According to the Content Marketing Institute, "89% of B2B marketers use content marketing".
But where to start? There are so many possible channels, topics and formats. So, for the content marketing newbies out there, we put together this quick article with some key tips.
These are things I wish I’d known when I started out with content, way back when.
1. Content marketing is a long-term strategy.
This is the long game. That’s one of the defining characteristics of content marketing, and it’s what contrasts it with advertising.
"Advertising is fast, but temporary.
Content marketing is slow, but durable."
Go buy an ad, and then stop paying for it. It disappears. Go publish an article. It lives forever. But the things that make it visible take time to build up. Think about the three primary channels for making your content visible:
- Social: It takes time to build a following, influence and reputation
- Email: It takes time to build your list of subscribers
- Search: It takes time to build links and authority
Although social followings, email lists and links take time to build, they are all durable. This is why content marketing is a flywheel. It takes effort to crank it up, but once it’s moving, it has momentum.
2. Be aware of the barriers.
There are three.
The first barrier is producing differentiated content within your niche. A lot of marketers struggle to produce content that’s original, that’s high quality. The cure for this is to produce original research.
The second barrier is in promoting the content. A lot of marketers put good stuff out there, but they don’t work hard enough at promotion. The cure for this is to collaborate with influencers.
The third barrier is persistence. A lot of marketers lose patience before they start seeing results. They never get the flywheel turning. The cure for this is discipline, commitment and investment.
3. Now overcome the barriers.
I understand that not every marketer can afford to stay in the long game, especially in competitive categories. Some industries are insanely crowded. For these companies I have two tips:
- Niche down into a narrower set of topics. If your content strategy is more narrowly focused, you’ll likely see faster audience growth.
- Write content that answers questions of your current customers, clients and prospects. This content, if delivered directly to prospects in your pipeline by the sales team (or posted on sales pages on your website for your current visitors) will have guaranteed, automatic value.
Also, there is still a huge opportunity to simply go big. Whatever your competitors are doing, do it more. Do it better.
- When they publish an article, you publish a complete guide.
- When they quote an influencer, you do a complete interview
- When they launch a podcast, you launch a video series
Social media video is a perfect example. Rather than posting an article on social media, make a 1-minute video commercial of you pitching the article to your followers. It may be 10x the effort, but it will get your 100x the results.
Here you’ll find our best tips for social media videos. It’s super effective.
4. How to stay productive when it comes to content marketing? …you might not like this advice.
I recommend going to bed early.
If you turn off Netflix or your PlayStation, get to sleep a few hours earlier, you’ll wake up a few hours earlier. What happens next is magical: write something.
If you use those hours to do important things before you do urgent things, to write an article before checking email, you’ll gradually build up a big competitive advantage.
This is the best productivity tip I know. Common among successful executives. And it works great for content marketers.
Q: Hey Andy! You have two little kids, 36 employees and 400 clients. How did you find time to write a book?
A: For four months, I went to bed at 9:30, got up at 4:30 and did deep, focused work for two and a half hours while my competitors slept.
5. Track your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Here’s the funny thing about KPIs: The most important ones are hard to see. Think about it.
- Social following and specific rankings are the most visible, but they don’t correlate with business success.
- Traffic per channel, Domain Authority and conversion rates per article are harder to report, but much more important.
- Lead quality, sales closing rates and client satisfaction are the hardest to find metrics, but they are critical to business success.
I call this Julian’s Law after my friend and pro-marketer Jeff Julian. The less visible a metric, the more likely it is to correlate with business success.
Here’s a tip: when you’re using Analytics, make sure you dig in and go deeper into each report. Use segments, drill downs, secondary dimensions and advanced filters.
Because aggregate data is never very useful.
6. Backlinks are important.
If you have any interesting in winning at search, you need to do PR in a way that drives backlinks. This is the flywheel.
It’s easy to teach a PR person to do SEO. They just need to learn the value of links. It’s hard to teach an SEO person to do good PR, because they need to learn to outreach, relationship building and how to craft a compelling pitch.
7. Use data to test your hypotheses when it comes to content promotion.
The investment for paid promotion is dollars. The investment for organic promotion is time.
If you have a hypothesis (we should put dollars behind the promotion of this piece) then think about the metric you're trying to impact (webinar registrants and qualified sales conversations). Then take that action as an experiment and see if it drives the desired outcome.
If it doesn’t you can tweak the parameters (do paid in a different channel, or pay to promote a different piece) and measure again. If it still doesn’t work, abandon and try a new hypothesis.
This is the mindset of the data-driven marketer.
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