Not all content is created equal.
This statement might seem obvious, but it’s important to understand why.
Content marketing can be defined as the strategy and efforts involved in producing content across multiple channels with the primary purpose of expanding your brands reach to a wider audience. The type of content you produce, where it’s published, and who it’s targeted to is highly dependent on your industry.
A B2B company might focus on creating content to appeal to senior executives, where a non-profit might be focused on creating content to appeal to potential donors.
This guide will discuss how DTC companies can create winning content strategies unique to their market.
Understanding your customers
As with any marketing strategy, the first step to success lies in a deep understanding of your customers.
Defining customer personas is a fundamental part of B2C and B2B marketing, but often gets forgotten in the direct-to-consumer space. Skipping this important step can lead to ill-informed strategies that don’t reach the right audience.
Here are the 3 most important questions a DTC company should ask themselves about their customers in order to create an effective content marketing strategy:
1. What questions do your customers have?
Knowing what questions your ideal customers have related to your product is crucial to forming your strategy. By knowing what questions are being asked, you’re able to create content that answers them, thus controlling the narrative. A good content piece educates and enables prospective customers to make an informed decision. It should proactively answer questions that your customers are seeking answers to. Neal Taparia, who runs card games gaming startup Solitaired, says “In our classic games platform, for instance, we always have visual guides on how to play our games, as well as the history behind the game. We consistently find that our players want to know this, and providing this leads to more engagement in our games”.
Consumers are doing more and more research before making a purchase. A primary goal of a DTC content strategy is to ensure your product is framed in the proper light when consumers do their due diligence. This can’t be done without first knowing what it is people are searching for online, and why they’re searching for it.
2. Where are your customers getting information from?
Once you understand what consumers are searching for, you need to know where they’re finding answers.
As we’ll discuss below, successful DTC content strategies target multiple channels and websites. When a potential customer has a question that might lead them to purchasing your product, you must know where they are going to ask it, and what existing sites are answering it.
Understanding the questions customers have allows you to create useful content, while understanding where they find answers to their questions allows you to create a strategy for where to post your content. “The modern customer journey is not linear,” explains Darshan Somahshekar, founder of Unscrambled Words. “They look for information on multiple websites, review forums, customer communities, etc. before framing an opinion. Knowing where to post and what type of content to post will make a huge difference to content’s effectiveness“.
3. What are the primary factors influencing customers’ decision making?
Depending on your industry, a number of different factors are going to influence your customers decision making journey. Price, ease of use, and brand reputation are some of the obvious ones, but seeking to understand the other factors specific to the problem your product solves can give you a competitive advantage.
This allows you to go beyond answering the questions consumers are actively asking, and attempt to answer the questions they didn’t know they had.
5 tips for creating a DTC content marketing strategy
Once you have a better understanding of your customer, you’re ready to start forming your DTC content marketing strategy.
Here are 5 tips for creating successful DTC content:
1. Complete data driven keyword research
Using what you know about the questions your customers are asking, you’re ready to start keyword research to determine what individual pieces of content you should create.
Your keyword research should seek to answer the following:
- What keywords should my content target?
- How often are those keywords being searched?
- How difficult will it be for these to gain visibility? In other words, how many backlinks do I need to build to start ranking?
There are a number of tools and methods for identifying keyword opportunities – some paid, some free. Tools like Ahrefs and Keywordtool.io allow you to find keywords related to a given topic, while also providing metrics around search volume and difficulty.
While those are both great starting points, they don’t always find everything. One of the best ways to identify content opportunities is to search for your customers questions yourself, then see what content shows up. It might be manual and time consuming, but it can help surface content ideas you might not have thought about otherwise.
Between the use of tools and your own creative research, you should start to come up with a list of keywords you want your content to target. From there, collecting search volume and keyword difficulty data allows you to start prioritizing which content to create first based on potential impact.
2. Understand the search intent
Search intent refers to understanding why a person searched a given query. In DTC content marketing, there are 3 very important types of intent to know:
- Informational intent:
Queries searched by people looking for information on a specific topic, without necessarily knowing exactly where they want to find the answer. An example of a query with informational intent is ‘best running shoe’. The person is most likely searching for information on the best running shoes in order to make a more informed purchase. From a content marketing perspective, this is an opportunity to create content that provides the information needed to convince consumers to make a purchase.
- Transactional intent:
Searches with transactional intent are ones where people intend to purchase a product right away. An example of a transactional query is ‘buy running shoe’. For queries with this intent, keep in mind that while customers are ready to purchase, they haven’t necessarily decided which specific product it is they want to buy. Transactional queries usually return product landing pages, which tend to be lighter on the content side. This doesn’t mean the content is less important, however. Instead, the content you place on a page targeting transactional queries must be treated as your last chance at convincing someone to buy.
- Navigational intent:
Navigational intent refers to searches where a user intends to navigate to a specific product or website by brand name. An example of a query with navigational intent is ‘nike running shoe’. In this search, the consumer is looking to navigate directly to a site selling Nike running shoes, likely to make a purchase. These branded, bottom of the funnel queries are likely already being targeted by your existing content, but it’s important to identify them nonetheless. Doing so forces you to evaluate how your site is being displayed for such searches, and helps you find opportunities to fill gaps within your strategy.
3. Determine where the content will be published
Once you’ve created a list of keywords, found data on their search volume and how difficult they will be to rank, and determined their intent, you’re ready to decide where that content should live.
Many DTC companies make the mistake of thinking that their content strategy begins and ends solely on their website. This is flat out wrong, and leads to missed opportunities. The best content strategies involve casting the widest net possible by ensuring every possible query, search, or question being asked online returns results favorable to your business.
For content opportunities with informational intent, identify all of the existing content ranking for the keywords being targeted. No matter what the vertical is, you’re likely to find at least some of the top ranking content are affiliate articles. These tend to be pages that present seemingly unbiased information about a product with a link to the recommended product(s). If someone makes a purchase after clicking that link, the website hosting the content gets a commission from the sale.
As a DTC company, your goal is to not only be featured in these relevant offsite affiliate pages, but to try and rank content on your own website as well. If your company sells running shoes, this might mean publishing onsite informational content targeting ‘best running shoes’, while also reaching out to affiliates for relevant placements within content already ranking.
4. Ensure content answers your customer’s questions
Now that you’ve identified what content you want to publish, it’s time to write it! Unfortunately, many content writers are more concerned with writing SEO friendly content that will rank than they are with creating actually useful material.
SEO friendly content and content that answers your customer’s questions aren’t mutually exclusive. Instead, challenge your writers to create content that meets SEO expectations while still focusing on answering the questions your customers have.
Afterall, there’s no point in putting in the effort to create content that won’t satisfy the searchers’ intent or answer their questions.
5. Balance objective information with your pitch
Finally, make sure your content doesn’t come off as too subjective or biased. While there will always be some level of subjectivity involved in the promotion of your products, customers don’t want to feel like they’re being tricked into making a purchase.
By including as much objective information as possible within your pitch, readers feel like they’re being accurately informed, and are more likely to view your product favorably. The extent to which you lean more towards your pitch vs objective information will depend on the search intent and location of the content.
If the content is for a feature in an existing affiliate page, you’ll want to lean towards unbiased information, whereas content on your own site can rely more heavily on your brand’s pitch or value proposition.
Scaling your DTC content marketing strategy
It’s any content marketers goal to scale their successful strategy as time goes on. Of course, with more content comes more challenges.
Time, cost, and potential reward are important considerations when eyeing scale. More content = more time & higher costs. The reward, however, increases as well.
Here are three ways to facilitate the scaling of your DTC content strategy:
Use freelance writers
One of the most frequent barriers to scale is simply a matter of content resources. As a DTC company, you may or may not have an in-house team dedicated to producing content. Whether or not you do, using freelance writers is an excellent way to quickly increase your bandwidth.
The challenge isn’t a matter of finding an available writer, but finding a qualified one. Sites like Upwork and Freelancer help making finding suitable writers easier by providing bios, reviews, and information on prior work.
In order to vet a freelance writer before hiring them, ask for writing samples for content similar or related to the content they’ll be producing for you. An excellent fiction writer might be a terrible DTC content writer, so don’t sleep on the importance of vetting.
Accept guest posts
Another common method for increasing content production is accepting guest posts. Writers and other websites often seek to post content on other sites in order to expand their brands reach. This should not only be something you seek to do for your own site, but something you remain open to accepting on yours as well.
It’s important to have clear guidelines on what kind of content you accept, your writing style, and even on formatting to make sure guest post content is natural for your audience. If someone expresses interest in guest posting on your site, it can help to start the conversation by telling them what topics you’re open to publishing content on. Sometimes you’ll even be able to request someone write a guest post on content you’ve identified in your content strategy!
When it comes to content creation, automation isn’t something people tend to think of. Content needs to be unique, high quality, and valuable, so the thought of software helping create it is often a turn off. Fortunately there are ways to automate your content creation without sacrificing quality.
For example, Wordable is a simple and affordable tool to help streamline your content creation by allowing you to seamlessly publish content on your WordPress site directly from a Google doc. Simply write and format your content in a Google doc, click export to Wordable, then watch as your content is automatically published to your site.
2 examples of DTC content marketing strategies
It’s one thing to read about how to create a DTC content strategy, and it’s another thing to see it in action.
The following examples show two approaches taken by DTC companies to expand the reach and value of their content.
Botaskin: Guide to plant based skincare
Botaskin manufactures and sells natural plant based skincare products directly to consumers from their website. As part of their content strategy, they identified the opportunity to create informational content that answered commonly searched questions by their target customers.
In their research, they determined that a multi-page, onsite guide to plant based skincare could satisfy the intent, while also promoting their own line of products. The content does a great job balancing objective information with a subtle push towards using their products without seeming biased.
CBDistillery: Onsite category page content
CBDistillery produces and sells a variety of CBD products online. The CBD space is extremely competitive and filled with sheisty businesses, so it’s important for them to stand out as a reputable company.
One way they’ve chosen to do this is through onsite content on product and category pages that present information on why the company can be trusted. For example, on their CBD oil category page, they include content answering FAQs beneath the list of products. One question directly asks and answers ‘Why Trust CBDistillery”, and provides useful information on their processes and quality control methods.
Creating a content strategy for a DTC company is a complex process that requires a deep understanding of your products, your customers, and your brand positioning. Although time consuming, seeking to understand them will help set your strategy apart from your competitors.
The type of content you produce and where it is published are both dependent upon the intent of the query being searched, and where in your funnel that page will stand. DTC companies can expand their reach by posting both on and offsite, while leveraging tools such as Wordable to facilitate scale.
About the Author:
Chase Zwissler is the Direct of Operations for Organic Growth Marketing, where he leads growth initiatives for DTC and B2B companies. He’s passionate about producing valuable content that converts across all stages of a company’s funnel, and specializes in the creation of SEO friendly content strategies.