But content marketing is not easy. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult forms of marketing to master.
First off, it takes a village. A successful content strategy requires writers, designers and media people who understand how to find the right audience even if it is not through paid media.
It also requires forethought. Before you launch into content development, you have to spend time on understanding the motivations of your audiences and how to match the benefits of your product to a pain point that the consumer has so you can align them and make sure you are delivering value.
Then you must develop a litany of ways to tackle that topic. I heard one marketer say it very clearly: You have to identify your core story with your core value and determine how to tell that story 150 different ways. This is the work of a truly gifted copywriter. Anyone can say the same thing over and over, but a great copywriter can weave together different narratives that lead the consumer on a journey and end with a singular story.
Designers are required because you have to be visual with your storytelling. The way you portray your content is just as important as the story you want to tell. The colors, the tone, the imagery: each of these has to be consistent and thought-through. Every time you engage with your audience, you want them to recognize your brand. You want them to make the connection between your story and their needs.
I know in my recent role launching a new company, I started out with four to five different look and feels because I rushed into the storytelling right away, but over a number of months we started to settle into one consistent look. I had the benefit of a beta stage to learn from, but most large consumer brands have to be thinking these elements through before they introduce themselves to the world. As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
After you’ve taken the time to discover and build your story — I recommend no less than two months to do so — you start to build your editorial calendar based on the 150 different ways you’ve brainstormed for how to say your story. You line them up and lay out a testing matrix for the permutations of message and visuals, and you start running the campaigns through social media. You build an audience, whether organically or through paid methods, and you have your media person (or team) provide basic analysis of which audiences respond to which messages, and which message(s) deliver volume to your acquisition funnel.
From my experience, you can see results from content marketing faster than with search engine optimization (SEO), but not as quickly as with search engine marketing (SEM).
SEM results can come in two weeks, while SEO results typically take three to four months. The benefits of a good content strategy come somewhere in between — around one to two months — but they have a halo effect on these other channels. A solid content strategy boosts SES and SEM and starts to lay the foundation that will deliver the rest of your marketing successes.
Can you be successful in today’s environment without a content strategy? Yes. But that doesn’t come cheap. Without it, you have to buy the market, which is beyond the reach of most new companies.
So invest in a team, either through hiring in-house or leveraging a strong network of contractors with experience in this area. If you get the right people, your results will become clear and you’’ll end up with a scaleable strategy for your brand.