It’s the Wild West out there for content marketers. As we inch ever so close to 2015, it’s becoming more and more apparent that new pioneers will be moving into the Content Territory. We’re already seeing it…companies are producing content left and right, with a gold-rush enthusiasm for what may lie ahead: more traffic, more leads, and more business. Plus the hopes of getting all that while lowering their marketing costs and boosting profitability.
It’s not an unheard of landscape – early adopters have proven again and again that content marketing is a viable strategy. More people hear about content marketing every day and more marketers adopt its strategies within their organizations. But, if content marketing is now a well-recognized buzzword and we’re only 3 years into 20 year wider adoption of it as a marketing principle, we have to stop and ask ourselves: Are we doing content marketing well or even right?
The answer to that question isn’t easy, even more so since we’ve only just stepped out of the pioneering stage of content marketing and many leaders are still learning from the arrows in their backs. But what we do know is that now, more than ever, is the time to get content marketing right. It’s the time to make content marketing work for your business.
Let’s dig for some nuggets on how this all works most optimally (hint hint: it’s all part of an 8 Step Process spelled out over 290 pages in our latest book, available for free download here).
Strategies, Audits, and Buy-In…Oh My
In 2015 and beyond, we all must shift our mindsets to not look at content marketing as a tactic, a one-and-done shootout when the outlaw winner lives to tell the tale and the competition is left in the dust. No… content marketing is a continuous, dynamic process that is always beginning and never ending. It’s a philosophy, a culture, a whole new paradigm of transforming and growing a business. It happens by learning from past lessons, obtaining internal buy-in, and moving forward with thoughtful, intentional strategies. It’s about learning to talk about content marketing differently to gain internal buy-in and understanding: not saying “blogging,” but rather “helping/teaching;” not “social media,” rather “connecting/providing value.”
Even before you create a strategy, an audit is a must. Those settlers of the Wild West had to know where they were in the vast wilderness before they could map out where they wanted to be (and how to sidestep all the dangers along the way). Content marketing is no different: you must take a temperature check of where you are now, what assets are available, where you have succeeded and failed, and where you need to go next.
Next comes a strategy, the high-level view of what route you are going to take to get where you want to be. It doesn’t need to take a thousand hours; some key questions should be asked to get the ball rolling, and then you can tweak as you get hard data. A strategy is informed by overall business goals, and must take into account many things, including:
- audit findings
- internal resources
- technical constraints
- internal buy-in (or lack thereof)
- measurement benchmarks
- types of content
- voice, tone, mission
Ford the River with These 4 Steps
When this strategic thinking has been done, you can start to brainstorm hundreds of ideas for your content by using painless and quick online research tools like Google Suggest, KeywordTool.io, UberSuggest and more. Only then can you set off on your content creation journey. Study up on what your audience may be interested in (infographic, video, whitepaper?) and where they hang out online. The trend moving into 2015 is shorter, snackable content that is consistently distributed.
And of course, you can’t just press “Publish” and expect your content to perform. Give your content legs through the promotion and distribution outlets available. Also understand that promotion is harder these days as organic reach declines, but that a little bit of money (especially on Facebook – even more of a Wild West territory) will get the promotional ball rolling more than you could do on your own. Don’t forget about the distribution channels either, where your content can live off your site. SlideShare, LinkedIn, and YouTube are the biggies that will draw in even more eyes to your content in ways you couldn’t obtain through your own website.
Keep Your Leads Alive & Your Data Strong
Many content marketers fall into a trap of generating tons of leads or engagement through all their efforts, and then let the relationships they’ve created die. In 2015, you must nurture your leads! Create a relationship with them. Build that trust and loyalty that motivates a person to hand over their business to you when the time is right.
Lastly, measurement should be happening throughout the whole process and the analytics and KPIs you’ve discovered along the way are the most vital pieces of information that reveal the health of your content marketing and the likelihood of your survival in Content Territory. Measure, rinse repeat; your content should never be stale and your content marketing is an ongoing and dynamic process that shifts and evolves as your results come in.
Live to Tell Your Tale
Most of all, the thought process behind dazzling content marketing from audit to analytics will be its most effective if it follows these three simple guidelines:
- Content marketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to customers without selling or interrupting them.
- Instead of pitching products or services, deliver information that makes customers more informed before they buy.
- If customers receive consistent, ongoing, valuable information, they ultimately reward a company with their business and loyalty.
The best time to start content marketing was 3 years ago. The second best time is now. Don’t wait – be a quick draw now. Do it well. Get it right. Make content marketing work for you.
If you’re interested in the state of content marketing in 2015 and beyond, register for our upcoming webinar with Chief Content Strategist, Robert Rose, on January 8.