Content marketing is the marketing phrase du jour. With a few brands and businesses touting it’s success, and a growing number of and “experts” doing so much content marketing ABOUT content marketing, there’s a lot of talk about it being an effective and relatively easy way to gain customers, improve your search engine rankings and win more business.
All of those great results can certainly happen. And they do for some who do it right. But, content marketing efforts can, and often do, fail to live up to expectations.
So, before you set out to create a content marketing plan, it’s important to face a few realities of the challenge in front of you. Whether you are a mom and pop shop or a large publicly traded organization, you’ll need to consider the same elements when creating a successful content marketing plan and/or program.
Here are few ways you’ll be sure to fail:
1. Your content isn’t good.
This may seem really obvious, but it’s harder than you might think to actually produce GOOD content. Look at the stats about the OVERWHELMING amount of content being produced and posted on the Internet every minute of every day.
Now stop. Think about that.
What are you going to do to stand out amidst all that noise? Are you going to add to it, or will you be heard?
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can just start blogging and it’ll work. You’ll have to be dedicated to spending the time to produce content that is useful, interesting, unique, and, well, GOOD.
The number one problem I’ve had when speaking to various businesses and clients about content marketing programs is helping them understand the amount of time, money and energy it takes to produce good content. Just because it’s easy to post something to a blog, doesn’t mean the effort it takes to make that post worthwhile is easy.
Set realistic expectations about the cost and effort involved in hiring someone, or a team of people, who have the skills and work ethic to make things happen. Also, if you do hire someone, know that you usually get what you pay for. Good writers, especially ones who understand your business and industry, are hard to come by. Expect to pay them accordingly.
If you’re hoping to execute your content marketing plan on your own, be ready to dedicate energy, time and resources to make that happen.
So, what’s the bottom line? Be creative, be unique and work your ass off to produce something that’s worthwhile.
2. You’re not focused and/or don’t know your audience
Maybe you already have a good handle on how to produce good content. But now you’ve go to find the right audience for it. I work at an advertising and marketing agency with several big name clients. One of the first things our strategists do with new clients is sit down with them and really hammer out who their target audience/customer is. It’s amazing how many people fail to take this important step, or look at this from an objective perspective.
Your target audience is who will be attracted to your brand and those you wish to attract to your brand. When defining this, do more than think in broad strokes (like, marketers at B2B companies).
Think about what makes your target audience tick. Who is she/he? What problems do they have? Can you help solve any of those problems? What can you offer that target audience (besides your products or services)?
I recently read an article by Bryan Kramer that says you should forget about segmenting marketing into B2B and B2C, but think of all marketing efforts as H2H (human to human).
Think about it. Companies don’t make decisions, people do. Think about how to connect with humans and make an emotional connection with your target audience and you’ve won more than half the battle.
Before you start mapping out your content plan think about who your target audience is and what type of content will best connect with them. How can your knowledge help them? Do they need tutorials? Step by step guides? Aspirational or humorous content?
Also make sure your content is focused and precise. You’ll want to find your niche – that magic sweet spot of content that appeals to your audience, you are knowledgeable about, and help sells your product or services to them. You’re better off being THE expert/resource on a narrow topic than one of many voices on several topics.
3. It’s all about you
If you’ve done any reading about how to approach and conquer a content marketing plan, you’ve probably heard the advice that focusing too heavily on yourself (or your products and services) will not work. Successful content marketing works when it has something to offer readers. If it reads like marketing material (even if it is), it is unlikely that you will gain readership.
Marketing consultant, author and speaker Jay Baer wrote a blog post (which later became a book), about how helping others can be the most successful type of marketing. Baer writes: “Sell something, and you make a customer. Help someone, and you make a customer for life.”
Essentially, Baer says that by becoming a resource to a potential customer base, you can eventually convert some of those people into customers. He tells a great anecdote about Geek Squad, which I’ll excerpt here:
“I was at a conference a couple years ago where Robert Stephen, the founder of Geek Squad, was speaking. He showcased their YouTube channel, which has hundreds of instructional videos on how to set your DVR, swap out a hard drive, and tasks of that nature.
Someone asked him a great question: “Let me get this straight Robert. You’re in the business of fixing things?” “yes” he nodded. “But yet, you have all these videos showing people how to fix things themselves. How does that make business sense?” “Well, our best customers are the people that think they can do it themselves. But even if they can, someday they’ll be over their head, and who will they call for help? We’re betting it’s the company whose logo they looked at for 8 minutes when we gave them free video help.”
Remember that you can still talk about your industry, and when relevant, how your company/product/services fits into the larger picture, but don’t be fooled into thinking posting press release like blog posts will be effective.