Last fall on the Networking Exchange Blog, I presented a 10-step blueprint for building a successful content marketing strategy. The post generated some good discussion, with a few commenters calling attention to some of the basic challenges of this burgeoning marketing tool. In the spirit of those comments, and in the interest of diving into this topic a little further, I thought it would be useful to explore some of the challenges content marketers often face.
1. No plan, no value.
If your brand’splan for content marketing is “produce content,” then you don’t really have a plan. The decision to adopt content marketing as part of your business’s online strategy is an admirable one, but your business must also know what it hopes to accomplish with this content. If not, there’s a good chance the content you produce won’t be providing anyone anything of value. Although your business’s content marketing goals are likely to change with time, before producing your first item you should be able to answer the following questions:
- Who is my audience, what are their questions, and how can I provide valuable leadership with my own content?
- What does my business hope to accomplish with content marketing in the short term? In the long term?
- What kinds of content are my competitors producing, and what can I learn from them?
2. It isn’t shareable.
Content marketing is fundamentally linked to “shareability.” You want your content to reach as many eyes as possible, but no one’s going to share if you don’t make it easy for them to do so. In 2013, every piece of content you produce should come with clear, well-placed buttons for users to share your work with their own communities. At the very least, include the “Big Four”—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+— although additional platforms might also be worth including, depending on your target audience.
3. It doesn’t encourage deeper engagement.
The point of content marketing is to connect with prospects while establishing yourself as a reliable resource. Sharing helpful content with a prospect will help them remember you for a day, but encouraging them to connect can forge dynamic long-term relationships and brand advocacy. Make it clear what you want out of your visitors with each post by:
- Encouraging visitors to leave comments and ask questions
- Offering suggestions for related material
4. No one’s measuring results.
Especially for small businesses learning the ropes, the process of developing good content involves some trial and error. Not all content is created equal, and not all types of content will work for your business. It’s okay to experiment a little when you’re first getting started, but it’s important that once you’ve got some things out there, you pay attention to what’s working and what isn’t. At the very least, your business should be able to measure the following with each post:
- What type of content is getting the most clicks (e.g., videos, blog posts, infographics, etc.)
- How prospects are discovering your content, and where they’re going afterward
- How many visitors stay on your site and browse additional content
5. No call to action.
While it’s true that the fundamental goal of content marketing is to drive brand awareness by providing prospects with useful, easy-to-understand information, this doesn’t mean you should avoid salesmanship entirely. In fact, many of the prospects viewing your content aren’t just passively looking for an answer to a question, but actively looking to address a specific need immediately. Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of your content should be information relevant to the audience, while the remaining 20% should be about your product or services.
Linking your content to a product or service can have several benefits:
- It offers a specific solution to your prospect’s question or need.
- It reinforces the idea of your business’s expertise.
- It removes an unnecessary step in the purchase cycle—you wouldn’t want your prospects to leave your site and purchase the services of a competitor just because you neglected to make them an offer of your own.