September 17th, 2015
Content Marketing, Digital Marketing
As marketers in the digital world, information is more accessible than ever. This can be a catch 22 for digital marketers; a greater amount of knowledge available at the click of a button leads to greater expectations for having that knowledge at your fingertips.
We often joke in the office about having to “stalk” to find information, but it’s true that being able to sift through the web to get accurate information is a valuable skill to have. There are no longer excuses for outreaching and addressing the email to the wrong name or showing up to a job interview not knowing the ins and outs of the company’s vision, values, and recent blog posts.
The role of research in the discovery process is crucial to the success of developing a marketing strategy. Smart Insights states discovery is “about collating and analyzing insights about brands, their competitors and most importantly, the characteristics, beliefs, behaviour and perceptions of their audiences.”
The digital marketing discovery process for a client can be daunting, so it is important to take it one step at a time. There are several templates available to guide you through the process, but here are some key research points that will help you tremendously in the long run.
The first step to the discovery phase centers on defining the client’s competitors. However, it is extremely common for clients to misidentify their true competitors. A patio furniture store might claim their competitor is HGTV, but research may show that they only serve customers in their local area. This is where the discovery research process can immediately become overwhelming if it is based on far-fetched competitors.
In situations like this, turn to research. Use SEO tools like Spyfu to find organic and paid competitors which gives more realistic results. Search the industry with location on social media and Google search to see others ranking in the same realm. Another method is to utilize local media and find businesses that have been mentioned in your client’s industry.
Narrowing the focus and identifying those direct competitors will not only give more accurate results, but it will also help when executing the strategy. If a client is expecting over one million Facebook followers because their “competitor” has that many, there are already unrealistic expectations set in place. Using these research findings in the discovery phase will do you huge favors in presenting to the client where the focus really needs to be and what is truly attainable.
Now that you have defined your client’s competitors, it’s time to use this information to your advantage. An article on Entrepreneur suggests signing up for Google alerts, connecting with competitors on social media and subscribing to a competitor’s mailing list to track a competition’s marketing strategy.
This may seem tedious, but this process can help you get a sense of the full realm of offerings a competitor offers that your client may not.
Not only will you see the media coverage and links your client’s competition gains online, but it will also give a sense of where your content strategy should be headed. Express Writers suggests determining the frequency of blog posts on the competitor’s blog and looking at what post received the most comments to assist with your content strategizing. There are many useful tools to take a look at the content with highest engagement on your competitions’ websites.
Now that you have successfully tracked your client’s competitors, a content strategist or manager should still make the content fit the brand. Sometimes content for one company may not necessarily work for another and vice versa. Stay true to the personality of the brand and create content that rings true to their values. For example, controversial blog posts may work for their competitor, but some clients may not feel comfortable going that route.
Secondly, the content should be unique and creative. A client’s content should always provide the audience with something they could not find somewhere else. If you get too stuck in a box of comparing your content to a competitor’s, it may prevent your client from outshining with a fresh perspective to the industry.
Hubspot provided a tip that looking for holes in a competitor’s content can be used for your benefit. If you find out through your research that they have more than 300 posts about one topic and only about 20 on another topic relevant to your client’s industry, capitalize on that weak spot.
The discovery process would be nothing if it weren’t for data. Research is what makes the discovery process valuable and allows your clients to see the facts and data to move forward comfortably with a marketing strategy. Numbers, graphs, screenshots – visuals, are your friend. In the marketing world, stalking isn’t frowned upon, as long as it is for client research! So stalk away.
Author Bio: Amber Whiteside is the Digital Communications Manager at Main Path Marketing. Amber grew up using Myspace and Xanga, which soon led to her passion for following social media trends and a love affair with writing. Amber went on to receive a BA in journalism with an emphasis in public relations from California State University, Chico. If she is not at home playing with her black cat Robb, she is typically out at a local music venue enjoying the sounds of one of her favorite indie bands.
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