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Can I tell you a secret?
Most companies don’t have content marketing goals. Nope. Not one. I’ve seen it with everyone from growth-phase startups to global enterprise-level corporations.
In fact, many companies’ content marketing is run by people who are doing other jobs, like customer care, or product marketing, or SEO, and no offense but it shows.
From the outside, you’re doing the “right things.” You’ve got the blog, the ebook, the email list… Internally though, there’s no plan. No goals. No benchmarks.
Blog posts are written, maybe, on keyword researched pieces that maybe might potentially be relevant to the “audience.” The ebook is something you think people might enjoy. If they subscribe to the newsletter, maybe they’ll be interested in reading more articles?
A question I always ask is, “to what end?”
Overall, the goals of content marketing are fairly straight forward:
- To get shared throughout a community
- To be at the center of a discussion in that community
- To generate leads from qualified people within that community
- To earn sales from the members within that community
Notice I didn’t say anything like “build authority” or “trust”? These aren’t goals. You must be able to measure goals, and last I checked, Google Analytics doesn’t have a “trust” report.
Where we get into trouble though, is that we expect every piece of content to achieve all of these goals.
What we need is focus.
So if you’ll allow me, I’d like to expand and talk about how we can concentrate our efforts to create individual pieces that focus on each of these goals, and how they can work together to create a cohesive narrative.
Goal #1: Be shared throughout a community
First, let’s talk about your viewer’s goals for sharing content.
According to a 2018 study by The New York Times, people share content for the following reasons:
- They want to better other’s lives (94%)
- They want to nourish their relationships (80%)
- Like getting comments (81%)
- Share what they believe in (84%)
- They use content to reflect their identity (68%)
It’s funny. People’s reasons for sharing content aren’t too dissimilar from our goals as businesses. While our endgame is to get real currency in exchange for creating content, theirs is to receive social currency in exchange for sharing it.
Are you helping your reader to do this?
If your goal is to get your content shared throughout a community, you have to ask, what communities are they part of?
Are we talking about the small teams within the company Slack or the community at large on LinkedIn? The scope of the audience feels like it makes a difference, right?
You have to question what their subconscious goals are for sharing too.
If they’re trying to climb the corporate ladder, how can you make them look good to upper management? If they’re trying to fix a team problem, how can you empower the whole team? If they’re trying to look smart to the industry, how can you create con… you get the idea…
This is why market research is so important.
Understanding the challenges the people you’re creating for on micro-level bleeds through during the creation process and connects in a way that begs to be shared.
How you can measure:
- Social shares
- Inbound links
- Referral traffic
Tricky, but not impossible if you’re diligent about using tracking codes.
Here are some solid examples of what this looks like in action:
Probably my most valuable writing advice – VeryGoodCopy | Individual-level content
A step-by-step guide to conducting a content audit – QuickSprout | Team-level content
What is the future of ecommerce? – Shopify Plus | Look good to VP & the industry
Goal #2 Be the center of discussion within that community
Every year, venture capitalist Mary Meeker releases her State of the Internet report, and every year, everyone who conducts business online goes crazy for it.
Here is just a small sample of the coverage her report gets.
From my perspective, the secret of the report is three-fold.
First, it’s broad. This 333 slide deck covers significant trends that affect the entire internet, from ecommerce to advertising to apps and healthcare. The audience is genuinely anyone who conducts business online.
Second, specific slides confirm biases. I’m way more willing to discuss or defend subjects that put me in a position to look smart.
Finally, it highlights unknown opportunities. If I write for any kind of B2B vertical, I’m absolutely going to discuss trends that will make me look good and potentially convert more customers.
If I’m considering expanding my business globally, specifically focusing on APAC, this slide sums all of these points up perfectly.
Discussion content just feels different.
It’s informative, like in the Meeker Report’s case.
It disproves a widely held belief like this article on how image carousels are bad for conversions on CXL.
It controversial, like Superdrug’s “Perception of perfection” campaign that photoshopped a woman into the “ideal image” of what the perfect woman looks like in each country.
It’s polarizing, like Kraft’s “What do you think of Miracle Whip?” campaign that pit Miracle Whip against Mayonnaise and generated a substantial discussion.
Think of it this way; if “Share” content makes your reader look good. “Discussion” content gets them involved in the conversation.
How you can measure:
- Media mentions
- Social sentiment analysis
Goal #3 – Generate high-quality leads
Of all of the content marketing goals, generating leads and sales is probably the most straight-forward. Or is it?
According to Jim Obermayer, the Sales Lead Management Association CEO:
- 45% of all inquiries will usually buy from someone within 12 months.
- 10-15% of those people will buy within three months.
- 26% of people will buy within the next six months.
- 4-9% will buy in the remaining six months.
Suppose the ultimate content marketing goal is to generate sales. In that case, it’s essential to recognize the three types of leads so you can nurture them accordingly without ruining your credibility in the process.
Information qualified leads (IQLs)
These are your “Top of Funnel” leads, the people who signed up for your ebook, webinar, white paper, or tip-sheet or any other kind of trip-wire offer.
They’ve recently become aware of their problem and are at the beginning stages of finding a solution. But they probably don’t know you or how you can help.
Realistically, most of these contacts won’t convert into sales right away. They’ve downloaded the thing to get the information, solve the problem, and move on.
That’s not a bad thing by the way. If treated well, these people can become your “fans” and be the ones to amplify your content or provide insight via feedback loops.
If treated poorly, though, you could just as quickly become noise and tarnish your reputation.
To see this in action, look no further than your inbox.
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
Regardless of how you define marketing qualified leads, the point is, they’ve signaled they’re a little closer to buying.
These subscribers have visited transactional pages, downloaded content more information about your company, have partaken in product demos, or whatever marketing activity that indicated there is a more qualified interest in your product or service.
This is why email segmentation is so important because once someone becomes an MQL, your goal is to create content that brings them closer to a decision point.
Trials, estimates, consultations, etc are all solid offers that bring them to the next stage…
Sales qualified leads (SQLs)
Now is the time to react. According to a Lead Response Management study, the odds of getting in contact with a sales qualified lead decrease ten times after the first hour.
Intuitively, this makes sense because it’s much easier to get in touch while you’re top of mind. If handled without being pushy, your responsiveness demonstrates your business’s customer focus and attention to detail.
Goal #4 – Generate Sales
This is it.
This is where all the hard work pays off. This content is what’s found on your transactional pages. It speaks directly to the pain points. It uses urgency, social proof, emotion, and persuasion.
It’s direct, singularly focused, and compelling.
Moreover, it’s easy to read. There’s lots of white space. Action words.
Just look at what Basecamp does in 129 words.
The goal of sales content is to communicate as much as necessary in as few words as possible.
If the goal and objective of everything leading up to this point has been to get the reader in tune with the problem, the goal of the sales content is to, in the most concise way possible, communicate that we understand who you are, why you’re here, and here is how we can help.
How do these content marketing goals work together?
Ideally, and of course, life happens, so this won’t always be the case, but ideally, you’re planning your content calendar around these four content marketing goals.
- You create the content that gets shared
- You follow that up with related content that drives discussion
- The insights you gain from the discussion are packaged up to capture leads
- Using what you’ve learned, that is all used to refine your sales copy
Having content that works together like this gives the publication a sense of purpose, and a feeling that everything is leading to something.
When a sale is no longer a sale, but the next logical step, that’s where the magic happens.