Strategic content marketing
While the days of banner marketing, PPC and promoted social media posts are far from numbered, these tactics require support to help maximise the acquisition – and retention of players. Alana Levine of Income Access Group looks at how brands can complement their outbound marketing strategy with inbound content marketing.
Customised content marketing is the future of marketing, according to 78% of chief marketing officers surveyed by Demand Metric. Does your CMO and overall marketing team share this forecast for 2016 and beyond?
In a year of opportunity – from Euro 2016 in France to the Rio Summer Olympics – content marketing with real value for players provides igaming companies with an important means of diversifying their acquisition and retention strategies beyond the traditional outbound marketing model.
As well as increasing conversions, content marketing allows operators to effectively engage players.
Turning inward: inbound content marketing
Since the igaming industry’s earliest days at the turn of the Millennium, acquisition strategies have focused primarily on outbound marketing.
From banner ads served via online media channels and affiliate partners to pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, display and traditional advertising (print, TV, out-of-home and radio), this marketing approach has involved reaching out to promote directly to players.
However, as the industry nears the end of its second decade, competition in mature markets like the UK has risen markedly. Today the five largest sportsbooks in the British market hold a collective market share of approximately 50%, according to Deloitte.
Amidst this environment, converting new players remains a challenge for both established and up-and-coming brands. In 2016, the tried and tested method of banner ads with enticing sign-up offers and promotions can only achieve so much when it comes to conversions.
Click-through rates alone for banners in Q3 2015 on mobile devices averaged only 0.63% and just 0.27% for desktop, according to DoubleClick.
The days of the banner ad – and indeed PPC campaigns and promoted social media posts as well – are far from numbered.
However, these tactics require support to help maximise the acquisition of players. Brands can complement their outbound marketing strategy with the very ying to its marketing yang – inbound content marketing.
In contrast to targeting potential players directly with adverts that are all about the brand’s offering and its products and services, content marketing involves developing content pieces that aren’t explicitly promotional but which inform players what value the brand offers them.
As such, brand content – whether it’s a blog post, an educational video or social media – will attract players on its own terms, and its inherent usefulness will compel them to discover the brand behind the content.
The benefits of content marketing are diverse. Primarily, the approach supports operators’ acquisition of new players. Hubspot reports a 54% increase in B2C brands’ customer conversions when they add inbound content marketing to their marketing mix.
Content marketing also encourages engagement with players and brand loyalty. When players find content of genuine value and interest to themselves as well as to their peers, they will do more than just consume it – they will share it.
Social sharing of content pieces will not only increase engagement with the brand, it also presents an opportunity to have the content republished without any financial investment from the operator.
This succinctly illustrates another advantage of content marketing: its cost-effectiveness.
Implementing a content marketing strategy
To reap content marketing’s benefits, brands will first need to assemble a dedicated content team. These skilled researchers, writers and editors’ foundational task will be to segment the player database demographically.
As well as helping operators to identify any neglected demographics (for example, female bettors and players aged over 50), this will allow the team to develop distinct player personas.
Using these personas, the team can research what these player types find of interest and value. For instance, what sort of content do 18-30 sports-bettors consume besides football and sports news?
The next step involves strategic planning. Only 37% of B2C companies have a documented content strategy featuring monthly planning, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
Brands that adopt the organised approach of developing a content editorial calendar will best position themselves for success.
A content calendar will allow the team to schedule, on a day-by-day basis, brand-related events such as the Cheltenham Festival or European Poker Tour as well as other annual highlights to which content can be anchored (St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and major bank holidays, for example).
The calendar can be divided into content marketing channel (blog, social media platform, player mailers) and will also feature outbound marketing channels (PPC, affiliate marketing campaigns, promoted social media posts).
After all, the brand’s content marketing will complement these outbound campaigns.
Nonetheless, the content calendar will have to remain flexible due to breaking news and unforeseen events. The content team will be constantly scanning Twitter, Google Trends and a range of news outlets to source trending topics for nimbly developed content pieces.
Once the content calendar has been mapped out, the team can focus on developing the brand’s on-site content hub. The Paddy Power Blog is an example of one such approach.
The blog features fun, topical sports news and previews as well as celebrity columns by rugby union player Danny Cipriani and novelist Irvine Welsh. Importantly, it also includes ad banners, allowing site visitors to convert into players.
However, the ads are pointedly under the header ‘Propaganda’ to make clear that promotion is not the blog’s main purpose.
Paddy Power’s blog stories feature strong visuals as well as text. According to Hubspot, blog page views increase by 48% if they include images and videos as well as words. Brands can take this to another level by developing their own videos.
For instance, an online sportsbook can create a video of staff tournaments or away-day activities to demonstrate their personalities and corporate culture, which will better connect the brand with its audience. Meanwhile, a poker brand can develop educational videos to improve players’ playing techniques.
The next step is content distribution. A recent poll conducted by the Content Marketing Institute revealed that a majority of B2C content marketers (67%) consider email newsletters the most effective content piece.
As such, an on-site sign-up form for mailers delivering the brand’s latest blog post or staff video direct into players’ in-boxes should play a key role in operators’ distribution strategies.
Content can also be distributed through social media channels. These posts should be conversational and succinct. In terms of ideal length, 71 to 100 characters for Tweets and only 40 characters for Facebook posts are best for maximum engagement, according to Buffer.
Similarly, brands can also develop non-promotional content specifically for social media, which also has great potential to inspire user-generated content.
Asking questions via Twitter – “Who will be the top scorer in #EURO2016?” – will likely generate a flood of answers from readers, while asking your Instagram followers to visually prove they’re #England’s biggest #fan could do as much for your brand as a 1,000-word blog.
Evaluating the content strategy
While content pieces should not be explicitly promotional, their goal is still to convert those who consume the content into engaged customers.
As such, evaluating the content marketing strategy’s impact is no different for igaming brands as it is for other B2C companies: increasing conversions, which a majority (80%) of content marketers polled by eMarketer consider the main gauge of success.
The relationship between non-promotional content and conversions needs to be analysed more granularly. Beyond Twitter click-throughs to the brand blog and page views on specific posts, are readers engaging with the brand and its content, and converting into customer sign-ups?
By quantitatively analysing the conversions relating to particular content pieces, the content team will gain actionable feedback to develop future campaigns.
However, content marketing is as much about retention and strengthening players’ relationships with a brand as it is about conversions. The success of the content strategy can also be evaluated in terms of player engagement.
Analysis will be both quantitative – number of shares, re-tweets and likes – as well as qualitative, including whether comments on blog articles and social media posts are positive, derisive or even non-existent.
A brand’s content marketing strategy needs constant evaluation and recalibration. However, the investment of time and internal resources will ultimately pay off when it comes to engaging with players, raising their lifetime values and also acquiring new customers.
Are you ready to embrace a marketing future that holds real value – for both your brand and your players?