Is Digital Marketing Something You Can DIY?

This past weekend, the ringing I heard wasn’t in my ears. It was the transmitter for our Invisible Fence beeping away in the basement, telling me that something was wrong with the fence.

Being handy — and cheap — I asked everybody’s favorite search engine what the beeping meant and got to work testing the possibilities. Half an hour later, I had my answer. There was a break in the wire running around the perimeter of our property.

And that’s where my handy-ness ended. I called the pros to come out with their specialized radio receiver equipment to find the break and make the fix. They made the fix far faster than I could have, but I was able to save money eliminating all of the other possibilities.

Why should you care about my dog fence? Because you should adopt the same approach to your marketing. Here’s why.

There are, of course, lots of different ways you can market your products and services. All will fall into one of three main buckets.

  1. DIY
  2. DFY (Done for You)
  3. Collaboration

DIY Marketing for B2B Businesses

The DIY approach is going to save you money in the short term but likely cost you in lost opportunities.

You miss out by not spending your time more wisely and you miss out because, unless you have expertise in a range of marketing disciplines, your marketing work isn’t going to be as good as a pro’s. (How often do you build a website? Or create a content marketing strategy? Do you really think you can do it better than a pro?)

Unless you have a depth of knowledge going into the process and the time to stay current on the latest techniques, a strictly DIY approach is going to cost you money.

DFY – Done For You Marketing for B2B Businesses

The DFY approach eliminates those problems, but introduces others.

The experts you engage will have deep knowledge of their domains and will know the latest developments across their marketing disciplines. What they’ll lack is the institutional knowledge of your business. So, there will be a learning period during which results may lag, but as they come to know your business your marketing results will be stronger than you’re likely to get via the DIY path.

This may be the route to go if you simply don’t have the bandwidth to participate more fully in your marketing, as might be the case during periods of rapid growth.

The Collaborative B2B Marketing Approach

Better than either of these options is the collaborative approach to digital marketing. It marries the best of both worlds: You provide your deep knowledge of your business, your customers, and your market; your marketing experts bring their experience and perspective.

This is true whether those experts are outside consultants or team members you add to your staff. In either case, the marketing team must be collaborating with all departments within your organization in order to succeed.

Marketing can’t happen in a vacuum. It must feed on — and have an impact on — the conversations occurring between your sales team and prospects, between your customer service teams and your clients, and within your product development teams.

Who Does What on the Marketing Team?

Be careful about hiring a strategist. You definitely need a solid strategy, but you also need a clear plan for implementing that strategy and the resources to follow through on that plan. At the very least, a strategist needs to visit your front line team down in the trenches on a regular basis.

There are exceptions to these rules of thumb and you have to tailor your approach to you firm’s needs. Just be sure you have someone leading the team who can guide you through all available options and possibilities, move you back and forth between initiatives as needs dictate, and who can help you integrate marketing into sales team activity and other initiatives.

The Power of Content Marketing Partnerships and Alliances

Though our culture reveres the power of genius and the magic that genius can conjure — as well we should — most of us work in realms where collaboration can be far more productive than forging our own path. Content marketing is one of those realms.

In content marketing, alliances and partnerships can prove the truth behind the idea that the whole can be more than the sum of its parts.

E-A-T

Despite looking like the name of a hipster, retro diner, E-A-T has nothing to do with food. It’s shorthand for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. These are three factors that Google considers in ranking websites.

On its own, E-A-T is important enough a factor to warrant an in-depth article. For today, we’ll use it as context for the value that partnerships can have in adding power to your content marketing.

You’re Experiencing the Power of Partnerships Right Now

Observant readers may have noticed that I am not an employee of Target Marketing. I run Andigo, a digital marketing agency. And I lend my expertise in digital marketing to the Target Marketing website.

I’m a nice guy and all, but I don’t write these columns merely out of the goodness of my heart. In exchange for my sweat and toil, Target Marketing stamps me with their seal of approval. That approval gives me a leg up in gaining your trust as an audience. (Because you’ve already come to trust Target Marketing’s judgement.)

That’s certainly a beneficial exchange for both of us, but there’s more. The reason the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in relationships like this is that both parties bring their own audiences with them. This expands my reach beyond what I could hope to achieve on my own, and does the same for Target Marketing.

Symmetrical Content Marketing Partnerships Work, Too

Of course, there’s an asymmetry to our relationship that adds to the power of working together. Each partner brings its own strength, with little to no overlap.

But more symmetrical relationships can work well, too. Co-creating a piece of content with a partner of similar “weight” still introduces you each to a broader audience than you’d achieve without a partner. But now, rather than the stamp of approval being one-directional, you are each endorsing the other as a trustworthy expert to your own audiences.

May I Introduce to You …

A warm introduction is an enormous leg up over being found via a cold web search. That introduction is what makes content marketing partnerships one of the best ways to establish expertise, authority, and trust — and to grow your audience in the process.

As you’d imagine, some thought is required to find appropriate partners. You should seek partners who work with the same target audience as you do and whose services are complementary to yours.

For example, a digital marketing firm might partner with a branding firm who works with the same B2B clients. They could also partner with a branding firm who works with B2C companies, but they would likely not see the same return on their time.

Similarly, that digital marketing firm could partner with a company providing break-room services to B2B companies, but there is less synergy there, even though both firms provide services to the same target market.

Finally, remember the adage about lying down with dogs and waking up with fleas. You must be comfortable with the integrity and reputation of your partners. Your good name won’t rescue a bad partner nearly as readily as their bad name will tarnish yours.

How to Effectively Promote Your Content Marketing

Marketers all understand the importance of great content. But, when building a content marketing program for your organization, creating content is only the first step.

Marketers all understand the importance of great content. But, when building a content marketing program for your organization, creating content is only the first step.

The second step — as discussed in my previous post about reviewing your content marketing efforts in relation to the competitive landscape — requires marketers to ask themselves this question: What does your competition’s content marketing look like and how does yours compare?

Once you work through that audit, then you’re ready for the third step: distribution and promotion. Great content on its own isn’t enough. Great content designed to own a niche will get you closer. Leaping the final hurdle requires properly promoting that great, tightly targeted content. Here’s how.

Channels Is Spelled With an ’S’

In other words, it can’t be about one channel. Very rarely are there industries or niches in which only one channel is required.

That doesn’t mean finding every tiny audience you can and pummeling each with undifferentiated content. Instead, you must tailor content to each channel you have identified as a gathering place for your target audience.

Make sure the channel is appropriate for your message. For example, there’s a reason Fortune 500 B2B marketers advertise on golf tournaments. The audience is their desired demographic. But that doesn’t mean that they’d be smart to pump promotional material about their management consulting practice into an online golf forum. Same (or similar) audience, but much different atmosphere.

Also keep in mind that social media channels are all about your audience and their preferences. Not you and yours. Be sure of whose preferences you are catering to.

Email Marketing

Email’s importance and effectiveness as a marketing channel are hard to overrate. They’re easy to overuse, but hard to overrate. And easy to abuse. Spamming unknown users won’t work. Sending purely promotional content won’t work. Provide value, be relevant, and build a relationship. You’ll win business over time, even if the ramp up is slow.

Timesharing

Time share condos in the swamps of Florida have a bad reputation, and with good reason. Similarly, the idea of guest posting and cross-promoting have frequently been abused, but they can be incredibly effective in growing your audience quickly.

A guest post or jointly-produced piece of content is a warm introduction and a stamp of approval all rolled into one. You are being introduced and recommended to your counterpart’s audience and vice versa. These are great opportunities to seek out, assuming you and your partner can provide insights and information relevant to one another’s audiences.

Diversify Your Formats

Video is incredibly popular right now, but not everyone likes to watch videos as they’re researching their purchasing options. (It’s a lot easier to scan a written article to get to the info you’re looking for.)

That’s reason alone to adapt your content to different formats. Another benefit to that form of re-use is the efficiency it brings to the content development process. You can leverage the initial research and writing investment to create multiple related content elements.

The Importance of Relevance

I’ve mentioned relevance a few times above, but it’s worth repeating as we wrap up. None of the above works if the content you’re pushing is purely promotional or fails to provide value to your target audience. Without relevance and value, you’re simply not going to keep your audience’s attention.

3 Steps to Complete a Competitive Content Marketing Review

You’ve got to know what’s out there if you’re going to attract the audience you want. So it’s worthwhile to evaluate your content marketing in relation to what’s already out there.

You’ve got to know what’s out there if you’re going to attract the audience you want. The best content in the world won’t gain any traction if someone else said the same thing 15 minutes ago. So it’s worthwhile to evaluate your content marketing in relation to what’s already out there. Here are three steps to completing a competitive content marketing review:

Step 1. It’s Not About Your Competitors’ Content (Yet)

You may be tempted to fire up your browser, do some searches for the terms you want to rank for, and see who and what pops up. That would be a mistake that can lead you down a rabbit hole and far, far away from your own goals.

Begin first by examining your own content and your analytics data to see what content you’ve created that has performed best. This will give you a baseline against which to evaluate the results you find on competitive sites.

Your goal during this content marketing review isn’t to beat everyone in everything – even if that was possible. Your goal is to beat all competitors in the niches you identify as most important to your target audience and in which you have significant expertise or perspective.

Step 2. Review Your Marketing Goals

Next, review your sales, marketing, and product goals to make sure the content you have out in the world is working toward the goals you have today. It’s not uncommon for older content, aimed at other goals, to continue to garner a strong audience. Of course, being off target, these content elements don’t help your bottom line. (Which is another great reason to perform a content marketing review at least annually and prune or edit content that isn’t aligned with your marketing message.)

Step 3. Review Competitors’ Content Marketing

With all of that information in hand, now it’s time to fire up your browser and see what content you are competing with in your chosen niche. Be sure your review includes long-tail keyword phrases as well as broader queries. This should help you get a solid picture of your content strengths and weaknesses from the top of your funnel to the bottom.

You’ll also want to check the products/services that are being marketed by the content you find. It may be that some keyword phrases are more commonly used in other industries or in other ways than you intend. Performing well against those keywords may drive traffic, but it’s unlikely to generate conversions.

To summarize all of the above, your content marketing review should focus on evaluating:

  • Targeting — are you speaking to the right audience?
  • Content — are you addressing your prospects’ primary concerns?
  • Distribution — are you getting content in front of your target audience?

How to Use Content Marketing to Support Your Sales Team

Improving your sales team’s effectiveness is an ongoing process. Content marketing can help. In fact, content is no longer a nice-to-have. For most marketers, it’s a must-have. Here’s why.

Improving your sales team’s effectiveness is an ongoing process. Content marketing can help. In fact, content is no longer a nice-to-have. For most marketers, it’s a must-have. Here’s why.

Content IS Your Sales Team

For starters, today’s buyers are typically far into their decision-making journey before they invite a salesperson into the conversation. So for the first three-quarters of that journey, your content marketing is a proxy for your sales team. If it’s not demonstrating your expertise and its applicability to the problem they’re trying to solve, you will never be in the running for serious consideration by your prospects.

Being in the running isn’t really our goal, though. We want to make the short list and, ultimately, win the business. For that, content can again ride to the rescue, setting the stage for the late-funnel work that your actual sales team will do.

The question is, what kind of content will do that? Content that is optimized to attract your audience, is structured to create a story that engages your audience, and which asks the questions that will move your audience toward a decision.

Optimizing Your Content Marketing

For your content marketing to work well, you have to know who will be reading it and what their objectives are. Your content has to address the challenges they are facing and understand what their status quo looks like.

That last bit is key because your competition is not just the other firms with whom you trade account wins and losses; it’s inertia. If you can’t create a case that points to real business improvements gained by changing what they’re doing now, you won’t lose the sale to your competitors. There simply won’t be a sale.

Story Follows Research

Once you’ve done the research that helps ensure you’re speaking the using the right language and addressing the right issues, you must get their attention and get them engaged. This is not a time for same-old, same-old. It’s time for constructing a narrative that brings your value proposition to life.

Data can support your story, but the human and emotional aspect is what resonates with even the most analytical audience. Make them feel the decision they’re about to make and let the data support that feeling.

Ask and Answer

Finally, it’s question time. You should be ready to ask questions that will move your prospect toward the next step on their buying journey. And you should be prepared to answer the questions that you know (from your research) are top of mind for prospects at each stage.

Whether your content answers those questions or your sales team does will depend on the questions and on the nature of the prospect and the sale. Either way, strong content is an important part of giving your sales team the best chance for making the most of the opportunities your marketing creates.

Are You Taking a 360 Degree View of Content Marketing?

Creating content that relates to customers and builds engagement has consistently been the top challenge for marketing departments. Many marketers feel like they’re just shooting in the dark in terms of content marketing — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Creating content that relates to customers and builds engagement has consistently been the top challenge for marketing departments. Many marketers feel like they’re just shooting in the dark in terms of content marketing — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This is especially true for teams that are trying to increase sales by building brand authority in their industry.

So here are some critical questions that CMOs and content managers can ask themselves to determine if their strategy is on the right track, confirm whether they’re sticking to the fundamentals and make sure they aren’t making any obvious mistakes.

Is Your Messaging in Tune With Industry Buzz?

Keeping your company’s marketing content relevant and interesting doesn’t mean that you should pursue every trend that passes by. However, that doesn’t mean you can simply dismiss all of them either. Content must either be unique or refer to current events fresh in people’s minds in order to keep their attention, regardless of how informative it is. By keeping up with the latest news and updates specific to your industry or niche, you could be one of the first outlets to provide an opinion on them.

Great content marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand, so in order to make your content seen and heard, it must include the terms, slang and even jargon that might draw in relevant audiences. By keeping up with the latest conversations and expressions being thrown around, you can tweak your content to identify more closely with your target audience.

Google’s Trends tool can help you monitor the keywords and topics being searched for and discussed online. It also shows you the volume of these searches and how fast interest in a given topic is rising or waning.

Credit: Trends.Google.com

Don’t just latch on to any topic that is trending in your area of reference. Be sure that it is relevant to an audience in your niche and that you understand what it is all about, and are able to share insights or at least use it in an entertaining way

Once you find the kind of themes and issues that your pique your audience’s interests, you can nail down a direction and certain ideas around which to build your brand messaging.

Are You Letting Your Audience Guide Your Content Strategy?

In order to let your audience and customers drive your ideation and approach, you must make sure you know them through and through, so that you can create the most relevant and engaging content. This is best done by formulating audience personas to help get into the mind of your typical consumer. You will need to delve deep into the demographics and analytical data to create generalizations about the type of people that follow your brand.

  • What do they look like?
  • How do they speak?
  • What buzzwords are they familiar with?
  • Where and how do they consume content?
  • What industries do they work in?

Create multiple personas. These generalities can then be used to guide content by focusing on the subjects that would likely appeal to these different personas. For example, Customer A may be more interested in the nitty-gritty details of your industry, while Customer B might be more interested in learning practical ways to use your products or services. Customer A might place a premium on your brand experience while Customer B might just be looking for the cheapest product around.

Credit: Hop.online

Perhaps the most important ingredient to a fresh content strategy is simply knowing who you are communicating with and how to do so effectively.

Are You Analyzing Visitor Behavior on Your Website to Understand Intent?

The role of big data in content marketing cannot be underestimated. To stay competitive, businesses and marketers need to understand that they’re operating in a competitive environment that needs constant adjusting and optimization. Whenever a landing page is tied to a piece of content, blog post, email or even social media update, you need to know exactly how it performs in relation to your goals.

Before you even begin designing or optimizing your landing page, you must first ask yourself: why are customers coming to this specific page? What do they intend to get out of it and what are they looking for?

Marketers need not wait for coders or designers to develop or customize a landing page. Tools such as Landingi offer easy ways to add a quick page with forms, text boxes, drop downs, buttons and other elements to help you optimize your marketing funnel and automate the user workflow on your site.

Take a sign up page for example. You can easily create a form to gather information that tells you more about your audience. This can as simple as their location, most pressing concern, or how they discovered your brand. Using this data, you can refine your sales approach in a way that resonates with current or potential leads.

Remember that the intent of visitors is not always (read, almost never) to purchase. On the contrary, the majority of your first-time visitors will be looking for information on what your company or product does, how much it costs, and so on. You need to create exact content so that each landing page fulfills a specific purpose.

One great place to start is by answering common questions that visitors are asking. You can find these through intent-based keyword research for more general topics or you can address issues that customers frequently raise with your support or service team.

Kapost used this strategy to great effect by sharing information directly from their sales and customer service team’s conversations with their marketing department. Their content team then created specific pages for these questions so that future customers could instantly find this information and they could create more relevant landing pages.

Credit: Kapost.com

You can also experiment with different variations of your landing pages through split testing. Consistently testing components like style, copy, and CTA buttons will give you plenty of data-backed insights as to what makes your audience tick.

Are You Using Events and Experiences to Create Content?

Your business events can provide a plethora of valuable inspiration that can be used and reused to support a sustainable content marketing strategy. You can also use these insights in future promotions with value-based messaging.

Ecommerce platform Shopify teamed up with Kylie Jenner to promote her temporary pop-up shop as well as their retail POS system. While there was a lot of marketing buzz promoting Kylie Cosmetics during the event, Shopify pulled the online equivalent of a guerilla marketing stunt by telling the story to their customers through their blog.

They published a post talking about all that goes into the planning of offline experiences for online businesses and the power it has. They even shared some behind-the-scenes pictures and details about Kylie’s store. The story was by no means blatantly promotional, but instead it had some real-life applications and valuable insights for retail business owners – Shopify’s core audience.

Credit: Shopify.com

Don’t be fooled. The entire piece was marketing content for their own company. Shopify used the event as an opportunity to mention their new POS system that Kylie Cosmetic used in order to handle all of the transactions during the pop-up. They even snapped a photo of Kylie herself using the system.

By turning a business event into marketing content, you can not only provide your audience with great information and examples, you can also promote your product’s usefulness through effective storytelling.

While statistics and numbers are great for proving points and communicating research, studies have found that when content tells an actual story and provides a practical application, it resonates far more with audiences and produces better results, eventually boosting conversion rates in the process.

Over to You

Consumers are more than an accumulation of facts and figures; and so must be your marketing strategies. There is so much pressure in the marketing world to deliver sales, to come out with the most innovative, creative, and unique strategies that marketers have lost focus on what is truly important: the customer experience.

Through content marketing, organizations are now able to build real connections with their customers as well as a larger audience in a way that was never before possible. The best content marketing strategies don’t necessarily depend on budgets or technology; they’re tied to brand-customer relationships.

As a marketer, it your job to empower your brand to build these relationships and facilitate experiences that bring positive results. The best way to do this is to give customers information that they can actually use – and make sure they use it!

3-Part Pre-Production Content Marketing Checklist

Here’s a three-part pre-production checklist of the questions your content needs to answer in order for it to succeed. Last time around, we talked about how long the content on your website pages should be if your goal is to attract, engage, and retain your audience through content marketing.

Last time around, we talked about how long the content on your website pages should be if your goal is to attract, engage, and retain your audience through content marketing.

This month, let’s look at a checklist of what your articles need, regardless of length, in order to succeed as content marketing. We’ve found that the best way to build a checklist that works for you is to identify the questions you must answer before you put pencil to paper — or fingertips to tapping.

Who Am I Trying to Reach?

Your first checklist item should focus on who you are trying to reach. You may be pro or con when it comes to the value of creating prospect personae, but they are an excellent way to draw a clear picture of who your target audience is. If you have another approach you prefer, that’s fine. Just as long as your profile includes data points on your prospects’ professional lives, as well as demographic information. Here are a few examples. The data points that are relevant to your marketing will vary.

Professional Profile

  • Title
  • Role
  • Department
  • Company size
  • Location

Demographic Profile

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Level of education

What Is My Prospect’s Motivation?

Once you have a picture of who your prospect is, you need to understand what is driving them to seek the change that you could potentially provide. In other words, what are their pain points around this problem?

The key here is to dive into their pain points as deeply as possible. Your goal should be to not only know what their pain points are, but to understand why they are pain points, in the first place.

In most cases, that will require calculating what the value of solving the problem is to the prospect and his or her organization. That can help you determine your pricing and their sense of urgency.

As critically, you’ll want to identify what the costs will be of doing nothing. (That is often your biggest competitor, rather than another solution provider.)

As you identify the most critical benefits to your prospect, you may find your content beginning to take shape. Those benefits — or language alluding to them — are often best used as sub-headings in your article.

What Is My Goal for This Page?

Your goal is always the same: Get the prospect to take action.

What that action is will depend on all of the data we covered above, as well as where in the buying cycle your prospect is. That last piece will likely determine the nature of your offer: Asking someone who is just beginning their research to agree to an in-person meeting is likely a non-starter, while a prospect who is putting together her short list will be much more open to the idea.

What’s Next?

Regardless of the action you seek, be sure you are thinking a few moves ahead, as a good chess players does. Once they’ve taken this action, what action would you like them to take next? What content can help you move your prospects in that direction?

With luck, your pre-writing checklist can help you not only with the content piece in front of you, but with fitting what you create into a broader content library and content marketing strategy.

How Long Should Your Content Marketing Articles Be?

How long your content marketing articles are is critical to their success, but there is no one right length. How long any particular article should be depends on what that article’s purpose is, who you’re trying to reach, and where they are in the buying process.

If you’re like most marketers, you’ve got two very different voices whispering in your ears about length for your content marketing materials. They may not be devil and angel exactly, but they are most certainly not in agreement.

On the one hand, er, shoulder, you’ve got a voice telling you that nobody reads anymore, everyone scans, so don’t bother making long-form content. Keep it short and digestible.

On the other shoulder, there is a voice (perhaps in the form of your SEO expert) telling you that every article needs to break at least 300 words — ideally, 500 — to effectively rank well.

As you try to decide which voice to heed, here are a few things to consider.

What Data Tells Us About Content Length

A quick Google search will give you all sorts of information about how long your content marketing pages should be.

Plenty of sources will site the 300- to 500-word minimum mentioned above.

Neil Patel says that he focuses on content in the 2,000- to 3,000-word range. (While, at the same time, advising us to not write content that is too in-depth!)

Seth Godin seems to be doing quite well for himself with much shorter content.

So who’s right? Everyone and no one. Patel is doing what works for him. Godin has found a different path. You could — and should — argue that those aren’t really fair comparisons, as both of those marketers are “stars” on some level, and have much larger followings than you might.

That’s the point, though; there are always mitigating circumstances. And what’s right for you won’t necessarily work for someone else. Which means what the data should tell you is that you need to gather your own data.

Start with whatever you’re comfortable doing. If more frequent, shorter pieces feel right, dive right in. If you feel that longer-form articles are more your speed, that’s great. In either case, track what you’re doing, monitor the results, and experiment with content at other lengths. (And in other formats, for that matter.)

That’s the only way to find out what your audience wants from you.

What Is Your Article Designed to Do?

The next question you should be asking is, “What is my goal for this content?” Presumably, you’ll publish content of different types and with different goals in mind. Long-form content may be just the ticket for prospects who are close to making a buying decision, while shorter pieces that link to a lead magnet of some kind are the right way to gain trust with prospects who are just discovering you.

Similar differences might exist for different audience segments or for different product/service lines you may be marketing. Be sure you match the length and format of your content to its intended purpose and audience.

How to Use Varying Content Lengths to Your Advantage

Once we come to understand that different content lengths will work for us in different ways, we can layer on the ways in which our content elements should relate to one another. One popular way of thinking about this is the solar system model.

As you’d imagine, the idea here is to have a variety of “smaller” content elements orbiting around a bigger piece of cornerstone content. Not all of those orbiting pieces will necessarily be shorter, but there will be a general progression of large to small as you move away from the center.

For example, a how-to guide in the form of an eBook might be your cornerstone content. Each chapter of that book could perhaps be developed into a presentation (and slide deck) of its own. Many of the slides in that deck might work well as individual short videos.

Don’t Forget the Common Sense

What’s important to keep in mind is that while copy length does matter for your content marketing, there is no ideal length for all content marketing articles. There are many ideal lengths.

If you’re just starting out — or are wiping the decks and making a fresh start — and aren’t sure what lengths will work, it may be helpful to think about the conversations your sales, marketing, and customer service teams have with your prospects and clients. There will be an arc to those conversations that should guide the depth of your content for prospects at various places in the buying process. Your content length should match that arc.

When you’ve got it right, your data will let you know, and you would be wise to match your ongoing work to your data — while still experimenting to find the next great sweet spot for your content marketing.

Using Headlines Well in Your Content Marketing

How you construct your content marketing headlines will impact your ability to reach and engage your target audience. Different approaches are appropriate for different goals.

Last time out, we talked about ways to make your content marketing work harder for you. We can continue that conversation by turning our attention to how headlines impact your ability to attract your target audience.

Headlines Can be Clever or Conceptual

First, there are two very broad approaches to writing headlines: clever and conceptual.

Clever headlines are interestingly written and meant to be attention-getting. They pique curiosity. So, for example, I could have titled the post I mentioned above something like, “Build It and They Won’t Come.” A dyed-in-the-wool SEO would take issue with that — and with this approach, in general — as it simply isn’t geared for SEO performance. More on that in a moment.

The other approach, broadly, is to highlight the concepts or topics you’re discussing, as in the case of that article’s actual title, “3 Ways to Make Your Content Marketing Work Harder for You.”

Clearly, if strong SEO performance is your goal, then the conceptual approach is the way to go. There are going to be far more searches done each month along the lines of, “How can I make my content marketing work harder” than there are for, “If I build my website will they come?”

On the other hand, if your goal with a particular piece of content is to engage more deeply with an audience who already knows you well, then the clever approach can be a better choice. Remember that as much as we want to be informed when we’re consuming marketing content, we also want to be entertained. You’re probably never going to rise to the level of enjoyment that the latest bingeworthy streaming show will have, but that doesn’t mean you need to be the content consumption equivalent of a root canal. Have some fun and your audience likely will, too.

Keyword Considerations

Implied above are considerations about keyword usage. If you can include them, do. That’s generally going to be harder to do with clever headlines; though you may be willing to make that sacrifice, depending on your goals. For more topical headlines, be sure you’re using the best keyword phrases you can. (In my example, we would want to know for sure that “making content marketing work harder” is likely to get more search attention than “making content marketing more effective.”)

How Long Should Your Headlines Be?

Once you decide on your approach, there are more technical matters to address. For example, headline length. According to research done by Backlinko, “headlines that are 14-17 words in length generate 76.7% more social shares than short headlines.”

If your goal is generating something other than social sharing, you might need to look at different metrics. (Which is one reason to take all metrics like these with a grain of salt. Even if they were generated using rigorous protocols, they might simply not be appropriate for your situation. Use them as a guide and gather your own data.)

Should Your Headlines Be Questions?

Backlinko data also tells us that headlines in the form of a question “get 23.3% more social shares than headlines that don’t end with a question mark.”

Again, that’s a very specific metric, aimed at achieving a very specific goal. So don’t twist yourself or your ideas into knots just to tick off a particular box.

The point of these examples isn’t for you to view any of these data points as the gospel truth for your own content marketing work. It’s to encourage you to recognize that paying attention to the details can yield great benefits in your content marketing.

3 Ways to Make Your Content Marketing Work Harder for You

Content marketing success requires work before you begin writing, as well as after you’ve hit the publish button. Here are tips to help ensure you’re reaching the right audience with the right message.

To make your content marketing do more, you need to do more with it.

There are any number of reasons you may not be seeing the return you expect on your content marketing. Here are a few, and how you can address the issue to improve your results.

‘Write It and They Will Read It’ Is Wrong

Long gone are the days when anyone sane thinks that building a website will “automagically” win you an audience and convert that audience into paying clients. But there’s less clarity around the idea that simply publishing your content — even if it’s great content — is enough to power marketing properly. We see too many marketers doing just that.

The truth is that once you’ve published your content, you’re about halfway there. You still have the work of getting your content in front of the right audience. We can’t cover here all of the ways in which you can promote your content, but the list certainly includes social media, email marketing, paid digital advertising, and even old stalwarts like direct mail.

The goal is to reach beyond your existing network to attract new prospects. At the same time, you should be sure that what you’re writing encourages engagement. Will your prospects want to share it with their colleagues as they’re considering their options? Does it offer a different perspective than anything else out there?

You Haven’t Done Your Competitive Research

Speaking of which, do you know what kind of content your competitors are publishing? If you’re publishing the same kind of content and they already have a bigger audience, you face an arduous task.

There’s just so much content marketing going on now that if you’re not standing out from the crowd naturally, you’re going to have to work that much harder at the promotion and distribution we talked about above.

You’ll find it much more fruitful to stake a separate ground; either by offering a different perspective, concentrating on a very tightly defined niche, or differentiating yourself in some other way. Forget any ideas you have of doing the same thing better. Except in the rare cases where your competition is truly asleep at the wheel, better is going to be in the eye of the beholder, and you may not be as obviously superior as you think in their eyes.

Relevance Is Not Irrelevant

Finally, there’s the holy grail of knowing that what you write matters to your audience. In the B2B world, nobody is on your website because they have a few hours to kill and they’ve already watched all of the videos on YouTube. They’re on your website because they have a problem to solve.

If your content doesn’t help them solve that problem or give them a greater understanding of what they should be considering as they search for the best-fit solution, it isn’t going to get read. So even if you do everything else right — carve out a niche and promote your content to an expanding audience — you’re not going to see content marketing results, because you’re not going to attract the right audience.

And ultimately, that’s the goal of content marketing: attract the right audience in a way that gains their trust and moves them toward a decision — hopefully, a decision to work with you.