What’s the difference between brands who succeed and those who struggle to make content marketing work?

While the answer is certainly quality in many cases, it’s also much more complex than that. Content marketing programs can fail due to a lack of a defined mission, poor goal-setting, or even a poor understanding of how the brand’s buyer personas engage with platforms for product research. While half of brands today have a defined content strategy in place, only 32% of marketers consider themselves effective at creating content. Whether you’re just beginning to transition your brand into a publishing mindset, or you’re refining your current efforts into a more integrated approach, here are seven ways to significantly improve the results of your content marketing: It’s not that important to hit buttons hard, the key is to hit them right – that’s the way to success.

1. Define Your Mission

Your company’s unique brand should be closely tied to your content marketing mission. Forbes’ John Hall recommends building an action-oriented statement after identifying the value you’ll provide to your audience, and how your content will help them. According to Hall, a mission-driven content strategy “educates, sparks discussions, and makes an impact on its audience;” allowing brands to stand head and shoulders above the rest.

2. Strive for a Value Exchange

To make content marketing work, it should be much more than just advertising. At the core of your program should be a mission to provide distinct value to your audience. Speaker and consultant Greg Satrell writes that “content only delivers engagement if it confers value over and above simply promoting the brand that created it.” L’Oreal’s YouTube channel, Destination Beauty, and Red Bull’s extreme sports web channel are two examples of brands that have nailed the idea of this value exchange.

3. Set Goals

(image source)

Behind every great content brand is at least one individual who isn’t afraid to delve deep into metrics and make decisions accordingly. Your strategy must include goals, targets, and KPIs, or you’ll won’t be able to make content marketing work. As Unbounce’s Tommy Walker amusingly puts it, “content marketing without a goal is art, not marketing.” The best metrics-driven content marketing programs will include diverse goals which range from social shares to SEO improvements, in order to gain a comprehensive overview of how your content is serving the organization.

4. Refine Your Persona Research

While your brand can create content that serves no other purpose than including viral qualities, this approach is unlikely to help you acquire the right clients. Your content should be highly targeted to the needs, pain points, and priorities of the people you’re trying to acquire as customers. Continually research both their demographics and personality factors, as well as how they utilize platforms for research. To learn more about conducting effective buyer persona research, check out The 5 Pillars of an Effective Marketing Strategy.

5. Answer Your Customer FAQ

One of the most effective ways to make content marketing work is by answering your customer’s most frequently asked questions. Acquiring these is probably easier than you think; your sales and customer service teams almost undoubtedly have this information. Targeting your blog articles, social media posts, and whitepapers to these FAQs will allow you to position yourself as a resource to prospects and achieve better search rankings for long search queries. This strategy alone is at the center of Content Marketing expert Marcus Sheridan’s advice to small and mid-sized business owners, and what allowed him to revolutionize his own pool company’s revenue through blogging.

6. Create Highly Shareable Content

The most effective content marketing is highly shareable, allowing your brand to organically gain massive amounts of exposure from social media. Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti recommends spending 50% of your time considering content promotion and distribution when conceptualizing content. While best practices can vary between buyer personas, highly shareable content is often visual, has emotional appeal, or is contextually relevant by being mapped to current events or recent announcements.

7. Align Your Sales and Marketing

Your content marketing strategy’s primary goals may include lead generation, but it’s crucial to ensure you achieve balance by creating content for all stages of your buyer’s journey. An effective content marketing program will expand beyond a focus on attracting customers, and include content created for lead nurturing, closing sales, and providing value to existing clientele.

What do you think are the primary differences between brands who succeed, and those that aren’t able to make content marketing work. Share your thoughts in the comments!