People conflate Inbound marketing strategy with the aggregation of tactical plans. Studies show a big problem with strategic planning processes is that the resulting ‘strategy’ is a bland compilation of capital budgets that, in turn, are a compilation (not integration) of separate functional initiatives.
OK, so most businesses do not have a strategy – let alone a good one.
Now, we need to talk about what “strategy” is.
“What is strategy? It is fundamentally the movement of an organization from its present position to a desirable but inherently uncertain future position. The path from here to there is both analytical (a series of linked hypotheses about objectives in a market, where we do and don’t play among our opportunity spaces, and what this means for the customer value proposition, sales tasks, and other activities) and behavioral (the ongoing coordinated efforts of people who work in different functions but must align for effective strategy execution). Moreover, the trail always begins with customers.”
Great! So a complicated paragraph to simply say that if you do not have a clear goal, then you wasted your team's time for nothing.
“Strategy” sounds smart, but how different is it from goals? Goals are a much clearer way to look at the issue of strategy. I suggest we stop trying to come up with an innovative “strategy,” and instead focus on goals.
SMART Goals for Your Business
SMART goals are a way to help businesses and individuals develop their goals. Many goals are fuzzy desires. SMART goals have a clear method of progress and real numbers that demonstrate whether that progress is happening.
If businesses would forget about “strategy,” and instead pick real goals, I think that content marketing would explode in effectiveness. It’s easy to toss out recommendations like “make SMART goals!” What I want to do is explain exactly what SMART goal-setting looks like in the field of content marketing.
The ways I see companies lose their strategy can be tied back to shortcomings in the SMART goal-setting process.
- Specific: You haven’t defined the precise content tactics you will use.
- Measurable: You aren’t measuring your ROI.
- Attainable: You don’t have a clear perspective on the eventual outcome.
- Relevant: Your content marketing strategy doesn’t actually target the business’ goals.
- Time-bound: You don’t know when you’ve succeeded.
Specific: You haven’t defined the precise content tactics you will use.
Content marketing alone is not a tactic. It includes all kinds of tactics including videos, webinars, assessment, NPS, whitepapers, Facebook Live feed, Snapchat filters, blogs, etc. Different types of content will have differing results, and some will cost more than others.
You have to choose which types of content you will produce and promote, but multiple types work best. Companies do so because different types of content affect the customer in different ways. Depending on where the customer is in the purchase cycle, certain forms of content can help nudge them further down the funnel.
TIP: Don’t assume that blogging is the right tactic. Not every business needs a blog. There are dozens of content varieties and for your specific business, and some of these may be more effective than a blog.
Measurable: You aren’t measuring your ROI.
Measuring the ROI of content marketing is one of the most common frustrations among marketers. I’ve found that companies that have a strategy are very effective at tracking their ROI; the two go hand-in-hand. If you have measurable goals (a strategy), then you are usually measuring the return on investment.
The question is how do you measure the return on investment?
The frustrating answer is, there’s no one way. But there are definitely ways to do it. You have to choose the method that works best for your organization.
Attainable: You don’t have a clear perspective on the eventual outcome.
What’s the goal of content marketing? This is an easy question with an easy answer – to gain more customers. But there are several nuances to the issue that make it slightly more complicated. For one, many marketers get so caught up in the daily tasks of producing content that they lose sight of this outcome. Instead, they simply are producing more content, more content, more content, and don’t stop to realize that more content isn’t going to get them anywhere unless it’s directly tied to an attainable goal.
The attainable goal isn’t just more clients. An attainable goal should be more specific.
- Brand awareness or reinforcement
- Lead conversion and nurturing
- Customer conversion
- Customer loyalty/retention
- Customer up-sell
Keep in mind that a real strategy – one that is built on SMART goals – has an attainable outcome. To make that outcome as attainable as possible, you need to focus it as best as possible on metrics that matter.
Relevant: Your content marketing strategy doesn’t actually target the business’ goals.
Content marketing is such a widespread marketing method that many organizations simply do it without taking the time to integrate it with company-wide goals. Often, a business’ marketing department has a different mindset than the remainder of the company.
If content marketing is to be effective, it must be tied to overall business goals. On occasion, I’ve seen businesses that were, for example, in the business of selling SaaS. Their marketing department, however, was in the business of promoting webinars.
Content marketing is a funnel. The skinny end of the funnel should be the company’s business goal.
So, if you are a partner or marketing manager of an MSP or IT firm who is tasked to build a new strategy to achieve aggressive revenue growth for 2018. We are having a workshop that will focus on new trends in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales. Also, we will be sharing a step-by-step framework that we have used with 35+ B2B Technology firms that has worked.
Feel free to connect us if you want to know more information about the workshop.