Are your content-marketing efforts paying off? (Hint: maybe not…)

Avoid common pitfalls—and leverage your content effectively

 – Jason Miller, VP, Marketing Strategy, Marketo

According to recent research by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI)/MarketingProfs, 77% of B2C organizations and 88% of B2B firms are using content marketing (and the majority of them are creating more content than a year ago).

There is, however, a substantial gap between the use of content marketing and success with it. Last year, 38% of B2B marketers reported that they were effective at content marketing, vs. only 30% this year (CMI/MarketingProfs); these stats are less than encouraging.

Case in point: my inbox is constantly filled with offers for webinars, whitepapers, and more—all designed so I’ll complete a lead-gen form that feeds a vendor’s database.  At least half of the time, I find the offers and content to be uncompelling at best.  So, what are companies doing wrong?

I want to offer you a few tips to get your content-marketing efforts on the right track.

1. Quality (and uniqueness!) trumps quantity

Sometimes it may feel like you need more content in order to get more attention. But if you carefully plan your content strategy, you can re-use a few pieces of high quality content across many, many programs. It just takes a bit of planning and a strategic mind. The answer is not always more content…it’s better, superior content used (and re-used) carefully and strategically across your marketing campaigns.

This is a simple principle: would you rather read several long and boring articles, or a shorter and more scintillating one?  Not only does quality content resonate better with your target audience, but it also ranks better in search engines—creating a win-win.

Just remember that content for the sake of content is not doing your brand any favors. Instead, be thoughtful and mindful about the materials you put out into the world—because the goal is for people to actually want to read and even share them.

2. Keep it simple—and relevant

There are too many choices for content out there that readers don’t spend time on resources that don’t answer their questions or address their needs. Find out what they’re already consuming and where. You can begin by looking at the stats in your marketing automation platform and reviewing the content your direct competitors are delivering, either via their website or nurture programs (have you signed up for the competition’s nurture program? Do it today! The insights are incredibly valuable.)

Your content-marketing efforts, first and foremost, should meet the needs of your customers and prospects. Know what your audience wants and craves—and then deliver it. Do they need to learn a new skill that you can teach them? Can your product or service help them generate greater efficiencies?

Also remember to “show, don’t tell.”  Walk your readers through the content and help them absorb lessons, rather than just shouting takeaways at them. You might even consider employing a visual or infographic to help tell your story. High-quality content needs to be accurate, but it also needs to be easy to understand.

3. Measure and adjust

Once you have your new-and-improved content marketing plan in place, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness and tweak as necessary.

Is a particular white paper not getting any traction?  Maybe you could repurpose it as a bite-sized graphic that is more easily shared on social media. Or, a great piece of content may be underperforming because you’re using it at the wrong phase of the buying process or because you’re targeting the wrong persona.

Don’t be too quick to throw away this content. Try it in different ways before considering it a dud. And, be open to adjusting on the fly, doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t always remembering the above principles.

Marketers tend to have grand and sweeping goals for content marketing: lead gen and nurturing; brand awareness; customer engagement and loyalty. Content marketing can certainly help you with all of these areas, but not by magic and not without focused effort.  Remember to concentrate on quality, relevant, and easy-to-understand content—and adjust as necessary!

What is your biggest content marketing challenge? I would love to hear from you.