It’s 4:34 pm on Thursday. You swivel clockwise on your chair and release a sigh as you gaze out of the window. You’ve come to the realisation that your content marketing sucks!
As you stare into the distance, longing for answers, you wonder what you have to do to make your content click.
And that’s precisely where you’re going wrong!
The reason? You’re focused on what you need to do, when instead you should be concentrating on why you need to do it.
The key differences here are tactics and strategy:
Tactics are the things you do. The tweets, the emails, the blogs, the Facebook Live, the sales page writing - basically all the stuff that you did between Monday morning and now without really seeing any tangible results.
Strategy, on the other hand, is cerebral. It’s thinky. It requires many post-it notes, (which should stop you from gazing out of the window). It’s the Monday morning brainstorm (you and your colleagues didn’t have) where you discuss the why behind what you’re going to do.
And then there’s...
Strategic execution. This involves doing things in a thoughtful way. It’s where the rubber meets the road. The apex to success. It’s the sweet spot where you pick and choose the tactics you will use based on your carefully thought-out strategy.
Too many markers overlook strategy and jump straight to tactics. The reason being that it gives a sense of immediate progress.
- “We’re not active enough on Social... - Let’s tweet more!”.
- “We don’t publish enough blogs… - Let’s write four today!”.
- “Everyone else is doing a podcast… - We should do a podcast!”.
There’s no strategy behind it. It’s not tied into the business in any real sense. It’s just an item on the to-do list that they keep doing each and every week, without ever getting much from it.
If your content marketing isn’t aligned with your high-level business objectives, then why are you doing it?
Let’s be honest, you’re investing money, time and energy into content marketing, not because you love content, but because you want results. You know content marketing is one of the most effective methods of growing audience engagement, developing your brand presence, and driving sales.
So let’s get to the crux of how and why you should align your content marketing strategy with your real, tangible, and valuable business goals.
Define and prioritise your business goals
Let’s kick-off with an analogy. Sorry, it’s football related... Despite the hour of strategic punditry that often supplements the broadcast of a football match, the goal of the sport is self explanatory.
Kick the ball in the opposition's goal without conceding one in yours.
The manager will choose certain players to form his squad. He’ll choose the position they play on the pitch and who will take the free-kicks, penalties and corners. These are the tactics.
Suppose the tactics he chooses today pay off. They win the game 5-1, but they were playing a weak opponent. Next week, they are facing a much tougher opposition. What’s more, it’s the most important game of the season. The Cup Final…
Stay with me...
The manager wants goals. He decides to keep the tactics the same as the previous match. The players are exhausted. Only a few days rest since the last game. Surprise surprise, they lose 3-0.
Cup dreams ruined…
The manager was not focused on what was important (The Cup Final). Instead, he relied on tactics that he presumed would score the most goals, without looking at the bigger picture. A sensible, strategic manager would have been thinking long-term about how to achieve his ultimate goal - win the Cup Final. As such, he would have rested his most valuable players for the day of the important match. That way, he could effectively exploit the tactics he needed where it mattered most. That’s strategic execution.
The moral of this “Road to Wembley’ story is this:
Think about what you are trying to achieve LONG TERM through content marketing.
These could be things like:
- Increase traffic
- Drive event registrations
- Generate more users
- Grow organic (free) traffic
- Improve brand awareness
Think about how each tactic moves you closer to your end goal. If you have a direct sales process, then content marketing can be an effective tool for generating traffic and leads, but it probably won’t directly lead to higher revenue per engagement (that’s probably on your sales team).
Identify the 3-5 primary objectives that you want to accomplish. Prioritise those in order of importance your company.
For example, if you work in SaaS. You may identify the following three primary goals.
- Generate trial users
- Grow email subscriptions
- Increase organic traffic
Understand your metrics
Seeing is believing. It’s also a prerequisite to understanding what’s working and what’s not.
Suppose you want to lower your cholesterol. You’re a tactical kind of person, so you decide to throw everything you’ve got at it. You change your diet, take up running, take all the cholesterol lowering drugs, at least for a while. But because you’re not regularly having your cholesterol tested, you won’t know what if anything is working. Eventually it becomes a chore. Too difficult, too boring, too painful. You decide to give it up.
If you had been strategic about it, you may have supplemented your tactics with wider reading around the topic of lowering cholesterol. You would have researched the drugs and followed-up with routinely check-ups with your doctor. Based on that evaluation, you would have noticed the progress you were making and decided to continue.
The hard work alone is not enough. You’ve then got to work hard analysing how your hard work is paying off. That way, you can move with agility, doing more of what’s working and less of what’s not.
Measure the number of leads that come in from your site or the amount of search traffic you generate and then monitor how it changes as you publish new content. If you want to increase leads or sales, then you might measure both leads attributed directly to content marketing activity and some measurement of their rate of conversion into revenue.
Whatever the case, you need to identify specific metrics (KPIs) that you’ll be measuring directly as a way to gauge the effectiveness of your content on driving your top-level business objectives.
Together, these metrics will give you a holistic view on how effective your efforts are.
Specify your tactics
You’ve thought about what you want to achieve and considered how you’re going to measure your progress to that end. Hurrah! You understand the importance of strategy!
Now it’s time to start taking the necessary steps.
This is where the tactics come into play. They are the means to the ends.
Let’s say you’re generating high volumes of traffic to your website, but are failing to convert prospects into leads. That means people are showing up to your website, but then deciding to go elsewhere. It’s a bit like walking into a shop and then walking back out because the staff were unhelpful.
If you want to increase conversions, your tactical step would be to implement an effective call-to-action (CTA). Doing so, will convince prospects to pull the trigger and become a lead your sales team can then follow up with. You can measure how effective your CTA is by reviewing the number of converted leads based on that page.
If your business goals are properly aligned with relevant metrics, then your content marketing strategy can be built around the goal of improving the metrics that you identified.
Measure and learn
Regardless of the extent of planning and analysis you do, ultimately the proof of what works and what doesn’t will be found in the execution.
Did your CTA fail to convert more leads?... Perhaps you’re generating the wrong kind of traffic? Maybe your CTA is weak? That’s okay, it’s all a learning curve. Based on your strategy, the tactics you employed and the metrics you are using to validate their effectiveness, you can work to put those things right.
This process of evaluation and learning never stops. You should continue to review which tactics are having the biggest impact on your specified metrics. This should be balanced with a watchful eye over how these metrics keep you on the path to achieving your ultimate business goals.
Doing more of what works and adapting what isn’t will help you forecast your growth based on your content publishing schedule. Gradually, you will start to see your content marketing become an integral asset of your core business strategy - a growth driver - rather than an expense.
Remember, content marketing, done right, is the exchange of value over time. However, “done right”, doesn’t simply mean, “doing it”. It means doing it thoughtfully. Essentially, it involves strategic execution.