The buzz around what “content marketing” is or is not can be a bit confusing for marketers like me who have been around the block and seen the communications landscape shift over the past decades. Why? Because I view content as the foundation and fuel for any campaign or message out to market. It’s about being smart in your approach and not just blindly writing about whatever topic suits your fancy. Content marketing is about digging into the market and competitive data; doing the research to make sure your message resonates with your specific buyer; timing that asset just right so the audience is receptive; and crafting stories that pull at the heartstrings while also pleasing the algorithms.
That’s why so many of us who attended AMA’s Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter Executive Luncheon on content marketing had a good chuckle when the panel moderator came to the conclusion: Isn’t content marketing...just marketing?
Bingo. Content should always be implemented as thoughtfully and strategically as any other marketing movement you make. Content should never be created for its own sake or distributed via a shotgun approach that assumes sheer volume will power you to greater visibility or solve your lead gen woes.
I’m glad the AMA event helped further validate my philosophies, but more importantly, here are a few additional best practices discussed that can help anyone optimize their content and overall marketing game plan:
Plan for the content long game.
Speaker Fanny Dunagan and the whole panel unanimously agreed that thinking you can go viral overnight with a catchy video or infographic is not going to be your marketing program’s silver bullet. I firmly believe – especially in the B2B space where buying cycles can be nine to 12 months and beyond – in building a strategy informed by data, and then monitoring performance metrics closely over time. Having a pulse on your KPIs from the start allows you to be nimble and quickly adjust to changing market demands, the competitive landscape and evolving prospect behaviors so you can have the insights to know if you’re moving the needle early on, while also recognizing some results may take longer to realize.
Don’t publish anything unless it meets Google’s EAT standards.
You may think you’re Shakespeare, but if you don’t create content that passes the “expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness” sniff test with Google, kiss your SEO hopes and dreams goodbye. Panelist Beth Kahlich made this point loud and clear when she talked about what it means to create content people can actually find. I always tell our clients that messaging is key for engaging a human, but writing for the bots is an equally necessary evil to consider if you want to cut through the muck and compete with your content.
Take risks, or you WILL fail.
According to DOMO, "Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every single day, and it’s only going to grow from there. By 2020, it’s estimated that 1.7MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth." Just let that sink in a while when you’re considering publishing something that’s kinda “meh.” Panelist Matt Devlin said what we all know and want to scream off the rooftops to our clients or executives who want to water down our brilliance – mediocre content will fail. If you’re not willing to be bold, nothing you create will rise to the top to see the light of day with your prospect.
Use emerging tools for content inspiration.
Nici Sandberg, who has created over 5,000 pieces of content in her tenure at Academic Partnerships, talked about a struggle all content marketers face – thinking of new content ideas. I loved some of the strategies she mentioned including mining comments sections or chatbot conversations for common questions that you can respond to with your own content creation. Some tricks of my own on top of this include using tools like BuzzSumo to see what topics are getting lift or monitoring Twitter trends to see what timely hot topics can spur fresh thinking.
Need help creating, optimizing or promoting smart content that will influence your buyers? Give Merritt Group a shout.