The Content Marketing Race: It’s probably time to step on the brakes.


John Leibrick

Vice President, Insight Director

Whether you’re marketing vehicles to businesses and/or consumers, component technology to OEMs and their dealers or services to fleet managers and commercial drivers, you’ve likely been doing content marketing.

Content marketing has been established as a critical element of an overall marketing program. Most marketers, regardless of industry, have been running content marketing programs for a few years, ever since it became cliché that “content is king.” It was new, exciting and fun, and unlike direct-paid advertising tactics, it seemed more cost effective.

But this led to a rapid expansion of content marketing efforts where volume and speed have been the focus, rather than relevance and efficacy. The cost to brands for unfocused content marketing efforts is challenging to measure — direct costs, opportunity costs and, most difficult to pinpoint, long-term costs to both revenue and your brand — can be steep when content is churned out without a strong strategy.

But content can be a strategic way to reach, engage, develop and delight customers, driving preference and purchase consideration. And therein lies the challenge and opportunity for marketers.

So here are two realities:

  1. You should have a content marketing program.
  2. You should pause for long enough to make sure it’s effective.

What to do?

Before you make and deploy one more piece of content, be sure to:

1. Review and document your business-level goals, macro-strategies to reach them, and how content marketing fits into that plan.

2. Know your audiences and segments. Re-research and document your personas, noting significant differences in demographics, preferences, lifestyle factors, motivators, and behaviors. These have very likely changed since the last time you did this exercise.

3. Map every potential communications journey. Understand how and where your audiences hang out, how they consider content from your industry, and how they go about buying.

4. Build a real content calendar. Strategically consider the key needs of your customers and map out the content they would want or need, what delivery channels work best, and when. Then plan content that enhances the prospect or customer experience at each touch.

5. Consider visuals. Content isn’t always copy. Broader topics — such as energy and sustainability — can benefit from a graphical treatment where loads of data (carbon emissions, dollars saved from energy efficiency, performance improvements and more) can be represented easily through charts, diagrams and icons.

6. Build in targets, tracking and reporting elements from the beginning. Proof of performance enables ongoing optimizations and shows the impact of your good content strategy.

7. Beware of evergreen content. We all love the idea of content that can be used again — those pieces that touch upon a topic that’s not tied directly to a hot trend or specific idea. But that doesn’t mean we should plug those pieces into the mix whenever we come up short. Even evergreen content needs a bit of attention. Reread these pieces to see what needs to be updated in light of current events, changing laws, and social trends. The key is to recycle the content while keeping it relevant.

Here’s a tip: don’t cheat on 1–4. The negative impacts are cumulative. Each shortcut before deployment adds more and more to the randomness factor of your content.

One of the things that we like about (re)building a strong content marketing program is that the process forces just-plain-right marketing practices which have impacts far beyond the content plan. Content done right helps to knit together key customer-centric elements that cross into other channels and tactics, such as SEO, influencer marketing and paid media.

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