If you’ve been living anywhere besides under a dark rock for the last few years, you already know this: If you’re in business and you don’t have a content marketing strategy, then you’re officially behind the eight ball.
While there’s constant debate as to just how important content is to a company’s success, don’t be fooled. The real debate isn’t actually about content’s importance; rather, it almost always comes down to content’s medium.
Here’s the problem in the marketing world: We work with humans. Our job is to convince said humans to invest their time and money into our brand. And humans are fickle, so what works one day and draws massive crowds isn’t necessarily going to work the next day. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, this is likely why Jesus never performed the same miracle twice.
So when we live in a world of limited resources, where most of us wish we had bigger teams and bigger bank accounts, how do we develop meaningful content that actually keeps a relevant audience engaged? I talk a bit about that here. (Short version: Creatives need to emerge from the drunken stupor induced by follow-the-leader content theology.) When you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work creating something meaningful, however, there actually is a little bit of formulaic ideology that you can follow, and because it's centered on intensive self reflection, you'll emerge from this process with a better understanding of who you are, who you ought to be, and who everyone else thinks you are.
Ready to get started?
YOU’VE GOT TO BEGIN BY KNOWING WHO IN THE HECK YOU ARE.
While this can get deeply personal, what I really mean by this is that you’ve got to understand who you are—as a company. Sir Richard Branson of The Virgin Group says that Virgin’s strategy has always been “to screw business as usual. To look at what it is our customer wants, and what it is the industry needs, and to go in and exceed their expectations. And we’ve been successful not by wasting time scrutinizing our competitors but by looking at ourselves from the point of view of our customers do and seeking feedback through listening.”
From the get-go, Branson has understood what he wanted his brand to be, and he looked for people who aligned with that philosophy. Ask him to define The Virgin Group, and he won’t struggle to put it into words. He knows what his company was yesterday. He knows what it is today, and he knows what he wants it to be tomorrow.
What does this mean for his company's content marketing efforts? It means that every spoken word, every social media post, every email drips with this narrative because those within the company not only understand the mission—but they are also passionate about it.
So what's the lesson? If you want a cohesive content strategy, make sure everyone speaking the message understands and believes it.
WANT TO MARKET WELL? START BY LISTENING WELL.
Describing his top three leadership principles as listening, learning and laughing, Branson says that success didn't just come to Virgin on his own accord. It happened, he says, "from working and learning with some of the world’s most inspiring and inspired people.”
Want to develop a solid content marketing plan? Take some time to listen to those in the trenches because they’re the ones identifying the communication gaps between business and consumer. They know the pain points, and chances are they have some pretty good solutions brewing in their heads.
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS, AND THEN LEVERAGE THEM.
Developing a content marketing plan can be a bit like tackling the closet that threatens to swallow you whole every time it’s opened. It takes some real resolve to approach something that seems so vastly intimidating and hopelessly unorganized. Chances are, when it comes to content marketing, you’ve got the list of everything you NEED to do: email campaigns, blog posts, case studies, white papers, landing pages, free downloads. But, if you’re a small business where everyone plays multiple roles just to keep your heads afloat, then the idea of tackling just one of these projects is enough to unhinge your sanity. The good news is that we've been lied to, because in this case, beggars actually can be choosers. All or nothing isn’t the mantra here. Assess your team, discover what you can handle, and then knock that out of the park. Maybe you can offer a few free downloads throughout the year. Maybe you can create some compelling email campaigns that drive traffic and leads. Or maybe that new employee you just onboarded has a secret love for blogging.
Your team has some hidden talents you’ve likely not uncovered. Find out what those are, and then leverage those with content that can be sustained and appreciated.
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU’VE FIGURED IT OUT. NOW GET READY TO CHANGE IT ALL AGAIN.
Google “quotes on change,” and you’ll get instant delivery of 142 M results. Everyone likes to talk about change. Few like to actually experience it. When we discover that our audience actually responds to a piece of content, it’s tempting to think we’ve arrived at that invisible place in our mind called Content Mecca. Sorry folks, it doesn't exist, and here's why:
Like most every other facet of business, consumers have fickle palates, so we have to always be transforming, always pushing them to the next medium, the next idea, the next marketing message. How do we do that? We can start by asking some great questions:
- Who are we?
- Where are we going
- Who is our target audience?
- What are they saying about us?
- What are we doing today that we need to STOP DOING?
If you answer those honestly and regularly, change will become a normal part of your routine.
Want to create great content? Then don’t ever rest in the comfortable. Be willing to adapt and edit and experiment, and when you’ve figured it out, adapt, edit and experiment all over again.