The human psyche is a delicate place. We trick ourselves into thinking we want or don’t want something. We go back and forth on options and for the most part we settle. Sometimes we settle because something is too hard, costs too much or is beyond our skill level. But in the end, the result is generally the same. We settled.

Why don’t we achieve great?

A company came to me recently with this very specific, very common problem asking what they should with their website. This company deals with information technology (IT) system integration and helps other businesses implement software products into their operations. They were suffering from a common issue: they expected too much information from their customers’ right up front. They had grown up in the click-to-buy way of thinking, where they expected someone to come to their website and immediately take action to do business with them. “We’ve spent $100,000 on our website and when people visit, they don’t pick up the phone and call us,” they told me.

So I took them through the process of developing a content marketing strategy to engage their audience and walked them through the steps of how to build an online presence that will engage and entice. But they weren’t having any of it. They decided that since they had already spent all this money to redo the website, they weren’t going to spend any more and they didn’t care if it didn’t perform. They were happy with having a website that was “good enough,” but were missing a major opportunity to go after something that was truly good – or possibly even great.

Why people give up and settle for less

While digging around their website, I discovered blog posts about the company picnic they had just held. Here’s how my conversation with them went:

“Who is this blog post for and why did you post it?” I asked.
“Well, we were told by an SEO company that we should be constantly posting new content.”
“Do you think your customers care about your company picnic or are searching for it?”
“Probably not….”

Their content marketing strategy was out of line with the service they offered. It made no sense to have it on the site. It was jarring. And the problems continued when I took a look at their newsletter.

This is a problem I see a lot. People don’t know what content to create so they take a template and try to fill it with whatever they can think of instead of taking the time to go through their goals for a particular piece of content.

Rather than posting about the company picnic, you need to be asking questions like: “Who is this newsletter for? What do we want them to know, feel or do as a result of receiving it? What kind of engagement do we expect to get by sending something out?”

The primary purpose for an email marketing campaign is to create an action. Maybe it’s a click thru to a website but you want a measurable action that leads to a next step. Once you have them interested, the goal is to get them to take action – most often by clicking through to your company’s website. Unfortunately, most people still think email marketing is simply to sell something.

Why good enough doesn’t cut it

Content that matters internally is not the kind of content marketing strategy you want people to see in the marketplace. A story about your company picnic does nothing for your customer. When you create an email marketing message or newsletter – whether its industry news or content that educates – you can’t just guess. You need to do the work to figure out what customers care about and then serve that.

Here’s something I’ve heard from people when I ask how their links are performing in their email newsletters: “We really don’t know. We’re just pushing stuff out and hoping that it does something.” Sound familiar? So many of us are guilty of this at some point. We think that the most important thing is to just get something out there into the universe, anything to show that we have a presence online. But have you ever stopped to think you may be doing more work than you need to?

When you take a step back to investigate who your content is for, how you’d like them to feel as a result of receiving it, and what you want that person to know, you begin to create a framework that serves your customer rather than you – and that’s a good thing. Once you’ve established what your goals are, you need to make sure you’re tracking performance to see if what you’re doing is working. Measuring results helps you to pivot if necessary, reinforce what’s going well, and determine where to go next.

Truly Great

Instead of trying to do everything and be everywhere, being truly good means going back to the basics and focusing your efforts on what makes you — and your company — special, different, and important versus competitors. A content marketing strategy that is truly good starts with developing a value proposition spectrum that spans your business, from your company’s overall purpose to the problem you solve for your customer.

Defined value is what builds a brand and ultimately leads to a sale. Compelling and clearly-stated values move a person quickly from doing research to becoming a customer. A value proposition is the primary reason somebody buys from you, and this is what most companies struggle to articulate in a compelling way. They think what’s most important about them is what they do, that it’s all about the features and functions. When in fact, what’s more important is what a company’s customer finds important.

Big Wins in Content Marketing

Had the CEO in the newsletter example followed our process, he could have collected a series of 10 problems that he saw happening with customers after they’d bought from him and set out to solve and write about those problems.

Here’s a great example of one of those potential problems:
• We’ve just implemented a CRM system but nobody in the company is using it. What do we do now?
• We can’t achieve adoption because people aren’t entering the right data, what do we do now?

Had the CEO sat down each month and written an article answering these kinds of questions — the questions that matter to his customers — emailed them out via the newsletter, and then driven them back to a well-structured website that provided more resources on what he was talking about, then that would have been a huge win.

All this time, money and energy is getting spent when a bigger win would have been to sit down and identify important problems that were solved by the company and once a month be sending those out with an identified conversion point.

Tools and tactics for greatness

1. If you’re just getting into the game, the most important tool that you need is an easy to use, easy to change and easy to update content management system for your website. In our case, we use WordPress. Once you create a good website, you need a good developer who’s going to help you customize your content, your navigation, and your design based on your buyer persona. The CMS is the most important tool because that’s going to allow you to test a whole bunch of things.

2. Make sure you have the Google Analytics code embedded on the site so you can track goals and conversions and understand what’s happening with visitors. You then need some tools to drive traffic to the site. The spaces in which you tell your company story are important, but the amount of control you have over that varies. There’s owned space, rented space, and paid space. (We’ll cover this more in depth in Chapter Five.)

3. A solid content management system that you can manipulate and use to test should be your top priority. Your website is your owned space. You can put some of your social media icons on there if they’re active to help you engage with customers. You’ll probably want to have a good stock photography account because you’re going to want to create images that support your message. Access to good writers and designers who can help you craft the story of your business is also smart. Get all of that right before you start doing things like paying for sponsored ads on Twitter and Facebook, which would be your paid space.

Don’t Settle

Everybody knows the story of the weekend handyman who likes to tinker but maybe doesn’t quite have the right screwdriver to hang a picture or doesn’t have the right tools to cut wood properly. But you know what? It’s good enough. He thinks, “I’ve got some hands-on knowledge. I can build a shelf. I’ll just cut some wood and stick it up there.” But then the next thing you know, the shelf is hanging there precariously and then it all comes crashing down.

That’s the difference between good enough and good. It’s taking the time to create the right infrastructure with the right content and the right testing mechanisms to get you to the next stage.

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