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If your content marketing initiative isn’t working for you, you are not alone! While nearly 95% of small businesses and business-to-business companies have content marketing programs, many organizations are falling short of their goals. In fact, less than 10% of companies surveyed were happy with the results of their programs.So, why are companies still investing in these initiatives? Because, every business manager knows that content marketing is important to their success. They just don’t know how to go about establishing a successful program. This two-part series will focus on the factors you must consider in order to create a successful content marketing program. This first article focuses on strategy, expectations, funding and resources. The second article in this series will focus on promotion, and target audience.

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Establish a focused strategy
Like every other aspect of your business, you must have a clear and concise strategy for content marketing. That strategy must take into account a comprehensive review of your target audience and your competition and market. You can’t success with guesswork and a scatter shot approach. You must understand what your customers want and target their buying behavior with content that attracts and holds their interest and provides value and fresh perspective and interesting information every day.

Once you understand whom you are targeting and how your competitor is approaching buyers, find a unique approach – one that reflects your personality and the differentiating factors that make your company uniquely prepared to serve the customer needs.

When you establish a strategy, you must consider objective metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your internet marketing and content marketing initiatives o help you define and manage the program and truly understand how you are doing with your initiative.

  • Design and develop appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success
  • Review and adapt your strategy and metrics frequently to ensure course correction and stay on track
  • Involve marketing and advertising professionals in your strategy but stay focused on content (customers don’t want to feel like you are selling to them, but we all know that content marketing is designed to do just that). There is a difference between a strategy developed by marketing/advertising pros and a strategy that includes their perspective but stays focused on content.
  • Research and implement a strategy that includes appropriate search engine optimization (SEO), so you can attract customers and special interest groups with the right keywords, phrases and content.

Establish reasonable expectations
Setting the bar too high will always result in disappointment. Consider your competition, your customers, your market position, the resources and funding you have to dedicate to content marketing and establish expectations that are reasonable. Better to achieve modest results that align with your plan and established metrics, and allow you to grow organically and at a reasonable pace than to establish expectations that are way out of line. Remember that even the best ideas will take time to flourish and grow. Content marketing is an ongoing process and a journey; not a destination you can reach overnight.

Even if your competition is tough, don’t give up. You aren’t likely to win an entire market, but you must stay in the game and work at growing your market share. If you stop your content marketing initiative because you don’t think you are getting the right results, look again at your expectations and be sure they are realistic. Then look at your strategy to be sure you are going about this the right way. Whatever you do, don’t stop working. That decision will definitely result in a loss of market share to the competitor(s) avidly working a content marketing strategy.

Dedicate appropriate funding and resources to your content marketing strategy
If you really want to do this right, you have to have dedicated resources. Content marketing isn’t something you can do ‘in your spare time’. It is an important initiative that deserves the right funding and resource commitment. Whether you decide to go with in-house professionals or hire an experienced consultant, you will need a team that has the time and the knowledge to produce quality, targeted content and to monitor and manage the results so there are no surprises.

Your metrics should include ROI and your content marketing team should be fully cognizant of and focused on getting the return your strategy and expectations have defined as reasonable. Focus on hiring the right resources with the right skills and experience. If you want to be successful, you need people who understand this function, rather than someone who simply writes well.

Don’t blow your budget on the most expensive content approaches like pay-per-click, expensive video production or other high-priced ticket items. Start small and grow your program wisely. If you run out of money, management will not be inclined to fund the project again next year. Spend your money on skilled resources and let them do what they know how to do! BUT, don’t hire a high-priced pro and leave them in a room alone. Make sure the team you establish understands your customers, your company, your unique market position and how to use that information to inform the content they produce. Make sure they know how content marketing works and what initiatives get the best results or the most affordable price.

In the second part of this article series, we will focus on content promotion and target audience factors. When done correctly, with an appropriate strategy, planning and execution, content marketing can be a significant factor in attracting and retaining customers and in getting ahead of the competition and expanding your market segment.

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