Building a Growth-Focused Content Marketing Strategy
There must be a thousand reasons to build a content strategy. You can build for the SEO, you can build for PR, you can build to fill your funnel, to broadcast your brand, or as a means of establishing a new thought-leadership hub in your space.
But, the one reason you should build is rarely discussed outright: you should build a content strategy for growth.
Now, before we get into a semantic discussion about how lead gen and branding are kinds of growth — as is successfully building out a content hub — let me just say that that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is cold, hard, measurable growth, like “today I published an article, and, as a result, my app was downloaded 2,000 times” kind of growth.
This kind of growth, though elusive, is entirely attainable, even for small businesses. What it requires is an outward focus and a commitment to machine-like replicability.
Let me explain.
Rethinking What Content Marketing Can Do
If an unknown brand of toothpaste released a new toothpaste that they wanted everyone to try, which scenario would give them a better chance for a wider reach / adoption: if they (A) sent a Facebook ad to a million people saying hey, go to your nearest Safeway for a free sample or (B) mailed free samples to 50,000 people?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the one where people have to go out of their way.
Because both successful redemption-based campaigns and inbound campaigns typically convert at less than 5%, it’s clear that it’s not a smart idea to ask people to change their behaviors for your company.
And the exact same thing is true in content marketing.
And yet traditional brand and lead gen content marketing does this all the time! You ask people to read your blog, to come to your website regularly, to go here or there to view a webinar or download your app, but by requiring effort beyond what they were originally willing to give — i.e. reading the blogs they already read — you lose, get frustrated, move onto another growth strategy while reserving content for…whatever you use it for.
This is the mistake. We need to stop thinking about content marketing as a new way to bring users to our business. Instead, it’s a new way to bring our business to our customers.
Instead of trying to build out the next Hubspot or MarketingProfs, we need to focus on reaching potential customers where they are, where they read, and become a part of the conversation they’re already having. Because that’s how you grow: by removing as many barriers to access (including proximity, the need to navigate, etc.) as possible.
How do we do that? I’m glad you asked.
Pillars of a Growth-Focused Content Marketing Strategy
External Content Placement
Rather than focusing on the costly buildout of a content hub (and the considerable amount of time it takes to grow a meaningful audience), leverage your efforts toward pitching and publishing on blogs your audiences already read. You can work soft sells of your product into most of your articles, which will translate to big visibility (and big gains) in front of an ideal audience. Then, once you’ve impressed these sources with your articles and how well they’re being shared, keep in touch, pitch more articles, and slowly leverage a steady, predictable stream of gains from an audience you didn’t have to invest in earning.
While you may not have the resources to push your awesome content in front of every audience member on Twitter, you definitely have the dollar or two it takes to get in front of influencers who can. By targeting Facebook and Twitter ad campaigns at, for example, people with certain jobs at certain businesses, you’re able to deliver your content directly to the few influencers you want. This can be advantageous if you’re looking to leverage content as a way to be “top of mind” when reaching out and asking favors, and often results in retweets / shares to massive audiences of exactly the people you’re looking for.
Titles like CEO & CMO mean something, even when the business is relatively unknown. Don’t be afraid to create and syndicate streams of content on their behalves (with their permission, of course), pitching places like Martech Advisor, Inc., and others specific to your industry about regular column space for one of your execs. If you can find the right angle (one that agrees both with your business goals and their content needs), you’ll land a regular, high-traffic gig that allows you to consistently push your messaging to a large, relevant audience.
There’s no one piece of content that’s going to trigger growth, no one placement that will set the wheels in motion, no leisurely cadence it’s okay for you to maintain. Once a piece goes live, take it further. Take the same idea and pitch it elsewhere. If, for example, you published in In.c, send the same pitch to Entrepreneur. Blogs that compete with one another typically want a part of the action (and a part of the audience), which means nothing but good stuff for you. Just make sure that, if they accept it, you don’t send them exactly the same piece. Write a new intro and modify the body text so that they don’t get punished by Google for duplicate content, and you don’t run the risk of irritating editors who can really help you and your business get ahead.
Don’t Forget to Be Aggressive
The sad truth is that slow and steady doesn’t win the content-for-growth race. What wins is aggressive writing and pitching to put your product and your pitch front and center for your target audiences.
So, as you’re sorting out your content goals for 2016 or beyond, don’t rule out the ability to create a content engine that exists purely to create growth. After all, branding and thought-leadership are nice, but without throngs of new users, are they really all that meaningful?