“Why Isn’t My Content Marketing Working?”

magzThe majority of companies are failing hard at content marketing for one simple reason. They aren’t “content marketing,” they are “content advertising.”

The only reason advertising works is because you are interrupting an audience. Your local newspaper, People Magazine, the local Top 40 or talk radio station… you advertise with them because they have an audience you want to reach. That audience doesn’t tune in for the ads, they tune in for content they want to consume, and they tolerate your ad as a cost of entry.

When you create content as part of a content marketing program, you aren’t advertising. You are trying to build an audience. That audience won’t tune in for your advertising. But they will tolerate them if your content is something they want to consume.

So the key to a successful content marketing program is to first create content your market wants to consume. If you know your customers, what are some common problems they share? Do they hang out in similar places and do similar things? Are they active and outdoorsy? Are they parents or students or pet owners or into cars?

Once you have identified your customers and some commonalities, choose a theme to guide your content. The more specific the theme, the easier it will be to create solid, meaningful content they will want to consume. Parenting is a broad theme. New Parents is more specific. New parenting for children with special needs is really specific.

The audience for more specific topics is going to be smaller than the audience for the broader topic… but the trade-off is that the smaller segment is going to be more likely to check out your content, and developing the content will be easier.

Once you have your theme, write down 5-7 topics you want to cover. For new parents of special needs children, for example, some topics you cover might include health, creating a safe home, dealing with hard questions, solutions to common problems and interviews with experts.

Now instead of staring at a blank page wondering what to write about, or staring at your camera wondering what to talk about, take a look at your list. Choose a topic and brainstorm ideas for 5 simple ways to make their bedroom or the kitchen safer for their child, or 6 answers to difficult questions to help family and friends understand, or what doctors or educators locally might be a good source of advice to help them? See if you can come up with 10 article or video titles.

If you’re not sure what topics your customers would want to consume enough to tolerate your ads, make it part of your daily routine to ask your customers what they’re into. Maybe even offer a bonus or discount if they take 2 minutes to complete a brief 10-question survey. It can be a postcard at the register or a link in an email.

Once you have a plan for your content, then just like with any medium you advertise in, you post more straight content than ads. The better (more helpful, more informative or more entertaining) you content, the better they will tolerate your “ad” posts. Keep that in mind, and you will start seeing big results from your content marketing.

(BONUS: Social Media Marketing IS Content Marketing.)