During a recent visit with a relatively new client, a certain frustration with the content marketing process came up. We had only just started publishing content on her company’s behalf, but she was feeling discouraged because it hadn’t yet had a meaningful impact on her business.
“I’m not feeling the magic,” she told us.
I’ve heard different versions of this complaint enough times now to know that it’s fairly common for businesses that are new to content marketing to grow impatient when they don’t see an immediate uptick in business after publishing a handful of blog posts.
And I get it. You’ve made a commitment to content marketing in order to grow your business, and that means you’ve spent time and money on creating and promoting good editorial. You want to see results.
Here’s the thing: If you’re doing content marketing well, you will see results. But probably not right away. Let’s talk about why that is.
Why Content Marketing Works
Good content is a powerful tool in any marketing strategy that, when used together with other tools, can:
- Raise awareness of your company
- Enhance the company’s position as a thought leader
- Help define your brand and value proposition
- Establish and nurture relationships with current and prospective customers
- Help your sales team close deals
But it can be tough to know, especially when you’re just starting out, whether your content is having an impact. So here are a few questions to ask yourself early in the process:
What do you want your content to do? Remember that good content is defined by how well it meets the needs of your audience. I understand that you’re tempted to draft content that meets your needs, but the most common mistake that inexperienced content marketers make is allowing their content to be too sales-y, or thinking that particular pieces of content will potentially lead directly to a deal.
That might seem like a way to shorten the time it takes your content to work, but in reality it will do more harm than good. People are reading your content to gain information and insight, but they don’t want to hear a sales pitch until they’re absolutely ready to buy, and then they will be ok hearing it from a live human. People are rarely in that category when they’re still in the research stage. That’s why content that seems too self-serving will usually backfire.
So you should want your content to inform, educate, and engage your audience. You’ll benefit from being the company whose content is actually interesting and helpful, so that when those readers are ready to take the next step by interviewing potential partners or vendors, you’ll be among the list of people they reach out to.
That might be next week, next month, or next year.
Are you ready to play the long game? I used to be in the magazine business. As editors, the content that we were creating for our audience had no sales motive at all. It wasn’t content marketing; it was just content. Although our advertisers naturally had things to sell, on the editorial side our job was to inform and engage our readers, period.
And yet we spent years meticulously growing our readership base – carefully researching what the readers wanted to know, vigorously editing to ensure we published only high-quality content, search-optimizing every article we wrote, making use of social media and email newsletters, and more. The same is true of every media brand in the world and every quality content marketing shop.
If it takes time and patience for media professionals to build audience, and it does, surely you can expect to be likewise challenged, especially since content creation might not be your area of expertise nor your primary occupation.
Growing and maintaining an audience takes talent, persistence, and time because it’s a relationship-building process. Quality relationships are nurtured, usually over weeks, months, and perhaps even a year or more.
Here’s the good news. You have an advantage over the “regular” media, because you’re an expert in subject matter that (in most cases) isn’t getting much attention elsewhere since it’s unique to your industry. And you don’t need to build a very large audience, necessarily; you need to build the right audience. There are people who need to know about the things you’re an expert in, but, depending on your industry, there aren’t always a lot of places to acquire that information, so that’s where you have the advantage. Be engaging and provide really good content for that niche audience on a consistent basis, and they will be yours.
Are you paying attention to metrics without becoming obsessed with them? You can and should measure things like page views on your website, traffic to your blog and to other content areas, and the number of people filling out your Contact Us form.
You want positive movement with those metrics over time. But you may not see big increases in the very beginning.
You also might see short-term declines from time to time. Don’t overreact to those. Every piece of content you produce is going to appeal to some members of your audience more than others, and an article that engages a smaller number of people may still have been a great piece of content that those readers appreciated.
How much content can you produce? I’m a quality-over-quantity guy, but the fact is that if you’re not producing quality content frequently enough for your audience to remember you, then – spoiler alert – they won’t remember you. Start with a plan, and based on that, decide what — and how frequently — you will publish.
That might mean two original blog posts per month plus an email newsletter, or regular case studies, or eBooks and bylined articles. The type of content and frequency will depend on what you are trying to achieve, and the resources you have to create it. But the more good content you are able to create, the faster you’ll see results.
You might consider making this easier on yourself and your team by working with a ghostwriter, or at least employing a professional editor.
So, with all that said, how patient should you be with your content marketing? Although every situation is unique, my view is you need to give yourself no less than six months of regular publishing before you can make a meaningful evaluation of your effectiveness.
That may be longer than you’d hoped. But once you cross that threshold, you’ll find that your content creation process gets easier, and that your audience will get bigger, and you’ll really have some data on which to base an analysis.
Want to learn more about how to make your content as effective as it can be? Download our eBook, “Build Your Content Marketing Plan: A 10-Step Guide.”