We’ve all been there. You launch a great piece of content (or so you thought), and then….
No likes, no shares, no retweets, and no comments.
What happened? Or better yet, why does this keep happening?
If you’re creating content consistently, but failing to get the results you want, it may be time to reflect on your content marketing strategy.
Understand Your Audience
It’s a marketing buzzwords that gets thrown around in marketing meetings, but there’s big truth to understanding your customers and crafting a MARKETING PERSONA. Many organizations think they know their target audience and claim it’s something like this :
VP Product, Age 35-45, tech startup, reports to CEO,
team of 3, and has XXXX challenges.
To be clear, the above is not a target persona.
Put your pen to the paper and get answers to the following questions* (yes, write them down):
- What are your customer’s biggest challenges, in regards to your product or service?
- What are the questions potential customers will have before they even know they need your product or service?
- What will they research when they have a need for your product or service?
- What sites will they read to educate themselves about your industry?
- What do your target customers do online and what do they read?
- Who are their influencers and thought leaders?
- Who will they go to for advice about products or services (Google, forums, peers, analyst, reviews, peers, etc)?
- What are the objections they’re going to have to your product or service?
- How many people are involved in the decision-making process?
- Who are your competitors (both direct and indirect)?
- How long that it take your customer to make the purchase?
- Where is the bulk of your customers located?
- Does your audience differ based on the vertical?
The goal is to remove all the assumptions, hunches, and gut feelings you have about your customers. You want to understand your customer like the back of your hand. When you do this it’s much easier to generate ideas, define a purpose, and deliver content to the folks who will find it most valuable.
Clarify the Why, Every Time
Answer this……..Why are you writing?
Before you start distributing anymore content, spend ample time on these questions:
1. What is your content marketing strategy? Be thorough and specific. Stating, “building brand awareness” is not a complete strategy. You’ll want to detail out the creation, execution, and management of all outward facing content (emails, blogs, articles, videos, social post, press releases, etc). Areas to include in your content strategy could include:
- What does your company want to accomplish in the next 6-12 months?
- What does marketing need to achieve to support the company goals (think metrics)?
- What KPIs will be associated to your content marketing efforts?
- Will your content always follow your brand and style guidelines? When will it not?
- Who will be reading your content (hint: target audience from above)?
- What problem is your content going to solve for your audience?
- Who is your target audience?
- How will your content stand out? How will it be unique?
- Which types of content are performing best? And the worst?
- What will be the primary format(s)? What will not?
- What channels will you use to publish content?
- How will social media be used to promote content?
- What are our competitors doing? Not doing?
- Will you focus on SEO?
- What are the keywords for SEO?
- Does our SEO need attention?
- Who will manage the content creation process?
- Who will manage the content publication and distributions process?
- How will metrics, stats, and reports be recorded and communicated?
- What tools will be used?
- Do you have the resources (writers, designers, project manager, webmaster, etc)?
- What is the budget? Will this amount cover it all?
- How will you know if/when things need to change?
2. What is the goal, purpose, and objective for each piece of content? Before you even start writing a piece of content, you’ll want to define the goal, purpose, and objective. Defining these components will inevitably influence the message, call-to-action, format, and distribution methods. To help organize the content creation process, use this content marketing management template.
If you cannot clearly define the “why,” move the idea to the back burner and MOVE ON – even if you or your CEO think it’s the greatest idea ever.
Make Your Content Marketing Collaborative
Content marketing is a team effort. The wisdom, expertise, and insights to be gleaned will add value to every piece of content produced. Your collaboration should include:
- Company stakeholders: They can be content contributors (recommended), additional reviewers, or have final approval. Regardless, these are the folks that need a high-level understanding of how the strategy and content calendar fits in with the company goals and growth plan. Make sure they FULLY support your content strategy and plans. This will increase your collaboration ability for #2 and #3.
- Internal resources: They can be content contributors and/or people you lean on for ideas and brainstorming. You have people in your organization with relevant knowledge and experience because they engage with your customers on a daily basis. Work on setting up a process that makes it effortless and rewarding for people to create valuable content.
- Target audience influencers: They can help strengthen your content, provide greater credibility, and help to expand your reach. First, come up with your list of influencers. Next, identify content collaboration opportunities like co-writes, quotes, shares, follows, etc. From there, have your company executives, board members, and/or investors help you make the appropriate connections and asks. Full disclosure or working with outsiders can be time consuming, however, the return will be rewarding.
Collaborating with the right people will help you create a fresh voice. Lean on the people that will help you create content that gives your target audience answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, and meets their needs.
Promote Your Content and Not Just on Facebook
Social media is great. It’s a quick and cheap way to push out your content, but publishing your content on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn just isn’t enough. You need a diversified content distribution plan and that means creating content for various channels. These three suggestions are a great starting point for seeing bigger results:
- Expand your social reach: There is more to social media than Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The social networks that you choose can make a big impact on your chances of being successful. Once you know your target audience, it will be easy to identify which channels make the most sense. Use this content marketing template to get ideas on where to place your content and engage with your target audience.
- Stop cross-posting: No two social media channels are the same. Because of this, your content needs to be tailored to its intended channel, rather than universally shared across all channels. Craft messaging, design images, and highlight call-to-actions that are unique and specific to each social media channel. This means your content pieces don’t necessarily need to be posted on every channel. Example, there are posts on Snapchat that wouldn’t make sense on LinkedIn and what’s popular Instagram could get poor traction on Hacker News.
- Throw some money at it: It takes time to get an organic following on social media, so your content needs a boost in the beginning. This doesn’t have to break the bank either. You can spend thousands of dollars a day or as little as a few hundred bucks a month. Work with your finance team to understand your CAC and LTV and to help set a budget. Knowing how much to spend will help identify paid channels and targeting methods to incorporate.
Social media is an effective tool for content marketing, but it’s important to come at it with a tailored approach. By utilizing all the available channels, keeping your content unique and appropriate to its channel, and strategically boosting your paid reach, you can gain significant traction.
Try Something New and Often
If your content is not meeting your goals, why do you keep doing it again and again?
There are many options to gain new insights and feedback into your content strategy and distribution methods, as discussed above. You can also:
- Test on different social media channels (images, titles, CTA)
- Produce new formats for your content (podcasts, videos, webinars)
- Reach out to peers for advice and tips (no need to feel shy or embarrassed, it works)
- Consult with a marketing agency for a fresh perspective
- Hire ghostwriters
- Insert guest blogs
- Use paid distribution to take some of the pressure off
Experimentation can teach you what’s working (and what isn’t), as well as providing some unique approaches you may not have considered initially.
Focus on Value Instead of Volume
If you’re pushing content for the sake of it, it may be time to reconsider your strategy. In most cases, it’s unlikely you’ll see any success when you have content goals like pushing out 6 content pieces a month or posting 8 times on social media each week.
Follow these simple steps to stay focused on the quality of your content:
- Start brainstorming ideas and collecting feedback from people in the office and outside influencers
- Build an editorial calendar for the next 3-6 months that outlines what you are going to write and why
- Think outside-the-box and experiment often
After reading the above suggestions, you should be thinking differently about your strategy, planning, and execution. Your focus is now on getting your audience’s attention by focusing on quality content that provides value and addresses their needs.
Keep At It
There’s no easy button for content marketing. It’s a long-term commitment. Continue to remain open to the many possibilities of content marketing and you’ll start to see more engagement, conversions, and brand awareness. We’ve created a content marketing template to help you better define your content planning and distribution process.
Do any of these suggestions resonate with you? How did you implement your content marketing? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
* The customer questions were adapted from Growth & Convert’s content marketing workshop, October 2016