4 Principles to Transform Your Content Marketing into an Always-on Media Business
There are tons of experts out there who would tell you that your business - regardless of who your customer is, or what you sell - needs to become more like a media business in order to do effective marketing. They would also tell you that you have to implement an ‘always-on’ marketing approach, in order to consistently reach-out and engage with your audience.
From the idea perspective, there is nothing wrong with this - I myself advocate that every company has to act like a media business to thrive in the new business environment. But, here’s the problem with all the advice floating around. Very few, if any, talk about how to actually transform your marketing into a media business. For most part, the fact that it is extremely hard to operate like a media business, is conveniently left out. In fact, most marketers full heartedly agree with the advice, but have no clue how to get started. That is what I want to address with this post.
Four simple principles (or tips) to follow in your quest to scale content marketing, and become an always-on media business:
1 - Find your content sweet-spot and stick to it:
Most marketing teams start producing content without understanding ‘why’ they are doing it. What is their mission? Every media company has an editorial mission statement, but almost none of the business marketing teams do. In fact, it is the single biggest mistake marketing teams are making when launching their content marketing programs. This one activity directly affects ROI because your content is not going to be effective if the outcome you expect is not defined in advance. And, as you start thinking about your content mission, it becomes much easier to find your content sweet-spot, which lies at the intersection of three things:
Your capabilities: Your top expertise and knowledge areas, things your team is passionate about, and are willing and capable of sharing with your audience.
Customer needs and pain points: Who is your target audience? What are their needs and every day paint points? How can you address them with your content?
Content differentiation: This is perhaps the most important aspect of content creation, and the one that is usually ignored. Most marketing teams have good idea about 1) and 2) because they have taken some form of Content Marketing 101 training. But, rarely do they try to make their content unique. Your customers are bombarded with content all the time. How do you differentiate with your content, so that they actually pay attention? What is the unique twist in your content that will make it stand out? You likely have to find a niche area that has little or no competition, so you have a chance of becoming the leading expert in that small focused area. That is the only way to get audience attention instead of focusing on broader content. Every marketing team has to answer that question based on their situation, but it could be anything. From adding some humor to only providing quick tips every morning, from sharing hard to find information to relating your content to current affairs. You need to figure out how to differentiate if you want your content marketing program to succeed. Even the quality of content won’t matter, if you are unable to add some uniqueness in your content.
Your sweet-spot should be reflected in your content mission statement. Use this mission statement as a litmus test for all content that your team is producing. Any proposed content that does not conform with the mission statement should not be produced. By keeping this focus, you are not only becoming more relevant to your audience, but also get the flexibility to try out other things within this defined scope, such as producing topical and real-time content like a newsroom.
2 - Limit yourself - One Content Type/One Platform/One Target Persona:
Okay, maybe you can do two of each, but avoid the temptation, especially when you start out. Now, I know what you are thinking; we are talking about becoming a media business, and media businesses create all types of content, they are on all platforms, and target a broad audience. Yes, but take example of any media business, and look at their history. They all started with one type of content, on one platform, focused on a very narrow audience.
You can always diversify within a certain type of content - for example, if your focus is Text - you can create ebooks, long articles, infographics, or short 100 word articles. But, beyond that, most businesses do not have the resources to go broad, and they risk becoming irrelevant the moment they try to diversify too soon. You have to establish a solid subscriber base, a critical mass, before you put any efforts into diversification. Content marketing programs need to be driven by data, and diversification is a data nightmare if you are not ready for it. The moment you try to do everything, it becomes exponentially hard to get any insights from data and measure effectiveness.
3 - Be consistent over a long period of time
Content marketing, and your move towards a media business is a marathon, not a sprint. Most executives want to see immediate results, which is simply impossible unless you get lucky with a one-off viral hit. And, even that is not scalable. You need to be patient. You need to set a schedule and consistently provide value to your customers over a long period of time before you try to extract anything out of them. Whether you do 3 articles a day, video every Tuesday, or a daily podcast. Set a schedule and stick to it. As you build your subscriber base, your customers expect consistency in your content whether it is the type of content you produce, or its schedule. Every media business has been built with consistent delivery of same type of content over a long period of time. It’s the only way to move towards an always-on marketing approach.
4 - Focus on your own platforms, and build your own subscriber base:
Regardless of whether you are a media business or not, email subscribers remain the most valuable subscribers. Guess where the conversion funnel of most media businesses leads to, even the ones that were established in the social media age - the email form. So, stop getting distracted by people who tell you to build audiences elsewhere. Your first focus needs to be your own platform whether it is your website, blog or newsletter.
Take Facebook for instance, where it has become extremely hard to organically show up in the newsfeed of people who have actually liked your page. Unless, you are willing to pay Facebook to do so. So, at first, you spent a lot of money to get more page likes, and now, you have to spend even more every time you want your subscribers to see your messages. Whether it is Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, you are on the mercy of their decisions, and one algorithm change can devalue your subscribers immediately. With your own platforms, you have more control, more data and insights, and much better chance of building a stronger connection with your customers.
Follow these four principles that not only make your content marketing more focused and easier to scale, but also puts you on track to start operating more like a media business. I would love to hear your thoughts - let’s discuss in comments, or you can contact me directly on twitter @jasmeetio or my website - Jasmeet Sawhney.