Companies in almost all industries are (wisely) rushing to get aboard the content marketing train. But in their hurry out the door, a lot of them are leaving behind key aspects of an effective long-term content strategy.
As the viability and value of content have become more apparent, brands have wisely been scrambling to catch up to this ballooning trend. After being behind the times for much of the last few years, business leaders have finally heard enough of the buzzword and are rushing to make investments into the discipline.
The hurry is warranted: there’s a lot of pressure on brands to get started and establish a space in the content marketing world. The harried hustle to make up lost ground is causing marketing leaders to overlook critical details, making them content producers, but not content marketers.TWEET THIS: The rush to make up lost ground in content is causing marketers to overlook critical details
Before they plunge headlong into the overwhelming sea of content marketing, organizations would do well taking a breath and making sure all the crucial pillars are in place to make their efforts worth the investment.
1. Orienting Efforts Towards the Ultimate Goal
Content marketing is this year’s most frequently-cited challenge for marketers. And for good reason: half of businesses that use content lack an established content strategy.
Digital marketers seem confident that they need to be leveraging content and increasing the volume of production. But without a purpose, they’re just revving their marketing engines in neutral. As content marketing recruiters, we get inquiries all the time from potential and current clients about bringing on additional content marketers. But when we ask questions about the needs the role is filling, the level of experience needed, and the ultimate purpose of the acquisition, we’re too often met with chirping crickets.
Developing a strategy begins and ends with a meaningful goal in mind, but many marketers struggle to define that goal or track progress toward it. Marketers love to talk about their ROI-centric mindsets. But as Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb reported at the May Digital Summit, 43% of them have “unmet needs” when it comes to measuring content marketing ROI.
What exactly those goals should be vary from business to business depending on your audience and model; there’s no one-size-fits-all definitive guide to content KPIs.
2. Gathering Difference-Making Talent
Brands have responded to the spike in demand for content marketing in a variety of different ways, to mixed success. Some dump it off to an agency as another expense. Some attempt to find one of the few available content marketers in the small pool of existing talent and try to lure them away from their current positions. Others reorganize their current staff’s priorities and hope they figure it out.
There’s so much more required for effective content marketing than the traditional creative production that many business leaders envision.
The hard truth is that, though the demand for content marketers has grown steadily over the last several years, the amount of professionals qualified to fill those needs hasn’t kept up. There’s so much more required for effective content marketing than the traditional creative production that many business leaders envision:
- Analytics and planning to identify the best content opportunities and measure success
- Syndication to maximize reach and visibility
- SEO to maximize the content’s exposure on the web and its benefit to the rest of your site
- Social media management to promote content, develop a following and directly engage audiences
- Automation to effectively nurture leads
- Project management to oversee efficient, timely production, collaboration and prioritization
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Without all these essential pieces that make up the puzzle, you’ll never stand out in the content crowd.
Some large brands will need to bring in specialists in all these areas to effectively operate as part of a content team. Smaller organizations will rely on flexible, multitalented individuals who can do a bit of everything, even if it’s not all perfect.
Download it Now: 8 Interview Questions to Ask Your Content Marketing Candidates
Either way, brands will have to get creative with how they strategize and execute their growing content needs while they wait for the talent pool to catch up. A combination of training internal staff, leveraging content marketing staffing and freelance resources, and optimizing your employment brand (and remuneration offers) for top content marketing talent is a good place to start.
3. Ensuring Consumers Get What They Really Want
Now that most brands active in marketing have claimed a seat on the content bandwagon, the next step is to move toward more relevant output.
Most companies are still getting their feet wet, so it’s understandable that no everyone will have a refined strategy and precise targeting yet. But as you test content effectiveness (you are testing, right?) for various demographics, it’s essential to start using those insights to hone decisions on what kinds of content to make, who to share them with, and in what context.
It’s hard to overstate the power of relevance in content. For instance;
- organizations that leverage this consumer-centric approach are 23 times more successful in gaining new customers
- highly-relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than their regularly broadcasted counterparts
- exposure to large amounts of unrelatable content or an oversaturation of sales messaging dilute a brand and make it perceived as spammy
Creating one version of your content and sending it out to everyone is a recipe for failure. Just like any other marketing discipline, customizing messages based on demographic needs and personalizing experiences based on individual data and history will be crucial to long-term success.
4. Consistency and Reliability
The consumer wants that optimal, end-to-end customer experience across all the different touch points.
Finally, marketing leaders are falling short in providing consumers content that’s both cohesive in messaging and regularly updated.
It’s important that content aligns closely with other public-facing parts of the business: advertisements, sales experiences, customer service, web presence, even the product itself. If your content promises one thing and the rest of your brand delivers something else, you’ve got a problem.
These days, audiences rarely tolerate an “interruption to their regularly scheduled programming.” If you don’t consistently add new value to your experience that engages and brings them back for more, you can expect them to turn their attention to any of the millions of other voices clamoring for their attention.
When your web properties and social accounts are ghost towns with only sporadic posts and updates rolling through like tumbleweeds, don’t expect anyone to stay long or make a return trip. It’s vital that marketing leaders balance the need for content to be high-quality and meaningful, but also produced in a way that keeps your brand out in the world and top-of-mind. It’s important that they earn buy-in and engagement from the rest of the organization: effective content leadership goes beyond just strategy, and beyond just the Marketing department.
Editor’s note: HUGE thank you to Steve Olenksi for taking the time to speak with us about content marketing best practices. His input and perspective were invaluable. Read more of Steve’s coffee-fueled insights on Forbes, Business Insider, and Huffington Post among many others, as well as @steveolenski.