We should start by getting some stuff out of the way right off the bat. In all my time developing and generating content for businesses, only a fraction have had a good understanding of how it’s all supposed to work.
And I get it. There’s a staggering amount of information out there about “building a brand voice” and “opening up communication channels” online.
I’m going to let you in on an industry secret:
Inbound marketing is a moving target.
Yeah, I know. That’s disappointing! But here’s the thing: No two businesses have the same customer, nor do they develop a content strategy with the same goals, the same opportunities, or the same hurdles. It is absolutely impossible for some “Online Guru” with a blog to give you a paint-by-numbers roadmap for your own individual content strategy.
That’s just not how it works. The online environment is constantly changing so it’s impossible for any one person or company to know exactly what’s going to happen in the future of web content. That’s why it’s so important to lay your own foundation – a nimble, flexible foundation – that can adapt to the constantly-shifting preferences of the market.
While the components of a successful content marketing campaign might vary, the principles will always stay the same.
Answer, don’t interject.
Don’t pretend you’re not a business.
Continuously creating compelling content for your intended audience takes a lot of heavy lifting. Not only that, but the process before the content creation phase? That part should take twice as much work as actually generating your end product.
If you want your content to grow your business in a sustainable, measurable way, you’re going to have to be involved. This is not the kind of thing you can farm out on an intern or turn over completely to a digital marketing firm.
Let’s start with the absolute number one mistake most businesses make regarding the process of content marketing…
Wrong Move #1: Creating content to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
Find your niche. Spend a lot of time and effort determining which corner of the internet your business should live in then plant your flag there.
Manspread all over it.
The internet is broad. Like, really broad. There are something like a billion and a half websites in the world, and rest assured they all think they’re offering something special. Don’t get intimidated.
The online community is like a giant high school. It might seem fun to be the quarterback but it’s actually a lot of pressure, and deep down, no one really likes the quarterback, anyway. It’s better to find a niche where you can be yourself – and be appreciated for it! – than to try to be everything to everyone.
Successful content strategy is all about setting detailed goals. Those goals rarely rely on creating content that’s read or watched or viewed by millions upon millions of people. At the end of the day, your business serves a very specific purpose to a very specific group of people and that’s what you should be focusing on. Forget what you’ve read.
The internet you’re after is small.
Wrong Move #2: Not looking at content marketing as an all-hands-on-deck proposition.
If you’re not throwing everything you have at content marketing, you’re being left behind. You’d better believe your competitors, both direct and indirect, are doing so, and every second you wait is a second they get more of a foothold. If the purchasing funnel is the car that drives your customer to the point of sale, effective content is the gas that powers it.
So, stop thinking about digital content the way you’ve always thought of traditional advertising activities. It can’t be stuck in a silo.
Content marketing isn’t about impressions and it’s never, ever going to give you exactly the direct ROI you’re looking for. It’s a long-term strategy, but it’s essential to surviving – and thriving – in a Web 2.0 world.
Wrong Move #3: Thinking you need to create “viral” content.
Virality is a pipe dream. That thing in the back of your head telling you that if you can come up with the funniest video in history about the water cooler conversations in your warehouse, you’ll get two million views and hundreds of new, qualified leads?
Get rid of it.
“Going viral” is not something that’s going to happen to your business. The harder you try, the more your company becomes insect repellent to the skeptical swarm that is the Online Contingent. People can smell desperation a mile away.
And virality? It’s not productive, anyway. Yes, a much-shared listicle can get your website lots of clicks, but it’s never, ever going to flood your business with qualified leads. The trick to winning at content marketing isn’t actually increasing your exposure. It’s about carving out a unique spot for your business online to own, dominate, and control.
Wrong Move #4: Treating content marketing as a line-item.
It’s not something one person can do. Ever. It’s something that takes a team to accomplish, and the most effective team might change drastically from business to business.
Ideally, you’ll get participation at every level of your company, from the sales team to the IT staff to the guy who stocks the shelves at night. Remember, you’re not trying to market your business online, you’re trying to embody it.
Wrong Move #5: Assuming content should always result in direct, traceable sales.
The job of effective content is not (necessarily) to create a sale. It is to move the customer further down the purchasing funnel, at the end of which they will be incentivized to fork over their cold, hard cash for whatever product or service you’re offering.
It’s hard to want to spend money on something that doesn’t result in specific, measurable returns. It’s true that every digital marketing pursuit generates some form of data, but that data is really only useful insofar as it can be interpreted. Content marketing is about persuasion. It’s about brand positioning and it’s about deepening a relationship between your company and your customer.
There is an exception to this rule – it’s called direct response marketing – and it’s a completely different strategy than traditional inbound marketing. It works (for some kinds of businesses!) but it’s expensive and it doesn’t care about things like “brand voice” or “customer lifetime value.”
For true content marketers, slow and steady wins the race. Getting ahead of yourself – getting too anxious to see the needle move immediately – is the quickest way to fall off course. That’s why it’s so important to spend a lot of effort upfront putting a plan in place.
Are you doing content marketing wrong?
Are you not doing content marketing at all?
I can help. I’m a strategist, a writer, and a marketing specialist. Reach out to me today and let’s talk about how I can advance the online conversation on your behalf.