Content marketing gets a lot of buzz these days, but it’s hardly a new idea. (More than a century ago, John Deere, Jell-O, and Michelin were all killing it with content.) You’ve probably decided that content marketing has to play an integral role in your marketing strategy. And maybe you’ve tried a few things, but they haven’t had the impact you’d hoped.
This can happen to even the best brands.
Whether you’re just starting out or wondering why your previous efforts have failed, you need to know these 12 things.
1. You didn’t start with a plan.
Before a single word is written, infographic created, or photograph shot, you need a game plan. Some questions to consider:
- What goals should the content accomplish?
- Who is the audience?
- What content types and topics will best meet your business goals?
- How will the metrics be tracked?
- What does phase one look like? Phase two?
- How will the content be optimized?
Next, analyze what worked or didn’t work in the past by conducting a content audit and competitive analysis. The game plan also should include planning content for all stages of the customer journey.
Finally, plan to regularly review the site metrics and capture patterns, shifts, and usage. With this information, you can optimize your content for the best results.
2. You’re not committed.
You can’t just publish an article every once in a while and expect it to make an impact. Establish a regular cadence to continually engage consumers, and to set expectations for subscribers so they know when new content is coming.
Also, create a promotional plan (see No. 9) for social media, email, and other channels to keep you on track — and to keep your audience interested.
3. You’re not thinking like a publisher.
Publishers are solely focused on the audience. They also strive to be the authority. Brands can do the same by steadfastly focusing on customer needs, wants, and interests — and delivering trustworthy content on those topics.
One word of caution: Play to the brand’s strength to communicate authentically. A retail bargain brand shouldn’t talk about luxury home goods. Stay in your lane, but drive with confidence.
4. You consider content an expense, not an asset.
Does great content cost money to create? Yes. But once you have it, you own it, and you can use it in many ways. A white paper can be broken down into multiple blog posts. A single blog post can be repurposed for social media or email. Multiple blog posts around the same topic can become chapters of an ebook.
Better still, the investment you make in content continues to pay off, especially when compared to other tactics such as paid search. You can continually optimize your content for search to enhance discoverability and refresh it and send it back out for a new campaign. Good content lasts (almost) forever.
5. You can’t stop talking about yourself.
Do you like to be sold to all the time? Neither do your customers. This is why ad blocking rates continue to rise. It’s time to stop selling — and start relating.
Yes, you want to create content that promotes products and services when the customer is close to a purchasing decision. But for all of those other times in a customer’s journey, connect by giving them something helpful, useful, inspirational, or emotional. Build consumer trust and you’ll increase loyalty. And that’s when you’ll start seeing sales.
6. You’re fixated on the channel, not the storytelling.
Rather than worrying about creating content for, say, Facebook and LinkedIn, focus on compelling stories that meet your audience’s needs and establishes your authority. Think about your entire content ecosystem and how it works together. Once the content is created, look to your plan (see No. 1) to distribute that content across channels, whether that’s the web, social media, email, sales collateral, or print pieces.
7. You haven’t hired professionals to create the content.
You may fancy yourself a writer. Or maybe that young marketing coordinator you just hired has a lifestyle blog. Don’t be tempted to DIY your brand’s content. Hire professional writers to do the job — preferably former journalists who know how to do the reporting, have experience writing on the subject matter, and who understand how to engage an audience through storytelling.
If you don’t have the budget for an in-house team, don’t sweat it, because you don’t need one. You can hire freelancers, outsource to a credible agency that understands content marketing, or use a content network.
8. You’re creating content in a vacuum.
Your content marketing team should be connected to the marketing and sales teams so that everyone can work together toward the same business goals. Schedule regular meetings to define evolving business needs so that the content aligns with that agenda. Give everyone an opportunity to bring great ideas to the table.
Don’t forget about other groups, such as human resources or public relations. By learning about their business needs, you can help the brand create content for their audiences as well.
9. You’re not promoting your content.
Why spend money on content if you’re not going to tell anyone about it? If you think about content as an asset (see No. 4), then you’re more likely to market the asset. Have a plan to amplify your content by sharing it across social media, including it in email campaigns, and distributing it through your employees or sales force.
True, you have to spend more money on the promotion. But with clearly defined goals and metrics (see No. 1), you’ll be able to see — and show your executive team — how the investment pays off.
10. You’re not considering search engine optimization (SEO).
You want your content to be discoverable through organic search, so conduct keyword research to find out how people are searching for the kind of content you want to produce. This not only applies to what you sell, but also the topic about which you want to be an authority.
Narrow the list to words and phrases that best align with your brand. Then incorporate that language into your website, on the page itself and in the meta data (such as page title and meta description). If necessary, update campaign messaging accordingly.
11. You’re not being thoughtful about what resonates with your audience.
Audiences get bored easily — and there’s a lot competing for their attention — so if the content isn’t compelling or relevant, you will lose them. If you’re following trends just to follow them, stop. Not every brand should livestream, and not every brand should tweet. If Instagram stories don’t reflect your brand, don’t use them.
Just because a platform or technology exists doesn’t mean you have to use it.
12. You’re not aiming high enough.
Every brand that considers content marketing an essential tactic within their overall marketing strategy should strive to be more than the best among their competitive set.
They should strive for best-in-class content marketing, no matter the industry, period.
Think about REI, considered to be the premier publisher of all things outdoors. Or Home Depot and Lowe’s, which both produce content as well as HGTV. Strive to reach the ultimate level in your industry. If you’re dedicated to creating content essential to your customers, then you will.