Telling your story by publishing and promoting compelling online content can be an essential cornerstone of your business development approach.
Content enables you to build up a picture of who you are and what you can achieve in the minds of sales prospects before you ever meet them.
And this is very important. B2B customers can sometimes be more than two-thirds of the way through a decision-making process before they first engage with a supplier’s sales team1.
If you haven’t done the work needed to shape the perceptions your prospects have of your business and products, you are at the mercy of the marketplace.
There are many aspects to effective content marketing, and we’ll delve into them in future posts, but today we look at one of the foundational concepts – online channels.
Channels are essentially the locations on which your marketing content is published or shared.
To keep things simple, we can define three categories of channel that can be used in different ways:
- Hosting channels
- Primary channels
- Secondary channels
A channel strategy will define which of those channels will be used to publish and promote a piece of content. The overall approach works as follows:
- Your content will be published on a primary channel to give you a URL.
- The content at the URL may contain content elements (such as individual images or videos) embedded from a hosting channel.
- The URL on the primary channel will be promoted (i.e. shared or linked to) on the secondary channels.
Let’s look at each of these channel categories in more detail.
Hosting channels are websites that can be used to publish content, but that content will be embedded into or linked to from a piece of content at a primary channel location before being promoted.
They are usually (but not exclusively) used for non-text content such as images and videos; content that isn’t necessarily straightforward to upload and publish.
Hosting channels are platforms and websites with in-built audiences and search functions, and this is the advantage of using them rather than just hosting it yourself. People can find your content in the channel’s native environment as well as at the URL on the primary channel, and this can multiply your reach.
Available hosting channels have also spent a great deal of time and effort optimising the user experience and system – so you may benefit from the increased load speeds and uptime as well as greater discoverability on external search engines.
Examples of hosting channel use are:
- Images shared on Instagram and then embedded into a blog post,
- Videos uploaded to YouTube and then embedded on a web page, and
- Text, in the form of tweets, first shared on Twitter and then embedded as quotes to a live blog (you’ve probably seen this approach on news websites when there is a developing story).
You can also use multiple hosting channels together in a single piece of content (a blog post could include images embedded from Flickr and videos embedded from Vimeo for example) if needed.
Once each content element is hosted, the next step is to create marketing content on a primary channel.
The primary channel is the website on which a piece of content is published and that you would ideally like to drive traffic to.
This will usually be your company’s website or blog, though it may be an article on another site depending on your strategy.
The primary channel gives you a URL that you are able to promote and share, on- and off-line. It is also usually also the channel that you have the most control over.
Deciding on the target audience, topic and call to action for content on a primary channel takes a lot of thought, and we’ll go into this in more detail in future blog posts.
But just as a basic overview, the decisions that need to be taken for each piece of content can be led by a simple content marketing funnel for each audience:
Awareness of problem > awareness of solution > awareness of your company and offer > decision to purchase
Each individual piece of content on a primary channel will be aimed at one target audience who are currently at a certain stage in this funnel.
Your goal with the content is to move them along to the next stage.
Note that that you can certainly try to move them on more than one stage in a single piece of content too.
Once you have a URL on your primary channel (which may or may not include content embedded from hosting channels) it is then time to promote it.
Secondary channels are websites on which you can share and promote your marketing content at the URL on the primary channel.
There are many more secondary channels than the other categories.
The key with secondary channels is to learn how to promote your content in the most effective manner on that channel.
We’ll go into such techniques in more detail in the future too, but here are a few illustrative examples:
- On Twitter, use an eye-catching image, relevant hashtags and link to the Twitter accounts of people mentioned in the content with @ mentions.
- On LinkedIn you can follow the same advice as Twitter but with a longer description of the content and use @ mentions to link to companies and individuals.
- On Instagram you can’t share a URL in an image caption, so you need to be creative in how you refer to the latest piece of content. You could pick out a quote and turn it into an image, or update the URL linked to in your profile regularly to point to your latest blog post.
It helps to try and systematise the approaches taken to each secondary channel in order to make things quicker and easier.
How to create a channel plan
Content marketing is an exercise in decision-making. You have the opportunity to create and promote content for many different audiences, in multiple formats and on a variety of topics and channels.
A good channel plan collates some of these decisions so that content creators can use it as a reference and more easily focus on the task in hand.
A channel plan will include which of the three categories each content element will be published on along with the following information:
- Target audience - who the content is for.
- Stage - what stage of the content marketing funnel the target audience is at.
- Goal - what you would like to achieve with this content; the action of your target audience you would most like to elicit.
- Topic - what topic the content is on.
Here’s an example of how such a plan could look:
Deceptively simple isn’t it!? Try building yours next time you need to create marketing content and see if it makes the process easier and more effective.
Content marketing in the space industry throws up some unique challenges.
We deal with complex topics and technologies (this is rocket science at the end of the day) and need to build interest in missions and ideas that are often years away from completion.
Space is also a sector that can be tough to understand from a business perspective – the involvement of the big traditional agencies and defence companies means that the ins and outs of sales, deals and investments have always been kept very private.
But creating and promoting content that tells your company’s story can help you overcome these challenges and shape perceptions in the market that have a genuine and direct impact on sales.
And to guide this activity, use a clear and concise channel plan that simplifies decision-making and optimises your approach.
Let us know how you get on – and please feel free to send this post to the marketing and business development people in your business.