“More of the same“ or “unique content“ – this question is becoming increasingly urgent as more and more content is being produced for online channels. The more often content marketing is the starting point and basis for online marketing, the greater the threat of routine and redundancy.
Only a few companies succeed in supporting their online brand and the full reach of their website with original content on an ongoing basis. Often, this failure is due to lacking a clear strategy or inefficient workflows. This can mean that content creation is oriented toward what is available rather than new, original ideas. To help you overcome "More of the same," I'll share a checklist that can help you create unique and successful content with the right strategies. Moreover, I'll give you a practical workflow example to implement the strategy.
Recently, Avinash Kaushik offered a pointed criticism of social media marketing: Many companies fail at posting original content on the largest social platforms. He therefore suggests the "Money off the Roof“ test: You take the money that has been budgeted for social media marketing and simply throw it from the roof of the company building in small bills. Passersby will notice the raining money and will film it with their smartphones and post the recording. And if these posts generate more attention than the social media marketing that's been used in the past, you should always throw the money from the roof.
Taken against the backdrop of this not entirely serious solution, it's easy to see the problem: Poor or only average rankings, low or no reaction to social media posts, and too-long waiting for the first viral hit on YouTube. These are problems that a lot of you can certainly understand because we all face them. Reasons for meager success are often a lack of strategic choices and conflict with your own content, no measurement of results, and failure to implement the strategy into a goal-oriented workflow.
The establishment of a content marketing strategy begins with questions about the company's strategy:
You can differentiate between the following alternatives for your online business strategy:
The online marketing strategy follows the company strategy.
The online marketing strategy describes the various goals, channels, and instruments for online marketing:
Your specific content will be based on one of these three proto-typical strategies.
The three strategy types require different content:
Your content marketing strategy can only be as successful as the competition allows. Therefore, the next step is the most decisive.
Even with your market strategy as well as your quality leadership it is especially important to analyze the competition. You should therefore look at your competitor's publicly accessible channels and take the following into account:
Factors for success can be published photos or videos, the use of testimonials, the scope of text, or the level of optimization. After analyzing these factors and the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, you can adjust your strategy to the competition. Perhaps you can utilize competitors' weaknesses and dominate your topic area. Or you can recognize strong content competitors and avoid them in neighboring areas.
As a result of the strategy and the competitor analysis, you can establish a profile for your content. To do this, attributes are determined and your competitors' content is evaluated according to these attributes. Finally, in contrast to your competitors, you determine your content, its level of optimization, and thus its uniqueness. You must stand out so strongly from your competitors that the user is motivated toward the desired behavior. A "call to action" is therefore important to all content.
A good prerequisite for uniqueness is content exclusivity i.e., texts, photos, and videos. If you think you have chosen the right content, you now need to choose specific indicators to measure the success of the content.
In terms of establishing a strategy, this has to do with suitable metrics and the resulting indicators, the Key Performance Indicators (KPI). Important KPIs for your content can be:
With CPC, you should allocate the costs of content creation to targeted visits. You can summarize the internal and external costs for the content - e.g. royalties - and divide it by the visits achieved.
All these KPIs say a lot about the quality of the content as well as goal achievement. In social media, content for brand strategy on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube, the following holds true
Information on the success of content marketing.
Whereas the development of the content marketing strategy takes place once for a longer time frame (six months to a year), the operative workflow for the implementation of the strategy is a process that occurs daily or even several times a week. We'll look at this more closely with an example of content creation for a provider of solar energy panels.
The first step in effective and unique content marketing is the (1) content creation. Here, the implementation of the positioning (Point (5) of the strategy creation). This will show whether or not the planned positioning and uniqueness determined by the strategy can be implemented with the available budget and personnel.
It should be clear what qualities the content must have in order to support the strategy before the content is even created. Even if you're creating the content yourself, you should carry out a briefing! This could, for example, appear in an outline:
If the content is created according to the specifications of the quantitative and qualitative content planning, the next step is the distribution, the so-called (2) seeding. Seeding is the implementation of the online marketing strategy. Here, the content is distributed on the previously determined channels. In our example, the channels could be the following:
The next step of the workflow is the preparation and recording of (3) reactions of users, customers, and (if necessary) journalists to the content. Actions that are linked to the content must be regulated, inquiries must be answered, and potential crises managed. Reactions to the solar energy system calculator could be:
These hopefully overwhelmingly positive user and customer reactions then lead to the next steps of the content workflow, the (4) measurement of success and the analysis. By means of the metrics established at the strategic level, you can determine if you were able to support the marketing and company goals with the content you created based on your evaluation of competition and positioning. Of course, in the case of significant failures, it is especially important to reference competitor content and user reactions to analyze why the content was less successful.
In our example, the following results can be measured:
The causes for these clearly unsatisfactory results must be identified in an analysis. Because the solar energy system calculator is an expensive project, the content must be optimized anew in order to attain satisfactory results.
But the measurement of success is not just a one-time measurement. With sustainable content channels such as SEO or YouTube, continual (5) monitoring is sensible and necessary. Ideally, this is carried out with software such as OnPage.org. The monitoring also gives important tips for the last stage of the content marketing workflow.
When it has been proven that a specific content can attain new and additional reach through optimization and expansion, it should be (6) republished. Even how-to content with high "everyday relevance" has the potential to successfully meet content goals in republishing. The republishing replaces the level (1) of the content workflow, which then begins anew.
With these prototypical strategies and the content marketing workflow, you can carry out an effective and efficient process that will make a content marketing strategy possible that is successful because of its uniqueness. In addition to the strategic questions already asked, such as goals and positioning, other strategic questions can come into play. The most important of these is the question as to whether or not the content should be created in-house or by a specialized provider, such as a press agency. In this typical "Make-or-Buy"-question or strategy, the work steps in content marketing that have the greatest influence for the strategy should certainly be completed in-house.
The next issue is positioning: "longtail vs. mainstream". You can either try your luck with content marketing in longtail with nische-themes, or, if you're sure of your uniqueness, you might be competitive in the mainstream of popular themes.
Finally, the planned frequency of content publishing begs the question "Quantity or Quality." There are competitive situations in which a very high publication rate brings attention on all channels. In this case, the high frequency is a part of your uniqueness. However, a "quantity" strategy wears out very quickly.
Content marketing is an indispensable element for online marketing, because all relevant online marketing channels require content. The high competition and effort in content marketing mean that content marketing needs to follow an effective strategy and pass within the framework of a workflow that ensures goal-achievement with acceptable costs, i.e., with maximum efficiency. We hope that the steps presented here provide some helpful impulses.
Published on 05/16/2017 by Dominik Große Holtforth.
Prof. Dr. Dominik Große Holtforth teaches business studies and media management at Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Cologne. He is also head of the e-Commerce department which deals with strategy-related questions, the controlling of key performance indicators as well as competition strategies in online marketing and e-Commerce. Prof. Große Holtforth is co-founder of the e-Commerce agency Warenkorb.com and founder of the online plant shop “Meine Orangerie.” This is how he combines scientific expertise and practical experience.