Time For New Content Typewriter

The question isn’t, “Will our organization spend time on content marketing this year?” The question is, “How can we improve our content marketing this year?”

If you’re still trying to decide whether or not you should have a content marketing strategy, let me make it easy for you: You should.

Most companies assume content marketing hasn’t worked for them not because they executed and measured well and it just didn’t work, but because they create really bad content.

I’m always amused by how many of us complain about the amount of crap they come across on the web and in their inboxes, but then they get behind their computer screens and contribute to the crap.

According to this year’s study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 92 percent of marketers use content marketing, but 48 percent still don’t have a documented content strategy.

That’s your first mistake.

How can you expect a successful execution if your strategy isn’t even documented?

As you’re planning for this new year, here are seven ways you can improve your content marketing strategy (which you should start documenting as soon as you finish reading this article).

Have a clearly defined vision and strategy—and then document it.

You can’t run an organization without a strategy and a clear vision, and the same is true for content marketing. Getting back to the study, 60 percent of B2B marketers with a documented content marketing strategy say they’re effective, vs. 32 percent of those with only a verbal (undocumented) strategy.

To get you started, check out the list of content marketing templates and checklists from Content Marketing Institute.

Leave room for experimentation.

One of the biggest mistakes most organizations make when it comes to content marketing is lack of flexibility. They set a very rigid strategy, lock it in place, and call it a day. The great scholar Ferris Bueller said it best: “The world moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Same principle applies to your content marketing strategy.

Yes, you should have a set vision and clear guidelines, but you can’t predict what will happen in three months. You have to also take your audience into consideration. It’s possible they won’t respond well to your set strategy…scary, but possible. This just means your strategy has to be flexible enough to try new things based on their feedback, as long as it’s within your brand’s voice.

Don’t be sloppy.

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proofreaders.” – Mark Twain

You’ve documented your strategy, it’s fluid, and you’ve created an informative and engaging post. Your thought leadership is showing, and your readers will walk away with new, actionable knowledge to improve their lives. You hit publish and it’s live on the Internet.

Except, the title has a typo. There are too many commas. It is riddled with grammar mistakes.

All of a sudden your content is useless, because you were sloppy. Don’t let great content go to waste because of avoidable mistakes. Before hitting publish, have a second, third, and even fourth set of eyes on it to make sure nothing gets missed. Then read it again after it’s live on the web.

Distribution is key.

“Build it and they will come” won’t work for your content marketing. Chew on these statistics. Every minute:

  • Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content
  • Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times
  • Email users send more than 200 million messages
  • YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.

That’s just in a minute. So, if you write a blog post and expect an audience to just show up without you inviting them, you’ll be waiting for a long time. Distribution is a key factor in content marketing success. This is where email, social media, and SEO become your best friends.

Optimize your content for success – starting with your headline.

Think about the last three articles you read online. What compelled you to click on them? More than likely, it was the headline that got you there, and hopefully, great content keeping you engaged. Your headline is prime real estate, and once you’ve drawn in your audience, your form should keep them engaged.

There’s a great article on content structure by Cyrus Shepherd at Moz. In it, he discusses the use of power words, visuals, and different tactics to optimize your content for your audience.

Measure, measure, measure.

Your content marketing strategy has to include key performance indicators to measure its success. You need to measure what makes sense for your organization and what aligns with your goals. Content marketing doesn’t convert to dollar signs as easily as other marketing tactics. The most important thing to remember is your metrics need to be relevant to YOUR mission and goals.

Shonali Burke’s top three measurement tips are:

  • Begin at the end (what you’re trying to achieve);
  • Measure what’s important (not everything is); and
  • Don’t get stuck in measuring tools; make the tools work for you.

Don’t be selfish.

The 80/20 rule of sales apply directly to content marketing. Eighty percent of your content should be for and about the customer, with only 20 percent of it about you and your product. Your customers already know you’re selling something.

The role of content marketing is to create a value proposition for them beyond a single transaction. The content you create should build trust between you and your customer, so when the time comes for you to make an ask of them, the relationship is already solidified.

Now, go ahead and get that content strategy down on paper and get ready to succeed this year.

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication firm. She also is the founder of the professional development site for PR and marketing pros, Spin Sucks Pro, author of Spin Sucks and co-author of Marketing In the Round with fellow Wood Street guest blogger Geoff Livingston.