So, you’ve chosen to adopt a content marketing strategy. A wise choice, given its rise in popularity among marketers. This article will give you an idea of the sort of approach you should take when making this choice - what to prioritize and how to properly form strategic goals - as well as what kind of results to expect from it.
The Number One Priority: Content
It’s essential to understand the difference between content marketing and traditional marketing. Traditional marketing often functions in campaign cycles, which are short periods in which marketing is pumped out in high density. Content marketing takes a different approach: it’s all about long-term consistency of quality and output. The upside is that content marketing is over 60% cheaper than traditional marketing and generates triple the leads, if done correctly.
Getting things done correctly is the issue, however. Content marketing isn’t a short term approach, which means that you cannot set the same goals for a content marketing strategy as you would for a traditional marketing strategy. Traditional marketing is more results-oriented - you set up a campaign designed to generate sales and traffic. Content marketing is, as the name suggests, content-oriented. You should focus on creating the best content possible that suits your target audience the best. It’s best to forget terms like “sales” and “traffic” if you’re taking the content marketing path, since focusing on those will inevitably shoehorn you into taking a traditional marketing approach. Therefore, the primary thing to understand here is that content is king, and you make it your number one priority in your marketing strategy.
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It’s essential not to take a results-based approach with content marketing because the results of such a strategy can often be misleading, especially in the preliminary phases. Assuming you are creating quality content regularly, your marketing strategy is quite common to yield little to no results compared to the amount of time and effort you are investing in it in the first few months. You need to look at this period as one of foundation building. You aren’t creating content to pull traffic with every new piece - you’re setting up the foundation for your site’s content to have both depth and breadth so that when you do eventually pull traffic, it’ll stick.
A similar thing happens with SEO strategies, which Rand Fishkin calls “the SEO Slog”: things start out slow, but if you persist and don’t get disappointed by the results, your strategy will start to yield healthy long-term results. It’s usually best for content marketers to consider the first 6-12 months of content creation as a foundation-building period. You can expect to see results after that, but until then, remember that your priority is the content, not the results.
Even after you start getting results, your priorities should stay the same. It can be very tempting to finally see the results of months and months of work and think to yourself that your work is done and you can rest on your laurels. You achieve good results only by prioritizing content over a long period. If you stop doing that, then your results will quickly disappear as well.
Goals to Set for Your Content Marketing Strategy
Now that you know to prioritize creating regular, quality content in your marketing strategy, you can begin to set small goals for yourself to achieve.
A good place to start is to make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T:
Specific: your goal states precisely what it aims for, instead of being too vague or too general. One example of this would be to seek to increase organic traffic by a set amount.
Measurable: your goal includes metrics that allow success to be measured empirically (e.g., organic traffic going up 100%).
Attainable: your goal is realistic. Make sure you understand the potential but also the limits of your marketing strategy - what your resources and time allow you to do and what is simply not achievable. Keeping goals smaller is also a much easier way to understand your progress, and it’s better to keep everyone motivated!
Relevant: your goal is relevant and productive to your business. Is increasing organic traffic the right goal to have for your business?
Time-based: your goal exists within a set time frame in which it should be achieved. Instead of just aiming to “increase organic traffic by 100%”, make it “increase organic traffic by 100% within the next 90 days”.
The next goal you should set for yourself is to document everything about your content marketing strategy meticulously. Yes, that means you should be documenting your S.M.A.R.T goals as well. You may feel like this isn’t a necessary goal to have, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it can make. Only a third of all business-to-consumer marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. Unsurprisingly, this group of marketers performs much better than the two thirds that don’t have a documented strategy. They are more aware of their goals, have more access to them, and track their progress on them much better. Something as simple as transferring your goals from being verbally communicated to being written down and documented can make a world of difference in how successful you will be in attaining those goals. Having a documented content strategy will allow you to keep track of these seven pillars effectively:
- Purpose: the main goals of your business
- Brand identity: what sort of personality and approach you want your business to have
- Customers: the target audience you want to attract
- Supply: a documented plan for creating quality content long-term
- Distribution: an idea on how to publish your content and attract traffic to it
- Measurement: The empirical metrics you’ll be keeping track of to measure the success of your content
- Technology: The different technological solutions you’ll make use of for your marketing strategy
Conclusion – What to Expect?
If you make sure to keep your priorities in line and create reasonable goals, then you’re setting up your content marketing strategy for success. What can you expect from content marketing in the long-term? If you’re successful at outputting quality content regularly and stick to it, you can always expect more from content marketing. As said before, it takes the better part of a year for your content strategy to start showing its results in terms of traffic. It can take even longer than that before you reach a point where your marketing strategy starts translating into income. In Content Inc, Joe Pulizzi says that monetization takes around 15-17 months of consistent quality content creation for a content marketing strategy.
15-17 months sounds like a lot, maybe even too much compared to traditional marketing timing, but there’s a reason why content marketing has been gaining popularity over the years. The main advantage you get when you choose content marketing is that it’s much more future-proof than traditional marketing. Content marketing isn’t just a campaign that ends and goes away after a few months. Content stays on your website, becomes more complex, interlinked, and helpful to users, which means that the value of content marketing only increases in time. When you already have a fantastic foundation of content, each new piece of content will have increased value since it rests upon your other pre-existing pieces of content. And as the value of your content will increase, so will the potential monetization.
As long as you’re putting in the effort, a content marketing strategy will give you better and better rewards.