Without systems, content marketing is a bust

Creating content for your business is a long-term play. Not that there aren’t search and traffic benefits — there are — but as search engines get smarter, content marketers need to get smarter too by prioritizing customer value over short-term wins. The most pressing problem is: how do you achieve that while also achieving business objectives?

One issue is that people prize things like links and disregard the opportunity to create content that meets more complex search demands. But I also think it’s unclear what kind of content creates value, for the organization and the customer.

Ultimately, I don’t think marketers and business owners waste time creating bad content because they want to mislead customers — at least not intentionally. Even smart business owners and marketers who are fully on board the “brand awareness” train run into problems at the strategic level. As Kelsey Meyer of Influence & Co. points out,

“Without digging deeper into why you want to increase brand awareness and developing your strategy around the answer to that question, you’ll always end up just creating content for content’s sake.”

Amen. While today I do far less individual consulting in this general area, I do still have conversations with business owners and marketers about content creation and its many pain points. I really believe you can do 99 percent of it on your own, if you are committed and inclined. But if you are not, the good news is there are writers, marketplaces and agencies that have all carved out space in this niche.

Influence & Co. is certainly one of the latter, as are the great folks at Rep Cap (full disclosure: I’ve had the enormous pleasure of working with both company’s teams at YEC). I recently spoke to Rep Cap about the challenges of content marketing at the organizational level, as did several other folks, and a few of those takeaways are summed up nicely here (thanks, Rep Cap team!).

The first step, of course, is to know your “why” — Rep Cap’s CEO Mary Ellen Slayter actually suggests boiling this down to a one-sentence explanation. I love that idea. I would not be surprised if most small teams with the beginnings of a content marketing “strategy” would find it quite difficult to do so.

My best advice, though? Once you do get started — assuming you have the team, the time, the goals and the strategy in place — I can’t emphasize this enough: You need systems — systems that are clear, teachable and repeatable. And those systems must reinforce your marketing goals and your mission. For some, these systems might be simple — a plan to write X blogs per month on topics that align with marketing goals, recorded in a simple editorial calendar. That’s often enough to get started.

Remember, complexity is not the goal. Start with consistency. Measure, rinse, repeat (and revise) from there.

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