Content marketing is the best way of boosting long-term brand awareness with your audience. Sounds simple enough! All you need to do is publish a few posts, sit back, and watch as traffic comes flooding in right?
Well, not quite.
As every marketer knows by now, building brand awareness through content is a bit more complicated than that. So what are some of the things you ought to keep in mind when designing a B2B inbound marketing strategy geared towards building awareness and establishing long-term brand recognition?
Here are my observations, along with Nolan's thoughts on the subject.
Table of Contents
Figure out What your Audience Responds to
As every content marketing guide out there preaches, know thy audience. However, how do you get to know them? You could use existing data to help you figure out your customer personas and update them.
Another way of getting to know your audience better is to look at what content they engage with.
“At Bigeye, we are largely starting from scratch,” says Necoechea. “The important thing was to figure out who our audience was and what content they responded to. Knowing that was going to take a little bit of testing.”
Necoechea highlights an example of using Bigeye's Medium publication's dashboard to collect engagement metrics. Correlating metrics such as reads versus views to the kinds of content published gave him insight into what Bigeye's audience was thirsty for.
In addition, use of basic SEO tactics such as keyword research to figure out search volumes and structure content around Google's "People also ask" section.
The questions highlighted here often give clues as to what people's search intent is.
Structuring content around answering these questions is a good way to address audience pain points. Speaking of pain points, Necoechea mines his sales team and even sales calls to figure out common issues and use content to address those concerns.
While some of these pain points might belong deeper in the funnel, they're nonetheless valuable data points around which content can be structured. Examining the channels your audience prefers also points to what content they prefer and the tone your content should adopt.
One of the toughest tasks a content marketer has is benchmarking. Let's say your post received 100 views in a week.
Is that good or bad?
Without a benchmark, you're firing blind. The most obvious way of generating a benchmark is to look at prior traffic data and compare that to current volumes.
However, what if you're beginning from scratch? Necoechea admits that's a tough situation and the only option is to generate a history of your own.
Another method could be using a tool such as SimilarWeb to compare your traffic patterns to those of your competition to derive a benchmark.
Keyword research tools also provide a ton of insight into related keyword search volumes and competitor analysis tools. These metrics will assist you in creating a realistic benchmark for your content.
In addition, expectations play a role as well. If you know a topic is a major pain point, you would expect a certain volume of traffic over time.
At the end of the day, benchmarking isn't always a science. However, it's an essential part of the process.
Categorize Your Content Properly
Awareness content belongs at the top of the funnel, while content designed to drive leads into deals belongs towards the middle or the bottom. A common mistake B2B companies make is adopting the same tone and depth across all their content.
This leads to improper funnel classification.
For instance, if your web copy is just as technically deep as your whitepapers are, you're not differentiating between prospects. When queried about tailoring content to suit different stages of the funnel, Necoechea feels gated content is more suited towards driving leads.
“If we were to have a problem with leads for next quarter for instance, I’d be more aggressive with middle-of-the-funnel content,” he says. “I would create more gated content so that the sales team has warmer leads that they can work with immediately.”
Identifying the methods that provide funnel-appropriate content is also important. “SEO gives more top of the funnel content in our case,” says Necoechea, “while for the middle of the funnel, I’m looking at where the barriers in the sales cycle are and what the customer’s questions are.”
It's also important to figure out what your topic clusters are and craft pillar content.
Creating a pillar and satellite structure is the best way to capture Google's attention, according to Hubspot. Even if your goal is to raise awareness, creating pillar content will help you establish authority and provide useful tools for your audience to overcome their issues.
Analyze What isn't Working
Not every piece of content is going to work. In fact, in the beginning, most of your content is probably going to miss the mark.
In such situations, it can be tough to figure out what went wrong. There is no blueprint that you can apply for every situation. However, digging into your data provides many clues.
“Did people find the content but not read it? If they didn’t spend much time on the page, the topic and headline were right but the content was off. Or were people not finding it at all, which means the question wasn’t framed the right way.”
Necoechea points out that it’s an iterative process. He mentions that email promotion tends to provide better feedback since it allows for A/B testing.
“If it’s a content issue, was it too long?,” he explains, “Was it not detailed enough? Was it too much explaining and not enough practical steps? Usually you go in with some assumptions depending on the kind of content and figure it out from there.”
A lack of engagement is merely a symptom, and many things might have gone wrong. Was the headline not aligned with audience expectations? Was the language in the article not what your audience expected?
Metrics such as bounce rates and page visit times point to such issues. If your content had a CTA and conversion rates were low, the CTA message, design, and content flow might be an issue.
Often a mismatch between the CTA type and the content's funnel position is an issue.
For instance, asking top-of-the-funnel viewers to contact your sales team is a bit premature. The thing to do in such situations is to direct them to your newsletter or other mid-funnel content.
Another problem is that the content itself might be incorrect. Speaking to sales teams and gathering feedback from discovery notes will highlight issues with content creation. Always make sure you're working with a creator who speaks your audience's language and knows your subject.
Measuring and tracking relevant metrics also helps. For instance, Necoechea highlights tracking organic visitors versus direct visitors when seeking to build awareness.
While both numbers are positive, the latter indicates PR and direct referrals are driving traffic while the former points to content-generating traffic. An equal, or close-to-equal mix is preferable, and an imbalance indicates something isn't working.
Aligned Content Wins
Every winning content strategy classifies and aligns content well with the company's goals and a prospect's position in the funnel. Pulling this off is easier said than done, but working with the right team that understands how your product works is a huge step in the right direction.