It's better to start this post with a disclaimer: I'm a software consultant, not a marketer. I've never been in charge of a marketing budget. During my university studies, I did one course in marketing and I barely got a C in it. When it comes to marketing, I'm still very much a novice – a curious novice, but a novice nonetheless.
Because of this, my views on content marketing might be naive and overly optimistic. Maybe professional work as a marketer would make me fall into cynicism and start treating content marketing as another predatory marketing mechanism. Maybe I'm just a sweet summer child unaware of the hardships of winter.
But here's the thing: I think content marketing is pretty awesome and it's a shame that more companies aren't creating valuable content for their audiences.
What's so great about content marketing? It generates trust, authority, and attention. It puts your focus on the long-term. It creates a system where the more you share your knowledge and effort, the more you get back from the community.
I think it's difficult to find a company that wouldn't agree on the benefits of content marketing. It's also probably not an easy task to find a business with marketing personnel that don't have a content calendar in use. People not only understand the opportunity of content marketing but also include content marketing in their marketing strategy.
And yet we often end up with neglected company blogs and content that doesn't seem to move anyone.
What makes a business struggle with content marketing? Here are three problems that you might be dealing with:
1. You focus on ROI
Digital platforms enable much more accurate data collecting methods compared to offline channels. Companies can tell if you bought something from them or scheduled a meeting with them after you clicked a paid ad on Google. This is still not possible with things like TV or magazine ads.
Because we can measure, we measure and we calculate ROIs for digital marketing the way we would never try to calculate ROIs for offline marketing. This means that content marketing can get easily pitted against online ads that are much more optimized towards short-term goals. Meanwhile, offline marketing still doesn't have to justify its spending because you can't measure it.
It takes time for content marketing to start producing results for your company. If you want your blog to help your SEO and be a valuable asset for your brand today, you should have started blogging in a consistent way a year ago. Because of this, you should be careful when setting short-term goals for content marketing. Otherwise you won't give your content marketing the runaway it needs to grow.
If after producing content for a year, you allow yourself to look at the metrics and see results that are extremely disappointing, should you establish content marketing as a channel that just doesn't work for your company?
Maybe. But before you make up your mind, consider the following:
2. You have a quality/quantity problem
Here is the second problem in a nutshell: your content is not that great.
In order to discuss how to avoid this problem, we have to first define what does quality content look like.
Content marketing is about brand and authority, but also about improving your SEO and lead generation. However, I'm willing to argue that these are different goals. Or that they at least require different measurements for quality.
If your main goal is to improve your SEO, good content is something that people are already googling for and content that people want to link back to. There is also a technical dimension in SEO-friendly content: you have to make sure things like metadata and sitemaps are managed properly.
If your main goal is to build up authority, you care much more about who is consuming your content and what are their impressions. Is your content interesting or does it make people yawn? Is your content brave and meaningful or is it safe and conventional?
Even though you can tell the difference between a low-value and a high-value content piece, this doesn't mean that you are now able to generate high-value content. You still need quantity.
Quantity leads to quality, or in other words "practice makes perfect." Keep pushing out content consistently and frequently, and the content creators inside your company start to become better content creators. What's the number one advice on becoming a better writer? Write more. Why wouldn't this same advice apply to content creation?
3. You don't have content creators
Of course you can't keep pushing out content if you don't have the required resources. Companies don't struggle with content marketing because they don't have enough ideas. Your company is full of people with stories, ideas, and knowledge that are waiting to be shared with the world. What your company doesn't have is people who are excited about content creation.
Why aren't people excited about the idea of content creation? Unfortunately school has taught some of us to avoid writing and other creative endeavours. We can still associate writing to the feeling we had when it was a Sunday night, we were supposed to write an essay about a topic we had no interest in, we had a word count that we had to hit, there was barely a full paragraph written down on our paper, and the thing was due next morning. You can never underline enough the opportunities, the learning, and the fun you can have producing content. If you make content creation sound like homework, people will treat it like homework.
But more importantly, content creation is time away from something else. That something else might be things like project work, billable work, or personal development time. Why should your coworker write a blog post instead of making progress with their project? Where does content creation rank in terms of the priorities of your organization?
Who sets the example of content creation inside your company? Is it you or are you trying to find someone else to do the work for you?
Content marketing is not the only way you can build up authority and presence. Maybe content marketing is simply not for your company. And if it's not, let it go. Free up your resources. Discover the marketing channel that works better.