Good content marketing usually comes from the tortoises, not the hares. Run a marathon, not a sprint. Businesses that quick-fix and repurpose marketing materials or product features into “white papers” or tip sheets, no matter how well camouflaged, are not building a relationship or reputation with their target audiences.
An article from the SMPS has it right—content marketing is “a long-term strategy that takes a while to build, but over time results will follow.”
Entrepreneur agrees. “Content marketing takes a different approach to traditional advertising. Instead of pitching to your customers, you make them smarter with educational content that helps build long-term relationships.”
And the work is not just about the writing. To generate a consistent flow of relevant, informative, useful and just-salesy-enough content to build trust and affinity, your team needs a lot more than snappy subheads.
First, they need buy-in and participation from your organization (that’s where the expertise, insight and audience understanding will come from); a solid strategy to guide content decisions over time; and a commitment to audience-focused content. Those three things take a time and effort to develop, but they make for a strong and effective program that delivers the results you want.
Get organizational buy-in: all aboard with content.
The Content Marketing Institute cites Marcus Sheridan on the importance of “creating a culture of content” that removes walls between sales, marketing, and other stakeholders.
In a culture of content, the entire organization prioritizes content marketing and shares the burden.
Does that mean you’ll get your VP of product to sit down and write an original column every month? Not likely. But the product team must be willing to brainstorm ideas and share insights about technologies, trends, customer challenges or other topics that can inform content.
Similarly, your sales team likely has the most insight into your leads and prospects. What questions are leads asking? What are they concerned about? What’s on their minds? Mining those topics is a great way to create useful, audience-relevant content.
This is our roadmap for the long haul.
A formal and thoughtful content marketing strategy will make your program better in every way. What are the (realistic) goals of your program? What content focus will help you reach them? And perhaps most important, what are your KPIs?
Research from Content Marketing Institute indicates that having a documented strategy is a vital and distinguishing characteristic of a durable and effective content marketing program.
A sound strategy will give your program direction and keep your efforts on track over the long haul, says the study.
The report also states that 53 percent of the most effective marketers have a documented strategy, while around 40 percent of the least effective have no strategy at all.
With your strategy and KPIs defined, you can also lay out a measurement program. How will you track what’s working and what’s not? How often will you A/B test content or creatives? What are your benchmarks and timelines for success? Like any marketing campaign, you can’t improve what you can’t measure.
The content of the content is important.
Finally, your content must be relevant, meaningful and useful to your audience in order to move the needle. While there is endless guidance online about how good content must have a killer headline, emotional hook and irresistible call-to-action, those elements are just window dressing.
“…If 90 percent of your content stream is educational, informative, and related to solving the problems of your readers or leads, those readers or leads are far more likely to believe you when you say, ‘this product we developed makes this whole process really easy,’” writes James Sherer of the Content Marketing Institute.
Your strategy should define your audience, your team must understand your audience, and every piece of content you develop should be designed to deliver value to that audience—something they care about and can benefit from.
That’s how you build loyalty, trust, respect and a relationship that ultimately delivers your KPIs—new leads, more customers, higher market share, avid evangelists, more social shares, or sales.
“As experts in your niche, you’re in a position to teach your audience about niche topics. If you establish a teacher-student relationship with your audience, you’ll be in a position of authority and trust,” says Jeff Bullas.
So, if you are a content marketer who struggles every week to scrape up a new topic or re-spin and old topic to slap together a post, it may be time to step back and evaluate your strategy, your organizational support system, and the value of what you’re producing. Stop sprinting for a moment, because this race will have winners, but it doesn’t really have a finish line.