You’re into content marketing, right?
Well, I’ve got some bad news and some good news.
The bad news is that it’s becoming really hard to be heard through all the noise. People are busy and don’t have time to carefully research how your product or service can help them is limited. So you can’t rely on great content alone to grow your audience.
The good news is that while content is primarily an “inbound” approach, content marketing actually does quite well with more traditional “outbound” methods.
Nobody likes strangers barging in, shouting Buy Now! But a well-targeted ad offering quality content is unobtrusive and often quite helpful. And that’s what content marketing has always been about—being helpful.
We’ve had great success at RJMetrics growing our audience (and getting customers) using advertising. Because these aren’t the first channels that many content marketers turn to, you’ll net the added benefit of standing out in a world of crappy ads while you grow your pool of owned contacts.
Keep reading, and I’ll share six tips (gleaned from our own experience) to help you grow your audience using paid channels.
1. Match content type to channel
To jump start a conversation with someone, you need a topic that’s relevant to their interests. At RJMetrics, we’ve found Adwords is the one channel where we can consistently convert paid traffic to trial sign-ups. This works because the ads are based on what people are already searching for, so this is a natural fit.
If I google “crazy cat videos,” for example, I get an ad that might prompt me into buying my kitty a snack. Makes sense.
On LinkedIn, we’ve found an audience that is specifically receptive to webinar ads. That makes sense too, since LinkedIn provides a social space for professional interaction, and webinars are a great way to learn from and connect with other professionals in your field.
When you begin using paid channels, you won’t have a storehouse of information of what’s worked. Instead, think about what’s made you click on an ad before and why that worked. Think about the context and tailor your ad to match that customer experience of that moment.
2. Tailor your follow-ups
Paid content leads are “soft sells.” They weren’t looking for your product, and they will rarely be ready to convert right away. Your goal isn’t to get a customer as soon as possible. It’s to build an audience that you can slowly nurture into a customer.
You’re playing the long game. Have your drip programs set up, be helpful, be smart. It’s what content marketers have always been good at.
3. Tag rigorously
If you want to get credit for your work, tag your links! A few simple UTM tagging tips:
- Keep your naming conventions simple – When you get started with analytics, it’s tempting to want to measure the performance of each individual piece of content. Don’t. Success has more to do with pairing the right content to the right channel. If you measure the performance of individual pieces, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and frustrated.
- Always use lowercase – Google Analytics sees uppercase and lowercase as two different things. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches by choosing to make everything lowercase from the beginning.
- Tie the campaign to a lead – If you use a marketing automation system like Pardot, Marketo, or Hubspot, they will store this for you automatically. This is what will help you see if those Twitter leads ever turned into paying customers.
If you need help with UTM tagging, Google has a handy URL builder. Make a spreadsheet, organize your campaigns, and tag your links. It might feel annoying. It would definitely be faster to skip this step. But in a few months when you’re asked to cough up results, don’t be surprised when Bob gets all the credit.
It’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet to track your tags. Here’s a screenshot from our campaign spreadsheet, complete with a gentle reminder from the boss to remember UTM tags.
4.Test, grow. Test, grow
Don’t try to do everything at once. Start small. A petite testing budget, $100-$500, should be enough to get you going. Once you gain some traction, grow. Be sure to give your tests enough time to have worthwhile data. You won’t get definitive results overnight.
5. Evaluate success
In the first few weeks of testing a new paid content channel you should be looking for the classics:
These are leading indicators that give you an early idea of how one channel stacks up against another. But if the impression to click conversion rate is alarmingly low, it’s a sign you should change something before blowing a bunch of money. Once you have more data collected, start looking at:
- Qualified leads
These are much more accurate indicators of the viability of a channel. Measure conversion rates at each of these stages—from impression to click, click to lead, lead to qualified, and qualified to customer. And measure the cost of everything. Track every last dollar.
6. Write amazing content
Paid content marketing is an excellent way to get in front of a new set of prospects you would otherwise miss, and it’s surprisingly easy to get clicks. Be careful with this new found power.
If you’re delivering great content and targeting with care, your paid leads will turn into owned leads that turn into brand advocates, amplifying the reach you originally paid for. But if you’re sloppy, don’t be surprised to find yourself with a bunch of pricey unsubscribes on your hands.
Doing outbound the inbound way
After a full sales cycle, you should have enough data to start doing more complex analysis. Think about things like calculating Customer Lifetime Value by channel and calculating churn rate by channel.
What campaigns and channels are bringing in customers that stick around? You certainly don’t want to keep putting money into a channel that brings lots of high-churn customers.
Many content marketers would prefer to leave paid marketing to the advertisers. Don’t be one of them. Write excellent content, target with care, and—as always—be helpful. It’s effective, and it’s an excellent way to multiply your impact.