By now, every marketing manager in the world has heard it’s high time they invested in content. But that doesn’t mean they’re doing it, and in some cases, it means they’re not even convinced that content is any more powerful than, say… mailers.
After reviewing a post about cloud computing challenges for business that I wrote last month for Business 2 Community, I was able to draw several parallels between the difficulties inherent to investments in cloud computing and investments in content. The good news is that it’s totally possible to overcome these challenges.
The bad news is that it isn’t always easy.
So, here’s how to overcome the barriers to investing in awesome content. None of these things will happen overnight. But when they do happen, you’ll be a whole lot closer to better marketing results than the other guy.
1. Understand the value.
If you don’t understand why you’re doing this whole content “thing,” it will be almost impossible to get started. There’s all kinds of evidence that content marketing is astonishingly effective when properly executed. I’ve written a lot about it. So have others.
Thought leadership, SEO, and social proof via social media are just the tip of the iceberg. Vague references to these things don’t even begin to capture the value of constructing and nurturing an active, engaged online community.
The first company I ever worked for ran on a “raving fans” philosophy. A satisfied customer, after all, is one thing, but a raving fan sings your praises everywhere she goes. She’ll recommend you to her friends, tweet about you, and send new business your way.
Having great content creates raving fans because it gives your target market a reason to pay attention to what you’re saying. And if you’re getting more attention than those with whom you’re competing, the value of balls-to-the-wall awesome content suddenly becomes pretty clear.
2. Dispel the “myths” of the Web.
Pretty soon, we’ll all be calling Facebook and Twitter “big social.” You know, the same way we call Shell “big oil” and Merck “big pharma.”
Let’s face it: The big social networks are really big now. And for marketers, that’s a good thing. It’s another way to expose your business to more people, assuming you’re able to find where exactly your audience is hanging out in the social mediascape.
But while third-party social media sites (and by “third-party” I mean online social communities that you don’t own and operate) are an absolutely integral part of your digital marketing strategy, don’t think that updating your Facebook page is the end all and be all of Internet marketing.
And for goodness sake, don’t think that having a Facebook page is any kind of substitute for having your own blog.
There’s a big myth going around that the big social media sites are the way to market your business online. And while any sensible Internet marketing strategy includes third-party sites as part of an integrated approach, the site that you own and control is still your single most valuable digital asset.
It’s where you establish your own community that revolves around your own content. It’s also where you create and maintain all those raving fans I was talking about earlier.
Betting the whole farm on third-party social outposts isn’t just short-sighted, it’s nothing more than digital sharecropping.
3. Win over all the skeptics.
Here’s where you, the content marketing champion, have got to shine.
You see, not everyone in your organization will agree that an investment in content is wise. But by getting them to understand the value of great content and dispelling some of the more common myths about Internet marketing, making your case will eventually become easier.
When it comes to any sort of marketing investments, many people who appear to be against your may actually just be ignorant or indifferent. Use strong evidence and evidence of others’ success to win these people over.
There’s strength in numbers. Develop a following, and change will happen much more quickly.
4. Develop a plan.
Now we’re making serious progress. If you get to the point where you’re developing a plan, it means you’ve won over those people whose opinions matter.
Just don’t think your work is done! Once everyone is ready to pursue content marketing head-on, it’s easy to say, “Ok, we’ll start blogging now. Thanks for all your support, guys!” and then never do much else besides click “publish” on three or four new posts.
If you really want content to work, you will need to develop a strategy. Depending on the size, budget, and needs of your organization, this strategy could be really simple or really complex. You’ll have to consider questions like…
- Do we need to hire a consultant to help us figure all this out?
- Who is going to write for us? Who on staff is best suited to that role?
- Should we hire a new employee or new employees to handle these tasks?
- Will we need to hire freelancers? Writers? Designers? A social media agency? SEOs?
- From what sources will we curate content?
- Which social networks offer the most opportunity to reach our audience?
- How will we measure performance?
- After how long should we step back, evaluate, and revise this plan?
To be frank, those who don’t plan should be prepared for their inevitable failure. I’ve seen it happen a lot. And while I wish I could honestly tell you it’s possible to wing it in content marketing, it just isn’t.
Implement your plan, one step at a time.
It’s important not to get discouraged too quickly. An investment in content takes time to pay off. For some organizations, it could be several months, a year, or longer before they see any serious results.
Your plan should have included a time frame for performing certain tasks on a regular basis before stepping back and evaluating progress. Use those milestones to develop and evolve your overall strategy.
6. Don’t stop.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose heart, convince yourself that this whole thing was a waste of time, and give up. It’s a lot easier to do that than it is to persist and wait patiently for good things to happen.
But you can’t stop. Sure, you can reevaluate your strategy to see if you’ve misdirected some of your efforts, but that’s a far cry from just giving up.
If something’s not working, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve great results. It just means you’ve got to modify your game plan. An investment in content means dedicating time, energy, and resources to a constantly-evolving digital media landscape.
You have to evolve along with it if you want it to work for you.
That’s one of the realities people in this industry deal with on a daily basis. Change, evolve, adapt, measure, modify. But don’t ever ever just stop.