Do you worry that content marketing success comes only to folks who create one or two exceptional pieces that catch fire and propel their companies to stardom?
If so, you’re not alone.
It’s a concern expressed by many managers and marketers of small to medium-sized businesses and organizations, people who’ve heard the hype about content marketing but don’t feel like they have the resources to put it profitably to work for themselves.
Well you can relax and give that one up right now, because it’s just not true.
To understand why, let’s look at a baseball analogy several online writers — including CMI’s content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi — have employed:
content marketing success is most dependably achieved through getting good at “small ball,” at hitting singles, not home runs.
As part of AUMW’s ongoing effort to provide and disseminate useful, valuable information about Content Marketing, we are constantly running across articles that stimulate our thinking.
This post is inspired by an article by Arnie Kuenn on ContentMarketingInstitute.com: Play Ball: How Your Content Marketing Plan Should Load the Bases.
Just Get on Base, Again and Again
Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures, a content marketing agency with an SEO foundation, notes that
…a common content marketing misconception is that in order to realize any content marketing ROI, your content must go viral. With 92,000 new articles published online each day, content virality isn’t a very realistic attainment. Luckily, for most businesses, it doesn’t have to be.
To explain why not, Kuenn draws on the baseball analogy to describe both the dilemma faced by small to medium-sized businesses and organizations, and the solution to that dilemma.
Instead of focusing your resources on creating the perfect content piece that you hope will go viral (the equivalent of hitting a home run or grand slam), concentrate your efforts on creating useful content that may not hit it out of the park, but still produces solid results (a base hit).
Fact is, no organization outside the Fortune Five Thousand (I know, I made up that number) can expect — as opposed to hope — to create a piece of “viral” content. Exceptions exist, but they only prove the rule. Fat cats tend to get fatter, while the rest of us…well, you know. But take heart. With some planning, some creativity, and some patience, you can keep yourself in the game and deliver some significant ninth-inning success.
Kuenn’s use of the baseball analogy echoes an earlier article by Joe Pulizzi, who notes that:
…a successful content marketing approach takes many months to take hold, perhaps even years…
He recommends starting with a “pilot” content marketing effort, focused on specific “lowered expectations,” on “a ‘single’ rather than a ‘home run’.”
Okay, so how do we hit singles?
Now let’s take a look at a process that will allow you to reliably produce those crucial “base hits.” It requires building what Kuenn calls “the right foundation for success.”
Here are some of the essentials to consider:
- Develop and implement a game plan that plays to your strengths — a strategic content marketing plan tailored to both your goals and your resources. That plan should spell out how you’ll accomplish each of the following items.
- Incorporate into your plan a content production calendar that is both manageable and regular. It doesn’t mean you must publish something every day, or even every week if that’s beyond your capacities. But it means creating — and meeting — an expectation among your audience about when they can expect to hear from you next.
- Define your target audience, and create specific buyer personas to represent the segments most vital to your success. The more you know about your audience members, the more effectively you can engage them.
- Focus your content planning efforts to identify and create useful content — useful to the people behind those personas. Talk about things they care about and offer information that anticipates their questions and problems, and provides real answers and solutions. You want your audience to know they can rely on you as a valuable source of information and support.
- Use your imagination to create entertaining content. That doesn’t mean trying to become a joke machine, but it does mean responding to the overwhelming evidence that people who are engaged are more responsive. Engage your audience with content that’s humorous, heart-warming, illuminating, provocative, interactive.
- Develop a promotion and distribution strategy that will — in Kuenn’s words — “load up the bases.” To take advantage of the impact of digital communications, you must harness the exponentially expanding power of social media. That calls for a comprehensive plan tied directly to your publication cycle and drawing on the ever-growing number of available media — including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, GooglePlus, Pinterest, etc. Again, tailor this strategy to the audiences you’re trying to reach. And, of course, make sure to follow through consistently.
- If you or someone in your business or organization needs to be convinced that content marketing works, follow Pulizzi’s advice and start with a pilot project to focus controlled resources on specific targets and goals within a restricted but reasonable time frame.
- Be persistent. Whether it’s a daily effort, a weekly effort, a monthly effort — or, more likely, some of each — stick to your plan consistently. And be patient. The results you’re hoping for will come from the accumulated singles if you keep hitting them. Remember, it’s a nine-inning game and there are 162 games every season and a new season every year.
Making Solid Contact through Customer Focus
Elsewhere, in an interview with FierceCMO, Pulizzi draws our attention to a crucial consideration in any content marketer’s approach: the customer focus that’s essential to successful content marketing.
He reminds us that:
…content marketing is much different than telling people about what you have to offer, because you’re trying to build a long-term relationship by solving your customer’s pain points and that’s a much, much different way of marketing…
Challenging the tenets of traditional of marketing, he adds that:
…99 percent of the content that you’re creating as part of your content marketing program should not talk about yourself nor talk about your products. Your customers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your products, they don’t care about your service. They care about themselves. How do you get them to care about you? You have to talk about things they care about and that probably means not talking about your products and services.
Your content marketing efforts will yield the results you want and deserve if you weave that advice into every at bat, from your strategic plan, to your content development, to your social media publication.
Successful content marketing doesn’t require the deep resources of a multinational corporation. With dedication and patience, small to medium-sized businesses and organizations can consistently create a series of “base hits” and turn them into game-winning rallies.
- Develop a clear, sustainable plan with specific, measurable goals.
- Identify your audience with targeted buyer personas.
- Regularly create and publish content on a dependable, manageable schedule.
- Offer entertaining content and, most importantly, offer useful content — content that focuses on your customers, that answers their questions, solves their problems, leaves them better informed, empowers them.
- Proactively promote and distribute that content.
- Be persistent and patient.
- Remember your audience’s needs and desires every time you step up to the plate.