As more and more (and more) content is created, the performance of the average piece of content is plummeting.
There is no shortage of content about content marketing, either. Yet, when content doesn’t work, many marketers are perplexed. Perhaps they’ve been lulled into a false sense of, “If I write it, they will come?” Or maybe most content marketers simply don’t have a background in testing and optimization?
(Fun fact: That’s why this company and site are called “Convince & Convert.” My plan was originally to make this a conversion rate optimization consultancy, as we did a lot of that at my prior firm, Mighty Interactive.)
Certainly, the specific changes you can make to improve the performance of your content marketing are nearly limitless. But realistically, all of them fall into one of these, the 4 Ways To Fix Broken Content Marketing.
Fix Your Content Marketing Topic
You are competing against EVERYTHING with your content, not just your competitors. Content is consumed as a mixture of personal and commercial updates, like an information smoothie that combines Trump, each and every Kardashian, reminders from Mom, and whatever you’re trying to tell your customers.
If your content isn’t working, maybe what you’re creating content ABOUT is off-base? Remember, if your content solely talks about your company, its products, and the corresponding features and benefits, you don’t really have a content marketing initiative; you have an episodic brochure.
Kim Kardashian was robbed of all of her jewels. Your bullshit blog post about your new product doesn’t stand a chance.
Ultimately you have two paths for your content marketing topics, and you should pursue both. First, make SURE you create content that addresses known or inferred customer questions. If you don’t have—by far—the best FAQ in your industry, you’re forgetting the basics.
Each of your customer segments have a series of questions at each stage of the purchase funnel. All of those questions have to be satisfactorily answered for them to buy your whatever. I wrote a whole post about how we do that kind of content marketing strategy and gap analysis. In summary, however, it’s a 5x5x5 approach: 5 personas, 5 stages of the funnel, 5 questions at each stage. 5 times 5 times 5 equals 125, which is approximately how many content marketing topics you need to cover—just to address the known and inferred customer needs.
After that, you can start putting on the ritz a bit, and creating top of the funnel content that is particularly useful (Youtility), transcends the transaction, and has a chance of breaking through because it’s not about you, but about something your customers actually care about. With this type of content marketing, you give yourself permission to make the story BIGGER.
Fix Your Content Marketing Amplification
The existence of content guarantees nothing. Any content you want to be consumed MUST be associated with an amplification plan. This has become more and more crucial as competition increases.
The key content marketing questions now aren’t just, “What is the topic?” and “For whom are we creating this?” but also, “How are they going to know this exists?”
It’s tempting to just press “boost” and give Facebook some digital cash and hope they show your stuff to some people who give a damn. But the better way to amplify your content marketing is from the inside out. Use this concentric circles map to help guide your approach. Start with employees, and then move to current customers, then current prospects, then brand-new potential customers.
This way, the people who are most likely to consume and share your content get it FIRST, providing momentum, social proof, and a slingshot effect. Influencers are typically involved in step two, alongside current customers.
Fix Your Content Marketing Format
Maybe you’re just trying to give people pineapples when they crave artichokes? If you squint hard enough, they are similar, yet totally different in reality.
The same is true of content marketing modalities. Media habits are changing FAST, and you need to be modifying content formats based on persona (at least).
Research from our friends at Vidyard found that Americans watch 72 minutes of online video per day, compared to 25 minutes of reading. Yet, here I am putting this on a blog! We’ve modified our content marketing mix a lot at Convince & Convert, and now create numerous podcasts and video series, as well as a lot of ebooks, Webinars, social content, email (a brand new one we just launched) and beyond.
We haven’t done it at C&C (yet), but note the success of Chief Content Officer, the print magazine from Content Marketing Institute. Other organizations are moving back to print too, as it’s now the counter-cyclical content format.
A format switch is one of our favorite gambits on the consulting side of our business, and it’s remarkable how often changing where and how you tell a story can impact the success of that telling.
Fix Your Content Marketing Creators
Content creators are not uniformly skilled. Some people are better at it than other people. Can you learn how to be better at content marketing? Of course. But can everyone be great at it? Of course not. The same way not everyone is mechanical; or comfortable with public speaking; or able to make lasagna.
As content expands, it’s common for your roster of content creators to expand as well. But then you have Bill from the engineering department writing a half-assed blog post because it’s his turn to write. Do you think the Kardashians tap random people to take their pictures, do their hair, handle their makeup, and do their personal training? They find the best people for each of those tasks, because disproportionate capabilities produces disproportionate results over the long haul.
I wrote a whole piece about the role of the “it” factor in personal branding and content marketing for Mark Schaefer’s excellent book The Content Code (his new one, Known is spectacular too).
You can learn to be good. “It” determines if you’ll transcend that. And of course, your “it” is totally circumstantial and occupationally specific. Would you be a terrific engineer? Probably, no. So why are we assuming that Bill in engineering is going to produce a massively successful piece of content marketing?
True, there was a time when creator and skill mattered less in content, and filling gaps and plugging holes with useful content was enough to succeed. Those days are OVER. As Chris Penn said at Social Media Marketing World last week, more and more content is being created (quite literally) by robots, not people.
You either need to embrace that approach and try to create massive amounts of hyper-specific content in real-time at an affordable price (robots or Fiverr), or you need to make sure that the content marketing you commit to is better than ever. The latter is probably a more realistic scenario for most of us which is why creators are one of the four ways you can fix your broken content marketing.
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