Using trending topics for effective content marketing
Benchmark studies suggest that social media and article postings are the most popular content marketing tactics, at least for B-to-B marketers (this from several sources, but reinforced by the B-to-B Content Marketing benchmarks and trends report from the Content Marketing Institute. OK it’s been out for a little while, but I’ve just re-read it and it’s still pretty useful!).
The key focus though should be really understanding your target audience and looking at content broadly to find the right combination of what you talk about and how you share it. Social site articles can be effective when that’s where your audience is connecting or looking for information. Or, your prospects and customers may be reading industry news sites, searching the web by topics, subscribing to industry newsletters or content from experts they respect, or reading print publications (and they’re probably engaging in more than one of these activities). You have to tune in to what they read and who they listen to. So the most appropriate and compelling content that will engage your prospects and customers may be articles or guest posts that you author; free, useful information with no product messaging; white papers or other technical or thought leader material; customer stories; industry research; or information on how a technology works. And it may be in multiple media: in text form, or a video, webcast, or a podcast.
Just as important, tune in to the topics that audiences will find most valuable. The content must have real information value to your users. What they find valuable at an early funnel stage—when they’re first recognizing a particular challenge or pain point for example—will be different from topics that are compelling at a later stage, like when they’re comparing vendors or defining their purchase decision criteria. Marketing messages should be appropriate to the funnel stage: the further the prospect is into the funnel, the more product-specific and sales-oriented the messages can be.
What’s the best way to find topics that will jump out, pique curiosity, and get passed around? Certainly understanding your audience’s pain points is the best place to start. But finding trending topics that are just starting to get attention, before they’re over-hyped, is the next step. And for that you have to keep your ear to the ground.
Here’s an example from my own hard-won experience. (I learn everything the hard way!) Last fall I developed a webcast—DreamBox Learning’s first—around the topic of the Common Core State Standards, featuring one of the most highly-respected experts on the subject. “Everyone” said the topic and the presenter were sure to attract a lot of leads into the top of the funnel because the information was so important to our audience: district leaders who needed to adopt the standards. But the registration numbers were disappointing. We attributed it largely to the fact that by the time we promoted the event the topic was getting so much exposure that it was impossible to stand out.
For our next webinar we focused on formative instruction, a topic that was getting a fraction of the coverage. We were initially concerned that it was too esoteric or academic to get a lot of attention. But after testing the topic with a some key people from our audience we decided it was a great topic for us, not only because it was so interesting to one of our key audience segments—district folks with curriculum or instruction titles—but the research on formative instruction also makes a great argument for why DreamBox Learning’s unique product is so effective. This webcast drove 3x the turnout of the earlier event and exceeded our rather aggressive lead goals by more than 50%. There were several factors that undoubtedly contributed to a much better result—including a different time of year and a different webcast vendor. But the topic itself was a key driver of a much higher level of interest.
The bottom line: knowing your audience + an environment where they are engaging + a compelling trending topic = effective content marketing.
By the way—here’s how I define “Content marketing”, and why I think it should really be called “Engagement marketing”!
(And thanks to Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net for the photo!)