Make Your Content Marketing Work

Content marketing has become the great new buzzword among marketing executives. A combination of blog posts, online articles, video, interactive forums, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, and other types of communications is supposed to engage customers.

But there’s a danger of hype as self-proclaimed experts proliferate as fast as they did for social media and make the same broad promises for what the practice will do for your company. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. Those with an MBA are unlikely to have studied the topic in a class and relatively few managers come from the publishing industry and have experience in dealing with content. So here are some tips on making content marketing work for your company.

Set expectations correctly There is no quick and easy solution to marketing problems. Content can be extremely helpful, but it will take experimentation to find what works for your customers and prospects and to locate people who can produce it. You’ll also need enough analytic capability and tools to see how the introduction of content marketing to your mix influences your results.

Build the budget Content marketing is not cheap. Pay $5 for an article or blog post and you’re likely to get something that in unimpressive to readers and that potentially will draw the automated ire of Google’s search engine. Whether you hire an employee, agency, or freelance writer, not everyone will be able to produce what you need, with the right voice and a command of the subject matter.

Write about your customers, not you A big mistake a company can make is to write about its own brands, products, and services. It’s an understandable inclination because you want to close sales. However, this is a backwards approach. You effectively become a sales agent unwilling to listen to what the customer wants. Better to focus on what the customers need, as AdAge points out:

Toby Murdock, CEO of Kapost, a startup that supplies a publishing platform for brands including Nokia and Verizon Communications, calls it the shift to “real content marketing.” It’s “a transformation in which brands truly become publishers,” Mr. Murdock said. “They produce substantial volumes of content — a minimum of five pieces a week — that are not about their own products but about the interests of their customers. Only such substantial operations can produce real results.”

Keep up the effort That last quote suggests one more important point: endurance. Writing a few pieces and repositioning them on blogs, Facebook, Tumblr, and who knows where else will cause Google to hurt your efforts. Also, If there are only occasional pieces, then you’ve lost the chance to convince people to return. Why come back if there’s nothing new to see? Create a body of work over time that gives customers a reason to pay attention. Content marketing is a marvelous tool that can help companies reach their best audiences. Just plan on investing the time, people, and other resources to give it a chance to work.