At Styla, working with online retailers from all kinds of different verticals, there are two questions that we repeatedly hear our clients asking, more often than any others. The first is:
“We want to do content marketing, but we don’t know what to write about. What is it that we can write about?!”
And the second is:
“We’ve been publishing a lot a lot a lot, every single day, honestly, look at this, we have proof, but we don’t see any results! Content marketing doesn’t seem to be working! Why is it not working?!”
I have both answers for you, but you might not like what you’ll hear.
Ugly Truth Number 1: If you don’t know what to write about, you probably don’t know what you’re writing it for.
Ugly Truth Number 2: If your content marketing isn’t working, you probably not doing it right.
The thing is, when it comes to the commerce part of a retail business, brands usually base their decisions on a clear, solid strategy. But when it comes to the content part, they, more often than not, base their decisions on guesswork. Something that is never EVER part of any strategy.
Therefore, it’s the lack of data, not the lack of inspiration, that prevents you from brainstorming ingenuous topics for your blog.
And it’s the lack of content strategy, nothing else, that prevents you from being successful at content marketing.
“But we do have a strategy!”, is a common answer.
Maybe you do. But here’s Ugly Truth Number 3: If you do have a strategy, but it’s not working, then what it needs is a reset.
In the upcoming series on the Styla blog, titled Content Marketing for Ecommerce, we’re going to help you lay a path to your content marketing success by unveiling the necessary steps that you need to take, from A to Z. You’ll learn:
- How to build a foundation for a content marketing strategy
- How to do a content persona [COMING SOON]
- How to develop a strong content marketing strategy [COMING SOON]
- How to write quality content [COMING SOON]
- How to do SEO for content [COMING SOON]
- How to successfully distribute your content [COMING SOON]
- How to monetize it effectively [COMING SOON]
HOW-TO: B2C Content Marketing For Ecommerce [Ultimate Guide]
Reviewing your goals (and getting organised!)
In our Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing for E-Commerce, we’ve previously outlined the importance of having S.M.A.R.T goals. Just to refresh your memory, a S.M.A.R.T goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. But as much as S.M.A.R.T goals are important, having goals per se is even MORE important. You’d be surprised to find out how many content marketers out there produce content without a clear agenda in mind. What for? Why? For whom? They probably wouldn’t be able to find an answer themselves.
As noted by Joe Pulizzi, great content marketers do two things differently than the rest: they document their content marketing strategy in some way, and they review and consistently refer to the plan on a regular basis.
Setting goals and — just as importantly — documenting them is the basis you set for your future content marketing strategy. Never create content just for the sake of creating content — or just because you “know” it’s important or you’ve “heard” that your competitors are using it. You must first understand what you’re trying to achieve here. Otherwise, from high-value content you’ll be just creating “noise” — and God knows it’s loud enough on the Internet already!
So please ask yourself now — and be fair! — if you really have a clear vision of what goals you have in mind.
Is it boosting sales? Or increasing customer retention? Or driving engagement? Or building brand awareness? Or getting new clients? Or maybe up-selling and cross-selling to your existing clients?
I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand WHAT you want to accomplish before you decide HOW you want to accomplish it. Make a plan, stick with it for three to six months, then evaluate your achievements, and see if the original decision has given you the results you need. After all, content marketing is like any marketing strategy: you need to test your ideas to see what works and what doesn’t.
Note: Before you begin your content marketing journey, though, let’s do some preparation work and create a spreadsheet where you’ll be documenting each and every step you make. You can either download the spreadsheet here or make one of your own. Throughout these series, we’ll be calling it the “Content Strategy Spreadsheet”.
In every step, we’ll be filling in this spreadsheet, so by the end of the series, you’ll have a complete and documented content marketing strategy. Which starts with this very first step:
STEP 1: DECIDE HOW YOU WANT TO USE CONTENT MARKETING TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS
No multiple answers — just pick one.
Sales. Help your sales team to close deals more quickly.
Product marketing. Generate interest in your product and market need.
Brand. Develop brand awareness and build public opinion.
Community. Create a fan base that interacts with your brand on social channels.
Customers. Help your customers understand your product even better, in order to get the most out of it.
Thought leadership. Develop name recognition and become a known expert in your industry/field.
STEP 2: NAME YOUR SPECIFIC GOALS
Now, name one primary goal and two or three lower-level, additional goals that you could monitor on the way. In this part, be specific — and be S.M.A.R.T. Translate your goals into KPIs, name the exact outcome you’d like to see (a complete result or a percentage improvement) and include a realistic time frame. Then, set benchmarks that will allow you to track future results. A benchmark could be sales figures, profits, a number of click-throughs, a number of leads — or, in fact, any other number that can help you measure growth. So if you’re a B2C retail brand, for instance, that wants to use content marketing for sales, your goal could be to successfully increase sales in, say, the accessories department by 1% every month. Once a quarter, plan on reviewing the results of your goal to know, which strategies are working, and which need some slight (or serious!) tweaking.
Got it? Now, let’s document the process:
Go to the Business Objectives box in your brand new Content Strategy Spreadsheet, and put one primary and two or three additional goals (prospecting, sales, marketing, etc.) in Column A under Business Objectives. Next, write down why you’d like to achieve those goals, and record it in Column B under Business Impact. Now, create a benchmark that will allow you to track your future results. Go to Column C, and under Benchmark enter sales figures, number of click-throughs, online mentions, blog subscribers, customers, and any other number that will help you to measure growth.
In Columns D, E, F, and G, you’ll be monitoring your results on a quarterly basis, which will give you an estimate of what’s been working for you and what hasn’t been working.
STEP 3: CREATE YOUR CORE MESSAGE
While drafting a core message sounds like Marketing 101, the truth is, many companies out there often don’t have a clear vision, even if they’ve been in business for years. What is a core message? The core message is the primary benefit that you offer to your customers — it might include your story or the one piece of advice you share with customers. According to Neil Patel, a core message isn’t just the bottom-line reason why you’re in business — it is also the guiding principle for all content you’ll be producing as a brand.
Here’s how to create a core message:
- Start with your mission statement
What do you want to do for your customers? How do you want to influence their lives?
- Phrase your core message
Based on your brand’s mission statement, what is the main benefit that your readers will get from engaging with your content? If you can’t decide that now, look for one central solution that you can provide to your existing customers — or one big question you can’t answer when talking to them (more on that later).
- Decide on few secondary messages that support your core message
To make sure your content doesn’t get stale too quickly, select fewer subtopics that support your core message. This way, your content won’t sound repetitive.
Here’s an example from Reebok, for instance (an American-inspired global fitness brand):
Mission: Empowering you to be fit for life.
Core Message: We believe those that are fit for life will be the greatest contributors to our world.
Secondary Topics: exercise, nutrition, positive lifestyle, fitness inspiration
If you visit their blog, you’ll see then that their content is wrapped around the core message and the secondary topics:
For your own brand, record all of this in your Content Strategy Spreadsheet: in Column B, write down your Mission Statement, Core Message or Question, and 3-6 Secondary Topics. You can refine the core message over time, but it’s important to get it in writing now.
STEP 4: PERFORM COMPETITOR ANALYSIS
Time to monitor your competitors! Select a few brands in your industry that are successful at content marketing — these might be both industry leaders or small brands. What matters is that they use content marketing to grow their business. Your job is to evaluate their content efforts and recognize WHAT goals they’re trying to achieve — and HOW they’re trying to achieve them. Here’s what you should do:
- Identify their core message.
- List the topics that they cover. Think about how those topics help your competitor to support their core message.
- List the different types of content that they produce (blog posts, videos, infographics, ebooks, and even social media posts).
- Note how frequently they post their content and analyze which content type is posted more often than others.
- Note which calls-to-action are used in different types of content.
- Try to find what your competitor doesn’t manage to cover in their content marketing.
- Check online reviews from users, as well as comments on the blogs of your competitors to have an idea how people respond to their efforts.
And again, document all these findings in the spreadsheet! Go to the Competitive Analysis box and fill it all in, row after row, column after column.
Try to find that special X Factor that each of your competitors are known for — that unique element that makes them stand out from the crowd. Remember, though: nobody will notice your content if it just repeats everything else on the Internet. To stand out, you need to write about something different. Something unique. Something that your competitors haven’t covered before. Things like your style and personality, the depth of your information, the specific approach to the core topic, and your value proposition are your “differentiators” that will set you apart from the crowd. So look around, and think about what those “differentiators” could be. Find your Purple Cow!
POINTS TO REMEMBER:
- Understand that you NEED a strategy — or that you at least need to review it — if you don’t see any content marketing ROIs;
- Review the initial goals that you first set when you started doing content marketing: increase sales, generate interest in your product, build brand awareness, create a community, boost customer awareness, become a thought leader;
- Document those goals;
- State your core message and distill secondary topics that your product/brand covers;
- Spy on your competitors: see what they’re writing about, what topics they cover, how frequently they post, etc.
Stay tuned for the next chapter that will show how to create a content persona from scratch.
To be the first one to know when the chapter is out, sign up for our newsletter: