Your content marketing strategy underpins all your other digital marketing efforts and if you want your brand to excel, you have to make sure you understand every strand of it. To start, remind yourself about this one important fact:
There is a difference between marketing content and content marketing
Content exists everywhere, so it’s a tricky thing to grasp at first glance. Think of it this way: all content marketing is marketing content, but not all marketing content is content marketing – what a tongue-twister! It’s basically the same as saying that all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.
Marketing content encompasses the broad spectrum of all content assets in your marketing division, from product specs, customer-service and advertising to company information and public relations. It has existed in marketing from day one as an integral part of any brand’s success.
Content marketing is a data-driven, strategic approach to content creation that works as an individual system with structures and subsets of its own. It’s designed to attract a targeted audience to a brand-owned platform or profile with the goal of growing an audience, building trust and solving specific problems. It’s a unique sector responsible for following a human-centric strategy, and it relies heavily on technology and data.
Content marketing is advancing to make this difference almost invisible
The two practices evolved from entirely different tactics, but they’ve grown inseparable because they make use of (or support) many of the same digital aspects and features. The marketing world is multifaceted and interchangeable, so if one is suffering, the other is likely to suffer too. Plus, when integrated online, they both have a huge impact on social currency. In short, the two are not the same, but soon they will be.
Once you’re on the path of brand building you start setting expectations for your audience. Content marketing is the sector responsible for meeting and maintaining those expectations. It makes use of a clear-cut strategy, a well-planned objective and a user-first spirit.
Traditional and native advertising that deliver cold, commercial messages to a mass-audience aren’t as effective as they used to be and can’t compete with the power of content marketing. Not only are people sick of interruptive and repetitive marketing, they’re also spoilt for choice and subsequently swarmed with basic marketing content. Now they prefer engaging, informative and entertaining content.
Content marketing presents itself in many different forms like articles, podcasts, videos, infographics and so forth, but whichever form your content marketing may take, it should always be relevant, valuable and consistent.
Sounds easy enough, but it’s more complex than it seems. If you want to make sure you’re constantly hitting these six marks, you need to start employing the right framework.
You may already be familiar with the traditional 4 A’s Framework as presented by professor Jagdish Seth: acceptability, affordability, accessibility, awareness. But in an age where traditional window shopping and mall-trotting has been largely replaced by mobile phones, this model has expanded to include a new 7 A’s Framework, which we’re going to discuss next.
The 7 A’s Framework for your content marketing
Even though the 4 A’s of marketing are still sound and successfully implemented across multiple industries, we need to evolve our knowledge and approach if we want to keep up with and accommodate the high demands of a developing ecommerce world.
Back in the day you would lure seekers into your store with your window displays, persuade your selectors with in-store staff and groom your buyers with customer service. Today, ecommerce works on the same principles, only it relies on content and technology to do so.
This framework helps us ensure that the content we create is received exactly how it was intended, by whom it was intended, and consistently so. By implementing the 7 A’s into your digital content strategy, you will execute your marketing with a clear vision of what is needed at specific times to generate leads and make more sales.
The 7 A’s Framework for content marketing in our digital age are:
Even though we mentioned earlier that your strategy must be clear-cut, it’s also important that your strategy remains agile because nothing is static - especially when it comes to online marketing. Mastering an agile approach is now imperative.
Agility is also rooted in the ability to reassess existing content to improve and re-use it time and time again. An agile mindset is essential and content marketers must accept that plans are likely to change. Your ability to react, ride the wave and stay on top of the latest developments is key to your content marketing’s success.
Content marketing needs to be authentic. This is what will set you apart from your competition and make your audience recognise you as an individual brand. Authentic content marketing creates the voice you use to represent your whole company and tell your brand’s unique story.
But when it comes to content marketing, authenticity and consistency go hand-in-hand. You need to tailor every idea you have so that it mirrors the voice you’ve already created. It’s basically saying that you have to be structured and fluid at the same time. Maintaining this fine line is where genuine creativity and skill comes in. Authenticity also comes into play when you consider your brand’s reaction to the interaction your content gets. There’s nothing more authentic than a natural conversation!
Remember, if you have a killer authentic idea, but you’re not 100% sure how to put it in line with your brand voice just yet, then don’t rush the process just for the sake of putting something out there. Sometimes it’s okay to keep a golden idea on the back-burner until every other aspect and feature in your strategy will support it.
In this instance attention means being able to capture your audience in a single moment, every time. Once you’ve got their attention you have to work on keeping it, all while maintaining a growth in numbers too.
We’re talking about getting thousands of people interested in you, and then keeping it that way! Tall order. You need a strong team with a lot of knowledge on your audience and its personas to get this right. Before you release any content, make sure that every element of it is authentic and relevant enough to get a consumer’s undivided attention – even if only for a few minutes.
The golden rule for attention-grabbing is still to have an excellent headline, but you can’t rely on it alone any more. Images and captions are now equally important. This is partly because of the UI of social platforms, but also because clickbait has created a negative reputation in the content marketing industry. Your headline should never reflect anything dishonest or exaggerated, simply for the sake of a click. Firstly, consumers can see right through it – clickbait (previously known as yellow journalism) has been around for over a century after all. Secondly, you’ll increase your bounce rate and hurt your rankings. And thirdly, you’ll diminish your hopes of becoming a reliable source and potentially lose some of your audience along the way.
If you want to be relevant, authentic and stand out at the same time then you should look into implementing interactive content into your content marketing ideas.
Your audiences are such a delicate thing and if you don’t treat them with great care, you’re not going to win. They are your power-house of knowledge, feeding you rich information about who they are, what they want and need, and how you can develop your products and services to improve their lives.
As a content creator, promoter or marketer for any industry you have to think of your audience as your buyers – even if they aren’t buying yet. Exposure to your audience is crucial no matter which part of the customer journey they’re on.
Your goal is to become the brand that stands out through your own efforts, but also through word-of-mouth. If you want to become the word on everyone’s lips then you have to work on attracting your audience to an optimised experience, and make sure that your content is considering the customer journey SCALE model entirely.
You’re not here just to get attention – you have to give attention too. Remember that you’re potentially sharing an audience with your competitors, so you have to nurture them wholeheartedly if you want to keep them from slipping into the hands of another brand.
Once you’re successfully putting the first four A’s into your strategy, you’ll start to see your sense of brand authority improve. If you give your audience relevant and honest content when they want in a way that they can enjoy, they’ll start coming back to you as a reputable source. Ultimately you need to instill the idea into your audiences’ minds that you are the most trustworthy brand they can rely on in that moment.
It’s not always easy to keep their trust, however. With so much regurgitated content and fake news cluttering the internet these days, consumers are sceptical about what they read and will most likely take the time to compare your content with competitive authority. So, you won’t always win, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Here are a few tips that will help you build and maintain a sense of authority:
Place your content in a practical context. Exclusive tips and personalised offers will deepen engagement and help customers get more out of investing their time into your brand.
Solve problems with self-serve utility. It doesn’t count if your consumers have to break their backs trying to find the information they need, so put the right answers out there before they even think of reaching out to ask. When they find and share information on their own, they will also gain a sense of authority - all thanks to you.
Prioritise customer lifetime value and reward loyal readers. This goes hand-in-hand with giving your existing audience the well-deserved attention they need.
Spark meaningful discussions that promote a worthy cause. Today, your mobile or laptop acts as an extension of yourself, so when you open it you want to read about things that matter to you. If you become the brand that talks about issues your consumers are interested in, you’ll establish a stronger connection and gain invaluable trust.
All your efforts are meaningless if you’re not including a next step for your consumers. A call-to-action remains one of the most important aspects of any content strategy and should be approached tactically, but most importantly it must be approached gracefully. Your content marketing is there to guide your audience through the conversion funnel smoothly with the overall goal of retaining consumers. You don’t want to trick or force anyone onto a sales platform that they didn’t want to be on just yet. So, work your call-to-actions in carefully to address different objectives at a time. Work your way up from likes, shares and organic traffic to subscriptions, returning visits and finally - sales.
Your content strategy doesn’t end once a piece has been published. In fact, this is where it all starts. Today the lifespan of content shared on social media is only a few hours. Email marketing might gain you a few days, but you still only have an extremely small window of time to work with. Use that time wisely and accelerate your content with everything you’ve got – without spamming, of course. You can’t accelerate your content without a decent audience so as always, put your users first if you want to see success.
And if your content died out prematurely, find the means to bring it back in a new way or at a later stage. Content will always be valuable, and if you put the right effort into making it findable and usable then your efforts to accelerate it will become easier as time passes.
How to make the 7 A’s framework effective in your content marketing strategy
You can start by calling us. Our content team is on top of all existing, evolving and emerging marketing trends. We know that content is the lifeblood of everything a brand does and we’re dedicated to doing it right to maximise success for you and your audience.