The other day, I found myself in yet another discussion about how content marketing is a "trendy idea" rather than a viable long-term strategy.
Needless to say, I started to feel like I was in a Bizarro World. You know, one where a weirdly mutilated Superman says “Goodbye” when he means “Hello," or where Elaine Benes hangs out with three guys who bear strange resemblance to Jerry, George, and Kramer, except that they read and are annoyingly reliable and polite?
Yeah, that Bizarro World.
In the real world, “content marketing” may be a trendy term, but it’s far from a trendy strategy. The next time you find yourself questioning the value of content marketing, take a good look at what you’re doing.
Is it content marketing? Or are you kidding yourself?
To help you decide, I've outlined some of the most common signs that your content marketing efforts are stuck in Bizarro World.
1) Your “strategy” consists of calling product datasheets and sales events “content.”
Don’t get me wrong -- there’s still a place for product marketing. But if you expect prospective customers to shout hallelujah every time you post a sales video, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Effective marketing in the age of social media is about starting with the needs of your audience, rather than your need to sell your product or service. Build credibility and trust in the early stages of the buying cycle, rather than soliciting attention via traditional, interruptive marketing and advertising tactics.
At LinkedIn, we put content into three buckets: Reach, Nurture, and Acquire. If you have plenty of content to fill your Acquire bucket, but nothing compelling at the Reach and Nurture stages, that Acquire content may sit there unnoticed.
2) You're ignoring keywords.
I agree. Keyword research can be confusing and time consuming. And if you’ve been trying to ignore it, I can’t say I blame you ... completely.
Except that keywords are a fact of life -- like Kramer’s unpredictable entrances or Lex Luther’s mad intelligence.
If you ignore keywords, your competition can make headway right under your nose. Content marketing without keyword research misses incredible opportunities for uncovering new topics, figuring out how your audience thinks, and getting your content found.
Quite simply, I don’t recommend it.
3) Your content isn't personable.
I'd argue that wittiness is terribly underrated in the world of content marketing -- especially at the top of the funnel.
After all, there’s a reason why people gravitate toward funny people, right? They are clever, amusing, and very likable. And the same could be said about content that conveys these attributes.
That’s not to say that every piece of content you create for early engagement has to be hilarious, but you certainly should be thinking about how you can add some personality and humor at this stage. Done right, your brand will likely be viewed as more approachable (and ultimately more human).
Think about it: Content marketing arrived on the scene because the "digital world" largely replaced the "handshake world." Instead of walking into a store or an office, customers now interact with brands digitally.
As a result, they aren't getting on the phone with your sales representatives until much later in the buying process -- if ever. To ensure that the personable rapport building your sales team was once responsible for doesn't fall by the wayside, its important that you adapt your content to read more human.
In other words, if you offer them nothing but dry details and company promos -- and call it content marketing -- you’re living on Planet Htrae.
4) You don’t listen to customers, you talk at them.
“The number one thing a company can do to get more results out of content is to start thinking first about what the customer needs and wants, and how the company can deliver it. In other words, it’s content as a product, not as marketing," explains Robert Rose, chief strategy officer at the Content Marketing Institute
Effective marketers today start by identifying and understanding their audiences, then they develop content to delight and inform them. If you don’t think you have time to participate in industry-specific groups, read relevant blogs, or keep up with your customers on Facebook or Twitter, you’re missing the point.
5) You're trying to do it all yourself.
Are you a lonely Superhero? A one-person content strategy team, battling it out for the sake of your company? I feel your pain ... and you are not alone.
To be successful, you have to get creative and tap into every resource available. Here are a few useful tactics for doing so:
- Get your co-workers to contribute. Show them how their participation can help boost their own careers.
- Make note of great third-party content. Curating content is a great way to provide value without a lot of heavy lifting. Just be sure to add your own insight and perspectives.
- Mine your social networks and communities for content contributions. This serves as a great way to engage prospective customers and learn from them.
- Outsource big-rock content. Turn to other content creators to tackle larger content projects like ebooks and videos. Working with an outside source will bring a new expertise and process to your projects.
6) You're not optimizing on business objectives.
Do you know what action you want your audience to take after reading your latest ebook? Does the content fill a need and compel readers to take that action?
If you create content because it’s easy, or because you have an undeniable “gut feeling,” you’re bound to be disappointed with the results. Effective content always combines two things:
- Great storytelling
- An obsessive focus on the measurable optimization of those stories vis-à-vis your business objectives
One without the other is like poor Bizarro Superman: “Me unhappy! Me don't belong in world of living people!”
7) Your leads are stuck in the funnel.
What happens when a potential customer hands over contact information in response to content you’ve published? Does that person get a follow-up email or phone call? Or does the contact information sit around in your database, getting stale?
If you don’t have a plan for nurturing customers through the sales funnel, your content marketing strategy is flawed.
Part of the problem may be that your sales team is out of the loop on your content plan. Maybe they’re out there doing their best to close deals, but if you haven’t synced up with them on business objectives, they too may be living in their own little Bizarro World. And that’s just a sad, sad state of affairs.
To solve for this, set up some time to join forces with your sales team and walk through the buying process, from first conversion to close. Understanding where leads are to be passed off to sales -- and how -- will help you streamline the process and unclog your funnel.
As content continues to saturate the internet, content marketing is becoming more expensive. And depending on your niche, finding a window for success could also turn into a challenge.
That said, get your content out of Bizzaro World sooner rather than later. Being successful requires you to find your content marketing groove ... and trust me, you're not going to find it there.