Everybody’s talking about content marketing, and just about everybody (93 percent of B2B marketers, according to the Content Marketing Institute) is engaged in a content marketing effort. That’s good. But things go south pretty quickly from there – a ridiculous 58 percent of B2B content marketers assess their organizations as “not doing a good job,” according to that same study.
Why are we all so bad at this?
To a certain extent, it’s likely because content marketing is new to so many organizations. However, that merely means that it’s time for us all to sharpen our pencils and learn how we can improve. That begins with identifying where we’re coming up short. Here are some possible sticking points that are bogging down the effectiveness of your content strategy:
You’re getting lost in the word “content.” Just because the organization is creating content does not mean that you are doing content marketing. There are different definitions of content marketing, and some of them are extremely broad (we like to keep it a little tighter and more focused). But simply writing words on a page does not equate to content marketing. News releases are not content marketing. Content marketing, above all else, needs to be audience-focused. That’s a mindset, not a marketing skill.
You don’t have a documented content strategy. That drumbeat you hear is from the Content Marketing Institute; they’ve been singing this tune for most of the last year. Their research shows that content marketers that have a written strategy are far more likely to find success. Your strategy should aim to weave together an experience for the audience that makes for an enticing buyer’s journey; in other words, it’s more than an editorial calendar.
You have a strategy, but it’s wrong. For whatever reason, you set off in the wrong direction. Often, this is due to a lack of understanding of audience – did you spend enough time creating persona profiles? Did you simply not dig deep enough when creating those personas, asking surface-level questions? Or did you follow the hot trend and base everything on Meerkat, when your audience prefers to read a monthly magazine.
You have a strategy, but you keep veering away from it. This is a very difficult thing to navigate. After all, if something isn’t working you’re inclination is to change it. But maybe you just need to give it more time. At some level, figuring out this strategy and knowing the right moment to pivot is based upon gut instinct. You have to constantly evaluate your strategy and your progress in reaching objectives, but you have to be confident and experienced enough to not panic and keep changing direction.
Your content is focused inward. As mentioned above, content marketing is about delivering value to the audience. Sometimes, like when you’re unveiling your new Apple Watch, that can be self-promotional because people are dying to hear about it. But for the most part, content marketing should not be about your products and services; it should be content that helps the audience live its lives or do its jobs.
You don’t have the right people executing. Just because you have a sharp, experienced person in your marketing department doesn’t mean she is the right person to execute your content strategy. Our bias is for professionals with journalism training; journalists are trained storytellers who are efficient at creating audience-focused content. They have a sixth sense for finding stories that people want to consume.
You’re not actually marketing the content. Just because you’re creating high quality content doesn’t mean it’s finding the audience. You need a robust distribution strategy that fits your audience. It could be social media, it could be content discovery engines such as Outbrain, it could be email newsletters, it could be syndication or media relations.
Okay, so I’m guilty of not providing solutions for these issues. However, there are no simple solutions to these challenges, and every organization’s situation is different. Understanding why your content marketing isn’t working begins with diagnosing the problem; the treatment needs to be customized.
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