I’m sure you have all heard, and maybe even said; “Content is King!” Yes, I’m sure we are all familiar with that phrase, but is it? I mean exactly what does it mean? And most importantly, is ALL Content King?
The answer is very simple: NO. No, not all content is king and here is a brief explanation why. (We will dig deeper into this in other posts).
As you might have guessed, the answer is not as simple as just saying NO. There are actually several factors that influence this and contribute for content to be ineffective from a marketer’s point of view. Some of these are very easy to understand and maybe even solve or prevent, while others are not and become even more difficult to overcome since it doesn’t really depend on what we do, but more on what others are doing. Just to get a quick idea of what you should NOT do let’s mention two of these (keep in mind there are more).
- Don’t lose your focus. Yes, keep in mind that content marketing is not about selling. This needs to be deeper and involves building a relationship with your audience.
As complicated as this might seem it is actually one of the simple factors that you can solve. Simply, keep your audience in mind and don’t think of them as potential buyers; well at least not ALL the time.
- Remember Content Shock. This term was introduced by Mark Schaefer and he describes it as “The emerging marketing epoch defined when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.”
In other words, the massive amount of content produced every day is simply too overwhelming for anyone to be able to read it all.
That being said, we don’t want to discourage you and tell you to forget about content marketing. Quite the contrary, despite what some people out there might say, content marketing can still prove to be an effective tool for any business. Of course, if you are willing to work and do it right.
Many elements are needed for an effective content marketing campaign. We intend here to introduce some of these elements and help you get started or get back on track with everything involved in an effective Campaign.
One: Set Goals.
The best way not to get anywhere is not knowing where you want to go in the first place. This is true for many different fields in life. (I would actually say ALL fields).
Think about it, an athlete who doesn’t plan ahead and sets “partial goals or objectives” along the way, will have a very hard time actually achieving that final one. A friend of mine, who is a marathon runner, explained to me how she sets her different “target times” along the way. While she is running, her final time is always on her mind, however, more importantly, she keeps track of all the partial target times along the way. As she explained, this allows her to keep motivated and at the same time, if needed, to make any necessary adjustments to her pace.
This is also true for content marketing. If you don’t have a clear objective in mind from the beginning, it is very likely that you will get sidetracked and end up achieving nothing.
Of course, your final objective might change along the way, depending on how your “partial” ones are working out, but that is the whole idea. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, you will not do it, period.
Keep in mind that it is absolutely important for you to be able to measure results in an objective way. Setting goals like “improving site” will not really help, since it’s a very subjective one and could depend on who is looking at the site or even your mood (if you are the one judging). On the other hand, establishing an amount of site visitors is a good goal to set since you can easily measure this.
Make sure you will be able to measure the results for every objective in order for them to be useful for your overall strategy.
Spend as much time as needed carefully planning your goals. On the long run, this will help you organize your resources and your time, and this will end up saving you time that can be spent in focusing on other aspects of your marketing campaign.
Two: Know your Product.
While this might seem basic and not even worth mentioning, you’d be surprised at the amount of people who actually fail to consider this and realize how important it is for a marketing campaign.
See, the only way to get people excited about your product is for you to be excited about it as well. There is no way you can tell people your product is good, if you don’t think so in the first place, and the only way you can do this is by knowing your product’s benefits, limitations etc.
Part of this is knowing exactly what problem your product will solve for your audience so you can actually describe to them how this will happen. Always keep in mind that regardless of how good your content is, if you have a bad product, there is no way to sell it. It’s very simple, you can’t do great marketing for a bad product.
One of the most common errors we see is that most content marketers, pay special attention to finding out exactly who their target audience is, but forget completely about what their product can do for this audience.
Yes, talking to a specific demographic is important, but it’s just as important to know what you are going to tell them. Always remember, content marketing is about telling a story, so avoid descriptions of your product as much as possible. In other words, tell your audience how they will feel when their problem is solved by your product instead of describing what it has and letting them imagine if these characteristics can actually help them.
Ultimately you want to increase your audience’s trust in your product and this is obviously not possible if you don’t know exactly what you want them to trust.
Three: Know your Audience.
We need to pay special attention to this. Many marketers today, consider this to be the most important part of an effective marketing campaign, and I tend to agree with them. This is something everyone today needs to consider and not just “big companies”.
Whether your company is among the biggest in the world or you are just running a start-up from your basement, you need to consider Market Research as the most important part of your content marketing campaign.
We are not just talking about a basic understanding of who your audience is. Knowing your audience encompasses a lot more than just this. It’s about performing complete and thorough Market Research, which is: “The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics, spending habits, location and needs of your business’s target market, the industry as a whole, and the particular competitors you face.”
Your copy has to be compelling and hold relevant and valuable information for your target audience. The only way for this to be possible is for you to know exactly who you are writing for.
Every other element of your content marketing campaign depends on having a clear understanding of who your target group is. Establishing a buyer persona, thus becomes a critical step in this process.
One of the reasons for many content marketing campaigns to fail is that Market Research is either not done, or not paid as much attention as needed. Poor market research will lead to confusing messages or stories that are not appealing to your target audience. Furthermore, poor market research will lead to not knowing exactly what “pain” you are trying to relieve for your audience.
Keep in mind that you are not writing to tell your audience what your product is, but mainly you are trying to tell them stories that will appeal to them and help them solve their problem (establish trust). For example, if you are selling pills that will help relieve pain caused by arthritis, you don’t just want to tell them how your pills will relieve that pain. It will be better if you tell them about natural ways in which they can feel better and avoid the problem as much as possible (for example). Only in this way, will you be able to capture their attention and keep them engaged with your content.
Part of the process of communicating with your audience is being able to understand them to the point where you can show them you understand their problem and are willing to help them solve it with more than just your product.
Four: Offer Options.
True, the content you use will greatly depend on your target audience, but remember just because you have established who they are, doesn’t mean that you need to speak to them in a single way. Even within a group as your target, you will find many different types of personalities and preferences.
A single message can be transmitted in many different forms and formats. In today’s “internet world” we find countless options to convey your message and not taking advantage of these will leave you at a great disadvantage in front of your competitors, who do this.
Of course, blogs are among the favorite and most used means to deliver your message, but they are certainly not the only methods you should use; infographics, videos, interviews, podcasts, etc., are all methods you should take advantage of.
Along these options offered for your target to be able to receive your message, you should also keep in mind that each type of format can be shared through different platforms (and this doesn’t just refer to social media).
Initiating a conversation with your target audience can sometimes be difficult if you don’t choose the appropriate platform or at least their favorite. It is not just about putting a blog out there and hoping they will find it and read it. If you do this, with the amount of information out there, chances are, you will not be successful.
Reach out to your target in every possible way. Whether it’s emailing, tweets, Facebook posts, answering their questions in public forums, etc., make every possible effort to be noticed and get your message to them.
Options don’t just refer to different styles of copy; you actually need to use every possible mean to convey your message and talk to your audience.
Five: Use Powerful Headlines.
In a web space crowded with content, how do you get your target audience to actually pay attention to you?
You might have the best content out there and your product can actually be the best one in the market, but, guess what, if your headlines are not attractive enough, your message will never be read by those who you are trying to talk to.
David Ogilvy, known as the “father of advertising” paid so much attention to headlines that it is said he crafted one of the most brilliant headlines in history for his Rolls Royce campaign.
About this topic, he is quoted saying: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
True, this campaign dates back to the late 1950’s, but the same can be said today. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of content writing by some, however, it is THE most important part of the creation process of your content. Don’t believe me? Look at what Internet Marketing specialist Neil Patel has to say about this:
“Your headline is the biggest factor determining the number of social shares your content gets: The fact is most people don’t read your content, no matter how good it is.”
Don’t be one of those content writers who spends a couple of minutes thinking what the title of a post should be and end up using the “least sucky” headline. This is the best way to screw up your content marketing.
How long should you take to write a good headline? Well, there are many experts out there that will venture in giving an answer to this question, from one hour to four hours etc. To be honest, I personally don’t think you can put a number on this.
The truth is, you need to take as long as needed to come up with a great headline. If you don’t, then it’s best to wait until you actually publish your content. Really, it is best if you do.
You can find several tools and resources on how to craft powerful headlines out there. But, trust me, it all comes down to your knowledge of your target audience. Only after you have complete understanding of who your buyer persona is, will you be able to know how to reach them.
Six: Measure Results.
Tied to all we’ve mentioned, you need to keep in mind that metrics are an important part of your campaign. In fact, if you don’t do this, there is no way for you to know how effective or ineffective your campaign will be until it’s too late.
Remember the marathon runner and how she keeps her ultimate goal in mind while keeping track of her partial time? Well, you need to do the same.
In accordance with your goals, you must keep accurate measurements of your results, (or at least as accurate as possible).
There are many types of metrics you need to pay attention to, thus, you will need to gather information from different sources.
Regardless of how much work you feel this is, trust me, it is all worth it and in the end, it will pay off.
The different types of metrics that need to be used when it comes to content marketing are enough to be covered in a different future post, but just to mention a few you need to keep in mind, let’s mention:
- Consumption Metrics: The number of readers who consume the content you produce. Keeps track of how they received the content (channels), how frequently they read it, etc.
- Retention Metrics: Measures how long you actually engage your audience. How far beyond the initial contact you actually keep them engaged.
- Engagement Metrics: Measures what actions your audience takes once the initial contact is established. Shares, comments, etc.
- Sales Metrics: The final result. How many of your readers actually end up using your service or buying your product.
As these, there are many other types of metrics that can prove to be useful for your marketing campaign.
Always remember at first, you need to start small. The last thing you want to do is try to measure too much and gather so much information that you will not know how to make good use of it.
Also, remember to be consistent. It is not useful if you measure results over a short period of time and then switch to a different type of metrics. For your metrics to be effective and useful, you need to generate them over a period of time. This can prove to be helpful to identify which content produced can be considered “evergreen “content.
Seven: Be Persistent.
Finally, nobody has said content marketing is easy and if someone said it, they are not telling you the truth.
You need to be open to failure. Actually many times you will learn more from failure than from success. This is true for any writer and I would say especially for content marketers. This is one of those cases where the only way to success is to fail many times.
In future posts, we will continue to explore the intricacies of content marketing and look at it from different angles. To be honest, this is a topic, nobody can spend too much time in and on the contrary, there will always be something new to learn.