Our friends at ClearVoice recently conducted a survey asking, “What’s your biggest challenge with content?” Respondents were able to list more than one challenge, and responses were open-ended; in other words, they weren’t choosing from a multiple-choice list. ClearVoice wanted to hear about those pain points in their respondents’ own words.
They then aggregated responses into seven common themes:
- KPIs (measurement)
We’ll break down each of these and offer advice from Vertical Measures’ experts on how we answer these common challenges.
Your Content Production Process is a Mess – or Nonexistent
Respondents to ClearVoice’s survey cited content production – from coming up with ideas to editing and publishing content – as a top challenge with content.
It is hard to come up with fresh ideas, especially when you’ve been churning out content for several years. I mean, how many times can an HVAC company write “Tips for saving on heating costs during winter”?
I asked Megan Krause, content manager at Vertical Measures, “What do you do when you run out of fresh ideas for a client?”
“It’s as simple as ‘start clicking.’ When I’ve gotten all the help I’m going to get from keyword tools and after I’ve exhausted Google Suggest and the People Also Ask box, I start clicking around my competitors’ blogs and social sites. What are people talking about? What’s got them riled up? And then I ask, ‘How can we do it better?’”
Megan Krause, Content Manager
To help with your content production process, we recommend mapping it out on a white board. Get your team involved and take a good, hard look at your content production workflow. If it looks like this, you’ve got problems:
We’re not making this up. Some clients’ creation and approvals processes look like this. How can you get legal, the C-suite, and subject matter experts out of the content creation process? Here are some tactics that have worked for our clients:
- Avoid topics that require legal review
- Avoid topics that require the C-suite to review. Ask them: What kinds of content would you not need to sign off on?
- Give reviewers due dates with this message: “If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow, I’ll assume it’s good to go”
You Don’t Know How to Create Quality Content
More than half of the respondents to the ClearVoice survey said content quality is an issue for them. How do you know if you’re creating quality content, and if you’re not, what do you do about it?
I asked VM content manager Nantale Muwonge, “How do you define quality content?”
“Quality content offers insight or an expert perspective that readers couldn’t have arrived at themselves, because they aren’t the subject matter experts (or that resonates with them if they are). It is written in simple language, not flowery or verbose. The purpose of the piece of content is also important. Is it clear? Have I met the reader’s need by the time they get to the end or have I left them unsatisfied? Quality content meets reader needs.”
Nantale Muwonge, Content Manager
You Don’t Have Time to Create Content
We get it: You need to spend time making your products, generating customers and providing services. You don’t have time to write content. Or do you?
There’s one person I think of when it comes to time management: Shana Sullivan, VM project manager and digital marketing evangelist. I asked her, “What do you say to someone who says they don’t have time to create content?”
“A great piece of content doesn’t have to take hours upon hours to create. As long as you’re writing content that answers the questions your readers are actually searching for, you should come out on top with your audience and with Google. There are plenty of content types you can create quickly. These ‘snackable’ pieces of content are actually better for readers because, frankly, people are lazy. Think about creating lists, resource pages, roundup-style blog posts, experiential posts, etc.”
Shana Sullivan, Project Manager & Trainer
I agree with Shana, and I’d add that you can’t look at digital marketing and content creation as a distraction or a separate department. Look at them as integral parts of your operations. Content is essential; don’t treat it as an afterthought.
No One’s Reading Your Content
About 40% of ClearVoice’s survey respondents said they struggle with getting content in front of their audiences. How do you distribute, promote and attract the right audience to your content? How do you meet your audiences at the right moment of their customer journey?
I asked Erik Solan, our director of amplified content, to answer the question, “When a prospect or client complains that they aren’t reaching their intended audiences, where do you begin?” He said the answer depends on whether they’re doing paid or organic amplification. If it’s paid and they want more traffic, they might start on social media by encouraging engagement through non-branded content.
If they’re looking to convert, he said, “They should target their audience on search channels where they are already asking the consideration-stage questions that precede their final decision.”
Your Content Isn’t Converting
Respondents also indicated they want their content to convert users into leads and leads into long-time customers. Interestingly, return on investment (ROI) wasn’t a big concern.
“If your content isn’t converting, there are a few questions you should start asking yourself. Does the content include a clear and consistent call to action? Is the call to action noticeable and enticing? Are the value propositions easily noticeable and meaningful to the audience?”
Josh Taylor, CRO Strategist
Sometimes, you think you’ve created a clear path to conversion in your content, but your audience doesn’t see it. Or, you’ve set up calls to action that don’t match up with where your audience is at the moment.
For example, a potential customer who’s in the awareness stage (asking general how-to or what-is questions, for example), is not likely ready to speak to a salesperson. Your calls to action should be soft and invite awareness-stage searchers to explore your website and maybe subscribe to your content.
You Don’t Have a Good Content Strategy
Almost half of the respondents indicated they struggle with content strategy. They have a hard time identifying their goals, understanding their audience’s needs and meeting their audience throughout their customer journey.
I took this question – I’ve been overseeing the digital marketing strategies that our team collaborates on, and this is what I advise people who struggle with a content strategy or digital marketing strategy:
“In the absence of a documented digital marketing strategy, you can still be strategic in your content creation process by answering five simple questions for each piece of content you create:
- How does this content help your business grow?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- Where are they in their search?
- What do you want them to do?
- How will you know if you’ve succeeded?”
Let’s unpack those questions:
- What business goals are we trying to achieve? Be clear on how each piece of content helps you reach your business goals. If a content idea doesn’t map back to a specific business goal, scrap it.
- Which customer (audience segment or persona) are we trying to reach? While your goals are important to consider, so are your audience’s needs.
- Where are potential customers in their journey? When we ideate topics for our clients, we use a spreadsheet template that tracks not only our audience segments but also where they are in their customer journey. You can find an example spreadsheet here.
- What do we want them to do? No content should be a dead end. Each piece of content you create should lead to the next logical step in the potential customer’s journey. For awareness-level content, you might link to a related piece of content or a downloadable free eBook. For consideration-stage content, you might invite them to join your email mailing list. For decision-stage content, you’ll invite them to speak to someone on your team.
- How will we know if we’ve succeeded? Determine what key performance indicators you’ll use to measure your content’s performance. Typical metrics include website traffic, social shares, and bounce rates.
You Struggle Finding Talent to Create Content
Over half of respondents cited finding talent as a major pain point when it comes to content creation.
I asked Joshua Leimkuehler, content manager at Vertical Measures, this one: If a client says they don’t have resources to create content, what do you suggest?
“Content production agencies and freelance writers can fill your website with the types of pieces users are looking for, but I would also strongly recommend that you find the resources internally to participate in at least some of the content creation. You are the subject matter expert, and no one knows your offerings (or your industry) better than you. Editors, freelance writers, and SEO specialists can take most of the work off your plate, but the best bottom-funnel content (i.e., the content most likely to convince and convert readers) comes from subject matter experts like you.”
Joshua Leimkuehler, Content Manager
You Don’t Need to Do It Perfectly… But You Do Need to Do It
Effectively participating in content marketing requires commitment and work, and even with those things, it still comes with challenges. But the payoffs – better search results, increased traffic, more leads, higher conversions, greater brand credibility – make it worth the effort.
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