Entrepreneurs are usually a brand’s first marketer. On average, about 28 percent of an organization’s entire marketing budget is spent on content marketing, making it one of the most significant marketing strategies in use: In fact, most proponents will tell you it also comes with one of the industry’s highest average returns on investment (ROI).
Obviously, however, not all content marketers are equally successful. You may receive 28 percent of your company’s marketing budget, but how effective are you at utilizing that budget?
I’m fortunate to be immersed in the content-marketing industry, with a content-marketing agency of my own and connections to some of the brightest minds in today’s content world. And I’ve noticed that successful content marketers do these seven things differently from everyone else:
1. Audience research
Everything starts with an understanding of your audience, and the most successful content marketers are the ones who take this phase seriously. Most content marketers start out with a basic customer persona, or do some light research to determine who’s most likely to visit their site, but successful content marketers want to know everything about their demographics.
They want to know their needs, their wants, how they spend their time and what they want in the content they read — both in terms of subject matter and tone. Most importantly, successful content marketers don’t base their research on their initial assumptions; instead, they challenge those assumptions to resist “confirmation bias” and to get closer to the truth.
Remember that 28 percent figure mentioned earlier? Successful content marketers spend that money differently. They invest in smaller quantities of higher-quality content, compared to their mediocre counterparts. So, if you have $2,800 to spend, it’s better to invest $700 each into four standout white papers than it is to invest $50 each into 56 “decent” blog articles.
Why? Because a disproportionately small number of articles will be responsible for getting the majority of links and shares. It doesn’t help that competition in the content space is increasing, and that consumers are tired of lackluster content.
Some content marketers spend all their time producing, focused on tasks that will eventually get pieces created, published or syndicated. This may seem like the most productive use of time, but successful content marketers also make time for professional networking.
There are many possible approaches to content marketing, and there are no right or wrong answers. Learning from others, working with guest bloggers, widening your network of publishing contacts and gaining insights about similar industries are all essential if you want to make the biggest impact.
4. Value maximization
Would you rather pay $100 for a single meal, or $100 for a service that delivers fresh food to your door for three meals a day for the next week? The answer here is obvious because the cost difference is so dramatic; but the point is that successful content marketers know how to stretch their dollars and earn the most value for every piece of content they create.
They prioritize the production of evergreen content, and transform it, syndicate it and revisit it frequently to get the most out of every dollar they spend.
Successful content marketers don’t stick with one area of expertise, even if they’ve already become successful with it. They try to diversify the types of content they produce, including visual formats like images and videos; and they branch out to recruit guest posters from similar niches and outside authorities.
This approach keeps readers interested, but also protects marketers from sudden downturns or changes in reader interest.
When most content marketers find a pattern that works, they stick with it. For example, if they produce a certain number of posts per week, in a certain style, with a certain subject matter, they’re likely to replicate that approach, ad infinitum, so they can maintain that ROI.
For successful content marketers, though, maintaining that positive ROI isn’t enough — they want to actively improve it. That’s why you’ll find that most successful marketers experiment on a regular basis, throwing in topics they aren’t sure will work, or new content formats that their audiences wouldn’t typically expect. It’s risky, and it doesn’t always pay off, but it keeps them from falling into a rut.
Finally, successful content marketers don’t judge their success based on subjective factors. They rely on the numbers. They rely on analytics to inform them of whether their strategy is working. They don’t just believe their readers are enjoying their content; they ask them directly. They don’t base their opinions on the most glamorous or positive metrics they find; they dig deep, scrutinize their assumptions and prove their results, positive or negative, before making the appropriate changes to move forward.
Do you ever question whether you’re doing all you can for your content strategy? Do you get the sense that your peers are outperforming you? This list should help you identify some of the root causes for those sentiments. How many of these strategies are you regularly pursuing, and how many came as a surprise to you?
One of my favorite things about content marketing is its long-term nature. What you do in the span of a week pales in comparison to what you do in the span of years. There’s always time to make adjustments to your approach, so take this time to audit your own strategies and join the ranks of the best in class.