This blog post has been percolating in my mind for months.
I used to think content marketing was straightforward. Boy, was I wrong. Like many marketers, I was trained in the art of ‘instant gratification’ — what the business community calls ‘direct response.’
Nothing feels worse than the moment when I launch a blog (or publish a blog post) for the first time — the flatline of doom.
What I’ve learned is that there are many content marketing myths out there that you can’t blindly follow. What I’ve encouraged the Coworks team to do is keep the following concepts close to heart:
- You need to rely on your company’s unique strengths to drive growth.
- You need to take ‘best practices’ with a grain of salt.
Myth #1: It’s About Traffic
Reality: Your content program needs a clear path to conversion
Marketers are obsessed with web traffic. I know because I used to one of these acquisition-minded people — my performance review was based on how much traffic I could deliver. But traffic acquisition is only half the marketing equation. To build an audience and drive sales, companies need to focus on optimizing conversions first and foremost, immediately when your blog launches.
I learned this lesson the hard way (in a past role) after realizing that traffic I was acquiring was slipping through my fingertips. The content program was –literally– hemorrhaging revenue because I did not have offers or landing pages in place to convert that traffic into subscribers, leads, and ultimately sales. The content program had virtually no calls to action — and there wasn’t a clear path for traffic acquisition.
About two month ago, I was hired to launch the blog for Coworks, a platform for hiring kickass, premium freelancers. Traffic, in my mind, was secondary. Startups have limited brand-building dollars — instead, companies like Coworks need to focus on sales-centric activities.
Knowing that people who find the Coworks blog are likely early-funnel (aka – not ready to make an immediate purchase), we’ve made the decision to de-emphasize the sales goal. Instead, we’ve implemented intermediate funnel steps to encourage an e-book download.
The reality is that today’s buyers are heavily self-directed. Shoving a sales pitch down someone’s throat just won’t work. Like any good marketer, I want to sell, but the most valuable lesson that I’ve learned is that ‘selling’ doesn’t work. That’s why I’m helping Coworks become a discussion leader in its core mission and vision to empower freelancers to find great work and great clients.
Myth #2: Content Is an Early-Funnel Activity
Reality: Content can help bridge connections and minimize churn at all conversion funnel stages
I’ve learned to stop thinking of content marketing as a brand-building activity. Instead, I work with my clients to focus on the mid-to-lower stages of the funnel:
Here are the main reasons:
- Content marketing is powerful for re-engaging an existing audience base
- The more you can focus on converting readers into loyal followers, the more your audience base will grow. This dynamic will produce an ‘echo effect,’ which amplifies early-funnel activity.
Here’s what I mean:
When I focus on converting my visitors into subscribers, I’ll have a bigger audience base.
When I have a bigger audience base, my content has a higher probability of viewership and shares.
Existing customers are more likely to be aware of my content, like my brand, and share my work with their audiences.
We distribute new content to our opt-in email list. Even though the content program is relatively new — with just a handful of published blog posts, we’re able to generate hundreds of visits with each new entry. Here are some data snapshots from a recent campaign promoting an article, 16 Surprising Things You Learn About Yourself When Starting a Business.
Here’s what the email looked like:
Here was the campaign open rate:
Here are the number of ‘clicks’ from subscribers who decided to read more on the Coworks blog — roughly 16% when we got started:
Here is the same trend, from the perspective of Google Analytics — the article yielded 129 unique views. Of which, a small proportion came back to the site.
The second example is an e-book that Coworks wrote with the goal of educating audiences about remote work. Here is an example campaign that we ran, targeting mid-to-lower funnel audiences. The value proposition is simple — the e-book teaches readers how to hire freelance creatives for the first time:
Here were the results of this campaign:
Myth #3: If You Publish It, ‘They’ Will Come
Reality: Content needs to be user psychology-driven, with a built-in distribution strategy
The competition for audience attention is getting more and more cutthroat. As Andrew Angus of Switch Video eloquently points out, our attention spans are shorter than goldfish.
You need more than content to succeed. You need more than awesome content to succeed. Here’s what I mean:
Too many companies treat content marketing as an ‘intern’ or secondary responsibility. This is a guaranteed way to make your content program fall flat. For some audiences in the consumer space, intern content will totally work. An audience of ad tech executives with decades of experience?
Not so much.
The success of your content program boils down to two key concepts — user psychology and distribution. You need to build trust and create content that screams ‘authenticity’ and ‘trust.’ Work with subject matter experts who can teach your audience something new.
Audiences will jump to share that content. In addition, your brand needs a strategy to ensure that their content is seen. High quality content and distribution will be growth-levers for one another.
Look what happens when Unbounce recruits an experienced social media manager to post on their blog:
Given that audiences are so tough to reach (and so fleeting in attention span), you need a straightforward roadmap for how you’re going to distribute each and every piece. The Coworks team, for instance, takes the following steps:
Step 1: Share on Twitter; multiple times, over the course of several days,with several hashtags
Step 2: Promotion on LinkedIn Groups
Step 3: Share post with newsletter subscribers
Step 4: When relevant, pitch content for syndication with larger media portals:
Here is a blog post on Coworks:
Here is the same post syndicated on The Next Web:
If you want to build an audience, you need to go out and find it.
Final Thoughts: Focus on People
Content marketing is psychology-driven. It’s emotional. You need to think about relationship-building at scale — almost like you’re a business development leader and not a marketer.
What content marketing lessons have you learned the hard way? How do you stay persistent?