12 Signs Your Business Urgently Needs Help with Content Marketing
So, basically everyone.
But, that doesn't mean everyone's doing it right ,or getting the results they want.
According to Content Marketing Institute, only 6% of B2B marketers rate their organization's content marketing as 'Very Effective'.
That's worryingly low. And if marketing God Seth Godin was right when he said that, "content marketing is the only marketing left", the other 91% of businesses whose content marketing isn't "Very Effective", should be concerned.
Is this you?
How do you know if your business urgently needs help with content marketing, so that you can make the changes vital to succeed long-term?
Starting with the more obvious ones, let's break down some of the signs.
1. You're Not Putting Your Audience First
When your latest blog post is a company announcement like, "We've Just Merged With Corporation Boring", you have a problem.
Company-centric posts like this are largely irrelevant to your target audience - and, worst of all, they make it plain to anyone who stumbles onto your blog, that you care more about yourself than them.
This can resulti in your audience feeling like Simon Cowell after a long day of auditions.
Content marketing is about serving the needs of your customers. In the words of Content Marketing Institute:
"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience - and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
Every piece of content you share should directly - and ideally, immediately - improve the reader's life in some way.
2. Your Company Blog Doesn't Look Like a Real Publication
First impressions matter. Sure, we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but we all do.
It takes about 50 milliseconds for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like it or not. If your website doesn't scream "Professional" with a capital 'P', you're losing leads before they've even walked through the door.
With a never-ending supply of alternatives only a click away, users are right to be quick to judge - if you don't take your content seriously, why should they? Especially, considering that website design has never been so easy, or cheap.
In 2017, with low-cost, customizable WordPress themes, and the flood of capable freelancers, there's really no excuse for not having a sleek, professional website design.
3. You Don't Know Who Your Target Audience Is
As dumb as it sounds, you can't ask someone to prom until you know who you're going to invite.
And, content marketing without knowing your buyer personas is like asking everyone in school (including the teachers) to prom, in the hope that one might say yes.
If you don't have defined buyer personas, your unfocused effort will waste time and money. Your sales might stagnate too, or even decrease, as your ability to serve your actual customers becomes diluted.
By understanding exactly who you're trying to serve, you're able to consistently create relevant, valuable content for them.
If you're not sure where to start, check out Hubspot's Make My Persona tool.
4. You Don't Understand Your Buyer's Journey
You can't just ask someone to prom, you need to pave the way first - you've got to throw flirty notes across the classroom, and get their friends to like you.
Businesses with poor content marketing often focus most of their efforts on closing, and as such, the content on their sites is aimed at people who are already at the decision stage of the funnel.
Then, when a lead visits the company's website, they're presented with what's essentially a brochure of the company's services - and, the only conversion option available is to buy what they're selling.
This isn't content marketing.
Not everyone arrives at your site at the same stage of the buyer's journey. The point of content marketing is to develop relationships with prospects, as you lead them through the sales funnel.
By understanding the stages of your buyer's journey, and creating content for each stage, you can lead prospects through the process - from strangers to promoters of your product or service:
5. You Haven't Refined Your Strategy
But, even those that do have them don't appear to be designing or implementing them effectively, with 54% of B2B marketers and 53% of B2C marketers rating their strategy as only 'Moderately Effective".
Still, a poor strategy is better than no strategy at all - at least you can figure out what's not working and improve it. Without a strategy, you'll waste time and money, and potentially hurt your brand.
Your content marketing strategy should start with the KPIs that matter most to your business.
The success of your content marketing largely depends on your ability to clearly define, and implement an effective strategy.
6. You Don't Have a Content Publishing Schedule
There is no quick buck in content marketing, you've got to be in it for the long-haul. The simple reason for this is that content marketing is about building relationships, which takes time.
An inconsistent, unreliable, ad-hoc publishing schedule makes you like that flaky 'friend' no one's heard from in a while, but suddenly wants to hang out, and needs a place to crash.
Don't be that guy.
By creating a content publishing schedule - and critically, sticking to it - you're the dependable friend, that everyone can count on.
You're more likely to stay top-of-mind, and prospects have the opportunity to grow familiar with your business. This helps you to grow credibility, authority, and brand awareness.
Another key benefit of consistently publishing content is improved search engine optimization. According to MOZ, Google uses 'freshness' to help it rank web pages.
So, create a sustainable, content publishing schedule, and stick to it - you'll be one step closer to seeing the results you want.
7. You're Not Focusing on SEO
Many marketers think of content marketing and SEO as relatively separate entities, but in fact, the two work in harmony.
"If you're doing content marketing, but have poor SEO, you might as well not even be creating content. No one is going to find it."
And as Barry Feldman writes on Content Marketing Institute:
"You could make the case that SEO is content marketing. Search engine optimization is a misnomer anyway. It seems to suggest you optimize the search engine. Clearly, you cannot and do not. You optimize online content."
You need to make sure your content is fully optimized and inline with SEO best practices, to see a strong return on your content marketing efforts.
8. You Aren't Effectively Promoting Your Content
"Don't Forget The 'Marketing' in Content Marketing", Neil Patel says, "If no one finds your content, you're wasting a lot of time and resources for nothing."
Content marketing isn't an exclusive form of marketing. It's deeply intertwined with all other processes - especially SEO, social media marketing, and email marketing.
In a post on why bloggers fail, Social Triggers founder Derek Halpern notes that:
"You don't have to create content day in and day out. You just have to work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people."
One of the best ways to build awareness on social media is by sharing content your audience will love, and there might not be a better way to market your content than good ol' fashioned email.
When it comes to the ratio between creating content and promoting it, Halpern lives by the 80/20 rule. Put simply, for every hour he spends creating content, he'll spend four promoting it.
Well, if you spend time creating content that reaches 1,000 people, chances are there's a million more it would benefit. So, it makes more sense to find another 10,000 people to consume what you've already created, instead of creating more.
Make sure you're maximizing the ROI of your content marketing efforts by fully capitalizing on the content you create.
9. You're Not Repurposing Your Content
Creating new content takes time. A lot of it.
And, as Derek Halpern explained, promoting your content effectively is often far more efficient than constantly creating new content.
But, you can't just keep sharing the same blog posts over and over - so, how do you work on promoting the content you have, and keep it fresh? Repurpose it.
Every piece of content you create can be converted into other pieces of content.
For example, you could take your most successful blog post, and turn it into an infographic, video, SlideShare, or expand it into an eBook.
Focus on your evergreen content - that which delivers timeless value - to begin with.
This way, you're able to promote the value you've created through different mediums, reaching more of your target audience.
10. You're Not Automating
Promoting your content also takes an inordinate amount of time - and it's not only the time suck of sending a few tweets.
If you have to send all of your email campaigns and social media posts manually, you'll be task switching a lot - this is bad news for productivity.
A study from the University of California Irvine showed that, after being interrupted, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the state of flow you were in before the interruption.
And, it's not just time and productivity you'll be losing.
If you're in the trenches shooting off one Tweet and email at a time, it can be difficult to craft a cohesive strategy across all of your marketing efforts.
By automating much of your email and social media marketing, you're able to batch these tasks into more focused blocks of time, while operating from a big picture perspective. And so, you're able to boost productivity and understand how all of your marketing efforts tie in together.
11. You Can't Demonstrate ROI
Marketers don't engage in content marketing for fun. Ultimately, the aim is to grow the bottom line.
So, if you don't understand how your efforts are affecting the bottom line, how do you know what to change, or improve?
Connecting the data points to prove the value of content can be incredibly difficult, so it's no surprise, that according to a Forbes Insights' report, half of executives admit their data-driven marketing efforts are lagging, and another 22% report their data-driven marketing efforts are virtually non-existent.
But, there's no point playing darts in the dark.
Demonstrating ROI can be done with a little Google Adwords wizardry, as explained by Content Marketing Institute while running an analysis of David Meerman Scott's article on basing content marketing ROI on a Google AdWords equivalency.
You need a reporting system like this to demonstrate the ROI of content marketing, for consistent, long-term, development and success.
12. You Aren't Testing
Understanding your content marketing's ROI is the first step, but how do you know for sure if you're creating the right content to attract your target audience? If your call-to-action is inefficient? If your email subject just plain sucks? Or, if you're posting at the wrong time of day?
If you don't test these things, you're going to miss out on the critical improvements that add up to make all the difference.
Start with some simple A/B tests and improve from there. By running these A/B tests, you'll be able to home in on the most effective actions to boost your ROI and grow your bottom line.
There's a lot to consider when attempting to create and implement a successful content marketing strategy, and without all of the parts integrated and working together, it's likely that your efforts are going to be dampened at best - and at worst, a costly waste of your resources.
By investing properly in content marketing, and ensuring you're using all of the techniques and data available to you, your content marketing may just be the key to a prosperous, and successful future.
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