By Arnie Kuenn published July 24, 2014

Play Ball: How Your Content Marketing Plan Should Load the Bases

baseball player hitting ball with batIn content marketing, the end game is always the same: Influence your audience to take an action with your business through content creation and promotion. The path businesses take to get to that point differs greatly depending on the strategies and tactics used, though the creation and distribution of quality content is a necessary component to any content marketing plan.

However, a common content marketing misconception is that in order to realize any content marketing ROI, your content must go viral. With 92,000 new articles being published online each day, content virality isn’t a very realistic attainment. Luckily, for most businesses, it doesn’t have to be.

To be effective with content marketing, you don’t need to worry about having one huge, fantastic idea that gets a million hits on day one. You need to create and promote compelling, useful content on a consistent basis to achieve goals and meet business objectives.

Think about it like playing “moneyball” in baseball. At the end of the 2001 baseball season, the Oakland Athletics were in a predicament: Key players were leaving the team and they only had about $41 million in salary available to spend on talent. Unfortunately, the Athletics were expected to compete with larger-market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spent more than $125 million in payroll that same season.

Because of this, the Athletics were faced with finding quality players who were underestimated and undervalued by the market to fill their roster. They knew they wouldn’t be able to afford a superstar that the team could count on for home runs and grand slams, so as an alternative, they used statistics to focus on recruiting players who could consistently contribute base hits.

By taking numbers like on-base percentage into consideration, the Athletics were able to build a strong team that won 20 straight games in 2002 and landed a playoff spot that same year, despite the lack of salary funds necessary to stack the team with star players.

You can use this same mentality when tackling projects in your content marketing plan. Instead of focusing your resources on creating the perfect content piece that you hope will go viral (the equivalent of hitting a home run or grand slam), concentrate your efforts on creating useful content that may not hit it out of the park, but still produces solid results (a base hit).

How to play

For content marketing moneyball to be effective, you have to actually get the single. In order to do that, consistently, you must have the right foundation for success:

Put a strategic content marketing plan in place: It has been said many times before, but it’s worth saying again: Before beginning a content marketing way of life, ask yourself, “Why?” What do you want your content to accomplish? Once you know this, put a plan in place to get there. This often comes in the form of a strategy and, ultimately, a content editorial calendar. 

Define your audience/ buyer personas: Though you may have a good idea of who your general audience is, take it a step further and develop buyer personas. Get as granular as possible and be sure to develop characters that incorporate the needs, goals, and behavior patterns you have identified among customers. Like the Athletics had to identify the “types” of players they would go after by analyzing statistics, you need to understand exactly who you are marketing to by analyzing your audience. 

Be entertaining: Capturing and maintaining your audience’s attention is an essential part of content marketing, and producing entertaining content is a great way to do just that. Not all of your content needs to be specifically about what you’re selling — in fact, most of it shouldn’t be. Focus on your audience’s wants and needs, instead.

Get creative and step outside of your brand — or even industry — bubble. Look at the news — is there any breaking news or are there pop culture stories you could potentially relate to something your audience cares about? It could be something as simple as taking a selfie. Though your content may not be as entertaining as a grand slam, your audience will be thankful for the break from “salesy” content.

team selfie-blue shirts

Be useful: No matter the angle you take or the type of content you create, above all, be useful. Ultimately, people don’t care about your brand, product or service — they care about themselves.

Think about your audience members: What are their pain points, and how can your business help? Find out what data is necessary to make a purchase decision and deliver it to your audience in a way that is easily accessible and consumable. The Athletics used statistics to solve their problem; provide your audience members with the information needed to solve the issues they face.

Apply the above recommendations to every piece of content you plan to create and develop a strong promotion and distribution strategy to start loading up the bases.

In summary

When watching a baseball game, fans don’t expect to see grand slams and home runs every inning — or even every game, necessarily. However, a steady stream of base hits (and runs!) still makes for a winning experience.

Similarly, though a viral video or blog post can often be great for business, content virality should not be your goal when developing content marketing strategies. Instead, focus on creating compelling content that is useful to your audience to fulfill your content marketing goals. Like the 2002 Oakland Athletics, use your resources to earn smaller successes that could eventually lead to something much bigger.

Ready to make content marketing an integral part of your business operations? Download our workbook to learn how to Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Arnie Kuenn

Arnie Kuenn is the CEO of Vertical Measures, a content marketing agency with an SEO foundation, focused on helping their clients get more traffic, more leads, and more business. Arnie has held executive positions in the world of new technologies and marketing for more than 25 years. He is a frequent speaker and author of Content Marketing Works. In 2014, Arnie was honored as the Interactive Person of the Year in Arizona. You can find Arnie on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn.

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  • Jeff

    Hi, Arnie. The content editorial calendar download is asking for a password. Thanks for the article!

    • Arnie Kuenn

      Hi Jeff – try it again. I just tried the page and it worked fine – no password necessary.

  • Rolf

    Excellent article, Arnie. I totally agree that a series of small, valuable pieces of content is easier to produce than one big hit. I just published my first White Paper about how to promote B2B product catalogs. For me it’s basic knowledge but for my audience it seems to be valuable information. My lesson learned: basic knowledge on an expert level is a good starting point for content.

  • http://marketecture.com Scott Tillman

    Those really big ‘home runs’ can be useful, but always aiming for them would be exhausting and useless. Has anyone else noticed that the content you produce that gets the most attention is almost never what you expect it to be? Arnie, I think your advice is absolutely gold. You need to steadily produce good, valuable and useful content in order to be in a stable situation. And then who knows! Maybe someday you’ll get that “grand slam”.

    • Arnie Kuenn

      To answer your question Scott — It is rare that I correctly predict the success of a specific piece of content. And thanks for the kind words.

  • http://www.arttechint.com/ Suraj Rai

    I am really impressed with your post. Nowadays everyone wants to save time and get result fast that time content marketing is very helpful to everyone. It is savvy way to get success in your business in no time. You shared good strategy plan about content marketing that is difficult to disused. Thank to share this interesting post.

  • http://www.professionalcontentcreation.com/ Rebecca Livermore

    Arnie, such a great point about not looking and hoping for content to go viral. Sure, we’d all love that, but hitting singles consistently can certainly end up in wins. It seems that the key is consistency, which is where many content marketers fall short.