A content marketing blueprint for affiliate merchants

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When it comes to content marketing, it pays to have a plan in place, especially if you’re an affiliate merchant.

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People will tell you “content is king” and it certainly is, but coming up with ideas off the cuff about things you think sound good and putting it out randomly isn’t using content marketing to the best of its ability.

What you need is a blueprint, a detailed plan to guide you through and ensure you’re working towards the right goals for your business. But first, you need to take a look at what it means to be an affiliate merchant and dive deeper into the world of content marketing.


What is an affiliate merchant?

Firstly, are you an affiliate merchant and does this apply to you? An affiliate merchant is also known as an advertiser, which can also be known as a brand or business. If you own or work for a brand or business, this certainly applies to you. An affiliate merchant is someone who utilizes the wide world of affiliate marketing to broaden their audience and make further sales.

Affiliate merchants, and those looking to become one, know that it’s almost impossible to hit all the sectors of the market merely through their own audience and marketing efforts. To spread the word wider and create further pockets of awareness about their brand, business or product, engaging good-quality publishers, also known as affiliates, is a great approach.

But affiliate marketing is just one approach that should always be part of a wider digital marketing strategy. To use affiliate marketing properly, you should start at the top and create a well-rounded marketing strategy.


What is content marketing?

Content marketing is undoubtedly a buzz phrase. The definitions are endless, but in short, it’s creating content - whether that be blogs, newsletters, videos, images, infographics, stories and so much more - that help or inform your audience while engaging them. Your content marketing is structured and targeted to be relevant and valuable to the audience you’re hoping to attract, too. This is where many businesses fall down. Instead of attempting to understand their customers’ wants and needs, they project their own onto their content.

Do your research when it comes to your customers and audience to truly create content that will serve them and subsequently serve you and your business.  Content marketing is also about consistency. If your audience assumes you’ll release a video blog every week on Tuesday evening, you need to be consistent with that to retain your audience and build trust with the customer base.

It’s also worth noting that the content within your content marketing plan doesn’t have to be owned or created directly by you. As an advertiser, you can find affiliates to create content that fits within your overall strategy, reaching new and diverse audiences. 


What is a blueprint?

A blueprint, just like those you see on all the spy movies, is a complete map of all the parts that need to be noted about a building or machine. It includes where the walls are, the pipe systems, the electricity, ventilation… everything you need to know if you wanted to build the building, demolish the building or even break in and steal the diamonds.

When it comes to content marketing, a blueprint is a complete plan of all the ways in which you’re going to speak with your audience. Taking from your overall content strategy, it outlines what you hope to achieve in the future and how you intend to do it. Your content marketing blueprint will cover everything from the very top including who your audience is, their pain points and the answers that they’re searching for that your business or brand can help them with, right down to how many social media posts you’ll be posting to your existing audience and what topics those will cover.


Why does content marketing matter for businesses today?

Research from The Content Marketing Institute recently highlighted that 63% of businesses don’t have a written content market strategy in place. This is an unfortunate near 40% of businesses not reaching the full potential of their content marketing efforts. Lack of a strategy means the efforts being made, that is if the business is making a content marketing effort at all, are being wasted. On the other hand, a study by Curata stated that 74% of companies they spoke with said that the quality and quantity of their leads has improved through content marketing.

These statistics show that doing content marketing is incredibly valuable to a business and that there is a huge opportunity for businesses to profit from the gap between merely putting out content and utilizing the world of content marketing to create more revenue.


The benefits of content marketing

They say ‘trust is a must’ and that certainly rings true for effective marketing. Content marketing is an excellent way to build confidence, and therefore trust between your potential customers and your brand. Presenting your audience with content they find relevant to their lives highlights that you understand them as a consumer and can position yourself as a subject matter expert. This expertise can strengthen your brand’s reputation and demonstrate that you are a trustworthy company to work with or purchase from.

Content marketing can also enhance the potential of your website. Not only are customers more likely to purchase from a business that shows they understand their needs, but the more content on a website that Google interprets as relevant to your audience, the better their SEO rankings will be. It’s a sad reality that consumers rarely click past the first page on Google when on a targeted search. Like consumers, Google likes websites they consider subject matter experts, so positioning yourself to be on that first SERP (search engine results page) should be a priority. 

SEO is a vast topic and should have a well thought out and lengthy strategy in place. Unfortunately, it can’t just be switched on overnight, but content marketing is certainly something that helps in this space and will assist you in ranking higher for specific keywords.

Good content marketing can make you part of the conversation. Topical content that people find applicable to them is more likely to be shared and engaged with. In turn, the consumers of your content automatically become advocates for your brand. This is hugely beneficial as word of mouth recommendations are still as strong as ever; people are far more likely to purchase a product recommended by their peers.

Most importantly for many businesses, content marketing is cost-effective. DemandMetric states that content marketing is three times more effective than traditional marketing, and yet costs around 62% less.

Finally, content marketing is a convenient way to separate yourself from your competitors. Your competitors might not be using content marketing at all, but even if they are, no two brand voices are the same. Putting your own brand voice across a topic can help consumers understand it exactly how you’d like them to, from your perspective. You can create content from a different angle or with different insights to other businesses that your own consumers could really connect with.


How to do content marketing

Content marketing will look different from business, so there can be no cut and paste approach to creating an effective strategy. Having said this, there are some excellent approaches each individual business can take to ensure success in their content marketing efforts.

As mentioned, as an advertiser you’ll need to know two things: who you are as a brand, and who your audience is or who you’d like them to be. From this, you can begin to create your overall content marketing strategy.

Content marketing strategies

Firstly, ask yourself who are you as a business and what you stand for? This can help form your brand voice. How do you want the world at large to perceive you? Perhaps you’re informative, formal, cheeky or humorous. If you’re a charity who works to battle sensitive topics involving children, taking on a tongue-in-cheek voice may not be appropriate, but being warm and knowledgeable could work for your brand.

What are your goals? What are the business’ overall objectives (other than making revenue of course)? What KPIs (key performance indicators) will you use to measure your success at reaching these goals? Be aware that these don’t always have to have a numerical value such as CTR (click-through rate) and CPC (cost per click). Perhaps you’d like to transform the commentary around your business, this is largely dependent on sentiment and can be difficult to quantify. Whatever you choose for these goals and targets to be is entirely unique to your business, but they will shape how you form the rest of your strategy.

Next and probably most importantly, you need to figure out who your target audience is. Here it’s important to decide if your goal is to reach an entirely new audience or work to convert the audience you already have. If your focus is the latter, what data do you have on your audience already? If you are using social media or website data there are a plethora of statistics available to you from age bracket to physical location, even covering when they’re most active online. You can also install tracking information like Google Tag Manager or Facebook Pixel to gather more data.

From this information, you can build specific audience personas. This is a popular approach in all forms of marketing to truly be able to picture your audience and speak to them in a way they’ll connect with. For example, Amy is a 34-year old stay at home mother of two, with a third on the way. When she needs information she needs it quickly and doesn’t have time to read lengthy pieces of content. She likes content that is entertaining and informative but isn’t full of fluff. Video content works well for her as she can watch it on her phone while the kids play. 

Margaret, on the other hand, is a retiree who loves to read and likes to do detailed research before buying a product. She uses her email to communicate with her overseas family and likes to enter competitions. She does her food shopping on the same day and time every week, using coupons she receives in the mail and has formed a personal relationship with many of the store staff. 

Taking into account the two different personalities, you can already see different ways to approach your marketing to these women. These could be real women who you know already shop with your company, or an imagined ideal customer. 

As you flesh out these personas, and there could be plenty, their needs, desires, triggers and pain points should begin to become more actualized too. Think about the sorts of questions they’d type into Google as these can form the basis of your content marketing strategy and will help you when you create your content marketing blueprint. They will also help you discover the keywords you should be targeting within your strategy. What words seem to come up repeatedly in these sentences or questions? Using these words in a natural manner throughout the content you create will help search engines associate your brand with those words.

If you have already begun creating content without a plan in place, now is a good time to take stock. Where are you now? What content have you already created and is it working for you? What have you posted that people are engaging with on your website and social media? And what didn’t garner the same results? Are there particular platforms that seem to work overly well for you and others that don’t?

This is where you should let the numbers lead you. Though you may be passionate about sharing a certain aspect of your business with the online community, if they aren’t engaging with it and finding it valuable your efforts are being wasted. Try to remove the emotion from this part of the process and ask yourself how you can pivot to reach your goals.

Storytelling in content marketing

One of the things that sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is the concept of storytelling. We connect with great stories and ideas far better than we do with statistics, logic and specific objects. That’s one of the main reasons Harley Davidson claims they don’t sell motorcycles, they sell freedom. Many people don’t desire a motorcycles, but most would love more freedom. 

You should approach your content marketing in a similar way. Businesses who consider how they can position the story of their brand will connect their audience on a deeper level. Consumers want to feel understood, not sold to. Using storytelling, however that may look for your brand or business, will build that aforementioned understanding and trust, which leads to greater sales.

Personalize your story, create something that people can empathize with. The story should come from the perspective that is as close to that specific audience as possible. If your target audience is from a low socioeconomic background, discussing the lavish ways your Fortune 500 CEO spends his spare time may not help them connect. But if that same CEO’s story is how they came from a challenging background and built their company up from the ground, they may be more likely to be inspired by the core values of your business.


How to create your content marketing blueprint

Now it’s time to use your content marketing strategy to pad out your blueprint. You should already have your brand voice, goals, objectives and ideal audiences set. You should also have assessed what is currently working for you and where you have room for improvement.

Your content marketing blueprint could have several overarching campaigns to target each of the different products or topics you’d like to cover over the next significant period of time. 

Set out your business objectives and segment your audience into which personas fit under each. Beneath these personas, list their pain points and how you as a business can help ease these, including the targeted keywords you have researched. Here you can then match each persona’s behavior with how to most effectively reach them. 

For example, Millenials are very peer-driven, so engaging appropriate affiliates in their age bracket could help reach them effectively. Gen Z and below spend and a large amount of time on social media and need to be engaged and informed quickly, so video content on various targeted social platforms could work best for them. Older generations are fans of traditional style marketing but also utilize search engines, perhaps without fully understanding how to use them. Banner advertising, Google Ads and other forms of paid advertising that place your content right at the top of their screens could be the best approach for this segment of your market.

You’ll have to also think about your capacity to create and monitor content. If you’re intending to put out content across a multitude of platforms every day, this could be time-consuming and may require someone’s full attention, whether they are within your business or outsourced assistance. Your blueprint should also show who will be responsible for doing these tasks.

Even though you may be excited about your newfound content marketing journey, you should be careful not to completely wash the market with all your ideas at once. Create an actual schedule and fill it in at a rate that your business has the capacity to continue consistently. Remember that one piece of content can be repurposed in several different ways to help target different sections of your audience.

Finally, your blueprint has to indicate how you’ll measure your success and when you intend to do so. A goal cannot be worked toward properly without a considered timeframe. Once you’ve completed these timelines you’ll have the opportunity to reassess your efforts and revisit your approach if things aren’t working. Monthly or quarterly is a best practice approach to reporting and assessments to ensure time and money is not being wasted if some tactics aren’t fruitful.


Content marketing resources

At Awin we provide news and resources, as well as market insights, to help our publishers and affiliate merchants understand the wide world of digital marketing a little better. 

Content marketing is a vast topic and can cover many different approaches. Having great resources to assist you is always helpful to let you dive a little deeper. If you’d like to do so with tips, tricks, strategies, and tools, we’d recommend Wallaroo Media’s extensive list of 334 resources. Digital expert and entrepreneur Jeff Bullas also has a well-vetted list of popular resources or if you're hoping to explore all the different types of content marketing Bill Acholla delves into the many different approaches you can take as an advertiser.

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