April 12, 2017

Content Marketing Isn’t Your Worst Nightmare

Group of web designers conducting strategic planning meeting at Push10 in Philadelphia

Seth Godin is known for being bold, but when he says something like “Content marketing is the only marketing left,” it makes a lot of businesses shake in their boots. That’s because publishing high-value content, consistently, is hard work. It takes planning and time and budget and a whole lot of effort.

And that explains why a lot of companies – despite the overwhelming data suggesting the importance of content marketing – don’t think the juice is really worth the squeeze. Unfortunately, they’re wrong, and they’re suffering for it. If you’re among the folks who know content is important, but are struggling to tackle a marketing strategy, we think the best way to start is small. So, we have a few simple ways to get you started.

Understand what you’re taking on.
Content marketing isn’t a quick fix, and it never will be. Patience is key. You have to be willing to keep working when the goin’ gets tough. If you’re the type to abandon ship after a few weeks of trying something new, you’ve probably noticed that nothing seems to work. Now you know why. Anything worth doing takes consistency and time, and if you give up before a tactic has had a chance to show its value, you’re the reason it’s not working. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get going.

Plan. There’s no shortcut. Just plan.
Like everything else, a successful content endeavor starts with a plan. A content marketing strategy includes who’s responsible for writing the content, where it’s going to be published, how often, and what success will look like. (Bonus points for defining the different audiences you’re targeting, the topics they’re interested in, and where they spend most of their time.)

Recruit an owner (and an auxiliary team).
One of the fastest ways for content marketing to crumble is to make it an orphan. Someone needs to be in charge of your content marketing initiative. That person should be supported by a few part-time “assistants” – like someone who’s interested in social media and someone who really likes to write – but there must be one owner who’s comfortable making content happen. Coordinating content is a big ask though, and by dispersing that giant role into smaller tasks, you can ensure that someone is always doing something to keep the process moving. It takes a village, as they say. (Or a marketing partner.)

Create a rough content calendar.
Your content calendar doesn’t need to be gospel, and it definitely doesn’t need to be fancy. It does need a few topics relevant to your business and audiences, some resources to help the writer write, and publishing dates that you’ll stick to. (The hardcore pros will tell you that you should be publishing 10 to 20 articles a week. That’s simply not feasible for most companies. You should aim for at least 2 a month. Less than that, and you’ll get no traction; more than that, and you risk drowning.) You can create your content calendar in Excel or Sheets, or use one of the many awesome templates that are available in a quick Google search. It should be shared with everyone on the team, and can be augmented as interesting new ideas crop up, either from current events or new stuff your company is working on.

Work ahead.
Want to scare your customers off? Send ‘em to an empty blog with cobwebs hanging off your posts from 2003. Before you start publishing – especially on a blog – make sure you have some quality pieces lined up. Publish a few posts (staggered, not all at once) before you start going hard on the blog promotion. That way there’s a ton of juicy posts for your customers to dig into, and they’ll hang around for a bit to see what else you have to offer.

Consider automating some tasks.
When you don’t have a team of designated content marketing specialists – and most companies don’t – then everyone who’s handling a part of the process has a day job. There will be inevitable ebbs and flows in their respective workloads, which means there will be times that the social media lover simply cannot find the time to post on Facebook, and the person who loves to write can’t blog a single word. (That’s where the single be-all-end-all initiative owner comes in – he or she is responsible for picking up the slack to keep everything on track.) To make consistent posting easier, try automation tools like Hootsuite or Buffer. These tools make posting to social platforms easy, and you can schedule posts in advance so there’s always something going out to your followers. *Note: Social media automation is *not* a replacement for good-ol’-fashioned platform management. You’ve got to cultivate followers, start conversations, and generate interest – and those things can’t be automated.

Conclusion
Content marketing isn’t a hot new fad. It’s the way businesses provide value and communicate with their customers. It’s the way you prove you’re worth your customers’ time. And it’s not optional. But to be honest, content marketing doesn’t need to be the stuff of nightmares either. Create content that people want to read. Put their needs first. Find them where they are. Be patient. Be consistent. Make a plan. Stick to it. And if you think you need help, ask for it, before it’s too late.