Is mole whacking your content strategy?
Many lawn enthusiasts will attest to the damage that moles cause. They dig holes and trench off in any direction with no rhyme or reason. Just a series of unconnected and disruptive tunnels that leave the lawn owner feeling violated.
Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, tells a great story about her brother Sam who was responsible for mole whacking in her family. Every Saturday, Sam’s chores included tackling the mole problem in their yard. Without fail, Sam would head out and try every approach possible to smoke out, hose out or trap moles. Much effort was spent mole whacking.
It wasn’t until years later that Sam was standing in line at a hardware store and saw a man buying a big bag with a skull and crossbones on it and he asked what it was. The stranger replied that it was for the mole problem. Sam was surprised and asked how he got the stuff down the holes to which the man replied, “It’s not for the moles. You sprinkle it on the grass and it kills the grubs that the moles eat.” Sam realized if he had gone after the grubs, he could have spent hours riding his bike on Saturday mornings instead of whacking moles.
We see similar problems happening today with marketers responsible for producing content. They get asked to produce content, usually on the whim of the sales team or senior leaders who think content is required for something. They charge off, with no particular direction to create information they “think” may work. This form of mole whacking is problematic for two reasons: it lacks direction and content created serves the purpose of the company, not the customer.
This is to say that people are being asked to develop content in one form or another and they ‘take a whack at it’. Rather than developing a strategy based on buyer personae and customer-centric content, they guess. And guessing is mole whacking, not grub hunting.
You’re asked to set up a Twitter feed? I’ll take a whack at it. New content or landing page for a website? I’ll whack that out. Next email blast? Let me whack that out. How about a whitepaper? Let me take a whack at it. I see a channel I think I am supposed to follow and I’ll spray and pray or smoke out followers on Twitter based on content I throw at it.
Content marketers devoted to mole whacking in one form or another are essentially frozen in one place strategically.
Make it your job as a content marketer to give up mole whacking and start grub hunting.
In order to leave mole whacking behind, you have to commit to a new process: One that takes time to document and understand what your buyer cares about.
We have coached many marketing teams on the best way to develop an outline for a blog post, email campaign or whitepaper. We have seen many different approaches but we have survived to tell the tale about a process that is tried and true. No matter what content you think needs developing, this process can’t miss.
First establish a very clear goal for your content marketing. This should fall into one of four categories:
- Thought leadership
- Lead generation
- Lead nurturing
We mentioned in our last post Avinash Kaushik’s See-Think-Do-Care model. It’s important to decide what your tactics will be for each of these stages as they relate to education, thought leadership, lead generation or lead nurturing. With respect to each, you have to be clear on who needs what and what your content will be for:
- Owned space (Example: the content strategy and conversion points on your website)
- Rented space (Example: your search engine and social media channels)
- Paid space (Example: place you can pay to be with sponsored content etc.)
6 Easy steps to giving up mole whacking for good
1. Present the issue…
Whether you are a professor at a university, an engineer in a software company or the CEO of a professional services company, you see issues every day in business that need to be addressed and many times in terms of the subject you study or the product or service you offer. In one sentence describe the issue the market you serve is trying to address. Get to the heart of the problem in one sentence. Is it a concern, challenge, opportunity or recurring problem?
2. It is significant because…
This is not a dissertation for your thesis. Succinctly explain what is at stake and how it affects dollars, income, people, etc. Often we suggest that it be framed as an emotional trigger most interesting to your best customer (this is where a buyer persona becomes useful). It has to be one thing though, not 10. It is not features or other problems solved. It is one significant thing that could stop you in your tracks if you are the right audience.
3. What is the ideal outcome?
What are the specific results that will be achieved if someone were to address the problem? We use a template at Marketing CoPilot called Know-Feel-Do. What do I need the reader to know? How do I want them to feel after reading something? What do I want them to do? If you use this simple formula and apply it to any piece of content, you highlight important flaws in the content. For example, if you don’t know what you want people to do after reading a piece of content, then don’t develop it. If the obvious answer isn’t, click through to a website, or download something, etc your content is going to misfire. Similarly, if your answer is “buy something” your content is also back to whacking moles.
4. Relevant background…
This one is obvious but often forgotten. What are the proof points you can provide in content to prove something to be true? What background can you share to help educate a reader? What side of an argument should you be on? This is where content really comes to life. Many times this content exists within an organization but people don’t understand how to frame it based on the steps one, two and three. Therefore, it often is not presented properly or worse, forgotten all together because someone hired a writer to go whack moles. It’s not their fault. They just didn’t have a process for getting at the nut of the problem; hunt grubs.
5. Keyword research…
Who else has covered the topic or types of content I am going to share? How many other conversations are online today having the same conversation? This is a great litmus test for anyone who thinks content marketing is about sending regularly scheduled email blasts to promote contests or do online promotions. There is a time and place for this but it is not content marketing. It is mole whacking. It is essentially asking hands to shoot up when you make your offer and see how many you can grab. There is tons of content like this on the Internet today and you are not unique or different when you do it. Keyword research gives you the background you need to understand where your opportunities are for content topics and it allows you to see traffic and volume trends.
6. Call to action…
What is the next step I want a reader to take after reading any piece of content? You can get a good handle on what visitors to your website and readers of your content are doing now. You can see exit pages and on page time from almost anything today and this is an important indicator of the power of the content to interest your ideal customer. Similarly, if you have 10,000 followers on Twitter and no one retweets or responds to your Tweets, you have a content problem. It’s not about volume. It’s about relevance and engagement. If you have 100 experts in your organization, who are the foremost leaders in a field or topic and no one quotes them on anything or calls on them to share their expertise, your content is silent.
Stop mole whacking. Start grub hunting.
A solid content marketing plan starts with a clearly identified value proposition, a documented buyer persona and a researched keyword strategy. It gets tested when tracked to understand relevancy and usefulness to an intended audience or group of like-minded people. It ends with engagement expressed in a variety of ways, the least of which being a “like”. A like and a share with 10 other colleagues is the true sign of content that engages which means you’ve truly started grub hunting.