As of 2015, the Content Marketing Institute found that virtually every company – from the small mom and pop shop to the fortune 500 level – have invested in some form of content marketing. It is no longer a secret that in order to keep up with competition, content marketing is virtually a necessity. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these businesses will also admit that they do not feel their content marketing strategy is considered “effective.”
First, before even beginning to consider what new techniques and strategies to pursue, a company needs to take a good, hard look in the mirror.
Ask the question:
“Are we fully onboard and invested with content marketing as a strategy for our company?”
If there is any hesitation or disagreement, then that issue needs to be considered top priority and addressed before moving forward. Only companies who truly buy in to the content marketing ideology are the ones who are much more likely to succeed.
Have You Reviewed Your Content, Lately?
After overcoming the first obstacle of gaining the support throughout all levels of the company, the next step is examining the current efforts being utilized. More often than not, most companies start off small by utilizing a blog as an extension of their website. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, blogs can be a great tool to educate and entertain both current and potential customers. Unfortunately, they often don’t take the time to step back and reflect.
It is very easy for this strategy to become stale and stagnant. After a while, it may start to feel like the same types of topics are being recycled over and over again. Don’t beat yourself up too much, it is not easy coming up with original content ideas, especially those that customers are actually searching for and interested in. However, there are some very simple ways to shake things up and incorporate new, fresh content marketing strategies.
1. Brainstorm Topics Based on Customer Questions
Starting with content brainstorming, one of the most under-utilized and easiest resources for ideas are the customers’ questions. Chances are the sales team and client-facing employees receive an endless amount of these each and every day. Plain and simple, between customers’ interactions with a company and/or the resources available on the internet, their needs are not truly being met. The company that is producing the content that answers these questions and addresses their concerns are usually going to be the one they turn to in the future. The connection and trust will have already been earned.
Utilize Google as one of your first steps in the research process by typing in phrases and seeing what suggestions come back – these are perfect places to start for topic brainstorming since people are already searching for the answers.
Another way to keep content fresh and engaging is to utilize different forms of content. Articles are a great start but content comes in all shapes and sizes now. Using different types are naturally going to appeal to a broader audience. Try considering something that is more visual and less text-heavy on occasion to mix things up. Here are some examples and their benefits:
- Infographics/Datagraphics = Social Shares & Engagement
- Free Guides/Whitepapers = Lead Generation & Link Acquisition
- Videos/Pictures = Social Shares & Engagement
- Interviews/Reflection Pieces = SEO Improvement & Educational
3. Reflect Your Culture In Every Content Piece
One of the other main reasons content marketing strategies are ineffective is because companies fail to portray who they really are and what separates them from all the others in their industry. With so many companies creating content on a daily basis, eventually it all starts to blend together and seem like white noise to customers. Just picture it in real life terms: if your company was a person in a large, crowded room with all the other companies you’re competing with, would someone you’ve just met be able to pick you out amongst all the others?
Think about your company’s personality. How do your customers relate to you? It helps to imagine how you would describe your company’s culture and what you stand for to prospective customers. This is where ‘voice’ and ‘tone’ can really be exemplified through your content.
4. Do Not Settle For Ordinary
Dare to be creative and bold. From the simple, seemingly obvious ideas of posting photos on social media of events going on in your office or industry, all the way to the more complex infographics and videos, continue to think outside the box. Even if your company’s industry does not seem super flashy or appealing to most, find a way to create interest.
As an example, a plumbing or furniture company may not sound wildly exciting on the surface level. And it’s true, while referrals are quite common, most people are not going to instantly call up their friends to tell them about a typical plumbing repair they just received or a set of patio furniture they recently had delivered. But they are definitely looking for useful, helpful information, so something like “5 Simple Plumbing Issues You Can Fix Yourself” might be just what they needed. Or they might re-post an eye-catching image on Facebook or Pinterest of a visually appealing patio furniture set they would like to buy for their new home remodeling project.
Clearly, some industries are going to be a bit more challenging than others, but do not let that be an excuse to give up. Even the most fundamental and utilitarian industries have questions needing to be answered.
5. Create Collaborative Partnerships
Not all businesses have the resources and capability to manage their marketing efforts in-house. Most small to medium-sized businesses outsource their content marketing to an agency, freelancer, or consultant. But even hiring professionals to assist with the content strategy process can still lead to paint points and ineffectiveness. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when collaborating with a partner to avoid potential pitfalls:
- Good is much better than perfect. Understandably, it is difficult to let go of those pre-conceived notions everyone was taught in high school that an article/essay must be exactly perfect in every way. While quality writing is still important, delaying the creation and publishing process by questioning every comma and simple phrasing will actually do much more harm than good. In the long run, this is just preventing Google from crawling your site for new keywords, resources, and potentially translating into higher rankings in the SERP’s. And the beauty of publishing content on a website means it should be easily editable for the foreseeable future.
- Do not hand off all the responsibility to a marketing partner and wipe your hands clean. Although they should have expertise when it comes to content strategies, they probably won’t have the same insight into your business and industry as your employees. Assist the process. For example, this is where those documented questions, concerns, and issues come into play. They will prove to be valuable contributions toward the overall content strategy.
Overall, effective content strategies are not easy. They do not just happen by accident overnight. They require an incredible commitment to the concept, the process, and the partnership. Without this level of dedication and passion to succeed, a content strategy is almost destined to become ineffective.