Everyone needs content. Right? That’s what I hear—at every summit and show I visit, whether it’s for marketing or web or digital strategy, the breakouts and the keynotes and the booths all talk about one thing: content. How to get it, how to get more, how to make it better. So you need content. Right?
Not so fast.
I’ve created a lot of content in my career, from journalism to ad copy to marketing materials. I have done some really fulfilling work for clients that won awards and looked amazing and sounded brilliant—but didn’t get a single view or convert a single prospect.
Content is not a strategy.
Content is a tactic. That can be part of a strategy. No doubt, content can be a brilliant tactic. But without the WHY behind the WHAT, your content is just one of a million things your audience can ignore in the course of a day.
Content is the marketing buzzword and silver bullet du jour, so clients want a lot of it. But sometimes when you scratch the surface, there’s nothing beneath. In metaphorical terms, you’ve got a 5000 square-foot house with a chef’s kitchen and river rock fireplaces being held up by a few 2x4s and some tape. If you’re planning a major content initative, you need concrete and steel and some sturdy framing. You need a strategy. A point, if you will.
Strategy vs. tactics—what’s the difference?
Content is fun, it’s creative, and it’s a tangible result. When clients talk about content marketing, they want to start with content.
Resist that urge. Creating content should be your final element of a plan that looks like this:
- First, review your overarching business objectives.
- Next, take a look at the annual goals that support those objectives—for finance, technology, marketing, and so on.
- Your marketing strategy is the road that you will take that will get you from Point A to Point B, your goal.
- Content and other tactics are the vehicles you use to travel that road to your destination. Content helps fulfill your strategy, which helps you accomplish your goals, which will enable the business to achieve its objectives.
With every piece of content, if you can’t see how the content fits into your strategy you’ve designed to accomplish your goals, you may be making an investment that won’t yield much of a return.
But don’t get nuts. Don’t get alignment mixed up with measurement. Businesses often think that every piece of content has to be justified by the impact it has on business goals. A tactic alone isn’t going to move the needle on your business performance. As part of a solid strategy and a clear understanding of customer wants and needs, that’s when you’ll see content producing results.
Content has to make sense in context. The WHAT needs to align with the WHY. If it doesn’t? Maybe you don’t need content. There’s no rule that says you need x amount of content in order to be successful. Some organizations need more content, and different types, than others.
The point is not to cross an imaginary finish line with the most content, or the latest thing. It’s to end up with the content that best supports your business. That’s why you need to be able to develop content to support your strategy and your objectives, not the other way around.