As we prepare to see off 2011, some have better reasons to crack open the bottle of champagne than others. It’s been yet another challenging year for marketing teams the world over, who have had to keep abreast of all the goings-on and novelties of the digital era in a race to increase web traffic, raise brand awareness and generate leads. And naturally, those on the cutting edge of online marketing are the ones who will toast their success as they ring in 2012.
Whether you have reasons to celebrate or not, there’s always more you can do to improve your marketing performance and results, without having to shell out buckets of cash on expensive advertising campaigns. Here are three key mini-strategies to infuse into your 2012 marketing mix.
Set your brand newsroom in motion
How many times in 2011 did you see the word “content” alongside business terms such as marketing, revenue and lead generation? Brand storytelling has turned into a buzz activity – but while it is often considered a one-hit wonder, producing compelling content with the rigour and care of a traditional publisher has become a necessity for businesses looking to attract consumers in the glut of voices of the digital space. A report by eMarketer predicts that 39% of companies will increase their investment in branded content in 2012.
With the rise of social sharing and the proliferation of new content formats, such as QR codes, videographics and check-in technology, there are signs that quality content will continue to rule the roost in 2012. With such a plethora of opportunities to reach an increasingly active community of consumers, you should be having a stab at each and every content form that you think would resonate well with the audience you’re trying to reach. Don’t forget David Meerman Scott’s first rule of marketing and PR that applies to businesses in the digital era, “You are what you publish!”
The thing to keep in mind when producing content, whether it is a blog, a white paper, a case study or an entertaining company video, is that it needs to strike a chord with your readership. So while you want to promote your product or services, try to keep self-references to a minimum. People like useful, authentic information delivered in a compelling, user-friendly and transparent way. Remember that as part of social media, blogs are all about community building. If you happen to mention your product, demonstrate what problems it could solve and how users can benefit from it.
If you only create content sporadically, you really want to add some order to your content production. An editorial calendar will help you approach content as part of the overall marketing plan. Establish a content strategy with clearly defined rules and timelines for creation, publishing and distribution.
Tap into the social sharing trend
A recent study by the Pew Research Centre found that, while search was considered the most significant development in the digital space of the past decade, sharing will be the most important one of the next. Social networks have evolved from a way of connecting with friends and family to interactive platforms where anyone can produce, share and recommend content. As the lines between traditional passive consumers and content producers continue to blur, businesses need to adapt their marketing methods accordingly, with this interactive and highly dynamic digital reality in mind.
While having a solid presence in the social media sphere was among last year’s top marketing recommendations, in 2012 brands will need to pay more attention to behavioural specifics such as when and how to interact with their online communities. The key thing to remember here is that your brand is targeting an active community of users, and not just a passive audience. If you want people to interact with you, you first need to listen, and then make your content relevant, timely and share-worthy, regardless of the distribution platform. Having said that, adding social media buttons to each blog post and ensuring all your social media assets are packed into whatever presence you have online will only build the reputation of your brand and encourage your audience to participate.
Another aspect of social sharing you can benefit massively from is the online PR opportunities it creates. Think about content that you’ve seen gone viral in 2011. Behind 99% of it stands an influential blogger or a much-respected media outlet that has started the hype. This content then gets picked up by users and carried across the blogosphere in a matter of minutes. And as a savvy business, you want to be the one whose message attracts the influencers’ attention. Think of yourself as a freelance writer trying to get your byline into a high-profile magazine. For your pitch to be successful, you need to know the right people to target, how to approach them, and what type of content is relevant to their audiences.
Integrate your marketing activities around a specific goal
Last but not least, don’t take your eyes off the target. After all, high levels of traffic, increased conversion rates and better revenues are the whole point of the content game. Find a way to track and analyse audience metrics at each stage of the users’ journey. Designated landing pages, prominent and actionable calls-to-action and functional forms will help you collect user data and tailor your next message on the basis of each specific user’s engagement with your content. Once you have a solid flow of leads coming in, you should nurture them by offering them new value pieces. But whether you do that via campaign emails or monthly company newsletters, make sure your message resonates with users – you surely don’t want it to end up in the spam box after all the effort.
Analyse your performance over time and swap the type of content that doesn’t drive web traffic or leads for something that is popular with your audience. Remember, relevance is everything! You may, for instance, want to test the resonance of a blog piece by scheduling a number of tweets linking to it at different times of the week to see which message drives action.
We hope this time next year you have even more reasons to celebrate with a bang. Here’s to a prosperous 2012!