A “Digital Ocean” Model for Keeping Your Content on Course
More B2C and B2B marketers are shifting their focus toward increased digital in their tactical mix. Understanding the digital locations of their target audiences is becoming a standard step in the creation of a digital plan, but many are overlooking the intentions of their online audiences, and aren’t adapting their content and tactics accordingly.
This blog introduces the concept of the digital ocean and the need to locate and market to both fishers (those actively researching products/services) and swimmers (those who are just “hanging out” online, rather than actively seeking out your information).
Most likely, we are all beyond the trial-and-error phase of digital and have realized that an intelligent, synchronized, and aligned plan is needed to maximize our digital investment. We know that every content plan needs to start with a prime objective. For example, in the B2C world, it may be to collect marketable contacts (via a coupon or offer); for B2B, it may be to generate leads with a primary call-to-action of a signup for an online trial.
So the next challenge is how to stay on course with your targeted audience. This is where the analogy of the “digital ocean” can be helpful.
Think of the ocean as representing all the possible online channels and locations (e.g., search, websites, blogs, social communities, ads, articles, email, text, etc.) where your audience can be reached. Now, consider whether you are trying to reach targets who are actively looking for a product, service, or offer like yours (fishers), or those who aren’t actively looking but may respond to a discussion, or an ad, or a blog if it’s related to their interests (swimmers), or both.
Drop your anchor, and choose your bait
Take a look at the graphic below:
If your audience is ready to go fishing, your job is to know where to go to catch them, and how to lure them toward you.
Ask yourself what digital mechanisms and places they would rely on to identify, research, and evaluate their choices. What is the likely journey they would take on the way to selecting your product, service, or offering?
Then, you need to create the appropriate fishing bait — comprising content, search results, and outbound campaigns — to attain consideration. The content and tactics you use here should focus on drawing attention and demonstrating your expertise, such as case studies, white papers, and product demos (you can see some additional content suggestions in the graphic).
However, the tactics used to attract swimmers can be very different — they need to be more educational and less promotional. Social media plays a bigger role here, as that is where your target audience “hangs out” and engages with people and content on their interests. With swimmers, creating or engaging in conversations is a natural fit as a content tactic, as it lets you add value and insight without being overly promotional. Advertising on social and industry sites using pinpoint profiling and targeting is usually possible and worthwhile.
Search keywords can also differ depending on whether your audience is fishing or swimming. Fishers tend to connect with more action- and competition-oriented search terms that are aimed at a product or service type (e.g., the cheapest airline ticket to London, the best performing mutual fund, etc.), where swimmers are usually more interested in education and discovering information that is related to their topic of interest (e.g., mortgage industry best practices, groups that discuss diabetes).
To work on this concept yourself, try printing and filling in the worksheet above to help you identify locations and search terms based on the intent of your target audience. (While this worksheet was designed for B2B, the concepts still apply to B2C content marketing.)
Research for your worksheet
You may already have conducted research on the digital locations and behavior of your target markets, which should make this task easier. You could regard this task as creating a persona with split personalities, one when seeking products/services and the other when interacting online without a purchase intention. If you do not have any data from prior research, there are a number of ways to approach this depending on your budget and timeframe. I have worked with companies who have brought in an agency to conduct a complete target market analysis, where other companies have leveraged a social listening service. You could survey your existing customers, or send this worksheet out to a selection of your own employees who spend time interacting in your digital ocean.
Once you have completed the worksheet, make sure that your content marketing efforts are focused on the search keywords and tactics that are most likely to drive engagement and response. Make sure your SEO practices mirror the intention of the audience, so that your content matches their requirements and desires. If you are marketing towards both swimmers and fishers, ensure your content, keywords, and tags include both names of and uses for your products/services. For example, a manufacturer who sells chemicals or plastics needs to include keywords for product names/categories such as “dibenzylamino ethyl acetate” or “performance polymers,” as well as more solution/fishing oriented keywords such as “top performing wiper blades” or “liquid polymer case studies.” Put yourself in the shoes of the potential customer to determine both the journey you would take toward a business relationship, and the keywords/content of value along the way.
I often see excellent content fail to reach its goals because it doesn’t align with the audience’s timing and intentions. So at the very least, the digital ocean worksheet activity can help you conduct a gut check on your digital- and content marketing-mapping efforts.
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Social media and blogs are usually the basic requirements of every content marketing strategy. Having a good blog with a lot of good content and being able to share them on social media platforms with lots of followers and fans can be a really good start. But the marketing material you should never forget to use in your content marketing strategy; is a white paper.
White papers differ from blogs and other form of content as they have a tiny bit of direct marketing messages in them. Most of the white paper is generally content, but a small fraction of a white paper consists of direct marketing material. A blog can be very powerful and educative, but it would normally take you some time before you start generating leads (on average it takes about 6 months for a blog to generate leads) from it.
This is why white papers are used in content marketing to shorten the gestation period of lead generation. White papers can speedup lead generation through their educative and persuasive nature and cut short the vast amounts of time blogs take.
How can Businesses Use White Papers in their content marketing strategy
1. To Generate leads
As mentioned above it could take you really long to generate leads only through your blog. A white paper on the other hand can help you generate leads very quickly. A white paper through its educative nature followed by its persuasive nature can educate your readers, earn their trust and convince them to buy your product or use your service. This way you can have direct marketing messages in your white papers and avoid using them on your blog.
2. Increase Newsletters Sign Ups
Newsletters are one of the most important tools every content marketing strategy should possess. When you start a business blog it’s important not to clutter it up with ads that distract your clients. You need to avoid any sort of direct marketing messages and keep your blog advert free. This is one of the main reasons why you need newsletters. You can send your direct messages through newsletters.
Newsletters also help you keep in touch with your readers. Through newsletter you can send out your latest updates which could be latest posts, news, offers, etc. However, it can be hard to get people sign up to your newsletters, but sign ups can be increased by using white papers.
You can let your readers know that they can receive a copy of your educative white paper only after they sign up to your newsletter. This should increase your newsletter sign ups. You can now send out your newsletters to your readers, build relationships, increase blog traffic and generate leads. An example of a company that uses white papers for getting many newsletter sign ups is Hubspot. If you visit their Marketing Resources page you will find many white papers on various subjects.
3. Increase Facebook Likes
A facebook page should always be part of your content marketing strategy. A facebook page with many “likes” can help you generate both quality traffic and new leads. Getting those “likes” can seem like a huge task. But you can easily increase the number of “Likes” your facebook page has with a white paper. The first thing you will need to do is add a fan gate to your fan page. A fan gate is when you have a second landing page for your facebook page. Only fans who like your page will be directed to this page.
On your first landing page you could have a message which asks your readers to like your page. You also need to let them know that they can get access to your white paper only after they like your page. After they like your page they will be directed to your second (fan only) landing page. This is where you place the link to your white paper or the sign up for your white paper. This technique will not only help you get many facebook “Likes,” but will also help you get many readers for your newsletter.
4. Rejuvenate Old Blog Posts
In your white papers you can insert links to your old blog posts. These blog posts can help explain complicated terms or provide more information about a particular topic. These links in the white paper will help increase the traffic your old posts receive.
Tips on creating successful white papers
If you want to take advantage of the above strategies, you need to make sure you create well researched and well written white papers.
The tips below will help you create powerful white papers.
1. Find out your audience’s problems
A white paper provides solutions to problems. You need to make sure you provide solutions to the problems faced by your readers. First, find out what your audience’s biggest problem is and then give the solution to this problem. If you can help them solve their problems in the white papers and display your expertise, they will definitely contact you for more help and will eventually hire your services or buy your product, as they will now feel that you understand them.
2. Give away Secrets
Many people make the mistake of holding back and not giving away their secrets. They think that giving away their secrets might be problematic, as they are scared that their competitors might steal them. But I have found that giving away secrets is better than giving away very little information in your white paper. Giving away a few secrets in your white paper will make it unique.
When you hold back on your secrets and write a white paper, your white paper will be similar to almost every other white paper on your subject. When you give a few secrets no one else knows, it will make your white paper unique and help it stand out from the crowd.
I am not asking you to give away all your secrets. Just give away a few which would not drastically affect your business when revealed.
3. Keep Your White papers Short
Always keep your white papers to a minimum of 3 pages and a maximum of 14 pages. If your white paper gets too long you could divide it into a series of white papers and make it easy for your readers to choose a specific white paper from a series and read it individually. A short white paper which is about 14 pages long will be easier to read than a long 20 to 50 page white paper and white papers are normally read by decision makers of a company who have very little time on their hands. They will always prefer reading a short white paper to a long white paper.
The few tips above will help you create powerful white papers which can be used effectively in your content marketing strategy.
How do you use white papers in your content marketing strategy? Are there any other white paper writing tips you would like to share with us?
Mitt Ray is the Director of imittcopy where he provides white paper writing and marketing services. He is an expert white paper writer. He blogs about white papers on “The White Paper Blog.” He is the author of the book White Paper Marketing. He is also the CEO of Social Marketing Writing.
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Content marketing is on the rise and relevant and timely content needs to be an integral part of your marketing strategy. 90% of marketers are already doing this but not all have realised the extent of content marketing or how to harness it to its full potential. Though 60% of B2B marketers plan to spend more on content marketing, only 26% of those surveyed are actually doing it. With the rise of startups catering to the easy creation of content, this may create a shift in how marketers approach this area.
In 2011, Google’s Panda update attempted to separate the good content from the bad so those creating high quality content are beginning to see improved site rankings. Another reason content will play a greater role in marketing. This infographic by BlueGlass goes into more detail. It’s interesting to see the variety of tactics and what rates highly for B2B marketers. Traditional marketing is further down the list than expected whereas eBooks are on the rise.
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