Axonn Media: How a content marketing agency can help your startup

Hi Alan, who are Axonn Media?

Axonn Media is a content marketing agency. We help our customers achieve their online goals by providing them with the right balance of content creation, content strategy and technology for them. Axonn has over a decade’s experience of doing this, and I think we’re pretty good at it. 

How did your journey with Axonn Media begin?

During the general election campaign of 2001, we wrote a daily news round-up for the National Union of Teachers’ website. That was our first step towards what would become content marketing. By 2005, “news feeds” were the mainstay of our business – then called Adfero.

That metamorphosed into content marketing with the rise and fall of SEO over the last ten years. We changed the name to Axonn Media at the start of 2013. I definitely wrote some of those updates in 2001, but I can’t remember now if I wrote the very first one.  

For a start-up, what makes good content?

That’s like asking what the secret of happiness is! The answer is “it depends”. What makes good content for a start-up depends on what it does, who it wants to attract, what its competitors are doing and what its technical capabilities are.

The best way to start answering those questions is by building up audience personas – behavioural models detailing how the right types of people will interact with your site. For us, the content strategy flows from the audience personas.  Start-ups in particular need a distinctive voice, a way to stand out from established rivals.

How important is it to capture data when marketing content?

It’s absolutely essential. It never ceases to amaze me how some people just assume they know their audience without ever testing their preconceptions against data. OK, content marketing is far from a pure science, but it’s ridiculous to approach it unscientifically.

You try something, you see if it had the desired effect, you hypothesise as to why it didn’t, and you try again with variables changed on the basis of that hypothesis. And then you do it again. Intuition can get you so far, but only data can take you the rest of the way.

And how can a business owner capture their data?

Unless you have very specific needs or a massive and highly differentiated website, Google Analytics is great. It’s simple to install, simple to use and has a lot of powerful tools. The key is to really use its capabilities – not just to watch a headline traffic graph rising and falling over time.

You need to set up segments and goals, and monitor and adjust them as you experiment with content. That gives you anonymous, aggregated data – but it is sensible to balance that against real people’s experiences, and complement analytics with user surveys.

What’s the process of determining what strategy is best to market content?

Start by getting to know your intended audience. Content marketing is all about them and what they want to see, not you and what you want them to see. Collect your data from as many sources as possible. Where data conflicts with your gut instinct, acknowledge the contradiction and treat it as a hypothesis to be tested. 

Your strategy should cover a set period of time and fit together as a comprehensive whole, not a series of isolated actions. It should be solid enough to generate meaningful results, but flexible enough to be changed in response to feedback.

Has it surprised you how fast the digital marketing space has grown?

Yes, but it makes perfect sense in retrospect. Online is simply a better platform for marketing than offline – it’s cheaper, more measurable, more adaptable and it’s where innovation is taking place. I try to keep a very open mind about new trends and technologies, because I was personally completely wrong about blogging and social media when they first appeared.

I assumed they had no commercial applications because they didn’t fit my preconceptions about media as a one-way channel. Luckily, other people around me did see it. Remembering that misjudgement helps keep me on track today.

How important is social media to content marketing?

It is absolutely vital. At the risk of sounding like a Silicon Valley cliché, social is a state of mind not a bunch of platforms. All media are becoming are social media insofar as they are striving for interactivity.

Any successful content marketing has to treat sharing as a distribution channel; organisations need to make sure their content is sharable (easy to share on various platforms and the sort of content that is likely to be shared), and reconcile themselves to the loss of strict control of message that allowing others to talk about them entails.

In terms of content marketing campaigns, what’s the testing process?

Identify what the results you want to achieve are and how your content marketing will get you there at the outset. Vagueness about objectives can lead to a lot of wasted time and money.

Challenge a limited number of variables at a time so as to make it as clear as possible what is making the difference. There’s nothing special to content marketing here – it’s just standard empirical scientific method. Even the creative aspects can be hypothesised and tested.

Axonn Media are the UK's leading content marketing business. You can find out more about them by visiting their website, following their Twitter account of liking their Facebook page 

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