There’s no shortage of articles on what NOT to do in content marketing – yet we still find ourselves bombarded by low-quality content and continue to encounter other marketers hungry for advice for how to get better performance from their own content marketing efforts.
The three points below are nothing new – they are all things we’ve heard before, but if you’re still not doing them, then you still need to hear the reminders.
By presenting them as “things you already know better than to do” or “things you know you should have been doing all along,” hopefully they will be stickier lessons in effective content marketing than every other article we tend to just skim half-distractedly through.
Effectiveness Reminder One: Provide Value to Your Target Audience
(easier said than done)
Let’s break this down:
1) Value is defined by your audience, not by you
Do not just publish content that you want your audience to consume.
This is relatively straightforward, after you’ve identified who your target audience is and what they care about (more on this immediately below). You can sneak in periodic shout-outs to your offerings, but don’t let your agenda steal the show. You want to train your audience to expect consistent value from your marketing content, rather than expect mediocre content or worst of all: content that feels like being sold at.
2) What target audience?
You need to know who your target audience is, and care more about their engagement than about overall trends (to the extent that you can distinguish between the two). Overall trends are skewed by behavioral data about bad leads. Though you may see less overall traffic/activity by focusing on your target audience at the exclusion of a more general population, your bounce rate is likely to be lower, and your lead quality to be higher.
3) Your audience needs to recognize the content as valuable
If you don’t know what your target audience cares about, you can only accidentally deliver content that they find valuable, which will certainly not lead to long-term content marketing success.
This goes back to setting the expectation of consistent value.
But I Already Knew All of That:
If you’re still not happy with the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts, consider whether you may have missed the bullseye on who your target market is and what they find valuable. Have a neutral third-party read your content and tell you if it sounds overly promotional.
Alternatively, perhaps you are having a distribution problem rather than a value problem. Read on.
Effectiveness Reminder Two: Get Your Content Evangelized
(a perpetual ordeal)
1) Figure out what works best for your audience on social media
This is labor-intensive but important. You want to use multiple channels, you want to use multiple headlines for each piece of content, and you want to post on social media at different times to determine when your audience is most active and what channels and messages resonate most with them (warning: hyperlink may take a moment to load).
Just be mindful to vary up the content you’re posting, so your followers aren’t seeing the same three things posted eight times a day every day; this will train them to expect irrelevant content from you.
Additionally, do not confuse this best practice with producing more content – this is about producing quality content and sharing it effusively, not about ‘who can dump the most marketing garbage into the internet?’.
2) It’s bigger than you
Go beyond your company’s social channels to tap into audiences you otherwise would be unable to reach. Almost as important as finding your target audience is finding your market influencers and content distribution partners.
Yes, you want to promote your content via your own social channels. However, you also need to be constantly growing the community of stakeholders that care about what you have to say and who are willing to boost the signal.
By knowing who your ideal customers are, you should also have a sense of what other problems they care about (ones only tangentially related to your offerings). Find the leading influencers for those other problems and work with them to promote your content.
But I Already Knew All of That:
If you’re still not happy with the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts, consider whether you have done sufficient research into who the right influencers are.
Try a new medium, like podcasting, video, or interactive content; in these media channels you may find communities of relevant leads that were otherwise inaccessible to you through your more rank-and-file media channels (e.g. email marketing, Twitter, SlideShare, etc.)
If these changes are not improving your content marketing effectiveness, then it’s possible you have a quality problem.
Effectiveness Reminder Three: Don’t Make Bad Art
(easier than it sounds)
“Bad art” content is content marketing that is boring, hard to understand or redundant. Though the spirit of what you’re trying to say is on point for your target audience, and you have distribution nailed down – the fact of the matter is: your content is just hard to get through.
Why is this reminder last rather than first? Because, if you’ve done everything else right, your audience will be willing to overlook minor bumps in terms of quality of writing, design, etc. And if the quality is so bad that it is negatively impacting the effectiveness of your content marketing, you are probably already aware of your glaring quality problem. Some might argue that anything short of “wow”-ing your audience is a negative impact, but not everything you produce needs to be what Rand Fishkin at Moz calls “10x” content.
Not making bad art is “easier than it sounds” because you’re only doing it when you put your tactics before your strategy. If you focus on producing only posts of a certain length, or only using certain keywords, or publishing something every day no matter what, you’re going to take a hit to your quality – and you know it when you’re doing it. You’re focusing on something other than providing value to your audience.
When it comes to content marketing, not making bad art can be as easy as asking yourself: “Is this content something I’m proud of, taken into the greater context of what we’ve published so far? Does it provide new value to my target audience?”
But I Already Knew All of That:
If at this point you’re still struggling with your content marketing efforts, I would encourage you to reach out to us to help you troubleshoot where the gap is and how to fill it.
Though there’s a lot of noise (weak content) to break through, if you are hitting these three marks, you should not have a problem generating leads and connecting with your target audience.