Getting Pragmatic About Content Marketing

Apr 27, 2017


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Name that Tune was a popular TV game show in the 1970s. While the TV show is off the air, the game exists in various forms, including a Name That Tune app. The premise of show/app is that, just by listening to the first few notes of a song, people compete to name the song.

Now, I never was any good at Name That Tune. However, I have become quite good at the “Will You Succeed at Content Marketing?” game.

It works like this. Just by listening to the “first few notes” of what a prospect has to say about themselves, their business, their company, or their department, I can detect whether or not they have a better than 50-50 chance of succeeding at content marketing.

Before I go any further, let me state categorically that content marketing can be a successful approach. I believe in it. I advocate for it. But at times I have advocated too hard.

So, my mea culpa here is that I recognize, with hindsight, that I’ve pushed people into content marketing when they weren’t ready for it.

Realistically, content marketing is not for everyone and in an agency practice it’s best to figure that out ASAP. Because if a prospect is not ready for it, it’s best to point them down more “traditional” paths such as paid advertising (which I think is less effective, and certainly more expensive, hence our focus on content marketing).

In fact, it’s out of this thinking and this experience that this column, Pragmatic Content Marketing, was born.

So, speaking pragmatically, you have to be able to answer “YES” to the following questions in order to succeed at content marketing.

Can You Define a Niche, and Own It?

This is the first question, because if the answer is no, then there’s no point in answering the rest of the questions.

Let’s start with the adage that content marketing means “thinking like a marketer, acting like a publisher.” Acting like a publisher (or broadcaster in the YouTube era), means being able to cleverly and creatively come up with an approach to talking about an aspect of your business that is uniquely different from anyone else’s.

It means being able to create and define a niche for your content marketing content.

So, if your answer is “YES” to developing a niche, let’s move onto the next question. 

Do You Have the Time?

This one’s a doozy. You run a business, right? And between meetings, sales, customer service, bookkeeping, and three dozen other tasks competing for your time, you barely have room to breathe. And now you have to add creating content to the mix. And content is art. And creating art is hard to do consistently.

The way to get to “YES” for this question is by deciding nothing less than success with content marketing is an option. If that happens, then you’ll find the time.

Which means writing a blog post at 7 a.m., over coffee, before a full day of travel and meetings. Like I’m doing write now with this post.

So, did you answer “YES” to finding the time? Excellent. Let’s move on. 

Can You Fund This?

While you may be able to answer “Yes” to the first two questions, if you can’t fund this initiative, then it’s not going anywhere.

From a sole proprietor to a department within a big company, the aspects of content marketing that need funding are basically the same. It’s the scale of the costs that vary.

At minimum, you need to be able to fund your ability to write and publish a blog post to a website. That alone, though, isn’t enough. You’re going to need to pay for a variety of support services, most of them cloud-based applications, to help you manage, schedule, publish, and distribute your content, then engage with prospects over that content, measure and report on the impacts on your business of this content, and then rinse and repeat.

For a small business, this can easily reach $1,000 per month; for medium to large, this can easily jump to $10k or more per month.

So, can you fund this? If “YES”, let’s proceed to the next question.

Can You Be Organized?

We’ve just established that to do content marketing well you have to be original, you have to make the time for it, and you have to fund it. If that wasn’t enough, you have to be organized, too.

From how you capture content ideas in a place where you can easily retrieve them, to how well you can establish and maintain a creative, publishing, and distribution schedule, you need to be organized.

If you aren’t, you’ll suffer from “random acts of content,” which will lead to failure.

Is organization a strong point of yours? If “YES”, then let’s move to the next question. 

Are You Comfortable with Digital Technology?

Key to managing time, staying organized, getting tasks done, getting content produced and distributed, is the use of digital technology.

At this stage, there are literally thousands of online applications and services that have been developed to help manage every stage of successful content marketing.

But if you’re the type that doesn’t like to use apps on a phone, or ordering something on Amazon still presents a barrier for you, then the likelihood of you succeeding with content marketing is low. Content marketing is very tech dependent.

So, are you good with digital technology? If “YES”, let’s look at the next question. 

Can You Write?

The basic entry point of content marketing is to write blog posts and a newsletter on a consistent basis. This means that writing is key. Interestingly, it doesn’t mean that writing 100% grammatically perfect copy is required.

If your niche (remember the very first question) lends itself to writing in colloquial English that makes you sound barely literate, because that’s what your audience will respond to, then you can write copy for your content marketing initiative.

That doesn’t mean that writing well isn’t important. However, when it comes to writing, it’s just as important that you can do it persistently, with consistence, in a style that reflects your niche.

So, if you’re a “YES” to writing, then the last question to ask is … 

Can You Delegate?

In content marketing, there are the over-achievers who can do it all. They can write cleverly within their niche, and can acquire, build, and utilize all the technology at their disposal. And then there’s the rest of us. And the rest of us need help.

More than a few really great content initiatives have started only to fail because the originator of the project burned out. If you’re the content creator (i.e., you can write), the low-hanging fruit for delegating parts of this work is the actual publication of the content.

It’s amazing how much more likely you are to do the writing you need to do when you know that when you save the final version, you’re handing it off to someone else who will input it into your Wordpress blog and do the work to distribute it across social channels. 

How’d You Do?

Did you answer “Yes” to all the above questions? If so, then pragmatically speaking, you’re reading for content marketing.

These are the exact questions I use in the “Will You Succeed at Content Marketing” game that I now play in my head whenever someone asks me about starting content marketing.

And while “YES” is an important answer to all seven questions, I generally won’t even get to question number four if there is a “NO” answer to questions one through three. If a prospect is not able to say “YES” to finding a niche, finding the time, and funding the initiative I can tell them they will not be able to succeed at Content Marketing, and suggest they find a different approach.

I guess that means I can name that tune in just three notes.