Content marketing is back-breaking work. We’ve been doing this for a fairly long time, so believe me when I say this. Behind every blog post, video or whitepaper lies countless hours of careful planning and tireless execution.
Here’s the reality though: many companies out there find it hard to quantify their investment into content marketing, and that’s because they’re not paying enough attention to the subtleties involved in this trade.
If there are a few things that we’ve learned working with all our clients, they are:
- Content is not just something you create for the heck of it or because everyone else is doing it. Think it through and then do it well. Or, don’t do it at all.
- You have to start by being completely invested into it yourself first, before you expect it to show any returns.
- You have to reinforce the belief that you started your content marketing program to add significant value to your audiences.
- You have to make a conscious and aggressive effort to rise above the deluge of content that’s already out there.
This post is about helping you understand the overwhelming importance of investing the time to nurture your content, in-house team, and your outsourced partner or partners, as the case may be.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 40% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers lack a written strategy regarding their content. This means that two out of every five content marketing teams throw content on the web without any defined plan for maximizing its effectiveness. This is in direct contrast to the basic premise of content marketing, which states that content is what drives customers to a brand as they proceed along the purchasing funnel. Every dollar invested into content marketing should clearly help achieve this goal.
Content for content’s sake accomplishes nothing.
All of this is to say that it’s very easy to lose your way when it comes to content marketing. That’s why it’s so important to take the necessary steps to ensure everyone involved with your content marketing endeavours are on the same page.
A lot of companies assume that the very act of participating in content marketing guarantees them success. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The many different moving parts of content marketing must all be in the right place. Any chink in the armour means you’ll miss out on conveying vital information, that is key for your audience’s evaluation process. Maybe there’s a broken link in your post. Maybe your landing page isn’t specifically tailored to the content in question. Maybe someone forgot to include a compelling call to action. All of these factors, when left to chance, can completely derail your content marketing campaign.
Success in content marketing requires a top-down focus on crafting great content. After all, if people don’t care about what you’re producing, your efforts are worthless.
Consider the case of Red Bull, a company that markets itself in many different ways. It’s also a company that understands that advertising an energy drink isn’t nearly as important as promoting the Red Bull brand. Among other things, Red Bull creates videos of extreme sports that simply have to be seen. It’s a great formula for generating viral content, and it helps to brand Red Bull as an exciting, risk-taking company.
But it isn’t just the creation of these videos that makes Red Bull successful. It also makes the entire organisation a part of its marketing team. Even the lowest-level employees can participate in marketing the brand. The content can’t just come from a copywriter or a video producer. The whole company has to think of content as ‘stories that need to be told’. By giving a voice to the voiceless, Red Bull has set itself up to be on the cutting edge of content generation for years to come.
An important capacity builder for in-house teams is periodical training. A great way to get your team up-to-speed with the latest in content marketing is to get them enrolled into a reputable online course or certification program. Hubspot Academy’s Inbound Certification is a widely known program. So are CMI’s Online Training and Certification program, Copyblogger’s Authority, Google’s Analytics Academy, and Marketing Profs’ Content Marketing Crash Course among others.
Many forward-thinking organisations, both large and small, who’re aiming to become publishers have a dedicated content team in-house. Although this is subject to Finance and HR mandates, designating at least one person on the team who can lead the company’s content strategy and act as a liaison between interdisciplinary teams within the company and the external partners would be a prudent step to take.
Like most international companies, Red Bull relies on a variety of partners to facilitate its content marketing. Red Bull has its own dedicated content website, Red Bull Media House, curated by experts in their respective fields. Additionally, Red Bull is involved with content of all kinds, editorial as well as interactive, covering bike races to sports teams to music festivals. By embracing a wide variety of contributors and activities that have a similar underlying theme, Red Bull can take its message forward while staying true to its principles. It’s a testament to the power of identifying key partners and building long-term relationships.
Partners come in all shapes and sizes. Not to mention, competencies and personalities. While larger agencies prefer working with larger brands and larger budgets — on the other hand, boutiques and independent writers prefer working with interesting people and challenging projects, regardless of the size of the client.
Large agencies will likely be able to execute a project across several countries and localise your content effectively under stringent deadlines. Boutiques & freelance writers will be to spend a lot of time with you and your team to understand the problem statement intrinsically and take an avant-garde, hands-on (read: roll up the sleeves!) approach to executing it.
There are distinct advantages to having each kind of partner on your roster. What matters most is being able to identify the right partner for your specific needs, and then allowing them to take on an advisor’s role in your business, by trusting them with key decisions related to making you truly successful.
According to Curata, more than 70% of marketing professionals surveyed planned to increase their content marketing spending in 2014. On the surface, this is a good thing. But it’s not a good thing when neither a specific direction nor a curated environment for that increased expenditure is provided.
This can be particularly difficult for those further down in the chain. Directors and Managers may feel a need to produce “more”, but more of what? This can lead to unfocused, irrelevant content that does more harm than good.
David Fallarme from ReferralCandy advocates the use of the Hedgehog Concept, which zeroes in on creating content in line with a company’s specific niche (aka. the sweet spot!). It combines the company’s passions with their skills and their revenue drivers. Using this allows a company to really drill down on what works for them; more importantly, it enables them to become immune to competition.
The Hedgehog Concept is just one way for an organisation to find out how it should focus its content marketing efforts. However, without a top-down understanding of what the company really wants to accomplish with its content marketing, any additional spending on content is a futile endeavour.
As your company’s marketing visionary, it’s your job to let everyone involved in the content marketing process – internal teams, outside agencies, freelancers, etc. – know exactly where your organisation wants to go with content marketing. If it’s a priority for you, it should be a priority for them.
By making the time to go in-depth with your associates, you’ll create a culture that emphasizes quality and consistency. You’ll also ensure that all of the supporting factors that go into conversions, such as forms and calls to action, do what they’re designed to do.
With this framework established, and with your undivided attention, you’ll get the most out of your content marketing, and you’ll finally be able to pin down that elusive ROI number.