What is the content marketing cycle and why does it matter?

BookContent marketing is a perennial topic of interest for today’s Marketers.

In an era dominated by digital and online, it’s more important than ever that good content sits at the heart of your marketing strategy – as we explore in our blog on why you need quality content in the era of machine learning.

But SEO and search engine rankings are only one element of the content marketing story.

What is content marketing?

A blog by the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as ‘educational but is not about the products the company sells’. For me, that about sums it up – it’s usable, genuinely valuable information for the reader.

Of course, what this content is will depend on your market and your audience. If you’re selling building materials, the content you produce might take the form of best practice guides and tips for people doing DIY or professional building products.

If you are marketing investment funds, your content is more likely to be market-led pieces about trends in stocks, new thinking around the construction of funds, and items about the newsworthy events that will have an impact on yields.

And whatever content you produce, there’s something called the content marketing cycle, which should sit behind every content decision you make. Here we look at what the content marketing cycle is, and why it matters.

What is the content marketing cycle?

Like so many of these terms, it can be hard to get a consistent definition of the content marketing cycle. This graphic from communications agency Fusion Spark seems to give a pretty comprehensive explanation:

FSM_CM_Cycle_2014-1024x1006-1

Source: http://www.fusionspark.com/content-marketing-4-graphics/

The cycle essentially covers the entire process, from researching your audience and their interests, to reviewing the effectiveness of your content … and then starting the cycle again with fresh insights.

What are the steps in the cycle, and how can you optimise them to get value from the content you produce?

  1. Research and insight

In some content marketing processes, this is called ‘listen’ or ‘buying personas’. This stage is all about finding out everything you need to know about your prospects – and therefore about the content they will value.

What are their interests? What challenges and barriers do they face? How do they try and solve them, and how can your solutions help?

There are numerous sources of data that can inform your research. Some will be from the outside world – market surveys, research and analysis into the things your audience care about.

Some will come from your own marketing and customer data. What has engaged your readers – which pages on your website get the most hits, and the lowest bounce rates?

Which emails have the highest open and click-through rates? Which of your social media posts get the most engagement (social media data can be hugely valuable in identifying winning content).

  1. Goal setting

Identifying clear objectives for your content strategy is vital. Work out what you’re trying to achieve before you start.

Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Are you building a lead nurturing pipeline, to deliver qualified leads to your sales team? Are you looking for people to sign up to events, download gated content, or something else?

And what do your success measures look like? How will you evaluate your activity?

  1. Content strategy

As we pointed out in our recent blog on the content mistakes to avoid, content doesn’t always have to mean text.

There’s a wealth of potential content formats at your disposal; creating the right mix is essential. Videos and podcasts are increasingly popular, in B2B as well as their traditional B2C home.

Our blog on the most effective marketing content has information on the content options available and which ones Marketers have most success with.

  1. Content creation

This is where it gets interesting – and you actually get to pull together the content you’ve planned. Although you need to consider SEO, you should always remember that you’re writing for real readers, not for search engine spiders. Make your content relevant and usable if it’s to be valued.

And if you work in a regulated industry, don’t forget the need to make your content compliant as well as compelling.

  1. Content curation

Not all content needs to be your own unique creation.

Thanks to social media and the internet overall, there’s no shortage of content to share. If you’re short on time or resource, curating and sharing content produced by others can be a viable alternative to producing your own material.

  1. Distribution

How will you share your content? Deciding on your routes to market is the next step. Usually this will involve a number of channels – your website, email, social media, maybe your own newsletters. You may choose to pay to have others amplify it for you – well-regarded industry publications or content sources, for example.

You need to maximise engagement with your content marketing to make the production process worthwhile.

  1. Engagement

Just as there’s no point creating content that nobody sees, there’s no point creating content that nobody interacts with. Whether it’s a download, registration, web visit or other action – you need a clear CTA and you need people to engage.

Be clear on what you want people to do once they have seen your content, and make it easy for them to take the next step.

After that, you return to the start of the cycle, refining your approach and deciding on your next piece of content based on the data from your previous activity.

How to create content more efficiently

With this constant drive to produce content, Marketers face pressure to deliver. Making your content production process as efficient as possible is vital if you want to keep pace with the relentless demand for new and relevant material.

Introducing an element of automation can be invaluable here. Many Marketing teams have found that automated workflow solutions help to streamline project management and content creation, minimising duplication and getting material to market faster. This can deliver significant time-savings, particularly when Compliance approvals are added into the mix.

You can read about how Santander streamlined their marketing processes via automation in our free case study, which can be downloaded from our resource library.

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