Whether it’s in the latest digital marketing trends or from the keynote at an industry event, we’re constantly being told that “content is king” and that we must “think like a publisher” if we want to stand out online today.
It’s easy to nod along, roll up the sleeves, and dive headfirst into the content marketing business. In the beginning it feels great. We’re creating! Publishing blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks, infographics, and more. At the end of the day there’s something that’s there now that wasn’t before as a result of our hard work. According to the latest data from the Content Marketing Institute 88% of marketers use content marketing with another 76% noting that they’re on track to produce more content this year versus last year.
But there’s a problem. Simply producing more content isn’t enough. More isn’t always better, nor is it particularly effective. While content production levels are soaring, the same data from the Content Marketing Institute also shows that only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, down from 38% last year. That may be because although we’re producing more content than ever, fewer marketers have a documented content marketing strategy compared with last year (32% vs. 35%), even though the same research consistently shows that those who document their strategy are more effective in nearly all areas of content marketing.
Grounding your work with a documented strategy helps you create content that’s more effective. Content strategy doesn’t have to be needlessly complex.
To help shape my content strategy, I go back to a Rudyard Kipling’s 1902 poem “The Elephant’s Child”:
I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.
We can use Kipling’s “serving men” to kickstart a content strategy too. While all of the five Ws (and one H) merit attention, focusing on why, who, and what is a solid foundation. It also helps us ensure that our content is both business centric and customer aware.
Why — As Simon Sinek says, we have to “start with why.” Your reason for doing something. When it comes to your content strategy, your why is your business objective. Why you’re doing this. This is the “business centric” part of creating good content.
Content marketing can accomplish one of six business objectives — branding, community building, public relations, customer service, and lead/sales generation. Simply pick one of these objectives and use it as an anchor as you answer Kipling’s other questions.
Who — With “business centric” covered we now need to make sure that our content is also “customer aware.” Good content has to solve problems for our audience. It needs to serve a need in their lives.
Start by asking yourself who the audience is that you’re serving? With a target segment in place, really kick the tires. Have you been specific enough? Do you need to go deeper? With that nailed down, start fleshing out who they are and what’s important to them. Include quantitative demographics as well as qualitative psychographics.
What — Finally, based on your business objective (the why) and who your audience is, how can you create content that’s of service to both? What form of content works best? It’s about creating the content that’s right for your brand and that serves your customers. We need to get more prescriptive with content strategy in way that focuses on fit. Forget what everyone else is doing — what’s best for your brand?
Why, who, and what provide a simple yet solid foundation for a strategic framework you can use to arrive at the right content serving the needs of both your audience and your business.
From here, you can further flesh out your content strategy using Kipling’s other serving men — when (does this happen? How often?), where (does this take place? Internally or externally?), and how (will we get this done? How will we measure success?).
If we want more effective content marketing, we have to get smart with strategy. No one has unlimited marketing resources today. We can’t afford to do everything — and we shouldn’t anyway, as consumers are already overwhelmed by all of the content in front of them. To blindly create content that further crowds an already noisy online marketplace is irresponsible. We have to be more strategic if we want to produce better content. Even if that ultimately means producing less of it.
About the Author
Nick Westergaard is chief brand strategist at Brand Driven Digital and author ofGet Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He also teaches branding and marketing at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business.
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