August 7, 2017
Content marketing is being used by 86 percent of businesses today. Despite its ubiquity, however, for many business owners it is a mysterious technique with nebulous ROI. How do you know if your content is effective? How do you know if content is reaching your segments? These are questions that continue to plague the nightmares of content strategists. And certainly, the recent sophistication of the data that marketers have at their disposal has mitigated these questions somewhat.
But although our data and analysis continues to get better, it’s also important to pair this scientific approach with a more fundamental, principle-based consideration of how to make better, more relevant content for your readership. So let’s discuss five ways to improve your content marketing strategy. These are simple principles that will go a long way to upping your ROI and converting leads into sales.
1. Have Clearly Defined Goals
You shouldn’t just have a blog for the sake of having a blog. This is a big mistake that a lot of rookies make — your content needs to serve a purpose, otherwise you’re paying for a whole lot of nothing. Many seem to be under the impression that publishing anything is better than publishing nothing. Maybe so, but you’ll be able to see clear links between your content and revenue if each piece of content is serving a purpose.
For example, let’s say you’re thinking about writing an eBook, because you’ve heard that Google’s search crawlers and algorithms are increasingly favoring “fat” content. But what’s the point of the eBook? Are you trying to increase your visibility, or are you simply using it as a tool to generate leads for your business? Answering these foundational questions will shape the way you create your content and provide a framework for you to roll it out and monitor its efficacy.
2. Broaden Your Vision
Even though content goals need to be defined, many content strategists could afford to broaden the way they think about what content can accomplish for them. A recent study by Altimeter showed that good content strategists are shifting the way they think about content—to them, it is “no longer a marketing function, but a strategic tool for multiple parts of the organization to meet business objectives and deliver on a unified customer experience.” Indeed, more than 80 percent of the study’s respondents reported that they had moved beyond using content strictly for marketing.
Rather than simply driving sales, what about boosting the credibility of the brand? What about positioning your company as a thought leader in your field? All of these, though not specifically marketing tactics tailored to your product, will contribute to the health of your company and boost sales indirectly.
3. Don’t Sell Snake Oil
It’s also helpful in another way to not focus exclusively on marketing outcomes. No matter what kind of marketing it is, looking at the customer as an entity to extract value from is not only a crummy attitude, but will draw flack and hurt the business, sometimes without you even knowing it right away.
The newer rules that content should be informative, interesting and relevant still apply. Don’t confuse content for advertising. Too far down that road, and it will have the opposite effect, and the business will be scrambling to put out fires that never should have started in the first place.
4. Consider Partnerships
The business will have to be built up a bit already in order to implement this point, but it’s worth mentioning anyway as part of a long-term strategy. Let’s face it: the native pages for a burgeoning business probably don’t have as much distribution as might be desired. And that’s okay. Keep posting frequently with useful information, and the content will probably attract a greater readership. At the same time, this reach can be given a significant boost by pairing with other sites that publish likeminded stuff.
If you already have some modest clout within your sphere of influence, this is a win-win for both the business and the other site. Not only will it broaden the business’ visibility, but it will also contribute to brand credibility, as third-party publishing associates the business with an impression of authority and expertise. Many credible websites accept guest posts, and the bar of entry may be lower than you might expect, so there’s nothing to lose by giving it a try.
5. Don’t Forget Data
I know I said that we were going to focus on foundational principles instead of data, but it troubled me to think that this could be misinterpreted to mean that you should just forget all about data altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth. After all, the B2C Benchmark report for 2017 indicates that 43 percent of their successful respondents believe their success in content marketing can be attributed to an increasing ability show results. So don’t ignore data. But analyze it carefully, and keep this analysis in partnership with the foundational principles discussed above.
Kenny Kline is a serial entrepreneur. His ventures are primarily focused on media and digital marketing. When not in front of his computer, he can be found bee keeping, knitting, and being as Brooklyn as humanly possible.