Everywhere I go, marketers are talking about channels. It's Pinterest this or Facebook that.
Honestly, it's disheartening. We marketers are so dazzled by new channels that we often forget to ask the simple marketing 101 questions when it comes to building our content and our communities.
Why are we leveraging that particular channel? Why are we developing the content in the first place? What are the informational pain points of our customers? How will helping customers with these challenges help our business (do we have a higher purpose)? What are reasonable expectations? What behaviors are we wishing to maintain or change? What metrics can we assign to those behaviors?
Successful content marketing programs focus on creating a thoughtful strategy that answers these exact questions.
Before you create or enhance your content marketing strategy, realize that you don't have to do any of it. You don't have to have a blog. You don't have to be on Twitter. Sometimes we feel like we need to do it all. Frankly, we don't...but it's hard sometimes to figure out where to start.
So, before you start on your journey, take a hard look at these five points below.
1. Understand who YOU are.
What is your organization poised to accomplish? What are the differentiating factors of your product or service? What do you stand for that differentiates your business? What is your organization best at providing?
These questions are important to determine what content areas you actually have the authority to publish. For example, Chevrolet can publish information about cars or transportation, but not about defense missiles.
2. Understand who THEY are.
Who and where are the communities you're serving? Who are the personas that make up the variety of communities? What are they passionate about? Who are their leaders? Are you reaching them now? If not, how can you reach them in the future?
If we don't really understand our buyers and where they hang out, developing content to serve that community is nearly impossible.
3. What CONTENT can you provide to them to build loyalty?
What is your story and how do you tell it? This goes beyond just an editorial calendar. How do you create compelling stories that feed your communities and generate passionate followings? Do you need to provide tools to facilitate communities, or just the content to foster them? What are your communities most interested in? What knowledge could you provide that would facilitate a natural tendency to want to buy from your business?
This is where you need to strategize the difference between content that is merely helpful, content that facilitates discussion, and content that is created with the explicit purpose to lead to a sale.
4. SUBSCRIBERS must be fed and nurtured.
Once you find your story, and start solving the pain points of your customers through content, consistency is key. Content marketing is usually not about the campaign, but the consistent flow of content that answers your customers' questions. In fact, according to IBM, 80% of corporate bloggers never make it to five posts. Get your editorial calendar and keep your content promise to your customers.
You will begin to look less like a marketing department and more like a publisher.
5. We CAN measure success.
Develop a process to measure success of how you service your loyal subscribers. There are various ways to accomplish this; most depend on what the servicing is and for what community. For example, if it is a sales-driven content marketing strategy, you might measure lead lift according to setting up registrations for the content (i.e., enewsletter subscriptions). Or, if it's a customer service content marketing strategy, you could measure the decrease in customer service calls vs. the traffic in the engagement community.
You can't set success metrics until you set your expectations based on clear marketing and business objectives. There is no ROI silver bullet when it comes to marketing.
So, it may be time to step back and look at all the content you are creating, why you are doing it, and what impact it is really having on the business. This is a regular process that all of us need to take to task, now that content has become such a crucial part of all businesses today.
The important thing to understand is you're not too late. Content marketing has been around for hundreds of years. John Deere's Furrow Magazine - devoted to teaching farmers best practices - has been around since 1895. But the application of a specific strategic process around content marketing is still new. Sure you're creating lots of content, but the function of content marketing probably doesn't even exist in your organization yet - or if it does, you may not even be calling it "content marketing."
You need to be okay with that.
And maybe the next great new social media channel...can wait just a bit.