Over 90% of companies use content marketing, but only 9% classify themselves as sophisticated. So, what are these top performers getting right? Several things, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report. Let’s take a look…

  1. They’re extremely/very committed to content marketing (89% compared to 56% average and 27% low performers)
  2. They have a documented content marketing strategy (62% compared to 37% average and 16% low performers)
  3. They measure content marketing ROI (55% compared to 35% average and 18% low performers)
  4. They rate project management flow during the content creation process as excellent/very good (70% compared to 36% average and 14% low performers)
  5. They are focused on building audiences (90% compared to 80% average and 65% low performers)
  6. They value creativity and craft in content creation and production (88% compared to 74% average and 59% low performers)
  7. They are realistic about what content marketing can achieve (86% compared to 62% average and 45% low performers)
  8. Leadership gives ample time to produce content marketing results (84% compared to 59% average and 38% low performers)
  9. They always/frequently deliver content consistently (75% compared to 59% average and 33% low performers)
  10. They do a great job aligning metrics and content marketing goals (54% compared to 19% average and 2% low performers)

So, how can you improve on these fronts? Here’s my two cents…

1. You can never be too committed to content marketing: There really is no right or wrong answer here. Just keep moving forward by creating new content marketing goals that further your customer experiences/relationships. For example, you may have a solid editorial calendar that’s built out six months in advance. Good! But do you have a corresponding social calendar that aligns with your blogging narrative to ensure consistency and customer value? Keep pushing ahead and think outside of the box.

2. Write it down…somewhere, anywhere: I mean this quite literally. Consider the story of how Joe Pulizzi founded the Content Marketing Institute. He writes: “Next to my computer was a cocktail napkin (I still can’t recall why). On that napkin, I wrote something to the effect of this: ‘In three years, we will run the leading online destination for content marketing, the leading content marketing magazine, and the largest content marketing event on the planet.’” Get your plans down, somewhere (ideally, a shareable source like Excel spreadsheet, Google Drive/Docs, Dropbox). That’s already half the battle.

3. Don’t be intimidated: Content marketing ROI should be measured in dollar terms to demonstrate revenue growth, but it shouldn’t end there. Think of all the other forms of concrete value that can be derived from content marketing: increased sales cycle, improved lead gen, more concentrated customer interactions. Don’t limit yourself. Check out this blog from guest author Eric Lebowitz for a deep dive into content marketing ROI.

4. Content creation is more than just content creation: There are tons of small but significant projects that go into content production, and they should all seamless. These projects can include weekly brainstorming sessions for ongoing content calendars or developing a comprehensive social posting schedule using automated tools like Hootsuite. How are you managing the flow of these different supporting projects? This is where team engagement tools like Slack become handy. Essentially any tool that allows for natural, instant and ongoing communication/collaboration.

5. You can’t create stellar content without first building your audience: You need to understand who your target audience is: their wants, needs, challenges and behaviors. More importantly, you need to understand these things as they inevitably change. Check out this blog for simple steps to begin building a target audience.

6. It’s more than just getting the point across: It’s about how you do so. The very nature of content marketing is storytelling. There’s a reason a blog isn’t a product sheet, or why 56% of companies outsource content creation verses having internal product managers or engineers write the copy. There needs to be a certain level of creativity and craft for content to resonate, engage and retain. It’s about finding your voice and showcasing your personality. The content you produce should be more than just information. It should be part of a living, breathing customer relationship.

7. Take small steps: The grander (and potentially more unrealistic) your expectations, the more disappointment you’ll feel when they aren’t met. Consider a few things when it comes to your content marketing expectations. For example, how big or small is your content marketing team? How big is your budget? How many tools are you using to analyze and track performance? If you’re unsure where to start, I suggest setting small, digestible goals and working your way up.

8. This is a tricky one: I get that you’re looking for results right away (for some who are reporting to a higher-up, this could be right right away). Just like you can’t rush good food, you can’t rush good content. You need to be patient to get an accurate gauge of content performance. This is why it’s not uncommon for companies to wait upwards of six months to see if their targeted keywords are registering. Sometimes, it’s not even about the content but rather how the content is being distributed. Maybe you’re not properly indexing or linking between assets. There is so much to consider (more on that here). Give your content the time it needs to fully cook.

9. The golden rule: Consistency depends on the asset you’re producing. For example, consistent blogging (in my professional opinion) boils down to about 2-3 blogs a week. Social posts, however, can be upwards of 1-3 posts a day. Consistent white paper creation looks like about one per quarter (or 4 per year). Case studies, one a month. Just remember: once you start consistently producing content, don’t stop. You’ll seriously suffer for it. This is why I recommend taking things slow. Walk before you run.

10. Keep it simple: Most companies don’t use content marketing metrics because there’s no formal justification to prove ROI/performance required; they need an easier way to measure; or they don’t know how. If this sounds like you, I suggest you keep things simple. For example, top performers agree that metric alignment has allowed them to increase audience engagement, number of leads, overall sales and decrease cost of customer acquisition. If anything, start here.

2018 will be the year you become a content marketing top performer. Ready to make it happen?

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