What are the key principles and characteristics of content marketing that you have to understand and master in order to become the consummate practitioner?
- Clearly understand the value you need to create for your audience
- Provide that value consistently, over the long term
- Measure results and ROI over the long term
- Be crystal clear on strategy and apply joined up thinking
- Produce content regularly and consistently
- Understand that distributing and promoting your content is as important and producing it
- Never neglect your internal communications
Your content is the means by which you will deliver value to your audience. Therefore you need to understand your prospects and customers in a deep and detailed way – to a far greater degree than you may currently be used to. You need to know all about your audience and what will make a real difference to their lives in relation to the products or services you are offering – in order to provide content that they will truly want and value.
Buying decisions are not usually made in an instant. Even a fairly low cost product can have a wrapper of decision making around it. When you are in the washing powder aisle of the supermarket, your choice of brand and product is influenced by several factors – all unique to you, your values and beliefs as well economic factors and aesthetic preferences. And our choices are governed by habit. If you are providing a new eco-friendly laundry alternative you may be appealing to an innate desire to be ‘green’ (knocking on an open door) or have to work harder to educate and persuade someone to buy or switch, keep on buying and recommend your brand. This may take time and the building of rapport and trust – hence why we talk about the need to build relationships over the long term. This is very different to most marketing campaigns. They tend to take place over months rather than years and have short term sales goals. Content marketing, by its very nature, is all about playing the long game.
In turn, this means that you can have no expectation of short term financial pay back. This often presents difficulties in getting your business case for a content marketing approach or initiative adopted – unless your stakeholders and decision makers are all on board. The better news is that a lot of your content marketing efforts will be measurable – especially the part that takes place online as there is a wealth of web and social measurement tools available. The challenge however is to make sure you are setting up your content marketing so that a) you are able to measure it and b) that you are selecting relevant, useful metrics to track. You want feedback that will allow you to test and improve performance of the specific content and channels you are deploying.
Content marketing is not the ad hoc execution of random content-based activities. It requires a strategy and plan that integrates with your overall marketing strategy and plan, and specific implementation plans for content creation, production, publishing, distribution, promotion and evaluation. Even when you have a simple strategy, these implementation plans are likely to be complex in the sheer number of schedules and activities to be integrated and mapped. So clear strategic thinking is crucial in order to provide direction and keep focused and on track – while being flexible and adaptable to marketplace changes.
Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at the Content Marketing Institute, has referred to content as “a show that never closes”. It requires commitment and resources to keep it going and maintain standards. It also means that you have to think more like a publisher or broadcaster than a seller of goods and services – and organise your team and workflow accordingly.
This inevitably shifts content from being a collection of marketing collateral to being more of a brand asset. You could be building up a store of valuable intellectual property. It’s therefore important to consider where you host, publish and distribute your content and how you protect it. Make sure you own and are in control of the place where you keep and primarily display this asset (e.g. your own web domain) rather than relying on 3rd party hosts (e.g. social media platforms) that can disappear or withdraw services – along with your content and followers – at any time.
You can only do so much to get your content found by organic search. Even when you’ve mastered principles 1 through 5, you still need to build your audience through appropriate and timely distribution and promotion. Just writing and producing great content is not enough, you have to get it out there and, yes, shared and ideally talked about, used and acted on. This means bringing various marketing channels, tools and activities to bear and weaving them seamlessly into your content marketing strategy and plan. Things like email marketing, social media, partnering and even paid advertising.
In order to get and keep support for your content marketing you are going to have to run and manage your own internal communications and PR campaign. This may involve helping to educate and win over your Board, the management team, your boss, your marketing team and other creatives, your agencies, and those people who you are going to be relying on as subject matter specialists.
When it comes to your marketing people, it’s likely you’re going to have to ask them to work differently, acquire new skills and take on new responsibilities. You may find yourself having to bring in new people with different skill sets. The old order may get shaken up a little or a lot. Be aware of the challenges and, as your content marketing evolves, ensure you are communicating effectively and involving and managing others appropriately.
Taken from chapter one, ‘Adopt a content marketing mindset’, of my book Content Marketing In A Week.
Download the full chapter.