Content marketing that doesn’t create demand is just words on a page.
Creating customer demand through banner advertising and social media isn’t what it used to be. The advertising landscape continues to evolve online. But that doesn’t mean success online isn’t possible. To know what it takes to succeed online, it helps to understand what’s changing.
Business owners tell us they keep hearing the buzzwords “content marketing” and that they MUST “create content.” Thing is, lots of businesses don’t know where to start or tried starting and couldn’t keep it up.
No One Is Reading Your Content
Let’s say you are one a company that creates content…is anyone reading it? If they are, they’re reading it for 15 seconds. Attention spans are waning. Pop-ups, banners, and ad words only get more belligerent. And the competition keeps getting fiercer. If everyone wants customers’ attention, how can your content marketing strategy create demand?
Small business marketers stand at a cross-roads: try to continue creating content in vain or pour some money into advertising.
No One Sees Your Online Advertisements
The problem, of course, is that the traditional route of buying ads just isn’t working anymore. Even Google admitted that “56.1% of ads served on the internet are never even ‘in view’—defined as being on screen for one second or more.” So not only are customers not learning anything from ads, they aren’t even seeing them most of the time. If no one sees a purchased ad, is it still an ad? It costs as much as an ad. It looks like an ad. It talks like an ad. But guess what: it’s not an ad if no one can see it.
Usually, if customers and potential customers find helpful and relevant information online, they will naturally conclude that the company providing it is worth taking a closer look at. That’s the whole content-marketing game.
But if, like an ad, you create content and no one sees it, is it still content marketing? Again, it looks like good content, reads like good content, and you’ve spent money on resources to create the content, but if no one reads it…it isn’t content marketing. It’s just content. Marketing is supposed to create and drive demand. And if it ain’t creating demand, it ain’t marketing.
No One Saw That Facebook Post Either
Social media provides an effective way to keep in touch with your audience…right? Maybe not. Things are changing dramatically on the social media scene, especially of late. Facebook — a favorite tool for many small- to medium-sized businesses — is rapidly becoming pay-to-play. If Facebook is no longer a way to organically reach your audience, it might just be a massive waste of your time.
A study by research firm Forrester found that posts from top brands on Facebook and Twitter only reach 2 percent of their followers. These followers are people who have opted in to receive updates, so they actually want to see posts from the company. Yet even those people aren’t seeing them. And if you think Facebook is a great way to engage with your audience, think again. The study also found that fewer than 1 percent of followers actually interact with the posts they do see.
Meanwhile, Facebook is urging businesses to purchase ads if they want to be noticed. Last year Facebook distributed a sales deck informing marketers that their organic reach would be shrinking, and urged them to buy ads. And recently, Facebook announced it would cut back even more next year.
These new changes might increase marketers’ demand for Facebook ads to compensate for the shorter reach of their unpaid posts. But Facebook also said there won’t be a surge in the number of ads that actually appear in people’s news feeds. If that’s the case—more demand for ads without more supply—the price of Facebook ads might rise even further. So ads are probably not the best option for smaller businesses with limited budgets. And keep in mind, people can and do ignore ads—even on Facebook.
It’s not that Facebook is being sneaky or denying any of this. Mark Zuckerberg recently noted that since the average Facebook user could potentially view around 1,500 updates a day but only sees about 100, it’s not easy for a business page to make it into that 100. In order to do so, he explained, you need to create “really good content that’s going to be compelling to your customers.”
So yes, social media can still be a useful tool for sharing your blog posts. But first, you need to have blog posts worth sharing… which brings us back around to content. Somehow you have to come up with high-quality, compelling, engaging content that drives demand.
Content Marketing? Great In Theory, Kind of Impossible to Keep Up
As we wrote about a couple months ago, one of the biggest content marketing challenges in 2015 will be finding the time to write an adequate amount of engaging, quality content that drives demand.
With so many companies embracing content marketing, the game will continue to become more competitive with more and more players. However, the playing field is more level than in traditional advertising, where if you don’t have enough money, you’re just not going to get that TV spot or that full-page magazine ad. Online, if you have something valuable to say, it’s relatively inexpensive to share it with the entire internet. Content’s value is in its ability to inform current customers, attract new ones and contribute to better SEO. You have the power to create that value.
That being said, creating worthwhile content takes time, and you have a finite amount of time. Small business owners in particular are faced with strict limitations when it comes to staff and budget, not to mention overseeing the financial, marketing, and day-to-day operations of the business (while maintaining a social and family life).
But Don’t Give Up Yet. Here’s Why.
Keeping up with ever-increasing content marketing requirements is simply not sustainable for many companies. Hiring a content marketing expert is out of the question for most businesses. Yet it takes a tremendous amount of time and resources to develop and execute a consistent content strategy. Sticking to a schedule and continuously posting fresh, original content is nearly impossible over the long term if you don’t have help.
We see the same thing time and time again with our potential customers. They understand the importance of content creation. They know they need to develop fresh content and post it on a regular basis. They try to do this on their own, but soon realize they can’t keep up. They become frustrated and disillusioned as they fall behind. That’s usually the point where people seek out other options—and end up contacting us.
Being Great at Content Marketing Starts By Changing Old Mindsets
Get out of the content creation business. Ideally, yes, you should create all your own content and write 1,000+ word posts with facts and figures. And if you can do that, do it! But we’ve seen this story again and again…and the reality is, that’s a daunting, soul-sucking endeavor if you’re not a writer. You don’t need to develop all of your content by yourself. Writing can take a lot of time, and outsourcing some of that writing can free you up to focus on the operations of your business (and maintain that social life).
What happens when you hire a content writing service to support your content marketing efforts? It’s the perfect example of working smarter, not harder. Partnering with a content writing service creates scale, controls costs, and provides an incredible opportunity cost instead of having to do it all by yourself.
Even if you’re having the busiest week in the world, your content strategy doesn’t have to suffer. An added bonus for unique, well-written content is its long shelf life. Roughly 80% of our business comes from blog posts and their positive impact on SEO, social, newsletters and engaging visitors. We’re creating demand slowly and over time. As you build up the content on your blog, more and more people will discover your site and see the value of what you offer. It might not be today. But it might be tomorrow and you want to be there when potential customers are doing their research.
A writing service can also serve as an excellent supplement if you already have an internal content team or a staff writer. You can let a content writing service handle most of the day-to-day content needs while your staff work on longer, more in-depth or technical pieces tailored to your industry that might be harder to outsource.
Hiring a writing service doesn’t mean giving up control or responsibility for your content. The key value of a service is that you transition out of the tactical writing demands and into the oversight of a content strategy and overall marketing plan. It allows you to step back and look at the strategic requirements for each piece rather than worrying about all the little details.
How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Partnership
Of course, outsourcing your company’s content has its pros and cons. As with every outsourced business solution, it’s not a magic bullet or a quick fix. While you will no longer be responsible for writing all of your content, you still have to oversee and manage it to see results.
For our customers, we encourage them to provide as much information and feedback as possible to our writers, so they can get the kind of content they really want.
Here are a few things to keep in mind in order for your outsourced content to work:
Define your goals. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? What kinds of readers are you trying to attract? What questions do you want to answer for potential customers? Do you want to promote your product or service on the blog, or just provide useful information?
Come up with a list of keywords and topics. What words and phrases are your target audience searching for? What questions do they have? What types of products or services do you provide? If location is a factor, where is your business located? What differentiates you from your competition? Answering these questions can help you come up with a good list of keywords and phrases to include in your posts.
Provide helpful feedback. The first few posts you receive might not be exactly what you’re looking for. If that’s the case, explain why. What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you wish was different? Maybe you need to provide a little more explanation about the type of content you’re hoping to receive. This will take more time early on in the process, but it will mean better results sooner and ultimately less work for you in the future.
Check in with updates, new keywords and new ideas you’d like to include on your blog. As seasons change, new products come out, changes occur within your industry or you just have new ideas, update your profile information so the writers can adapt to your current needs.
Keep your expectations realistic. When you use a writing service, it’s reasonable to expect clean, original writing that provides value to the reader. It’s reasonable to expect that the writing will be of good quality, free of typos and grammatical errors. It’s maybe not so reasonable to expect that every blog post you receive will include some earth-shattering insight or precisely reflect your personal tone. The key here is that you are maintaining your blog with some informative posts that will attract readers and improve your Google ranking.
Understand your role in the process. No matter how well-versed a writer might be in your industry, you are still the expert. You know your business and your customers. You can add in your own expertise, details and customer stories that will personalize and enhance the blog posts you receive.
These best practices will create content that heightens customer interest, stays relevant, and drives demand.
Content marketing has never been more important for businesses, but you don’t have to feel compelled to do all the content yourself, especially if it isn’t creating demand. To strike the right balance, figure out how much you can do with the staff you have, then outsource the rest of the writing. In doing this, you can keep your eye on the big picture, directing and managing your content strategy, and still have time for the things that only you can do.