By Arnie Kuenn published August 24, 2016

15 Experts Reveal the No. 1 Thing You Should Do in Content Marketing

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Eager for Content Marketing World, I got a head start and asked 15 presenters to answer one simple question: What is your No. 1 tip on how most companies can improve their current content marketing?

Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute founder and author of Content Inc., says:

“I would take a six-month period and focus everything you can on building subscribers in one of your programs (let’s say, your email newsletter). Take out the sales messaging for a while, take out the unnecessary content, and just focus on building an audience. How does that change your content?

“Look at the CTAs in and around your site and improve them for subscriber growth. Often we are so busy extracting value from customers and prospects that we don’t focus on providing true value in our content products. This will help you focus on that.”

Andrew Davis, founder of Monumental Shift and author of Brandscaping, says:

Changing the way you measure the impact of your content marketing is one of the easiest ways to improve. Instead of measuring views, visits, leads, or downloads measure revenue per subscriber.”

Andy Crestodina, principal strategic director at Orbit Media and author of Content Chemistry, says:

Formatting is a fast, cheap way to improve your current content. Make sure your articles use subheads, short paragraphs, internal links, bullet lists, and multiple images. This will slow down the scanners and reduce your bounce rate. If your visitors hit a wall of text, they’re likely to bounce.”

Jay Baer, president of Convince and Convert and author of Hug Your Haters, says:

“The best way to improve your current content marketing has nothing to do with your content. Instead, the best way to improve the success of your content is to amplify that content better. The days of “if you write it, they will read it” are over. Smart content marketers flip the script and think about how they can successfully promote and amplify their content first, and then build content to align with those strengths.”

Ardath Albee, CEO of Marketing Interactions Inc. and author of Digital Relevance, says:

“My top tip for improving current content marketing is to take the time to really get to know your audience by building personas. With this depth of audience insight to inform your content development, you’ll be able to raise relevance with content that resonates and spurs buyers to take action.

“Your content will become more purpose-driven and meaningful when it’s focused on the issues your audience is trying to resolve and the objectives they are trying to achieve. Developing personas will enable you to create less content that delivers a higher level of effectiveness than what most companies are seeing today.”

Marcus Sheridan, founder and president of The Sales Lion, says:

“The biggest mistake we see organizations making with their content marketing right now is that they lack bottom-of-the-funnel types of content. Too much content is fluffy – stuff that doesn’t truly address buyer questions, concerns, worries, fears, etc.

“Look at it this way: What percentage of your content would a member of your sales team want to send to a serious prospect? If the number isn’t 75% or higher, then you can take it as a sign that your content strategy and focus have gone off the rails and needs a readjustment.”

Rand Fishkin, co-author of Art of SEO and Wizard of Moz, says:

“Nine out of 10 times, when I talk to content creators and marketers, I find they’re ignoring a massive, crucial aspect of content marketing – amplification strategy. We all generally agree that it’s fairly useless to produce content unless that content will be shared, talked about, reach people, rank in search engines, and generally, attract the visitors you’re hoping to reach. Yet, I find that a huge number of content marketers follow the practice of creating something, sharing it across their social networks, and then hoping for the best. This is folly.

“Before you ever create content, I urge you to ask the critical question: Who will help amplify this and why? If you don’t have a great answer, a specific list of people, don’t create it. Granted, there are vast quantities of tactics for improving amplification and for reaching more people, but if you don’t have that initial match between content and audience nailed to the degree where people won’t just appreciate your work, but will actually share it, you shouldn’t be investing time to create it in the first place.”

Ian Cleary, founder of RazorSocial, says:

Create super valuable content that is so good people will welcome the fact that you reach out to tell them about it. Unless you’re a media site publishing many articles every day I’d focus on fewer articles, more depth and higher quality.

“It’s more and more competitive and one of the best ways of standing out is the quality of your content. When you do create that content, it is important to have an outreach strategy and a paid promotion strategy. You need to reach out to relevant people and boost this post using ads to a relevant audience.”

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Carla Johnson, president of Type A Communications and co-author of Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, says:

“The No. 1 tip that I give companies on how to improve their current content strategy is to document their strategy, and include how it will drive business objectives. I still see marketers operating in ‘marketing land’ without understanding that the purpose of everything that they do needs to drive business growth. That, ultimately, is the “why” behind everything we should be doing as content marketers.

Rakhal Ebeli, chief executive officer of Newsmodo, says:

“Know your audience, have a strategy, don’t feel you have to do everything, just make sure that what you do, you do it well.

“Create content that adds value, invest in experienced journalists to investigate, unearth and write your stories and finally, expect that it will take time to position your brand as an authority in your space.”

AJ Huisman, founder of Y Content and co-founder and chief content officer of Content Marketing Fast Forward, says:

“What never ceases to amaze me is that companies start content programs without actually truly knowing what their (prospective) client’s information needs are. They think or assume that they know, but they don’t. You might think this is so obvious that it is a given, sadly it is often not.

Keep researching your clients’ needs by always asking them questions. Next time you organize a client event don’t just ask if the room temperature was all right, but ask them what the next event should be about. What you’re actually asking is what is on top of their mind, use that to produce content that really resonates.”

Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of PR 20/20 and author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint, says:

“Always be activating! Too many marketers invest the majority of their time and money planning and creating the content, and not nearly enough on promoting it to their audiences through a variety of channels. A simple rule to consider is to spend 20% of resources on production, and 80% on promotion.”

Christoph Trappe, author of Authentic Storytelling and senior director of content marketing + content creation at MedTouch, says:

“If there’s only one thing people could do for better content marketing it’s this: Tell better, more relevant and more unique stories. Many are pushing out content, but it’s too similar to others and not really a differentiator. Go story shopping, find those unique stories and share them.”

Bert Van Loon, independent strategist at BertvanLoon.com and author of Agile Content Marketing Roadmap, says:

“Check the ‘oh!’ rank of your content. As content marketing is becoming mainstream, there’s both the risk of working on an automatic pilot and the increasing need to stand out of the crowd. Remember, your audience should smile and think “Oh!” when your content hits them.

To make that actionable, go out and ask existing and potential customers to rank how your content and your competitor’s content has an ‘oh!’ impact on their life. If there’s no top-ranking ‘oh!’ in your content, you should immediately take action and increase your ambition to make your content be c-oh!-ntent.”

Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich Inc. and author of Spin Sucks, says:

“The best way companies can improve their current content marketing is to measure, measure, measure. Too often, we hear things such as, ‘We don’t know if our content marketing is working, but we sure are spending a lot of time and resources on it.’

“It’s pretty easy to measure with just a spreadsheet and Google Analytics to start. If you’re not measuring results right now, start there. You can build something prettier as you begin to show your efforts are contributing to the overall strategy of the business.”

Conclusion

These experts’ advice is designed to help you improve your content marketing program — whether you need to show its value (measure), extend its reach (promote), stand out in a crowd (be unique), or connect better with your audience (be relevant). The first step is to pick one thing and put your effort behind it for an extended time to do it well, then move on to the next. You’ll improve your content marketing step by step.

What’s the one thing you are doing now to make a difference in your current content marketing?

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Get a detailed overview of the five principles that content marketing success is dependent on. Read our 2016 Content Marketing Framework: 5 Building Blocks for Profitable, Scalable Operations.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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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  • Heidi Cohen

    Arnie and contributors–Useful advice! I love that Jay and Rand both focus on integrating amplification into your content creation. Paul chimes in with the 20% content creation and 80% distribution. It’s at the core of how Priceconomics built their brand. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide

    • http://www.verticalmeasures.com/ Arnie Kuenn

      Hi Heidi – amplification is truly one of the big keys to success. I like to think that all of us are thinking about its amplification at the ideation phase as well. – Arnie

  • Kara Kuryllowicz

    Truly one of your best articles EVER and at this point, I’ve read many! I particularly appreciated these tips:
    1) use format – slow scanners, reduce bounce – YES – and it makes it more fun and easier to read
    2) amplification – I’d like to know more about the best ways to ID “sharers – YES – and since you’ve invested in the creation of it – exponentially extend its reach
    3) OH – give readers that new bit of info – that makes them say AHA – YES – new perspective or insight is always appreciated
    4) experienced journalists – not every self-proclaimed writer can actually write or tell a relevant story well – YES – I have a bias here as a long-time trade journalist
    5) spend 20% on production and 80% on promotion – if no one or not enough people see it – what’s the point – YES

    I have bookmarked this one and will constantly go back to it!!!

    Thanks!

    • http://www.verticalmeasures.com/ Arnie Kuenn

      Hi Kara – thanks for the great recap. Glad you liked the article!

  • Deepak Varadarajan

    So much useful information in just one article. Great job guys.

  • http://www.yetitrailadventure.com/ Lok Bhatta

    An interesting information. Thanks a lot.