I just finished reading the latest blog post by Ann Handley, bestselling author and MarketingProfs Chief Content Officer, titled Content Marketing Grows Up: My Prediction for 2016. You should read it…when you’re finished here, of course. Seriously, you should always read what Ann writes.
Ann likened content marketing’s journey in 2015 to someone who has been on a year-long bender. She described what happened to content marketing in 2015 in the following way:
“Content Marketing wakes up one morning in a place it doesn’t recognize, and tries to piece together what happened last night… and all the previous nights, too.”
Ann described content marketing in 2015 as having run amok (my words, not hers) because many content creators enthusiastically sold the concept of content marketing up the flagpole, then went running around posting everything they could get their hands, keyboards and brains on. They soon began to find themselves on a path with no focus, targets, or goals to hang their content marketing hats on.
Ann described content as though it felt betrayed:
“It takes a hard look at itself and wonders with a measure of regret: ‘How did I end up here?’”
“Everyone said Content Marketing had such potential.”
“Everyone said it was the hope for the future that would save marketing from itself.”
Content, It’s Time To Grow Up
Ann goes on to share that it is time for content to exit its “exuberant college years” and grow up a little.
“Maturity comes when you stop making excuses and starting making changes.”
I agree, but I don’t necessarily blame anyone for the path content marketing has taken so far.
Allow me to explain. I’ve been in marketing, management and sales for over 20 years. In the past 10 years we have seen more change in communication channels than I have seen in my entire career. I have seen similar reactions to other new tools along the way.
I have seen a process that looks like this:
- We court one another: Followers of marketing, content, social and digital communication get excited about new tools that help us do our jobs better. They are new, and sometimes very bright and shiny objects that attract us because they hold a great deal of promise for us when it comes to communicating and connecting with our target audiences.
- We get married and go on our honeymoon together: We are so excited with our new tool that we decide we must use it, and use it often. We discover we can’t live without it, so we pull it into our lives on a regular and more formal basis. We ignore those few shortcomings that we see because we are so enamored with it. We introduce it to everyone, extolling its virtues and features. It can do no wrong, or at least not enough wrong to make us leave.
- We begin to stray: Suddenly, we see there are other tools on the horizon…some better than the one we married, and some not better but less expensive. We begin to stray, meeting and using other tools because they, too, hold promise for us when it comes to communicating with our clients, potential clients, influencers and colleagues, otherwise known as our target audiences.
Somewhere along this 3-step relationship timeline, many forget why they began to use these tools in the first place. Confusion and overwhelm set in as the firehose of new marketing tools and channels are presented to us on a daily basis. Each one is sold as better than the one that came before.
Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe not, and that’s great, but if it does, that’s okay…but just for now.
I say just for now because I, like Ann, believe it’s time to help our content marketing strategy grow up and get a job. We need to step back and step up, defining what our purpose, path and process are for producing content in the first place.
We need to:
- Decide who our target audiences are,
- Decide what we want them to know,
- When we want them to know it,
- Where our target audiences tend to hang out,
- What they read, listen to or watch,
- …then create a plan for delivering our content to them based on the very simple but detailed criteria above.
Yes, content may have strayed a bit, but I understand how that happened because of those 3 phases I described above, which are courting, marriage and the honeymoon, and beginning to stray. You’re not alone if that has happened in your firm.
5 Steps To Stand Out
I’d like to see you stand out in 2016 as the firm that takes content by the hand.
I want you to…
- Focus content in the direction of your target clients and audiences.
- Use it to solve their problems and questions.
- Understand the stages clients go through in the decision-making process.
- Use it to establish, nurture and strengthen relationships with those you need and want to be close to.
- Give clients reasons to connect with you because you have chosen to speak directly to their needs with the content you are producing.
It’s time for:
- and Execution
And past the time for:
- Spraying and praying content all over the universe, hoping it will eventually find its way to your clients.
- Spending time, money and other resources on practices that are not measured.
- Creating content that does nothing to contribute to inbound marketing, which helps you attract your audiences to your content and your sites while creating a more formal relationship with them so you have their permission to continue talking to them.
Are you ready?
Nancy Myrland is a Marketing, Content, Digital & Social Media Strategist, Speaker & Advisor, helping lawyers, law firms and legal marketers grow by strategically integrating all marketing disciplines. She is a frequent LinkedIn and Twitter trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers and legal marketers understand how to make their marketing and business development efforts more relevant to their current and potential clients, and helps lead firms through their online digital strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases. As an early adopter of digital technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasts, video marketing and livestreaming. She can be reached here.