Your blog can be a captivating ongoing story – one that your customers return to time and again.

But simply feeding the daily blog machine needn’t be the only way you’re talking to the world. There are so many more ways to tell your story.

Let’s be clear right from the start that blogs are still a huge piece of the content marketing jigsaw. Of the over 1.7 billion websites on the internet today, it’s estimated that over 600 million feature blogs. More than 2 billion blog posts were published worldwide in 2018. That’s 5,760,000 blog posts per day, or 4,000 per minute. 

Interestingly, blogs are getting longer: the average blog post is now 1,236 words long, a 53% increase since 2014. We’ve also learned that frequent blogging brings results: companies that published 16+ blog posts per month received about 4.5 times more leads than those that hit ‘Publish’ 0-4 times monthly. See you back here in a couple of days then…

But for your business to grow and make new friends, rather than a glut of one single content type, we recommend a carefully curated mix of media. These should reflect different consumers’ interests, media consumption habits, even the different things they want to read or watch at different times of day.

Research shows that 47% of buyers consume three to five pieces of content before making a purchase decision. Given that, it makes sense to offer your consumers (and would-be consumers!) a nice mix of content.

But, as we’re about to see, there’s a whole raft of content types to choose from, from how-to videos to thought leadership pieces. So how to decide which types will work or you?

BE CLEAR WHAT YOU NEED
Before you hack your way through the content jungle, it’s worth asking yourself these questions:

1. What is the content for?
What do you want this content to achieve? Are you after more traffic to your site? More leads? Better brand awareness or customer retention?

2. Who is the content for?
Your audience are at the centre of all this. But who are they really? Try developing a persona or empathy map to visualise that audience.

What are their aspirations, what are their pain points? What social media platforms do they hang out on? Do their needs and aspirations vary according to factors like time of day, what device they’re on, etc? The more you know about your audience, the better you can tailor your content to fit.

3. Who are your competitors?
Who else out there is doing this stuff? Do you know who their audience is, and how closely that audience overlaps with yours? Who are their influencers, and which channels are working best for them?

4. What will success look like for you?
This relates to our first point above – but let’s try and quantify those aims. How will you measure how effective your content is?

Do you want 50% more leads by this time next year? 3K more Instagram followers? Product reviews from 10 more key influencers? Knowing where you want to get to will help you lay down the route that bit more clearly.

BEYOND THE BLOG: OTHER CONTENT OPTIONS TO CONSIDER

So, you’ve started to zoom in on what you want this fresh content to achieve for you. Now let’s take a closer look at some of your other options… beyond the Blog.

Video
Video makers Biteable found that 61% of marketers see video as a “very important or extremely important” part of their marketing strategy; that 30% rank it above their website; and that 74% credit video with a better ROI than static images.

Thing is, video making is seen as a tricky form of content creation, and one requiring multiple skills. A hefty proportion of markets simply didn’t make video at all, deeming it too time-consuming (66%), complicated (41%) and/or expensive (37%).

It needn’t be – not least as there are plenty of options out there. Brand videos, event videos, explainers, animated videos, live videos, Instagram stories, educational or how-to videos – it’s a good idea to figure out exactly where you’re going before yelling ‘ACTION!’.

Why not interview an industry expert, use a webinar to address some key themes, or just use film to tell your brand story?

Infographics
Infographics’ USP is their ability to get information across in a clear, easily digestible way.

Being visual is the key here, as surveys have found that most of us don’t read online, we merely skim or scan. Some 55%of all page views get less than 15 seconds of attention – so quick, bitesize presentation is your friend.

It’s also easy to measure an infographic’s performance. Just add an embed code under your graphic to make it easily shareable – and you’ll get to see where, how much and by whom it gets shared.

Longform writing
Hang on a minute. We’re telling you to look beyond that wordy old staple, the blog – and to consider getting even wordier? Bear with us for a moment (or two) here.

Take the trouble to write a longer, more detailed and informative piece about your product or service, and you’re likely to get some reward. If you’ve got the right audience demographic in mind, they’ll really appreciate the extra insights and thoroughness – and their trust in your brand will grow. A recent survey by Demand Gen found that 71% of B2B buyers find marketing white papers valuable in their buying decisions. 

Podcasts
How about a podcast to tell the ongoing story of your brand, or to discuss live issues within your industry? Podcasts are good at building up a loyal audience, they’re well suited to building up keywords for great SEO – and they can be a great place for thought leadership via expert interviews and/or presentations.

Case studies
So you’ve got some great stories in your armoury about how you’ve changed your clients’ lives for the better. Why not share these stories with your audience?

Case studies can mesh really well with an audience (that case study about how you improved a certain situation? There’ll be an audience out there looking for that very same solution). They also offer natural keyword targeting – the words you use to describe the case study will be the same words your audiences will be Googling for help with their own situations.

A case study also ticks the authenticity box. Nothing shows what you can do better than, well, showing what you can do (or have done). Even if you can’t name names, you can still talk about what you did and how your customer benefited.

Last but not least, a case study is a great opportunity for a CTA at the end of the piece (‘Can we do something similar for you? Get in touch!’).

How-to guides
In this age of skill sharing, YouTube tutorials and TEDTalks, we weren’t surprised to learn that 59% of consumers are looking for posts that teach them something. Given this, posting a how-to guide or something with an educational element is a great way to connect with – and provide tangible value to – your audiences.

Emails / newsletters

Old-school, maybe – but still effective, especially when communicating with existing customers or contacts. Seems that email marketing still enjoys a high ROI:  80% of business professionals claim email marketing improves customer retention.

The ace up email’s sleeve is the way it allows regular, consistent communication with your audience(s). As a communication form, it’s easy to personalise – and easy for recipients to act upon. It’s also simple to measure how well emails are performing for you – step forward click-through rates, open rates, unsubscribe rates, bounce rates and other metrics.

And, if you want to build something new into this well-worn route, a recent survey found that personalization, testing designs, and using welcome/thank you automated messages are the key elements for success. Elsewhere, video in your email can increase click-through by 300%.

And don’t forget to include a clear CTA to give the email life beyond those first few seconds.


eBooks
A strong, informative eBook can be an excellent lead capture tool, as your readers will enter their contact information before downloading. Plus, that very act of downloading to their device can make an eBook feel a far more personal, valuable object than an email or blog post could ever manage.

Just make sure that your eBook provides some informative, relevant and personalised information. Want to attract customers to your restaurant or food store? Put together a recipes eBook. Need to push your new bike shop? Create a guide to some of the best rides in your region.

Templates

Content creation takes time – and you’re busy. You want to spend your time writing the best, most informative and targeted content you can, not designing it to fit each different content type.

The good news is that plenty of user-friendly templates are out there, wrapping your content into whichever form you want and leaving you free to generate more of the good stuff. Infographic, blog post, eBook, social media post… you can find some snappy templates for all these content forms. We love Hubspot’s suite of templates.

Memes

OK, memes might not be on-brand for you and your audience. But if they do happen to suit your demographic, memes can spread across social media like wildfire. Simple, funny, relatable – and oh so shareable. Here are some to get you thinking (and raise a giggle or two).

CONTENT REPURPOSING – OR, NO NEED TO RENINVENT THE WHEEL

It’s worth remembering that you may not always need to generate new content every time.

Chances are you have a blog post, a how-to video, or an infographic that would sit perfectly within the message you’re trying to push currently. The content probably just needs a refresh – make sure you update all stats and any time-sensitive references or comments.


CONCLUSION: MANY WAYS TO TELL A STORY

In all likelihood, blogs have been the reliable foot-soldier among your marketing mix. But it might be time to bring in the cavalry. Or the artillery. Or even the Viking berserkers.

The truth is that a well-judged mix of content will probably work best for you – and, when it comes to deciding how to make up that mix, think hard about your audience, your goals, who else out there is doing what you do – and what success will look like for you.

Test and analyse to see what content forms work for your brand. Keep tweaking that mix to keep things fresh. Use Google Analytics to assess what’s working and what’s not.

Keep your content diverse and you’ll keep your audience’s attention on your brand; you’ll drive traffic to your site from all sorts of places; and you can try out new topics and content types, winning new audiences, retaining those already on board – and keeping you and your team fresh and alert for each new opportunity to tell your story.

Ben Hollom

May 20, 2021