Content marketing still maintains its position as one of the best ways for brands to reach and engage their audience, with conversion rates six times higher (2.9%) for companies and brands using content marketing compared to those that don’t (0.5%).However, 60% of B2B content marketers say producing engaging content is their biggest challenge.
We’ve talked before about using audience insight and website analytics to support your content strategy, but what does this actually look like in practice? How can brands use insight on their target audience to ensure they produce interesting and relevant content?
To answer these questions I spoke to John Stokdyk, our Global Editor on AccountingWEB.co.uk, who has been writing content for the site for nearly 19 years. AccountingWEB UK, one of SIFT’s online publishing titles, has the largest and most engaged community of accounting professionals in the UK, with 70% of all UK accounting practices as members and an average of 5,000 engagements per month.
Hi John, I know you are a busy guy so let’s get straight to it. When thinking about the content marketing strategy for the readers of AccountingWEB UK, where do you start?
For us it’s all about topics and topicalities. So we’ve just come out of January, a time when the great bulk of our readers are buried in self assessment tax work. We save up all our aspirational, “change your practice” and “what would you do better?” articles until now in February, when practitioners start shopping for new software.
We have a background “compliance cycle” of regulatory deadlines that we use as the basic architecture for our editorial content – and encourage our clients to follow this as well. You can see in this illustration of that cycle (below).
Having a reliable “key events” schedule must be helpful. What role does the website data play then, if you essentially have this calendar of topics?
We delve into our audience data on AccountingWEB.co.uk to look for emerging trends and gaps where we see user queries, but not a lot of editorial content. It’s the old trick of spotting coincidences and patterns, or anomalies that depart from the norm and working out who’s looking for what information, when.
We pay particular attention to the questions being posed by members in our Any Answers section, which is where community members each other for advice, as these will often signal issues that are beginning to bite.
It certainly makes sense to write blogs and articles on topics that the audience is crying out for, and great when you have data to backup that decision. What other areas can audience data and insight influence when it comes to content and marketing it?
Two useful pieces of audience insight that are sometimes overlooked are the timings of their visits and devices used. The AccountingWEB UK audience are predominantly office-based, with nearly three-quarters accessing the site from desktop systems during office hours. This tells us that they use our site as a workplace support service.
We send out our weekly eBulletins to connect with them at coffee time in the morning. That’s when our daily traffic usually peaks. We also see a mini-surge of traffic around lunchtime, when we think members take more time to read articles for continuing professional development (CPD) or to socialise. The mobile/tablet traffic we get tends to rise during commuting times and evenings.
Can you give me a real example of where data and insight have influenced a content decision for a client?
For much of last year, our world was dominated by HMRC’s Making Tax Digital initiative, which envisaged millions of small businesses filing their income and expenses electronically every quarter. This was a massive undertaking with some impractical deadlines and caused considerable friction among our members. The government listened and changed its plans in July. Not long after, we started seeing the emergence of a new theme on the site – “GDPR”, or the General Data Protection Regulation, which becomes effective in the UK in May 2018.
In effect, the next most pressing compliance deadline jumped ahead of MTD in the “to do” lists for our members and we had a new focus for our editorial attention. Thomson Reuters was also alert to this change. We had a live webcast lined up for our Practice Excellence Live week in October and while we still paid attention to MTD, Thomson Reuters introduced GDPR as a key compliance priority for the year ahead. They also produced a GDPR handbook for our members. Responding to topical changes in the concerns of our members so swiftly, and giving accountants good information when they need it, generated remarkable results for Thomson Reuters – thousands of members have accessed the webcast and downloaded their GDPR guide.
Excellent, a great example of how a brand can (and should) pay attention to their audiences’ interests and adapt their content accordingly. Is there any last piece of advice you would like to share to those reading this blog post?
The overall lesson here is to think about your target demographic (which we have refined into specific member personas such as the fiftysomething sole practitioner, Michael). What are they doing, and when? And when will they benefit most from the content we provide them? You need to think yourselves into their shoes, listen to their conversations and then respond to them with information that will be most relevant to that situation.
Obviously a level of actual data and insight is required to achieve this, but with products like our Insight Exchange Service, brands can not only receive this insight regularly, but also have an online platform from which to publish their newly inspired content.