Does this happen to you? You and your team get fired up about your new content marketing strategy. For the first few weeks, you’re all busy, creating high quality, precisely targeted content and sending it out through all the relevant channels. It starts to pick up some momentum but doesn’t spread as quickly or convert as well as you’d like. Disillusionment creeps in and the content comes more slowly.
Then, one day, it stops completely. Meetings are held to try and brainstorm new ideas but nothing really resonates with customers. Maybe a new twist on an old strategy comes along and re-ignites the spark of enthusiasm, but you question pouring tons of money, time, and effort into something that ultimately might not work.
What’s happening here? Random acts of content happen for several reasons, and I’m going to show you the most common ones. Plus, I’ll show you how to lift yourself out of feeling stuck and uninspired when it comes to your content marketing efforts.
Not truly solving the customer’s problem
Many random acts of content come as companies try to figure out how to get more in tune with their customers’ problems. The content perfectly illustrates the problem and positions the company’s product or service as the solution – just like a typical company brochure would. Because that’s how you’re supposed to do it, right?
This common way of positioning yourself as an expert appears on the surface to be perfect. If customers are actively looking for a solution to their problem, it would seem to make sense to be sure your product is at the forefront of their decision making process? Except there’s one big problem with this: your audience may not be familiar with your product; or, if they are, they’re weighing the alternatives at the same time.
First time users engaged with your content are asking:
- How does this product truly solve my problems? (What exactly is involved in the program or method?)
- How do I know it works? (The customer needs to see video testimonials or before/after results.)
- What should I do if I have questions about this? (Provide names of people to contact and multiple ways of doing so – email, phone, live chat, etc.)
- What if I buy it and it isn’t what I expect? (What is the guarantee/refund policy?)
Users familiar with your content (but who haven’t purchased) are asking:
- What other products or services perform the same functions as this one, but are cheaper or have some other feature I need? (Adequately describe all of the pros and cons and consider presenting comparisons.)
- What are other people saying about this product? (Provide reviews / social media posts.)
- Why should I buy this product versus doing nothing at all? (The customer needs something to push him or her to take action.)
Once you truly get to the root of the customer’s issues and take the time to create content that gives them the information and confidence they need to make a decision, it’s time to take the next step, which is…
Create measurable goals
This new content marketing strategy is really starting to pay off. You just got 100 new subscribers from a quality new piece of content. But how does that integrate with your overall plan? Every item of content you create needs to fit like a puzzle piece into the overall plan. By creating these measurable goals, you’ll be able to see direct, realistic progress toward your goals and how they fit into the bigger marketing picture.
For example, by focusing on improving things like:
- Giving the customer a glimpse into their life as a result of using your product or service
- Branching out to create strategic partnerships with people whose strengths balance with your shortcomings
- Maintaining customer loyalty by thanking current customers and looking for ways to grow the relationship
You’ll have a starting point from which to create these goals. You’ll need to work backward from the stated goal to determine how you’re going to achieve it, including looking at points such as where your expertise ends and a potential partner’s begins, and how they would best complement your website’s future growth and direction.
Remember that not every goal can be stated in pure numbers, but you certainly can measure the audience’s level of responsiveness and interaction by taking these steps, and use that as a social barometer.
What if your content marketing strategy isn’t working?
Sometimes, you may pour all of your efforts into a particular content marketing strategy and find that it isn’t working as well as you’d hoped. There could be several reasons for this:
- There’s a disconnect between the brand and the voice behind it. – If your posts are all about your great customer service, but posts to your Facebook wall go unanswered or unacknowledged, customers will see the disconnect and turn elsewhere.
- You’re posting only on the corporate blog. – It’s no longer enough just to create a blog, add content, and hope for the best. Leverage every aspect of getting the word out – social media, subscribers, audio, video, downloads, and webinars. Give people a variety of ways to digest the content and gauge their responsiveness to determine which method best fits your overall goals.
- You’re only parroting what’s already been said. – When you’re producing content, it can be tempting to simply use others’ thoughts, sentences, structure, and way with words. Develop your own. Don’t just restate ideas, but add your own unique life experiences and share discoveries with your audience. Give them the sense that they’re not only participating in your content, but also learning from it and coming away somehow improved in their own lives.
- Your online and offline marketing aren’t working together. – All of your content marketing efforts, whether online or offline, need to feed into the same strategy and share the same goals. For example, if you’re promoting your product at a tradeshow, using QR codes or social media live at the event can freshen up an ordinary presentation into something that’s alive and gaining momentum.
- Your content doesn’t fit. – Reddit is not the same as Twitter is not the same as Facebook. Every potential marketing and social outlet has its own “culture,” and simply rehashing the same information in the same format and tone on every site is a surefire way to guarantee your great content gets overlooked as pure advertising. Take the time to get to know the kinds of things that get promoted on each site, and use that information as a springboard for developing your own content to appeal to that audience.
Optimizing beyond SEO
There’s a huge push in content marketing circles to intertwine SEO efforts with every piece of content. And while this is a perfectly reasonable and understandable goal, it’s also possible to carry the focus on SEO too far. Remember, SEO is what gets customers to your site in the first place, but content marketing makes them stay and want to learn more.
By concentrating your efforts only on things like keyword research, density, backlinks, and other ranking signals, you risk forgetting the original aim of your content strategy in the first place – which is to reach out to your audience, solve their problems, and plant your product or service in their minds as a solution worth considering and acting on, using all the information available to them.
What exactly is quality content?
Then we come to the next issue, which is quality content. Everywhere on the web, marketers are beating their chests proclaiming that quality content is the Midas touch to all our marketing problems. As you and I both know, that isn’t the whole story.
The web is saturated with walls of sheer text that doesn’t do anything to provide real value to users, but rather is centered around ranking a few, select keywords. As we’ve seen with recent Google updates, these content-churning machines finally are getting shoveled out of the way to make room for better, more relevant information.
For example, which one of these would you rather read?
Not only is the second piece of content actionable, but it breaks up each point into easily manageable, visually “digestible” chunks, along with a photo to illustrate the action the site wants the user to take. Content that gives the user some relevant, helpful information that somehow improves their well-being, or answers a core need is going to get far better results than some keyword-covered secondhand article optimized purely for search engines.
So how do you know if you’re writing quality content? I recommend following this simple checklist:
- Does the content build trust and authority by showcasing proof of your credibility and why users should believe what you say?
- Does the content educate customers and leave them feeling more knowledgeable and informed about the product/service (and not in a self-promotional way) than before they started?
- Does the content add value to readers’ lives? Do they feel smarter, healthier, happier, or wealthier as a result of reading it? Are they excited to take the lessons you’ve taught them and apply them to their daily lives?
- Does the content inform customers of crucial points they should know in the decision-making or buying process? No customer wants to feel foolish, so they don’t ask the questions that would pinpoint their most deep-rooted concerns. By giving them enough information to make a smart decision, you’re helping to alleviate that fear and giving them the confidence to move forward and take action.
- Does the content fill a gap or a need that your audience has that isn’t being filled or answered elsewhere? If you can become the go-to resource and provide a wealth of information that customers can learn from and act on, it will serve to strengthen your credibility and grow brand loyalty.
With all of these points in mind, you’ll be able to move ahead, secure in the knowledge that you’re communicating with customers on a level they understand, and helping to educate or entertain them, and deliver value, while positioning your product as a promising choice. The question then ultimately becomes: where do we go from here?
The future of content marketing
I realize that it’s contrary to everything you’ve heard about measuring and metrics, but don’t get so caught up in the analysis of your content marketing efforts that you forget the real baseline that you’re measuring against: the ability to connect with your customers in a way that gets results – for both parties. Consider that, with the growth of 4G, greater wireless connectivity, and higher bandwidth, that means that multimedia consumption, particularly video, will continue to grow and become more widespread and available on a variety of devices.
With the adoption of e-readers and the ability to send video, PDF files, and even complete blogs to tablets like the Amazon Kindle, you can expect that more people will consume your content on-the-go. In addition, having a mobile responsive design is quickly going to become the new benchmark among content marketing success standards.
Finally, there’s HTML5, which adds greater layers of rich media and interactivity to a site. I believe that, as this standard continues to grow, websites and stores alike will no longer need to maintain a separate mobile site and an app, but rather a single responsive, easily-accessible unit that will blur the lines between both. Content marketers who can position themselves at the forefront of this trend will be able to combine the best of both worlds to create a much more robust and engaging company-to-customer experience.
Content marketing isn’t just an industry buzzword, nor is it a marketing strategy on its own. It’s about doing what we should have been doing all along – which is creating content that enriches, informs, and entertains our customers, while reminding them of how we can improve their lives. By creating a consistent schedule with well-thought-out pieces that educate and challenge the customer to take action, you’ll be able to cement your brand firmly in the minds of consumers who are actively looking for a solution, without them perceiving that they’re being sold to.
What are some of your biggest content marketing challenges? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.