The Truth About Inbound Marketing
The truth about inbound marketing: Content only works when it has a goal.
All too often, people create content just for the sake of creating it.
This content doesn’t have a plan, a direction or a purpose, and lackluster results usually follow. Of course, there are times when you strike it lucky and the content you create generates 10x the amount of traffic and leads you expected. However, unless this was planned (and it usually isn’t), you can’t hope to repeat this success.
However, unless this was planned (and it usually isn’t), you can’t hope to repeat this success.
So I come back to my original statement: Content only works when it has a goal. And to have a goal you need a structure with a beginning, a middle and an end. In other words, it’s crucial that you have a plan for your content, with each piece leading onto the next. This takes the people who interact with your content on a journey with your brand.
This takes the people who interact with your content on a journey with your brand.
There are many content methodologies and frameworks out there. One of my favorites is the Hubspot Inbound Methodology; I’m a huge fan.
In this methodology, they neatly present the process of inbound marketing, from creating content to attract people to your website, through to converting those people into leads for your business, closing them to a customer, and finally delighting that customer so much that they tell their colleagues and friends all about your brand.
Along with this, Hubspot lists the different content you can use at each stage:
However, based on this methodology and most of the other frameworks out there, a few things are still unclear:
- What content should you create?
- When should you create it?
- And how?!
While there are methodologies that explain how you should think about content at each stage of a person’s journey with your brand, it’s still not clear how all this content should function together.
So we created our own framework, taking everything we understand from the buyer journey, the inbound methodology, and our experience with content marketing.
The framework is called Content Islands, and it gives structure to the content creation process.
Content Islands ensures you are creating the right amount of content, in the right areas, and that every piece of content you create has a purpose and a goal. The result is a well-oiled machine that will generate targeted traffic, leads and customers for the long term.
Before I dive in, you should know that the Content Islands framework focuses on helping you structure the creation of your content. It is based on the belief that you have already planned out your personas, you know your audience, where they hang out, what they like and the content they like to consume.
To use Content Islands you should be ready to start the creation of content.
Ok, so let me explain how it works…
Getting Started with Content Islands
Before you create your first Content Island, you need to decide on a broad topic.
For example, if you are a video production agency you might choose a topic that interests your users, such as “Training”. If you manufacture premium headphones you might choose “Fitness” as your topic.
Your topic should be an area of interest that surrounds your product or service, or helps your audience decide how they might use your product or service. The topic you choose will be the basis for each piece of content you create for your first Content Island.
Creating Your First Content Island
Once you have decided on the topic for your Content Island, the first piece of content you should create is the island.
This is a gated piece of content such as an ebook, a white paper, a webinar or a report. This is a high-value piece of content that your audience would be happy to download or view for free in exchange for their contact details.
The framework starts with the island as this is the high-value piece of content you are using as the conversion point.
It’s the piece of content that should be most valuable and interesting to your audience. It’s the piece they would be happy to share their contact details for.
Based on the examples I mentioned earlier, the video company might create “The Ultimate Guide to Using Video to Train Your Team”, and the headphone company might create “25 Workout Routines That Burn 500 Calories”.
It’s clear from the titles that both would be high-value pieces that comprehensively explain the topic. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your island is a killer piece of content.
The island is what makes this whole framework strong.
Once you have created your island piece, your next priority is to create feeder content.
These pieces of content acts as a way to get traffic to your island. This type of content will attract your audience, and is also known as traffic generation content. It includes items such as blog articles, social media posts, infographics, guest posts, videos etc.
All of this content must be based around the same topic as your island!
The aim with your feeder content is for people to find it online, enjoy it and then be directed towards your high-value island content to ultimately convert.
For example, people may search Google for “What’s the best way to train my team?”
Your feeder content could be a range of articles such as:
- 10 Ways to Train Your Sales Team in 2017
- How to Use Video to Train Your Team (repurposed from island content)
- Why Training Has Changed: 3 New Ways to Train Your Team
The idea is that the person searching for an answer to the question “What’s the best way to train my team?” would find one of your articles, read it and value it.
Within the article, you should make clear references to your island content, and as this is high value and on topic, you would expect a percentage of people to follow through and download the island content.
You have a new lead for your business.
And not just any lead: Someone who you know is interested in your topic, someone who has had at least 2 touch points with your business, someone who has valued your content enough to share their details with you.
All of your other feeder content will work in the same way, but through different channels.
Guest posts on other niche websites, social media posts, videos on YouTube, interviews on websites, podcasts and events, partnerships with other companies – the list can be as large as your imagination.
The feeder content you create will be out in the world for people to find for a long time. As such, your feeder content will generate targeted traffic to your island piece for a long time, and you’ll continue to generate leads for your business around this topic for…you guessed it: a long time.
However, once you’ve created your island and your feeder content, your job doesn’t stop there.
The next part of the Content Islands framework is the Island Beach.
When people get to your island, you want them to have a good experience.
Why invite guests if you’re not going to look after them and give them an experience to remember?!
Give them a room that makes them say WOW! Make them their perfect cocktail and prepare a sun lounger in a prime location on the beach. Make sure they have a reservation in their favorite restaurant and give them the full VIP treatment.
In content terms, this means nurturing your leads to find out what their interests are, providing more relevant content, helping them buy the right products and providing supportive after sales.
The aim is to make the experience so good that they tell their friends.
The good news is, a lot of this work – creating campaigns that take people on a journey with your brand, providing them with the right content at the right time based on their actions, and supporting them at each stage of their journey with your business – can be done using well-planned out marketing automation.
So there you have it, Content Islands: a simple framework that helps you create targeted content based around topics of interest for your audience.
The reason that this framework is so successful is that it makes sure you create content at the right time and for every part of a person’s journey. All too often, brands create content that has no goal and doesn’t achieve anything. It’s common to create content that generates traffic, but doesn’t direct that traffic anywhere afterward.
Similarly, some brands create conversion content that generates leads, but doesn’t attract any traffic.
Content Islands makes sure you have content at every stage from attracting to converting and nurturing your audience.
I’d encourage you to use content islands in your business today. It will help you focus on creating content that achieves your goals. It will make sure all the content you create has a purpose. It will generate traffic and leads for you long term. And, it will make sure that you attract, convert & nurture people in the right way.
Your first Content Island is just the start.
Once you have your first island up and running, you can move on to the next topic, and then the next. For optimum results, I’d suggest you create Content Islands for all the topics of interest for your product and service.