Consumers today watch videos, listen to podcasts, read blog posts, spend time pursuing an endless stream of social content, review products before they buy, and engage in conversations (about everything under the sun) on public forums and sites like Reddit and Quora.
If that’s what consumers are doing every waking hour of their days, getting their attention would mean that companies and brands — large, medium, or small — have to produce content.
That, in a nutshell, gave birth to all sorts of terms that you might have heard ad nauseam by now such inbound marketing, content strategy, content marketing, digital marketing.
In short, brands are now forced to be publishers.
Just like publishers do, businesses have to plan, create, publish, distribute, and make all that content work for a positive ROI for themselves.
Marketers, agencies, and businesses of all sizes will only go on to create even more content now.
We’ll be upfront and straight about: Most businesses won’t do justice to their content marketing strategy.
When something as basic and critical as a website is something that businesses ignore — given that most websites suck big time — inbound marketing is a tall order.
Here are some of the most important ones:
You have no Strategy
Content marketing demands creating content.
But, get this: producing content for the sake of producing content (or because everyone you know is doing it) just won’t cut it anymore. This isn’t 1990s when you could slap a 350-word blog post punctuated by a meaningless string of keywords and Google will still show your content to people.
For your company’s content strategy to work for your business, however, you’ll need strategy to begin with. The purpose of your content is to inspire, inform, motivate, educate, or train your customers.
Alan Schulman, national director of brand creative & content marketing at Deloitte Digital, puts it this way:
“Everything has to align to the brand purpose. The best content is relevant, inspiring, understandable, and leads to the company’s North Star”
All the content that you’ll produce — in any format or content type — has to align with brand values, tone of voice, and style. Plus, this projection has to be consistent (forever).
In the end, all the content production and distribution has to get you real, tangible results.
For that reason, businesses are not capable of doing it right. In some cases, chasing ROI with “brands as publishers” as a mantra is often abortive.
- Producing content — in most cases — isn’t your main business. Understand why you need to do it and what you need to achieve from the continuous (often back-breaking) effort that content marketing really entails.
- Counting social shares (like 1976 shares on Facebook and 765 retweets on Twitter) do nothing for your business profits or revenue (unless it actually does)
- Chasing ego-boosting performance indicators (such as number of followers on Facebook or Twitter) or the number of people visiting your website is useless unless a percentage of your visitors turn into leads. Then, those leads turn into sales (and repeatable sales with a specific Lifetime Value).
Your customers have questions. But you aren’t answering them
Marcus Sheridan — was the founder of The Sales Lion blog which merged with IMPACT. Today, he is an international speaker, consultant, author of the popular book They Ask, You Answer.
His entire approach to inbound marketing lies on two fundamental assumptions for businesses:
- Your customers are smart. They are looking for answers and they want you to educate them.
- They want you to use the “Internet” — a free and accessible resource — to do just that.
In all his talks, presentations, and consulting sessions, he urges businesses to just one thing: become the trusted voice in your industry.
When you started your business, you set out to solve a particular problem (like creating a product that helps customers design websites better or a way to help them find their next vacation home easily).
There are the usual set of questions your customers have about the general problem they face (like a hassle-free financial product, a better airline experience, or a cheaper alternative to everyday commute).
Then, there are questions they are not asking while you are expected to answer them. Questions such as:
- How are you better than the John Doe who claims the exact same thing you do?
- Why should I trust you?
- Do you live up to the hype you are creating right now?
- I can part with my money, but I have concerns that you’ll make me part with my sleep tomorrow.
In the process of producing all that content that you’d need to, make a conscious attempt to answer all those questions with a voice that leaves trails of memories for your customers.
Your answers should not only solve your customers’ problems but also educate, train, and inspire.
If you can’t do that with your content, you can forget about the content marketing.
For you then, all of this content marketing thing is just noise.
Content isn’t adding value
Time is something that we don’t have excess of. No one is reading your blogs for the “joy” of reading your blog posts.
Your customers need answers. They need it now. They consume your content in the hope that you make a difference to them.
They expect your content to answer their questions with your expertise, quell their fears, provide them with insights they least expected, delight them with your solutions.
If your readers (or viewers or webinar participants) don’t get any real value out of your content, you are dead in the water.
How does content with value look like? Here are a few examples:
Wistia is a video-hosting platform. They help host your videos (among other things) — all of their content, however, is about how businesses can use videos for making an impact, to generate leads, to create trust, to establish thought leadership, and to grow your business using video (and all the good stuff it can do).
Freshbooks is an online invoicing software for freelancers. Their blog — and the rest of the content they produce, including books, eBooks, and videos — are focused on empowering the freelancer community worldwide.
Valuable content gives way to sustainable profits. Period.
You have no spine
In the world of “me-too” businesses and the omnipresent fear of rejection, we don’t usually say things aloud. We are timid, avoid conflict, and we don’t go too strong on opinions.
We were asked to be polite, understanding, empathetic, and caring.
When you start communicating with that kind of a mindset, you tend to become boring.
Not to say that it’s cool to be rude, but all that we are trying to say is that you need guts, say what you believe, and stand up for the truth.
If you are timid:
- Your blog post reads like every other blog post.
- You’ll be lucky if you get people to watch your video 3/4ths of the way to the end.
- Your social updates get 2 likes and one share (was that your mom who did that for you?).
- No one leaves a comment on your blog.
Not that those are must-get results. Just that you aren’t pissing people off.
You are predictable, boring, meek, and “comfortable”.
Sylvia Plath, American Poet, famously said:
“I don’t believe that the meek will inherit the earth; the meek get ignored and trampled”
Pause and look at how some businesses operate — from their product positioning to packaging; from their strategy to their branding; from how they price their products or services to the content they create.
Sylvia didn’t know it then but you can’t survive with content marketing strategy that’s just about average, so-so, “Alright, that was 5 minutes of nothing?”, “What the heck did I just read?”, “Man, I just wasted 7.2 minutes of my life watching this”.
You are unique the way you are. Your business is now a larger reflection of you.
Get a voice, a tone, and a certain style for all the content you create.
Don’t be meek and predictable. Stand up for what you believe in and let the world know about it.
Mediocrity has no place in content marketing.
You push too hard
You are creating content — in all its glorious formats and variants — to imbibe a sense of trust amongst your potential and existing customers.
But then, content marketing doesn’t have to be “salesy”. You don’t have to push too hard.
In fact, “pushing too hard” is the opposite of the approach to what content marketing was that it was supposed to be.
Visitor arrives → reads blog post → derives value → reads another blog post → makes it a habit to read regularly → follows you on social media → signs up to your newsletter or as a lead → waits → buys → repeats buying
Content marketing — when you do it right — leads to sales transactions.
So, why should you even push? The only thing you’d need to do with content marketing is to “start” even before you are ready to sell.
You sound like a Neophyte
Do you use phrases or words such as “Maybe”, “I think…”, “Hopefully…” while writing your content?
If you do, you should stop. Like, right now.
You can keep your sentences short, precise, and simple.
However, every sentence should deliver information backed by your expertise, authority, and from a standpoint of knowledge.
When you publish content, you are doing it to establish credibility and expertise. If you hem-and-haw, see-and-saw, you won’t be taken seriously enough.
You are a copycat
Don’t write a blog post because your competitor just published one. That’s doomed to bite the digital dust.
Don’t be a copycat.
That doesn’t mean you have to write like a novelist with a plot or create music like Mozart did.
As you develop your content marketing ideas, did you know that you can pick an angle that’s already covered a gazillion times and still make it your own?
Just by making it your own, you can produce original content. By giving it a little bit of “you”, some personality, and some humor, you can create content that gives you a unique identity.
Peep Laja of ConversionXL writes about “Conversion Optimization” with inputs backed by science, research, and validation.
Now, conversion optimization is a common subject. Except that when you read Peep’s blog posts, you know he gives it a unique touch.
With your content marketing strategy, you don’t really have to create anything original at all. Produce content based on your point of view, research, and your own experiences.
You make your content marketing original.
You are all over the place
In business, you do not try to produce “everything” for everyone. Similarly, your content shouldn’t be all over the place.
Stay with your brand’s primary purpose, vision, and strategy.
Your business type and your target customer persona — specific individuals with the unique set of questions, problems, and shared interests — consume your content because you are the “go-to” expert in that niche.
Say, you are a real estate business and you help clients find new homes to buy, your entire content marketing strategy should align with your business and the interests of this particular target audience — newlyweds moving into another city, people looking to buy homes (to stay or to invest), etc.
Do you sell a SaaS product that helps digital marketing agencies create beautiful reports for their respective clients? Your content strategy addresses the usual concerns marketing agencies have — including getting more clients, retaining clients, and keeping clients happy.
If you need help with defining and working with your business strategy, with content marketing in alignment with your brand, or if you are looking to develop a sustainable and profitable web presence, reach out to us.