The phrase “content is king” is prevalent in the content marketing world and for good reason.
Having an effective content marketing plan is required for brands today to set themselves apart from fierce competitors and form a relationship with their customers.
From attracting new customers and driving traffic to your website to building your brand’s trust and authority—there’s a whole bunch of benefits from good content marketing.
That said, content marketing is no easy feat. It’s no surprise, only 9 percent of marketers rate their organization as “very effective” at content marketing…
And the rest 91%? Well, let’s not go there.
In this article, we’ll focus on the top 10% i.e. brands with solid content marketing strategies.
Why? Because analyzing winning competitors is one of the best ways to strategize winning campaigns. After all, you’re focusing on what already works.
So let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Why should you create a strategy?
According to a recent study, 90% of marketers leverage content marketing strategies for their brands.
An impressive stat in and of itself but combine it with the fact that 70% of them lack an integrated strategy and you can see that there is a gap that needs addressing.
There are a lot of challenges that marketers face when implementing their content marketing strategies.
For example, their content might not be hitting the engagement targets they want. They might be producing too much content, focusing on quantity over quality. There could be a lack of consistency.
These challenges can be faced and conquered by developing a content strategy modelled to address your pain points as well as your customers’.
As they say, when you “fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Having a plan in place will guide and streamline your content marketing efforts, recognizing your content as an asset and shaping it to be a strategy for success.
You have more to gain than lose from building content marketing strategies.
Source: Marketing Insider Group
For example, with the right strategy, you can develop a competitive edge. Content marketing requires creativity but once you find a strategy that clicks, you can appeal to your customers in a unique way that they associate with your brand.
It will also help you identify the areas and opportunities for growth ahead of the curve. Content marketing builds a form of communication with your customers that can help you gain insights in advance of their evolving wants, allowing you to take action and adapt your product/service in line with their expectations.
Now that you’ve got the reasoning for why you should think about developing content marketing strategies, read on to find out the expert-recommended hows to do so.
Content Marketing Examples from the Best in Content
There are many ways you can go about implementing a strategy that works for your brand. Depending on factors such as your budget, the platforms you use and your objectives, these may vary.
However, here are some insights directly from content marketing experts on the strategies they used to pave their way to success.
1. Focus on relationship management and link building – Iris de Geest from SurveyAnyPlace
Iris de Geest, a content marketer from SurveyAnyPlace shared the two focal points of the SaaS’s brand’s content strategy around their objective of building their domain rating organically.
Their focus is split between two pillars: relationship management and link building.
“Through cross-promotion, we want to reach an audience that overlaps with our partners,” Iris says.
Secondary to this is the importance of building their reliability online. This is essential given they are a company that’s entire presence is purely online and she highlights the best way to do this is by collecting feedback directly from your customers.
For this effort, SurveyAnyPlace goes about it in two ways.
Firstly, they use customer feedback by:
- sharing spontaneous positive feedback they receive from their customer service channels on social media (especially focused through the LinkedIn accounts of their CEO and Head of Sales to boost visibility)
- asking satisfied customers to post a review on renowned sites like Capterra or Trustpilot
Secondly, they use storytelling techniques by:
- systematically setting up a case study in which they interview a customer (their aim is to do this every two months)
- sharing the story behind the use of a questionnaire customers built with their software tool (with the approval of the customer)
“Finally, we believe interactive content gets it done, because, of course, that’s what we also provide to our customers,” Iris concludes.
SurveyAnyPlae uses quizzes, surveys, and assessments to interact with their audience in a spontaneous manner. They use this to build a two-way relationship with their customers while gathering data on customer profiles and their contact details.
“You can share your questionnaire with the world via various channels, which makes it easy to fit in your strategy.”
With this strategy, the brand can collect data on their audience profiles and generate leads at the same time; killing two birds with one strategy.
2. Understand where your content is in the lifecycle— Georgios Chasiotis from MINUTTIA
“One of the most important—and often overlooked—things when it comes to content marketing is to understand what kind of content you should be producing, based on your lifecycle stage,” says Georgios Chasiotis, Managing Director at MINUTTIA.
He reflects upon the takeaways the company has had from working with different SaaS companies from around the world and came to the conclusion that the type of content a company should be creating is highly affected by the stage that the company is currently at.
For example, this may be the picture for an early-stage SaaS company:
The picture for an early-stage company?
- They don’t have an audience that trusts them yet (can you bring results?)
- They have not established authority in their industry yet
- They don’t have the budget to invest in content marketing because their product is their primary priority
- Their website has a low domain authority and thus can’t rank for terms with higher commercial value
How can this affect the content marketing initiatives they develop?
“You have to adjust the type of content you create and the way you’re distributing it accordingly,” Georgios says.
For example, the company can do the following:
- Start building a community around their brand and invest in brand-building content efforts, and hire brand managers to maintain engagement
- Publish guest posts as a way to raise awareness and start building authority
- Publish content, even if at a basic level, that shows the value of their product
- Look for content swaps and co-marketing opportunities with other companies that are in the same stage of the lifecycle
Georgios illustrates this with one of the company’s early-stage clients, Respona, an outreach software for link building, digital PR and content promotion.
Respona’s UI is fairly new and isn’t as mature as the UI of a company that has found a product-market fit.
Respona works hard on building relevant content by educating their users on how to use the product and creating content that generates awareness about their product, for example, through step-to-step guides.
Respona’s UI will evolve over time but currently, they have the basics covered to meet their goals. All they’ll need to do is to update their top-performing content, based on the changes that they make to their product offering.
“The most important thing here is to accept your product’s imperfections and still try to create educational material that will tell your early-adopters how to get the most out of it,” Georgios adds.
The same logic applies to companies of other lifecycle stages.
There are always strategies you can implement and ways to build your content, no matter the stage you’re company is at.
“All you have to do is to understand your current position and adjust your content marketing efforts accordingly,” Georgios concludes.
3. Combine the effectiveness of keyword searches with link building— Mile Živković from Chanty
Mile Živković from Chanty recommends one strategy above all others: building good a keyword research strategy together with great content and link building.
He shares how Chanty leveraged this strategy over the last two years and what their process looked like in four simple steps.
Firstly, they conducted keyword research.
“We look for keywords with good search volume and a high potential for conversions,” he said.
These keywords should not be difficult to rank for. For example, “Slack alternative” is one of their top keywords and they discovered that they could get relevant traffic and new users if they manage to rank for this keyword.
Pro tip: you can leverage keyword research tools to help you with this step.
Secondly, Chanty generates and writes great content around this keyword. For example, Chanty had good rankings as their reviews of Slack alternatives were detailed and objective.
“We wrote about our personal experience using these apps and we didn’t just copy the content we found elsewhere online.”
Thirdly, build links.
Your content may be A-level but in order to start performing, building backlinks can make a great difference. Having relevant anchor text is also important. For example, Chanty used the same anchor text – Slack alternative.
Finally, Mile highlights the importance of converting traffic into customers. How do you engage with your visitors once they get to your website?
What did Chanty do?
“We used a variety of popups, CTAs and other methods to get them to try the free version of our app. From that point on, it was a piece of cake.”
4. Organize your content smartly— Derek Gleason from CXL
Derek Gleason from CXL highlights the importance of organizing your content, commenting on how mature sites with a large volume of blog posts face difficulty for ranking “head” terms.
For example, CXL has several posts on various aspects of copywriting (e.g., writing headlines, value propositions, landing page copy, calls to action, etc.) but not a single posts targets the term “copywriting.”
“That’s because it doesn’t make sense to have a single post targeting such a massive topic,” Derek elaborates. “No blog post on copywriting could be anything other than (rather uselessly) high level.”
This has led to companies investing their resources in producing massive guides which are expensive to create. CXL has done the same.
An alternative and less resource-consuming approach would be to organize your existing posts into a guide that could tackle those topics.
“You already have 90% of the content; you just need to structure it in a way that helps users see the step-by-step way in which they should consume the content.”
CXL adopted this approach as well so that users can quickly see all the posts, webinars, courses and other relevant content on a specific topic.
They also answer high-level FAQs and have brief explanations of the content for each section.
Another example of a brand that has organized their content this way is Hotjar.
“If you have hundreds of posts spread across your blog, reorganizing them into a guide can be a pretty efficient way to target high-volume head terms,” Derek says.
Not only does it save time but it also drives high value for your audience.
5. Never go wrong with an expert roundup— Adam Connell from Blogging Wizard
Adam Connell, Founder of Blogging Wizard, praises the effectiveness of expert roundups and how great they are as a tool to bring about results.
“It’s an easy way for us to earn more shares and links while shining the spotlight on other knowledgeable folks,” he says.
But here’s something not everyone does with this type of content: repurpose it.
And that’s exactly what Adam did.
“I wanted to see what would happen if I repurposed one of these expert roundups into an infographic and published it exclusively on a larger site in my niche.”
His original expert roundup post received 5k visitors and generated 2k+ social shares.
The results of the repurposed infographic? Another 2k+ social shares and 32k+ page visits.
“The lesson here is to always be looking for ways to extend the life of your content and collaborate with others in your vertical,” Adam advises.
By combining the two efforts, your site will grow faster and in an easier manner.
Here’s a step-by-step process Adam recommends for those willing to give this a try:
- Select a high-performing piece of content to repurpose: This works best with expert roundups or content featuring expert quotes.
- Find another site in your niche to publish the infographic: Offering site owners a co-branded infographic that you’ll promote heavily is an offer that’s hard to refuse. Ensure you choose a site with a decent-sized audience.
- Create your infographic: The most cost-effective method Adam recommends is to hire someone on PeoplePerHour to pull out the copy & design your co-branded infographic.
- Prepare your infographic for publication: Write some content around your infographic, possibly highlighting some specific expert quotes with click-to-tweet widgets.
- Promote your infographic: Reach out to everyone featured in your infographic and make it easy for them to share with direct links to your posts on all relevant social platforms. You’ll get more visibility if you support it with additional blogger outreach.
6. Email marketing never goes old— Rapti Gupta from InstaMojo
Rapti Gupta, Content Marketing Head at InstaMojo recommends the tried, tested and proven strategy of email marketing.
“At Instamojo, we use content marketing profusely but something we swear by is email marketing. It has not just helped us gain great branding traction amongst Indian MSMEs but also add to our revenue,” she says.
Email marketing is a great way to engage your customers, nurture leads and boost your brand.
Rapti recommends the following best practices to tackle email marketing:
- Decide the purpose of your email: What is your end game? What are you looking to achieve? Having clear goals for your email strategy can help give you clarity and decide your content.
- Decide what format your email should be (text or HTML/CSS): Text mails are great for deliverability and personalization, but does that work for a product launch? Depending on your goal, adjust your email format.
- Choose a tool you’re comfortable with: A good email marketing service would ideally be marketer-friendly with easy list uploads, data reporting, and more. Choose one that fits your model.
- Customize your design for your audience: To be relevant and attractive to your target market.
- Get permission before you start mailing your audience: The key to building a long-lasting, loyal subscriber base is to let them opt-in to your emails. While the GDPR already makes it mandatory, having a double opt-in practice is valuable for your deliverability and domain quality.
- Test your emails before sending them: Pro tip: check them for multiple devices. Many Email Service providers (ESPs) also provide device-view. Having a test group to send your emails to is helpful at this stage.
Rapti recommends the following hacks to take your email marketing game to the next level:
- Customize your “Unsubscribe” option: Personalizing your unsubscribe email can help you retain your audience and change their mind.
- Conduct surveys in exchange for goodies: The best way to give your audience what they want is to ask them. Sending routine surveys asking for suggestions and giving them coupons/free software trials in return is a great way to engage and win customers while also getting feedback.
- Experiment, but keep it simple: Going overboard with design or verbose content can make your email bulky. Don’t stuff it with words, URL, or lines of code.
- Subscribe to as many newsletters you can: There is no better way to master email than to look at what other talented marketers are doing and follow their best practices. Pro tip: Check out all kinds of emails at www.reallygoodemails.com
- Clean your list every 3 months: Send feedback mails to an inactive audience and if you get no response, ask for permission to remove them from the list. This can help improve your Open Rates and Click-Through Rates considerably.
- Offer as much value as you can for free: Content marketing works best when you keep it organic. Offer great value for free and your audience will soon start generating revenue for you.
- Try and keep 1 Call to Action per mail: This can boost engagement with your customers.
How did this pay off for Instamojo?
Three years ago, they started a fortnightly newsletter called the SME Wrap – a curated, thematic email – where they took a trending news topic and put it in context for Indian small businesses.
Source: InstaMojo’s SME Wrap
“The SME Wrap, to date, has had over 100,000 subscribers and about 45,000+ active readers,” Rapti shares.
What worked for the SME Wrap:
- The format of the mail is crisp and clear
- Provides valuable information
- Never spams users
- Topical + relevant content with experimental subject lines
- Has a contextual CTA to start using the Instamojo services
“We have had a 15% subscriber-to-signup ratio, and a 5% (revenue generation ratio) just with the SME Wrap newsletter email,” Rapti concludes.
7. Tidio’s multiple strategies for success— Kas Szatylowicz from Tidio
Kas Szatylowicz, Content Marketing Manager at Tidio shares the strategy the content team used to boost their blog’s visitor numbers to 40k+ within the first six months of establishing it.
Do thorough research about your visitors and customers: Collect data from your support team, use product analytics software and carry out surveys. Your customers come first. Study their feedback and behavior patterns. With that knowledge, create a persona or several personas of your perfect blog visitor.
Create a list of:
- categories: general topics that are relevant to your client personas (5-10)
- pillar pages: comprehensive, general, long guides (3-5k words)
- regular pages: more in-depth, shorter blog posts (1.5-3k words)
Use SEO tools to find keywords that match the topics from your list, have low keyword difficulty, and high search volume: For example, antiques could be a category on your website. Selling antiques would be a pillar guide that is 4000 words long. Selling antiques online would be your regular post of 2000 words. And how to start selling antiques online and selling antiques online for free could be your headings inside that post.
Write content that is relevant and valuable to your readers: Ensure your language is clear, and to the point with short and easy to read sentence structure. Answer the most common questions, provide quick tips, infographics, charts, quotes, and statistics. Above all, keep your personas in mind.
Use internal backlinking to connect your pillar and regular pages: Try getting external backlinks as well and promote your articles on social media. Monitor your organic keywords and position and update posts after every two or three months. See if they captured some organic keywords within 11-20 position range and try to include them in your heading or add new sections. It could give them a push towards the 1-10 positions.
“This strategy worked for us very well so far,” Kas says. “It doesn’t look easy, but if you do it one step at a time, the results will amaze you.”
Kas’ strategy will not only improve the volume but also the quality of your traffic.
8. Incorporate content distribution into content creation— Will Cannon from Uplead
Will Cannon, Founder and CEO at Uplead, advises not to discredit the importance of content distribution and make it a focus even in the content creation stage.
“When writing an article, you should already think about how you’ll distribute this particular piece,” he says.
Sharing your content on social media may form part of your strategy but the effectiveness of personal outreach efforts to spread the word about your content should not be underestimated.
It may seem challenging and time-consuming to do this but the results will reflect the work you put into distribution.
“There’s so much content out there. So, you have to offer more than just a plain link to your article.”
Uplead uses a very specific outreach approach to get in touch with a targeted list of companies. Will highlights how they structure their content distribution outreach campaigns:
- Create a targeted list of companies you want to partner with
- In each new article, you’ll link back to a pre-defined set of companies per article. You can find suitable articles to add by using this Google search query: site:[company.com] “[keyword you need an article for]”
- For each article, find the email address and/or LinkedIn profile of the author (or an editor of the particular company). You can leverage a freemium tool for this purpose like Hunter.
- After publishing the article, reach out to these contacts and inform them of the mention you’ve made. Pro tip: you can now ask for a small favour without being pushy for your content distribution efforts.
Ideas for what you can ask for include:
- A share on a social media platform (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- Partnership opportunities
- Guest posting opportunities
Here’s Will’s recommended template for inspiration:
Subject line: Hi [name of contact], we just linked to one of your articles ❤️️
Hi [name of contact],
Just wanted to let you know that we linked to one of your articles in our latest content piece 🙂
Feel free to take a look here: [link to your article]
If you’re open to further collaboration or if you’re accepting guest posts for your blog, let me know.
How did this work for Uplead?
They achieved open rates of over 60% and response rates of over 30 %.
“The secret is to give something before you ask for something,” Will says. “Studies have shown that people who receive something from another person feel obliged to return this favour (even if they haven’t asked for it).”
Why not use this to your advantage? Start boosting your content distribution today.
9. Produce newsworthy studies– Jasmin Lee from eachnight
According to Jasmin Lee from eachnight, one of the best content marketing strategies is producing newsworthy studies.
In their Sleepy Shoppers report, eachnight’s editorial team surveyed over 1,000 people to get a better understanding of their online shopping habits past their bedtime.
“By producing original surveys, you’re able to offer audiences – and the media – one-of-a-kind insights that they won’t find elsewhere,” Lee explains.
This unconventional method of using data-driven content to drive digital media relations is something all businesses can do regardless of their industry or product category.
When paired with interesting infographics or data visualizations, brand publishers might also find themselves organically distributed on Pinterest, Facebook, and even Reddit.
Although it can be resource-intensive to survey hundreds or thousands of people, analyze the data, and then turn that into newsworthy prose and graphics, this is a unique way of creating content that engages wider audiences and can help drive otherwise hard-to-acquire backlinks.
10. Create Content Specifically for Your Customer
So many brands get laser-focused on content for their top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel, that they forget the most important audience of all – their existing customers.
Great content marketers will create content that empowers their customers to get the maximum value out of their product and solve the business problems your solution addresses.
Here at Nextiva, we run daily product webinars geared specifically to our existing customers that educate them on best practices for using our platform – from introductory setup to advanced usage and optimization.
To execute this tactic, you should create simple, straightforward how-to guides, videos, webinars, and articles that are readily accessible to your customers and cover your product or service soup-to-nuts.
Another great practice is to leverage your customers for broader insights on your industry. For example, we just published our 2020 State of Business Communication Report. The content of the report leveraged insights from a massive survey we did of over 1,000 Nextiva customers.
The act of surveying the customers and writing the report itself gave us great insights into the pains, challenges, and opportunities our customers are experiencing – and where Nextiva is positioned to help.
Content marketing to your full funnel is extremely important – but do not deprioritize or undervalue your existing customers. They’ll be extremely grateful for your efforts, as will your sales and customer service teams come renewal time.
11. Tap into marketing psychology to guide consumers to you
Uwe Dreissigacker, the founder of InvoiceBerry, believes that standing out from the crowd is one of the biggest challenges that marketers face. “We’re constantly bombarded with ads, yet not many bother to understand the psychology behind their messages. Talk about a missed opportunity!”
Marketing psychology comes into play when trying to convince someone that what you’re selling is better and will suit their needs the best. To truly appreciate the power and origins of influencing behaviour, it’s important to take it back to the beginning. Like literally, we’re talking circa 300 BC when Aristotle came up with the ‘ingredients of persuasion’ that are now the cornerstones of marketing.
Here’s a quick break down of each:
- Ethos – refers to the appeal to ethics and establishing credibility with the customer. In marketing terms, businesses often rely on testimonials and endorsements from celebrities and other famous people. Examples include Shaquille O’neal for IcyHot and Nike Air Jordans. The hoped for response is: “Wow! One of the greatest athletes that ever lived has his name on these shoes. Must be a phenomenal product, am I right?”
- Pathos – refers to the appeal to emotion. It can be a positive emotion such as joy and excitement or negative like fear, hatred or sadness. One of the best examples of the latter is that heartbreaking SPCA Sarah McLahlan commercial featuring neglected animals. Did you realize it managed to raise a whopping $30 million in the first two years of its release?
- Logos – refers to the appeal to logic. Through the use of statistics, numbers, facts and buzzwords marketers try to assert quality and convince customers that they’re choosing the right product or a service.
Moving on, heuristics are cognitive tools that help us make quick decisions or judgements. It’s important to note that though these mental shortcuts are often used to make sense of the world, they don’t always lead to the perfect decision or correct judgement. They are nevertheless very useful for altering consumer behaviour, for example:
- The scarcity heuristic finds that things tend to seem more appealing when the demand exceeds the supply. This is why using terms like ‘limited edition’ and ‘while supplies last’ can be used to force action in a potential customer by creating the perception of exclusivity.
- The attribution bias heuristic creates preconceived attributes about things, people or places without understanding external factors. How you present your product is key to attracting customers. So, learn to incorporate advertising elements that show both the appeal and benefit a product will have on the consumers lifestyle.
- Tougher to influence, but still important to understand, the affect heuristic is related to decisions made based on a gut feeling. The way consumers feel and their mood at a certain point time in time has been proven to affect how they view situations and decision making.
Now, when it comes to giving and receiving, people are more psychologically inclined to help someone who has helped them in the past. Case in point, most us have encountered free trials, ‘buy one get one free’ signs and the like. These things are aimed at consumers to encourage them to take care of us, after we’ve taken care of them. Reciprocity is a very powerful tool in any content marketer’s strategy toolbox.
Lastly, Uwe couldn’t stress the importance of psychological pricing enough. While the list of factors that impact price can go on and on, you would do well to understand the psychology behind the various ways of listing prices. Here are a handful of some simple, but oh so powerful, pricing strategies that can be used to boost business:
- Charm Pricing – this technique strives to entice the consumer to make a purchase based on how the brain interprets numbers. If you have a product that retails at $5, to make that more appealing, consider reducing the price by 1 cent. The item now costs $4.99 and suddenly, “wow, we got ourselves a deal!”
In fact, a trial was conducted a few years back by MIT and the University of Chicago to test the effects of price charming on women’s clothing. Prices were listed at $34, $39, and $44. You’d think the clothing that sold the most was listed at the lowest price, but you’d be wrong. The best-selling piece of clothing was actually listed at $39! It would appear that the infographic design company, used in the example below, knew all about the study when they set their price points!
- Power of Sale – next just the word ‘sale’ typically adorned with bright colours, large letters and flashing lights has been known to pull customers like bees to honey. Clearances, sales, and discounts are all very pleasing to the consumer’s eye. Utilizing them can attract a lot of new potential customers without spending a whole lot on a marketing campaign.
- Reference Pricing – reliably gives customers a sense of satisfaction by comparing what an item presumably costs with what they end up paying at checkout. Look at this example of reference pricing for anti-virus software. A savings of $40? What a steal!
Try to bear in mind, not all strategies are created equal and depending on the content marketer’s goals, some might prove to be much more useful than others. This is why Uwe concluded with the encouragement to,“take time to explore the mind of your consumer! It’s a surefire way of effectively tailoring tools and techniques to best suit your business needs.”
Be innovative with your strategies
With the era of digital transformation and tech-powered change taking over the industry, content marketers are always on the lookout for ways to improve their strategies and stay ahead of their competitors.
Whereas the strategy you develop to boost your brand and leads may differ and be uniquely yours, you can definitely take inspiration from the success and recommendations of experts who have tried and tested several strategies on their own.
If you can learn the important takeaways from their efforts and integrate them into your own efforts, you could be well on the way to success.
Do you have content marketing strategies that have generated positive results? What are your favourite insights from this article? Let us know in the comments below!
This is a guest post by Mark Quadros. He is a freelance content marketer who helps SaaS and online-business develop content that not only drives traffic but also boosts user-engagement. In his free time, he loves traveling the world and living a minimalist life from his backpack.
With Crowdfire, you can find curated content, schedule your posts, engage with your audience, deep-dive into analytics and create custom reports. Now introducing Social listening. Try it for free.