Do you have a content marketing strategy in place? The reality is that the vast majority of marketers think they do, when in fact what they really have is a series of content marketing tactics and a production schedule. And this is a major problem with content marketing today as the “content strategy” that is in place often focusses around the “how” instead of the “why” of content marketing.
What we mean by the “how” is “how do we create enough content” with the phrase “brands becoming publishers” being widely used. However, not many people are asking themselves “why” they are creating the content in the first place.
Often if you ask the “why” question – i.e. “why are you doing content marketing” – then responses vary from stating it is for SEO purposes, for social reach, or to build an audience, through to improving brand perception or more worryingly just because everyone else is doing it.
Distilling down these reasons, there is a clear consensus that content is fundamentally being used to increase engagement around a message the brand wants to convey as the more traditional forms of marketing are no longer working. In response, marketers then look at the engagement stats and create lots of test and learn content to see what engages people the most, which leads to this endless cycle of content generation. Quickly marketers find themselves scratching their heads over what content to produce next and have created a significant burden on themselves with their audience and internally to keep producing more content. It’s at this point that the mistake is made to create a content strategy to help produce more content.
Yet very few marketers are stepping back and asking themselves what all this engagement is achieving and whether they have a mature content strategy approach for improving things. If you do press for an answer, you often get “not a lot” or “hopefully they will go on to see our wider site and buy X”. This is a lot of time, effort and resource put on hope.
The fundamental problem with these “content strategies” is that no thought has been put into creating a destination for the audience to go to next once you have their attention. But this is not just a unique occurrence with content marketing as history is repeating itself again with what happened when social media was evolving. With social media, brands spent fortunes trying to get a facebook like, but it was not until years later that brands actually started asking “what is the value of a like” and “what does it actually mean for their business?” The same is now happening with content marketing with brands spending fortunes creating content to engage audiences and once they have the engagement (the equivalent of a like), not doing anything with that audience – as referenced in another article, we call this the Spinning Wheel of Engagement. It is time we learnt lessons from the past.
The way to solve this problem of providing a destination for an audience is to step back from the “how” and really focus on the “why” of content marketing. And the “why” fundamentally comes down to engaging an audience in order to influence them towards a business goal. And it’s this second part that many brands fail to define in their strategy i.e. they are good at creating content to engage an audience but then not following through with this engagement to deliver any tangible result.
The solution to answering the “why” of “engaging an audience in order to influence them towards a business goal” is through a structured audience journey. If you are able to identify key personas of your target audience, a common interest or as we call it, Point of Mutuality, between you and your audience and a defined goal you want the audience to achieve, you have the foundations of a journey you can map. This audience journey then becomes the overarching strategy that you can map content to as each step of the journey will require different content to fulfil the individual needs and wants of the audience. The output of this is a series of briefs for content along the entire journey of the customer that will most likely fall across several different departments. This in itself removes the barriers between silos and instead taps into the functional expertise of each department to deliver to a unified customer strategy. It just so happens that content is the tool you are using to deliver upon this audience strategy instead of content being a strategy itself.
We call this an Audience Engagement Strategy (AES) and see content as the tool to deliver this audience engagement towards a defined business goal, or in other words answering the “why” of content. When an Audience Engagement Strategy is embraced it commercialises your content marketing and gives you a real content marketing strategy that adds real value to you and your business.