Let’s get a blog going.

If that was your first attempt at content marketing, you probably lost right there. 

Blogs can be great, sure. But nailing content marketing goes beyond producing content for the sake of generating content. Those who plan, analyze, measure, anticipate, learn and invite the right people to the table will succeed in content marketing.

That’s what we learned when we caught up with those who have been there, done that in content marketing.

The Question

How can you avoid flat content marketing programs?

The Answers

Anthony Gaenzle, Founder, AG Digital Marketing Strategists

Anthony Gaenzle
As founder and lead strategist at AG Digital Marketing Strategists, Gaenzle works with small to medium-sized businesses by helping them develop and implement effective marketing strategies for both their digital and traditional marketing. He works across a variety of industries and has a wide range of expertise, including content marketing, SEO, graphic design, social media and strategy creation. Tweet to Anthony Gaenzle.

I’ve seen this happen all too often. Organizations invest time and money in content marketing, because they’ve heard about its value, but they don’t put time and money into figuring out how to be effective first. In my opinion, there are three key areas that require significant focus to keep your program from falling flat:

  1. Know your audience: Too many organizations miss this one. They create content targeted at what they think their audience wants instead of taking the time to ask what they really want and then creating that content. Content your audience wants is the kind of content that gets shared and truly adds value for both your organization and your audience.
  2. Dare to be different: You can play it safe and just imitate the competition, but that’s not going to get you anywhere. If you’re just doing the same thing everyone else is doing, there are too many alternatives for your audience to get the same content. Step outside of your box and dare to be different. Be a little edgy, without being offensive, of course. Your audience will appreciate the creativity, and they’ll view your organization as one who leads rather follows.
  3. Take measurements: Arguably most important of all is the need to understand how your content marketing program is performing. If you don’t have performance metrics in place to measure how your content is working for you, you’ll just coast along creating the same old ineffective content. Having measurements in place allows you to pinpoint what content is performing well and what content isn’t. Then you can take your findings and adjust accordingly to make sure you get the most out of your program.

Dayna Rothman, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, Marketo

Dayna Rothman
Rothman is the author of Lead Generation for Dummies. She leads the Marketo content initiatives and is the managing editor of the Marketo blog. Rothman has extensive experience in content marketing, social media, marketing automation and inbound marketing. Tweet to Dayna Rothman.

The explosion of content marketing has certainly led to a lot of flat content assets and campaigns. This can largely be attributed to the necessity of content marketing outpacing team development and maturity in this area.

As a result, a lot of marketers are aiming for the quantity to fuel their demand generation programs and are missing out on the quality and creativity that today’s content marketing demands.

But there are many areas you can focus on to ensure that that your content programs are hitting the mark and here are a few of my favorite best practices:

  1. Have the right team in place: Having the correct people to run your content marketing program is a critical driver of content quality. You need at least one dedicated person (if not more) to ensure that your content is relevant and on-brand.
  2. Have the right processes: In the same vein as having the right team, make sure you have the right type of processes in place to scale the quality of your content organization. This can include writing, approvals, creative and other important processes.
  3. Know your customer: Your content must be relevant and it must be contextual. This may seem obvious, but this is often overlooked! Spend time to create fleshed-out buyer personas and make sure that your content resonates with your audience.
  4. Be visual: People like visuals. There is a lot of noise out there online, and you can really make an impact with your content by being visual. Take time to determine the right creative for all of your content assets -- and while of course each piece has to be on-brand, try and push the boundaries of creativity.
  5. Be varied: People also like variety. Don’t just stick to one content format. Mix it up! While some of your buyers may like to read an ebook, others prefer watching a video. Have something for everyone and keep it fresh.
  6. Create content for the entire buying journey: Your buyers are on a journey -- and that journey is complex. You want to make sure you have content that speaks to them and answers their questions at each step of their buying journey.
  7. Create the right cross-channel promotion plan: Creating content is only half of the battle. The other half is actually promoting your content -- and promoting it on the right channels. Take time and test to determine what channels work best for each audience.

Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy, NewsCred

Michael Brenner
Brenner is a marketing speaker and author of the B2B Marketing Insider. Tweet to Michael Brenner. 

The biggest mistake brands make with their content marketing is focusing on themselves. Content marketing starts with the belief that if you help your customers, they will get to know, like and trust you enough to potentially buy from you. And our research shows that people exposed to brand content are more likely to buy, more likely to buy more and more likely to stay as customers.

Flat content marketing happens when a brand starts by talking about themselves, or focusing too much on their "unique point of view." But I got news for them. Their customers don't care about how great the brand thinks it is. The want solutions. And they are willing to engage with brands who provide authentic help.

The other mistake brands make with content efforts is they give up. And 80 percent of corporate blogs have five posts or less. It's a long-term gain with huge rewards for the brand that consistently provides value to their audience.

Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer, CMO, Co-Founder, Hippo CMS

Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer
Brenninkmeijer looks after the company's strategic alliances and has extensive experience as an international speaker. Before Hippo, he worked as a consultant for KPMG. Tweet to Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer.

What is a “flat” content marketing program? It’s a content marketing strategy that fails to engage, fails to serve the underlying needs of audiences and by extension fails to deliver a return on investment. So, how do organizations avoid implementing a content marketing program that fails to support business objectives?

Don’t treat your WCMS as just a productivity tool. A Web Content Management System should do more than just publish content. It should provide a feedback loop of metrics that inform and augment strategic decision-making, enabling content to truly perform. Recognize that content plays a key role across the customer journey, end to end. Be certain that your CMS integrates well with the software catering to those touchpoints and customer stages, whether it’s marketing automation, CRM or any other technology on the vastly expanding MarTech landscape.

Don’t craft a content marketing strategy in the dark. And don’t wait long periods without evaluating your strategy. Keep your finger on the pulse consistently, and continuously adjust your strategy to make it more precise. Coming from an office full of Open Source Java CMS developers, I’ll emphasize: agility is not just for development teams. Content strategy can be agile with the right tools supporting it.

Don’t serve the same content to all visitors. Be conscious of your diverse audiences, and make sure you’re identifying new personas and content gaps. Remember that your visitors are individuals. Be context-aware, and make sure that consuming your content is convenient and useful for visitors. It can be as simple as showing the address of a business location in the visitor’s area, or as nuanced as showing parenting-related content to a visitor who fits that marketing persona. Either way, a truly excellent digital experience is one the visitor barely thinks about. It should be seamless -- don’t “snap” the visitor out of the experience with irrelevant content.

Joe Chernov, VP, Content, HubSpot

Joe Chernov
Chernov was previously the VP of marketing for a venture-funded mobile infrastructure start-up and before that he served as VP of content for a marketing automation vendor. He serves on the board of advisors for two marketing tech startups and the board of directors for Chengeta Wildlife, an organization that combats illegal wildlife poaching. The Content Marketing Institute named him “Content Marketer of the Year.” Tweet to Joe Chernov.

Start by disbanding the committee. Committees tend to trade the ends for the middle. In the same way that cross-functional groups may steel an organization against making a catastrophic decision, they also have a way of suppressing inspiration. How? Because each committee member has his or her own self-interest, and great content flattens under the weight of multiple agendas.

Symptoms of content-by-committee include insipid topics, visually impenetrable infographics and the persistent, superfluous appearance of one’s own products in editorial content -- content that’s ostensibly designed to get the company discovered by a new audience. The antidote, however, is surprisingly simple: give your colleagues advice, but not a say.

Discuss the project before you begin creating it. Interview your colleagues to learn how their expertise and needs may converge in your content. Then, to the extent that their suggestions augment the finished project, include their input. But stop short of inviting them to the planning sessions or creative brainstorms. And, most importantly, do not ask them to edit a late-stage. That’s a sure-fire way to undo much of the work you’ve done.

In the end, the best way you can support your extended team is by producing content that grows the business. Publishing material that pleases your colleagues may earn you short-term appreciation, but enduring reputations are build on results -- and results begin and end with the reader.

Marc Osofsky, SVP and GM of Global Offerings, Lionbridge Technologies

Marc-osofsky
Osofsky manages the company’s fastest growing technology and productized service businesses including all of the company’s commercial SaaS products, ecommerce, crowdsourcing and APIs. He has more than 20 years of experience developing high growth products and high performance product management, marketing and sales teams to execute. Tweet to Marc Osofsky.

At Lionbridge Technologies, we constantly view our marketing and content strategy through a global lens. Meaningful, relevant content hinges on three fundamentals: is our content relevant in the moment? Is it local? Is it valid?

First, we listen. What are our customers talking about? What are their aspirations, their challenges? What’s important to them right now? Content should reflect these needs first.

Next, content should be localized to reflect language and cultural nuances. Lastly, content should be validated often with real experiences, data, studies, real life.

We’re now in a global marketplace. Companies are localizing content for multiple markets in a regular cadence and CMOs must drive strategy that gets personal on a global scale. One way to do this is through content that’s relevant to local audiences.

Its tone deaf to push out rehashed content from our US site to our followers in São Paulo, Brazil during the Carnival period, for example. Can we find ways to reach this audience authentically, in a familiar voice? It’s certainly easier and more cost effective to do this today than it was even a year ago. We’re in a dynamic, on demand exchange with the world. Localizing content is a way to generate real value. There are hosts of tools now that allow us to do this rapidly and reliably, including on demand translation and content curation tools.

Title image by Asa Aarons Smith/all rights reserved.