site
- Create a forum where customers can post and respond to questions and answers
Develop Content for Every Stage of the Buying Process
There’s a reason why the most effective content factories produce more than one type of content — customers can respond very differently to a particular piece of content depending on how far along they are in the buyer journey. If they’re just starting out, the goal of your content should be to raise awareness and establish thought leadership. Once they view your company as a trusted resource only then should you begin offering content that provides details regarding your product/service solution.
Eloqua and HubSpot both do this particularly well by offering compelling content that gets visitors to their sites, and offering them more detailed content that can guide them forward and result in sales funnel progression, as well. Meanwhile, ecomagination does a remarkable job of appealing to larger environmental issues in order to build broad customer advocacy for the brand rather than for an individual product/service. As a result, it starts off with a far bigger audience of people who are interested in clean technology, rather than simply the specialists interested in, say, new turbine engines. From there, it can guide visitors towards additional content that can help them progress down their respective buyer journeys.
How you can do it, too:
- Make sure introductory content focuses on the customer — his or her interest, concern, and/or pain point — rather then your company and solution
- Be sure to include calls to action at the end of each piece of content, directing the customer to the next piece of content that corresponds with the next stage of their buying process
As Shane Snow, founder of Contently, wrote in a guest post for Fast Company, “The secret to using free content as a business driver is to be the host of the conversation your audience cares about, not the subject of it. Great content transforms advertisers from interruption to destination.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series searching for the best content factory online. By following the content factory best practices demonstrated by the three companies we profiled, you’ll be able to connect with more customers and accelerate their progression through your sales funnel.
To recap, here is the three previous posts that appeared in this serious, list in the order in which they appeared:
Of course, Eloqua, HubSpot, and ecomagination are just three examples of content factories doing content marketing exceptionally well.