Content Marketing Is A Strategic Solution To A Strategic Problem
One of the biggest challenges I see today with content marketing is that it is largely a tactical solution to a tactical problem.
Many so-called approaches to content marketing are merely just content. Or worse, they are campaigns.
An e-book is not content marketing. A landing page with content on it is not content marketing. A YouTube video of your advertising campaign is not content marketing.
Content marketing is not going away. But it needs to become institutionalized and understood as a strategic approach to marketing across the enterprise landscape. Consider the facts that content marketing is the top priority for many CMOs and yet most have no idea what to do about it.
More content is not the answer. And Technology is only part of the answer. Marketing leaders need to establish a culture that delivers customer-focused content continuously. I guess I could have titled this post The 4 Cs of Content Marketing?
But those words are all important: Culture that delivers customer-focused content, continuously. I could add that the content should be delivered across all the channels your audience uses, should ignite conversations and drive conversions. So now we’re up to The 7 Cs of Content Marketing.
In order to make content a strategic solution to a serious challenge inside your business, you have to start with defining the problem and then building the business case to solve it.
Yes, You Have A Content Problem
The journey starts by understanding that the world has changed. Your buyers are deciding when, and how, and where they will engage with you. If your business isn’t creating engaging content across ALL stages of the buyer journey, then you are losing ground to your competition.
What is the cost of bad content? We know that as much as 70% of the content your marketing team creates goes completely unused. I have yet to see a brand where that number is under 50%. So half or more of your budget that goes to creating content is completely wasted.
Add this to the fact that the non-content (media) budget spent your business goes towards banner ads that are ignored by 99.9x% of the audience, TV ads that are skipped by more than three-quarters of us, landing pages that have 99% bounce rates and emails that are opened by fewer than 10-20% of those who receive them.
The reason these outbound media budgets are so inefficient is because the content these programs contain the promotional messages we all avoid, ignore or worse, hate.
So yes, you have a strategic content problem that is responsible for the waste of a significant portion of your marketing budget.
Defining the Business Case
In my adventures inside large enterprises, I found a few ways to build a business case for strategic content marketing:
- Advertising effectiveness
- Cost per lead
- Social media channels hungry for effective content
- Content gaps across all stages of the buyer journey
- Share of conversation
- Content utilization inside across the entire enterprise
- Content marketing effectiveness
Content marketing is no longer a question. It is an imperative for every single brand.
And as we look to the future, content marketing will become one of the key marketing disciplines along with data and technology.
Yes, that’s right, Silos will be broken down. And the traditional channel-based approach will be left behind. No more advertising department working directly with agencies to do whatever they want.
No more social media teams struggling to figure out what to push out.
We may see some delineation within the content teams. I like how Hubspot breaks their marketing organization into the stages of the funnel. They’ve got Early stage (brand and buzz), Middle (Demand Gen) and late (Product). And a separate content team led by Joe Chernov as a center of excellence across the teams.
So why are so few companies managing their content and marketing strategically?
Because it’s hard. Everyone produces content. Everyone owns content. And when everyone owns something, no one owns it. The CMO of tomorrow needs to be the Chief Content Officer or she will fail.
A Strategic Approach To Content Marketing
Here are 9 questions to get you started down the road of strategic content marketing.
Defining Your Content Marketing “Why?”
Before you get started, define exactly why you are doing content marketing in the first place. What gap in your marketing performance is lacking? How much content do you produce along each stage of the buyer journey? How much of your content is used, downloaded, viewed – whatever metrics you can get. Are you ranking on the highest volume keywords used by your customers when it comes to your primary product or solution? And if you’re really good, what is your market “share of conversations” of your solution area?
Define “Content Strategy”
For me content strategy is the combination of an editorial approach and a business strategy: how do you publish content that meets your customer needs, incites them to act and drives additional business for your company. There is some debate over the differences between content marketing and content strategy that are debated by some industry insiders who have spent their whole careers on one side of the discipline.
What matters most is that you are thinking strategically, with purpose, authority and intention to drive better business results with content.
What is the objective of your content marketing strategy?
Or as Joe Pulizzi calls it, what is your “Content Marketing Mission Statement” that defines your target market and what you want to help them achieve. For example, for the SAP Business Innovation site, I defined our mission as: To become a destination of insights for business professionals looking to understand how technology and innovation can help them grow their business, out-perform their competition and advance their careers.
What is your design objective?
Are there visual standards you want to emulate? Who is already doing content well in your space? What does it look like? It makes a lot of sense to look at the examples of the content marketers who have come before you and look at the different elements of their site. Identify which ones you like and don’t and build those design specifications into your strategy.
How prominent do you want to make your company brand? If this sounds like a crazy question, consider your objectives and how likely you are to achieve them if your readers are aware that ultimately you are trying to sell to them. If you are looking to establish trust with your readers before entering into a deeper relationship, you may want to consider toning down the size of your logo and the amount of promotion.
What Keywords Are Important?
The answer to the question needs to be driven through lots of analytical research. Take the Google Keyword tool out for a spin. Look at your own web analytics and check and see how you rank for the key terms. Once you identify the gaps, you can define a set of targeted keywords to build into your content production efforts.
What is your Editorial Approach?
What topics, authors and content types can best help you deliver on your strategy? Will content curation and syndication play into the mix. There is a budgeting aspect to all this as well and if you are managing your content as an asset, you need to consider what will provide the most editorial bang for the buck. Can you create an editorial board across your key content constituents.
What Will Drive Conversion?
Think about the buyer or customer journey. What is an “appropriate next step” from the articles on your site. Your buyers are probably not going to go from early stage content to a product demo. So think about additional thought leadership offers. Think about subscriptions as the main focus of your efforts. There is value in building an audience vs. buying it.
How Will You Report On Results?
If you’ve defined your mission and objectives, then the next step is to make sure you track the metrics that relate to each objective. Create a report, update it monthly and share it widely.
How can you get this all done? It may sound impossible, but when the stars align, the results are almost unbelievable. Here are three things to think about as you get started:
1. Look for courage and support your leadership to create a culture of content
2. Create training and enablement to develop the skills to get the job done across the organization
3. Select the right technology to support your efforts
Follow these steps, answer these questions, commit to taking strategic action and I know you can be successful. Or call me. I would love to help!
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