Microwave dinners are good. Mostly because they’re fast and easy. You throw them into a tiny box, hit a button and, within a few minutes, you’ve got a meal. In contrast, a full course meal has a lot of different dishes. It takes more time and work to prepare, but ultimately has more flavor and gives you more enjoyment.

Do you see how this relates to content marketing? No?

Well, sometimes, content can seem like it’s really working. You could get 10 retweets, or 10 Likes, or even 100 views on a blog post. For a while, you’re thrilled. At the end of the day, though, nothing seems to last. The content doesn’t continue to garner return visitors, backlinks from other sites or new leads.

Basically, your content gave some fast results, but they weren’t meaningful.

If that’s the case, it may be time to ask whether your content marketing strategy is the equivalent of a microwave dinner or a full-course meal.

The Full-Course Effect

A lot of companies have seen the statistics: 61 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from companies with custom content. Companies that blog regularly get five times as much website traffic as companies that don’t. Almost 70 percent of B2B marketers surveyed plan to increase their budget for content marketing in 2013.

These encouraging studies tend to gloss over the fact that a blog post or a Facebook post or a tweet has to be part of a larger, comprehensive strategy to actually work. Your content can be high quality and engaging. It can be viewed thousands of times. But that doesn’t mean it’s doing anything for your business.

content marketingWithout the next steps carefully prepared for visitors, every piece of content you create is just a microwave dinner. That’s why you should always have a call-to-action. Your Twitter account should have your website URL and a tagline. Facebook should have all of the company’s contact information. And blog posts should lead into other related content.

Some visitors may just want to take one course and leave, but you can bet that there will be a few who are interested in what else you have to offer.

Dishing Out Destinations

It’s easy to figure out whether content can be classified as a microwave dinner – just pretend you’re a prospect who has come across a blog post. Read the post. Then … what?

Is there something else to do at the bottom of the post? Something related to what you’ve just read? How about a sign-up form for a newsletter, or maybe a contact page?

If not, it’s time to think about how you can turn those microwave dinners into full-course meals. At March, we often include links to additional posts related to the one you’ve just read, so that people who want to learn more about a certain topic are able to do so. And, for our grand dish, we’ll offer eBooks on related subjects.

Preparing a full-course meal means having the content to do it. A blog post should be tweeted, posted on Facebook and shared on LinkedIn. Multiple blog posts should be repackaged into an eBook or a guide that asks for an email address to continue the relationship with a prospect.

In the end, your readers are hungry for content, but you need to give them something more substantial and more palatable than a microwave dinner if you want them to remember you.

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