When I was a kid, I hated it when parents and teachers said, “That’s just an excuse.” In my younger mind, these were good reasons for my mistakes, gosh darn it. “I don’t have time, it’s not my fault, I don’t know how to do it, I can’t afford it, it’s too hard, blah, blah, blah…”
The difference between an excuse and a reason, I’ve learned in my wise old years, is that a reason is justified, but it becomes an excuse when:
- You could have done something about it.
- You let it continue without doing anything about it.
- Everyone else who had the same responsibility was able to overcome the same obstacles.
It’s easy to come up with reasons not to do content marketing: It’s expensive, it’s hard, it takes too much time, you’re not a writer/editor/blogger, you hate social media, blah, blah, blah …
We know content marketing is hard. We say it every day at Vertical Measures. When a challenge stops you in your content marketing tracks, you’ve turned it into an excuse, and we can’t let that happen. We have rebuttals for your every excuse.
Content Marketing Pain Points
The top five challenges cited by content marketers in CMI’s 2014 B2C content marketing survey were:
- Measurement: How do we know if our efforts have been effective?
- Engagement: We can’t produce content that connects with our audience.
- Budget: We can’t afford content marketing.
- Consistency: It’s so hard to regularly publish content.
- Variety: If our content is boring us, how can we expect it to appeal to potential customers?
Excuse 1: I Don’t Know How to Measure Content Effectiveness
“I have no idea if what I’m doing is even working.”
Rebuttal: You have more data at your fingertips than you’ll ever use. The key is figuring out which data matter, finding that data, and interpreting what they mean.
When you create your content strategy, you set goals for each project, campaign and piece of content, right? I hope you are nodding yes. Let’s say you work for a restaurant chain that’s looking to rebrand itself to appeal to Millennials by using social media. This might be your simple outline:
- Project goal: Increase Millennial customers through re-branding
- Campaign goal: Use four social media channels (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram) to increase site traffic among Millennial demographic
- Content goal: X number of shares, likes, comments and click-throughs per channel per piece of content
A recent article of ours describes five core KPIs for content marketing. Every channel you use comes with its own metric reporting tool. You might also want to take a Google Analytics training course, or consult your customer relationship manager (CRM) or content management system provider (CMS) for dashboard analytic setup.
Metrics are no good without context. If your best blog post in one month received 500 pageviews, 10 comments and 5 shares, is that good, bad or just so-so? Gather 30 to 90 days of data before setting baselines for your metrics.
Excuse 2: I Can’t Produce Content That Engages
“We’ve run out of content marketing ideas.”
Rebuttal: If you’ve run out of things to say, that’s probably because your content has been all about you, you, you, and you’re bored of it. If you want to engage with your audience, find out what problems they need solved, what they are passionate about, what makes them laugh and what pisses them off.
When you’ve hit a creative wall, our process of ideation can unlock endless topics for your content. The ideation process involves keyword research, audience polling, social media, competitor research and other techniques we describe in a post called “10 Content Ideation Techniques.”
Our fictional restaurant chain might look to Uber, the transportation network that’s giving taxi cabs a run for their money. Uber has found rapid success because of its ability to quickly and inexpensively solve Millennials’ problems through technology, which Millennials love. Here is an example of Uber’s tweets, which have little to do with transportation and more to do with their audience’s interests:
The bottom line: Get to know your audience. Talk to them via social media, ask your staff members who fit your audience demographic and look at your competitors’ social pages. What is everyone talking about? How can you get into these conversations?
Excuse 3: We Can’t Afford Content Marketing
“I need to spend my money on production, staff and overhead — not a bunch of blog posts!”
Rebuttal: The great thing about content marketing is that it offers a grand buffet of options. You can fill your plate with as much or as little as as you can digest, and you can always go back for seconds, thirds and dessert.
Remember, every piece of content doesn’t have to be 1,500 words with professional photography and beautiful graphics. It can be as simple as sharing an interesting article, replying to a comment on Twitter, or posting a product photo on Pinterest.
Our HowToConvinceYourBoss microsite offers more rebuttals to the cost excuse:
- Empower staff to post content, and don’t worry about perfection; the beauty of digital marketing is that it can be corrected and updated at any time and as often as needed.
- Look at content marketing tools that automate simple tasks for social media, SEO, email marketing and all content marketing.
- Consider outsourcing these tasks to freelancers, contractors or agencies.
Excuse 4: We Can’t Commit to Consistently Producing Content
“We publish content between our regular duties, so it’s spotty at best. Sometimes we go for long periods without publishing anything.”
Rebuttal: Stale content can be worse than no content. When users land on your pages, and they see content that is months – or even years – old, they leave. On the front end of your content marketing plan, you should build a content calendar, which will serve as a guideline for frequency of publishing content per channel.
If you miss a publication date in the beginning, that’s OK, but don’t make it a habit. Create a cadence for publishing on your blog, website, social channels and other outlets. If you create a quarterly content calendar, you’ll need about four hours four times a year to review the previous quarter and plan for the next. That’s it!
Excuse 5: Our Content Lacks Variety
“We’ve been saying the same things over and over for the last six months. We’re boring OURSELVES!”
Rebuttal: In addition to everything I’ve said in our rebuttal to Excuse #2, here are a few things to get out of this creativity rut:
- Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. Create a focus group from a cross section of your staff that represents your target audience. What do they talk about? What do your customers ask your sales team?
- Snoop, snoop, snoop. Check out your competition. Check out your vendors. Look at your favorite websites. What’s engaging about those sites?
- Go back in time. If your website is a year or more old, look at your analytics for content that performed well. Are there older posts that could be updated?
- Become the voice of authority. Resource guides, how-to’s, planners, ebooks, and white papers are longer forms of content from which smaller pieces of content can be produced. For example, if you publish an eBook, you’ll be able to promote that via social media, blog posts and through guest-authored articles on other sites.
- Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. I love animated gifs, memes and Buzzfeed-style quizzes (“Which ‘Pretty in Pink’ Character Are You?”). Not all of your content has to be informative and problem-solving.
When I’m stuck for creative ideas, I hit the Internet and search for things like “10,000 content marketing ideas.” (I did that and found Content Marketing Institute’s 100 Content Marketing Ideas.) Few things in content marketing are truly original; most of us borrow ideas from each other and iterate on them.
No More Excuses
The truth is, content marketing isn’t that hard. It takes time and commitment. Your audience is waiting for you to solve their problems, teach them something new and entertain them. If you do it right, they’ll buy your products, tell their friends, and become (we hope) loyal to your brand. You can’t afford not to do content marketing. What’s your excuse?