There’s a lot of content out there. In fact, the amount of online content seems to double every couple of years. With the plethora of content already available, more businesses continue to jump on the content marketing bandwagon.
For some clarity on the situation, check out these stats.
According to a joint 2014 B2B study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 93% of the B2B marketers surveyed said they used content marketing, but only 42% said they were effective with it. These two organizations conducted a similar B2C study in 2014, and according to that, 90% of B2C marketers surveyed said they were using content marketing but only 34% said they were effective with it.
The takeaway? There are a lot of marketers who feel their content is ineffective.
You’ve probably read Mark Schaefer’s post about “content shock” and the fact that too much content may mean your content may never get read. Trip Kucera of Aberdeen Group penned an interesting rebuttal. While I agree that “good content is the difference maker”, Kucera misses the point that for people to get to the good content, they have to sift through a lot of bad content. Then, there’s the whole question of what to do after consuming the content. We create and distribute content for people to not only read but to take some type of action on it, whether it is to share the content, comment on it, read additional content from us or something else. If your content is bad, people won’t do anything with it other than wonder why they wasted their time with it in the first place.
Many content marketers fall short of creating effective content for three reasons.
(1) They make it all about the content and not about the prospect or customer.
Some companies get excited when they see other companies invest in content marketing and get great results – they see their content going viral and they are winning business. They think if that company can do it, so can they. They read that it is cheaper to acquire a new customer using content marketing than other traditional acquisition methods. In their mind, they believe content marketing is the short-cut to more revenues. They figure that creating a lot of content and distributing it is the way to go. So they fire and forget about ready and aim. As a result, they become discouraged because they did not get the content marketing results they wanted. The problem is they give no regard to the audience they wanted to attract in the first place.
But, there is hope.
Understand that content marketing is an investment. It is not a quick fix, short-cut, golden ticket or magic pill.
It takes time to analyze, plan, create, distribute and measure your content. First, ask yourself why you want to invest in content marketing. Then, analyze where you are right now. Perform a content audit. Next, determine where you want to go and how content marketing is going to help you get there. This is done by knowing the business goals your company has set and being able to tie your content marketing efforts to them. Do a lot of research. This research will include reading a lot of content marketing thought leadership articles and case study examples, attending events, engaging with others on social media and online communities, etc. You will also be doing a lot of research on your buyers, influencers and other core audience segments. Get to know and understand them through social listening and engagement. Know their pains, needs and how to help them. Next, create your strategy, which should include, at the very least, the following:
1. Comprehensive definition of your core audience(s) and individual personas.
2. Your story map and prime positioning points that lay out your value proposition clearly.
3. Key distribution channels.
4. Content you will create.
5. KPIs and tools you will use to measure the effectiveness of your content strategy.
As you get to know your audience and develop relationships with them, your listening should take a multi-level approach. Listen as you begin your research, listen as you are fine-tuning your personas, and listen as you create and distribute your content to be able to improve on it. Commit to improving your audience’s experience through measuring content performance, taking what you learned in the analytics to adjust or re-start, and test again. Always be testing your content.
In addition, understand that your role as content marketer is to create purposeful, relevant content that your audience wants. Your content should drive engagement. Your content revolves around your audience, so focusing on their experience will win you their interest.
(2) They operate and create content in a silo.
In some companies, content marketing teams are created as a separate unit. The content marketing team is not aligned with Sales and Marketing, so communication barriers arise and ultimately, a silo is born. Content marketers who create their content in a silo risk a few things. First, as a result of the silo, multiple voices of the same brand can be produced, which only serves to create confusion inside the organization and out in the marketplace. Second, because effective communication is limited, any changes within the organization, in the marketplace, etc. may not be communicated timely, and without the appropriate information to change content accordingly, content may fall short and be ineffective.
Again, there is hope. Content marketing teams should be developed so that they function across an organization and have representation from all public-facing teams such as Sales, Marketing, Product and Customer Service. This way, a company’s brand voice is consistent, and content can be changed immediately to reflect any marketplace or other changes. Also, tap into the knowledge base of your Sales, Customer Service and Product teams when you are conducting research. Being on the front lines, they can be a wealth of competitive intelligence and market research information that you can use to fine-tune your content marketing efforts.
(3) They assume that content marketing is a campaign and not a process.
Many content marketers make assumptions with their content marketing and the process, namely they believe content marketing is a point in time and once they hit “publish”, they are done. This is not a sound approach because it could give content marketers a false sense of success or failure.
Again there is hope. Understand that content marketing is a process – it is neither sprint, marathon or journey. Your focus should be on your audience, getting to know and understanding them, gaining their trust so you can prove to them you can help them, and ensuring a wonderful experience every time they interact with your content. Make sure each piece of content has a call to action so you are driving engagement and nurturing the relationship. Commit to excellence by continuously looking to improve your content by measuring performance and listening to and observing your audience for feedback.
Content Marketing is not easy. In fact, we’ll go through a lot of misses before our content hits. Implementing these best practices will help you create content that is effective and your audience will enjoy. You’ll reap benefits tomorrow for the effort you put in today.