[UPDATE] How to think of content as a product

Posted by Samantha Steele

Applying a product mindset to your content means it will go through a more stringent process, which results in higher quality content.

Content - the marketer’s favourite tool. Whether an email, website content, an ebook or regular blog posts, content should be treated with the same stringent thought as your client thinks of their products.

This is especially relevant and important in our current marketing climate. Says BuzzSumo, “The volume of content published continues to increase, and new topic areas get rapidly saturated with content. In this new world of content saturation and falling social shares, the big winners are sites that have built a strong reputation for original, authoritative content.”

The best way to do this?,Think of your content as a product, and that means treating your content like one: each piece of content should go through the same planning, researching, marketing, and sales as products would. By following this process - outlined by the Content Marketing Institute - you’ll find your content creation becomes a lot more strategic and serves the needs of the customers more closely.

Here are seven essential product steps you should apply to your content:

 

1. Upfront business planning

“Our goal isn’t to shove content into people’s inboxes, it’s to provide the right content to the right people.” - Anum Hussain Tweet: “Our goal isn’t to shove content into people’s inboxes, it’s to provide the right content to the right people.” - Anum Hussain

With each piece of content you create, make sure you know its purpose. Identify the need of your customer’s consumer, and ensure your content responds to that need. At Spitfire Inbound, we do this by creating a robust content strategy. We look at a brand’s business goals, buyer personas, and a thorough distribution strategy in conjunction with the client’s goals. Every piece of content needs to have a strong strategy behind it, with clear goals and multiple calls to actions.  And most importantly, this needs to align with their business goals.

2. Product testing

Like the essential product testing you do before putting anything with your brand name out on the market, continuous testing and feedback of your content will improve its quality.

Your readers will respond to published blog posts in different ways, and testing content with different groups will give you a good indication of how you can improve it until it’s perfect. A great way to “product test” is to use social media statistics - particularly shares - as a way to judge if your content is resonating. Organic shares of content is a great indication that readers are finding it both compelling and useful.

However, it’s important to remember that in the age of social media mistrust, that successful content may also show its face in your direct traffic. Read our post on Dark Social Media to understand this further.  

 Discover the real allure of short lived content and how brands use it

3. Research and development

What content are your competitors producing? What content are your buyer personas reading? Knowing where you stand in the market, and how you can differentiate yours from others in the same niche, is key to creating better content.

This great post by Contently highlights some of the research you can do around this:

- what does your article bring to the table?

- Are you saying the same things as everyone else?

- Do you understand the value add you’re bringing, or are you just contributing to content shock?

Doing a basic content audit around the topic and clearly defining in your strategy what you are doing to make your article the most useful and relevant on the topic, to your niche audience, is key.


4. Product success measures (marketing return-on-investment)

How are you measuring your content? Set a goal for every piece of content you create, and you can use these to accurately assess their success.

There are a number of metrics you can set goals against. Here is an extract from an article on some stats that Contently specified that we love:

“Engaged readers or dwell time: The amount of people who spend at least 15 seconds with an article.

Shares: Still important. When people go out of their way to share your content with their social network, that means something.

Average attention time: The average amount of time someone spends scrolling, clicking, highlighting, and generally paying attention to your content. (In other words, not just leaving the tab open while they microwave a Hot Pocket—no disrespect to Hot Pockets.)

Average finish: How far are people getting through your story? If they’re bouncing at the 25 percent mark, you likely have a misleading headline or a bad lede. If they’re finishing 90 percent of the story on average, you did something right.

Social lift: A simple calculation—(shares/views + 1)—that tells you how much extra organic social traffic a story is likely to get, which will help you prioritize distribution. See BuzzFeed’s case studies for some good examples.

Avg. stories per person: Are people sticking around to read more than one story?

Email conversion rate: One of the best indicators of a great story is when it convinces the audience to sign up for our newsletter.

Lead form conversion rate: When it convinces them to express interest in reasonably expensive software, that’s even better.”

Whatever goal you set, make sure it is measurable and actionable.


5. Customer feedback channels

Your readers need an avenue to give feedback on the blog content. They are the customers of your blog content, and their feedback is crucial to the success of your campaigns.

By making your company available on social media, and by allowing comments on blog posts, your readers are able to give you direct feedback on the content you’re putting out there. That feedback allows you to change your content to better suit the needs and expectations of your audience, giving them a better product.

Another option is to put a chatbot up on your site. This helps with basic queries and sales enablement, and gives users another place on a blog post to comment and engage with your content.  

6. Quality control

Ideally, every single piece of content should go through a quality control process to make sure it’s useful, valuable information that helps your customer. Setting up an approval matrix both internally, and if you’re producing content for others, within client’s processes too, is essential to give your content stringent quality measures.

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7. Product evolution planning

Each piece of content you produce has the potential to become a content offer, a tutorial, or a webinar: in essence, your content is a starting point for a better product, and thinking of it in this way allows you to expand and develop your content into a highly valuable, useful commodity.

By giving your content the planning, time, and resources it needs to work properly, you’re putting into place the supports your inbound marketing needs to work properly.

Your company’s content is what your potential customers consume every day. Don’t let it leave a bad taste in their mouths.

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