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The key to content marketing success: A well-crafted strategy

Most of the prospective clients we talk to are already engaged in some form of content marketing. That’s the good news. The bad news: most recognize that their efforts aren’t reaping the return they should be. The missing ingredient for most? A strategy and plan for implementing it.

Ready, Fire, Aim, Or: “Strategy? What Strategy?”
It’s trite and it’s tired and it’s been said before, but if you don’t know what target you’re aiming for, you’ll never know if you’ve hit it.

Top of the strategy list has to be that target, the goal you want to achieve. That goal should not be “to publish content” or even, “to publish great content.” It shouldn’t be to get more likes or followers or subscribers. These are metrics or KPIs. (Key performance indicators.) More on them later.

Your goal must be business related. (Handy hint: if the folks whose titles begin with C – CEO, CFO – don’t care about it, it’s not a strong enough goal.) Typically that’s going to be something along the lines of increased sales, more leads, or improved lead quality.

Other strategy elements must include

  • KPIs, which will serve as a way of tracking your progress on the way toward achieving your goals
  • A plan for generating truly great content
  • Ways to get that content noticed
  • And a system for evaluating your progress

Let’s look at each in turn.

KPIs – The Road Signs of Your Content Marketing Journey
Earlier, I mentioned KPIs – the likes, follows, subscribers, and traffic numbers that are fairly easy to track in our digital world. These interim metrics have virtually no business value for most of us. (After all, what’s a Twitter follower worth to your bottom line?) But they do give us clues as to whether the work we’re doing is likely to pay off in terms of actual sales and marketing value.

They should be examined over time: it’s the trends that are of value here. We may not be able to assign a value to, say, a new Twitter follower, but we can tell that something is wrong (or right) if the pace at which we’re adding followers decreases. (Or increases.)

So these KPIs can help us determine what kinds of content resonates most with our target audience. They can also be valuable in A/B and multivariate testing, which might include things like email subject line tests, different landing page approaches, etc.

High-Quality Content
This brings us back to the idea of content quality. Two things to remember here:

  1. Content creation is too important to be done haphazardly or by an inexperienced intern
  2. Content created by the U.S. Poet Laureate probably isn’t the answer either

The first point should be fairly self-evident. An inexperienced staffer – or a vendor who isn’t fully engaged in your marketing efforts – isn’t going to be able to create content that provides sufficient value to your target audience. Your content will be ignored.

On the other hand, it’s not just about great writing. (Or really beautifully shot video, or fantastic graphics.) The sweet spot is in aligning your content with the products or services you’re selling. Make sure your content is working by measuring how well each kind of content is contributing to your end goals.

If you have resources in-house for developing great content, use them. If not, spend the money to hire the right talent. The best strategy in the world can’t overcome poor execution, so invest in execution to ensure your strategy has a chance.

Distribution and Promotion
You’ve got to get the word out about your content. Social media amplifies your blog posts, email marketing highlights your social media activity. Collaborations with other industry influencers generates interest, and so on. There are dozens of ways that your content marketing efforts intertwine, and dozens of ways to distribute and promote your content effectively. Just be sure that appropriate efforts are aimed at engaging and expanding your audience.

Assess and Adjust
All the work you do in getting your content marketing started and properly focused may seem like a one-time kind of thing, but as with any other form of marketing, the landscape changes and you have to adapt.

Monitor progress toward your goals and your interim metrics systematically. Re-evaluate what is working best on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. (DON’T make yourself nuts adjusting things every week!) As patterns emerge, you can decide how to reallocate your resources.

That’s the real key to success in content marketing: creating a strategy that allows you to adapt your efforts based on what your audience tells you.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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