In an increasingly digital age, content marketing is hailed as the single most important tool in the business marketing box. Here are some tips to make it work.

By Eoin O'Hara

Content marketing is seen as the easiest way to drive customers to your business.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?

That's precisely the problem.

The process sounds so wonderfully simple that many of those engaged in it take an equally simple approach to its delivery. And this often results in nothing more than a colossal waste of valuable time.

The digital landscape has changed beyond all recognition in recent years, but many businesses continue to maintain the same old content-marketing techniques they employed five years ago, expecting them to deliver the same results. For those without a massive loyal following, this simply isn’t going to happen! It is becoming increasingly crowded out there, but all that means is that you have work smarter and more creatively in order to see the results you want.

Here are a few pieces of advice and ‘tricks of the trade’ that should help you to rethink your 2015 (and going into 2016) content marketing campaign.

It’s just ⅕ content 

I’m willing to bet that you spend much more time creating content than you do promoting it: which, when you think about it is nothing short of ridiculous.

Why spend hour after hour creating a beautifully written piece of informative, engaging, and analytical content, only to spend mere moments promoting it to your very limited audience on social media? What a terrible waste, but more so what a missed opportunity! Can you imagine how marvellous it would be if that piece of content managed to deliver benefits comparable to its quality?

This can only ever be achieved by revolutionising the way that you think about content marketing, from one where you spend 80% of your time creating and 20% of your time promoting, to one where you spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% of your time promoting.  

That is not to say that you need to spend less time creating content, but rather that you need to spend much, much more time promoting it.  As much as it pains me (an almost fanatical copywriter) outstanding content is nothing without comprehensive and exhaustive promotion… and when I say exhaustive, I mean exhaustive: infact unless you feel physically sickened at the very sight of a piece of content by the end of your promotion, you haven't promoted it properly.  

There lie the challenge, but also the opportunity.  

Focus your energies

As we have already established, content marketing which delivers is not about the number of pieces you create, but rather how you deal with them.  Indeed it is much better to create one outstanding piece of riveting content and promote it well, than create five excellent pieces and promote them badly.  

Gone are the days when churning out a steady stream of relevant content was enough to establish you as a leader in your industry, today’s content marketer must be a lot more cunning than that.

The first thing you must do before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) is to decide unequivocally what it is you want a particular piece of content to achieve. Not only will this allow you to remain focussed on your audience at all times, but it will be instrumental when the time comes to promote the piece.  Every line that you write and every reference that you make must be done with this in mind so that when the time comes to promote the piece, you will have a solid idea of how you are going to approach it.

As a starting point ask yourself these questions

  • Generally speaking, who are you trying to engage with this content?
  • More specifically who are you trying to engage with this content i.e. industry influencers, other businesses, specific relevant parties?
  • How will you draw these specific persons and organisations into a conversation around your content? This could be achieved by making reference to them or their work, linking to relevant supportive content and so forth
  • How specifically will this piece of content deliver against your overall business aims?  Is it intended to drive sales?  Is it intended to raise awareness of something specific? Do you want it to be a catalyst for the development of mutually beneficial business relationships?

Share, share, share, share, share, share… (are you seeing a pattern?)

I know so many businesses that get this catastrophically wrong. They imagine that ‘share share share’ means scheduling 30 tweets and a few Facebook posts over the course of a month, but ultimately it is very difficult to garner any real success in this way.  In truth the spread of content around social media sites rarely happens in an organic way: you must take a far more direct approach to see results. This is something that a lot of people find extremely challenging, not least because as a process it seems to go against the long-standing ‘build it and they will come’ fallacy of social media: nowadays it’s much more a case of point them to it, and they may come.

How can you share it? Quite simply, you need to just take the bull by the horns and start telling people about the wonderful content you have created however, your success in doing so will rely upon a couple of things.  

Firstly is how well you managed to keep the process of promotion in mind when you were creating the content in the first place and secondly, how diplomatically you manage to share it with others. If your content is highly relevant and has the potential to spark conversation or debate, and you share it as such (rather than a sales pitch) then the chances of it being well received (and most importantly shared further) increases.  

The means through which you share the content is really up to you.  

Twitter is great for this kind of thing because the lack of formality means that others are more likely to respond well to your approach: although any social media site platform can also be used in this way provided you are measured and tactful in your communications.

I have however found email to be the best way of engaging parties who potentially have an interest in the content you have created, although approaching someone in this way requires much time and skill to get right.   Follow these key pointers to get you started:

  • Understand specifically why an individual might be interested in this content and explain this simply 
  • Never construct a generic email and send it to numerous people: recipients can spot this a mile off
  • Do not make the email about your content alone; express an interest in developing a mutually beneficial relationship, or offer assistance with something relevant
  • Ask for feedback; this is one of the best ways to engage someone in a dialogue about your content because it places the recipient in a privileged position, as well as placing you in one of humility, making a favourable outcome more likely!
  • Repeat! Content doesn’t live and die as many people assume.  

If a piece fails to deliver upon promotion, put it on the proverbial back burner and try again after a suitable period has elapsed. Promotion is the lifeblood of your content, when done right it can take an old piece of content that is fading into obscurity and revitalise it again.  

For this reason so long as you have created at least one piece of content, you have something to promote, so not having created new content is not an excuse for letting it slide!

Eoin O'Hara is a business developer at Startacus, the place for enterprising people to learn, share, connect and bring ideas to life. Follow them at @Iamstartacus