This post originally appeared on the SumAll blog.
Content marketing promises a variety of exciting benefits that we dream of achieving, but results can be aggravatingly slow at times as compared to other marketing channels. Between our needs for immediate results and measurable returns, the realization that content marketing is a long-term investment often gets lost in the shuffle.
We have to start thinking months ahead on when we can expect to see results from content marketing. What can we do today that can provide value for our future exploits and how can we create content that keeps on giving? It’s a thorough mindset that prepares your marketing strategy for progress down the road.
While it is possible to accomplish success early, the key is to consistently build a terrific brand experience and audience over time with your content. Content marketing is an ongoing process that should be integrated into your overall marketing plan and this requires meticulous strategy and an almost obsessive amount of nurturing.
Content marketing is a long-term commitment and here’s why.
Researching Your Audience Takes Time
It is crucial to understand what drives your audience to take action prior to establishing your strategy to ensure you’re creating and distributing the right content moving forward. This knowledge is derived from customer feedback and knowing what demographic finds value in your company’s offerings.
Consider gathering information from a variety of resources such as case studies and other vertical specific data found in ebooks, webinars, and elsewhere. As your audience evolves, your content strategy must adapt to best suit their needs.
This market evolution is lengthy because your processes will be constantly changing and so will your customer base. Expect to spend three to six months learning about your audience before having a strong grasp of their motivations, needs and interests. You can follow your intuition and available data when developing your content to fill in the gaps in the beginning, but overtime your understanding of your customer base must become more refined.
To see where you stand, ask your current clients about their pain points. What problems are they looking to solve? What are they interested in? Do you have an answer for them? Research their interactions on social media and stay updated on their habits online. This attention to detail can add clarity on how you can help them with content.
Put those details to use when creating your content. Consider treating your articles, white pages, and ebooks like landing pages, since each piece of content you’re publishing could be the first interaction a reader has with your business and should highlight information that is most relevant to them based on your research.
Always put yourself in the shoes of the reader, why would they be interested in your content and what would drive them to enjoy this experience? This process requires thorough examination, which is another testament of just how time intensive a content strategy can be.
Generating Results Happens Slowly
As you develop a content marketing plan, set reasonable expectations with your team and key stakeholders at the company to ensure your content strategy is properly supported and everyone is on the same page with the time commitment required to see success.
Generating results from content marketing often takes a minimum of three to six months, which should be articulated from the very beginning since it differs from the speed at which other marketing channels gain traction. Whether getting traffic to your blog or your content ranked in the search engines, it doesn’t happen overnight, but instead by repeatedly creating and distributing quality content on a frequent basis for the long-term.
For example, Google AdWords starts working to drive results for your business as soon as you apply a budget and set up your campaigns. The downside here is that it is a pay to play model, requiring a budget to keep this channel up and running. Whereas content marketing is slow to heat up and drive results but it doesn’t require the same costs and will continue to impact the business for the long-term without a budget.
Although most managers want to see hard numbers quickly when determining what channels to invest in, it is important to educate them on the cost benefit as compared the time it takes achieve success. Stress how content marketing is merely one aspect of a greater marketing mix and can work in tandem with your other channels as your efforts continue to scale.
Each Goal Has a Different Timeline
Each goal you have with content marketing will likely take a different period of time to achieve, which further lengthens and complicates the overall process. For example, it may take a few weeks to see an increase in traffic on your website, a few months for a boost to be noticed in email registrations and potentially a year before seeing sales from your content marketing.
Their should be between three and five goals you’re looking to achieve with content because no one benchmark can determine whether your efforts are driving results or not. Each goal of content marketinghas a unique timeline to consider when reviewing your progress.
It would be premature to call your content marketing a failure if one goal of your top three wasn’t achieved after a few months, but others were well on their way to scaling results for the business. For example, if your content isn’t yet driving sales, but is increasing engagement on site and adding new leads to your sales pipeline then it is on a track for success, not failure.
Your goals should be complementary, allowing a goal like sales to scale more slowly while the success of another goal that moves more quickly like engagement can support your investment in content marketing in the meantime.
Be realistic with yourself and the team to best project how long it will take to achieve each goal of your content efforts, which depends heavily on how your content is organized to convert, who your audience is, what your business offerings are and more.
Reaching the Finish Line with Content: Key Takeaways
With an understanding of the time investment required to generate content marketing results, here’s what you can do to ensure you’re on the right path from the beginning.
Develop a content calendar with a few goals that you would like to achieve over the next three, six and twelve months. Are you looking to increase website traffic or improve onsite engagement? What are reasonable timelines to achieve these objectives? How can you scale these efforts?
Take a fresh look at your most popular and highest converting content. If you don’t have any content at this point, analyze your website to see which pages convert best or get the most traffic to get similar insights as to why these pages may be performing better than others.
How can you continue to capitalize on this success? Plan to optimize your campaigns and take advantage of your best performing content to continue what’s working with content and to nix whatever content isn’t driving results.
Consistently plan to re-evaluate the needs of your audience and always tap into their feedback online and offline. Continue researching the results from a variety of content types through testing. Doing so will help you stay ahead of industry trends and give you actionable data when creating new content. (Plus, you’ll look a whole lot smarter.)
Again, content marketing should be viewed as an investment that gives you an opportunity to create lasting relationships with your customers and create returning value in the long-term.
What content marketing strategies have you seen the most success with? What metrics do you find most effectively reflect the success of your campaigns? Have you conquered your short-term and long-term content marketing goals? Leave your questions and feedback in the comments section.
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