So much content. So few results.
Such is the dilemma of over worked, under equipped marketers talking to an information-saturated consumer group.
Forget about conversion... how about a little engagement? A like, or two?
If you can relate, don’t feel bad. You’re among many marketers and small business owners that struggle to
make waves in the ever-rising content sea of the digital age.
Here's the problem
As I've watched digital marketing trends and experiences with my clients, I've noticed a harmful trend in strategy emerging - a fatal flaw perpetuated by paid promotion, analytics services, and pay-per-word content mills.
You see, when words like "goals", "results", and "effectiveness" get paired with content marketing, we've been conditioned to think of things like:
Yes, it’s a bit counter-intuitive, but think about the final goal of all marketing. It’s driving sales, right?
At the risk of dramatic oversimplification, a sale happens when a customer’s preference for your brand and offering intersect with an unmet need.
So if the endgame is sales, and sales result from trust and preference, then the goal of content marketing should be to solidify trust and preference while exposing unmet needs.
The problem is, we're spending our time trying to get more likes, shares, and other engagement, but these things don't support sales. They are metrics, which are great as a form of measurement, but we've actually made them our goal. We've put the cart before the horse.
Content Goals vs. Content Metrics
Content goals and content metrics can be very similar and even overlap, but they are not the same:
Content Goal: A content marketing objective that will move the visitor down the sales funnel and better position them for a purchase decision.
Content Metric: A method of measuring visitor interaction with content.
We recognize that building brand awareness is a legitimate content goal because brand awareness is foundational for buying decisions (AKA, sales). On the other hand - views, likes, and shares are examples of content metrics that we can use to estimate whether or not the brand awareness goal is being achieved.
A good cookout gone bad
Let's say you've been volun-told by your boss to take care of drinks for the marketing department cookout. The (obvious) goal here is that the folks at the cookout are refreshed by and pleased with the drinks.
However, if you and your boss are focused on metrics instead of goals, you can show up to the cookout touting 20 cases of expired, warm, generic soda - and your boss will think you’re a hero.
Why? Because the boss is focused on metrics, and “20 cases” means a lot of drinks – great job!
At the end of the day, the metrics-focused marketer is left scratching their head when everyone is complaining about the lame drinks – or when their content marketing is getting zero “results”.
When marketers focus on metrics, they create content to win views, watch time, likes, and shares. This results in plenty of positive, funny, touching, remarkable, and clever content with a wide appeal, but not much that leads to conversion.
In the words of Marcus Sheridan, founder and president of The Sales Lion:
"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."
On top of that, B2C metrics-focused content is often inflated with hype, click bait, presumptuous claims, and spam. In short, a metrics focus produces cheap wins, but expensive disappointment for the brand.
When did metrics turn into goals?
After the content is created with the purpose of getting those likes, the metrics-focused marketer proceeds to pay for promotion and analytics with the exact same purpose, which leads us to one of the roots of the problem:
We have been conditioned by marketing gurus and social platforms to shift away from legitimate content goals, and shoot for higher metrics numbers instead. We’re looking at you, Facebook (and LinkedIn, Google, etc.).
Now don't get me wrong - Facebook and company DO like having solid user-generated content (because it funnels visitors to their platforms). However, when it comes to paid promotion and analytics, they don't give a rip whether or not your content supports your sales.
Though there are exceptions (such as the Facebook Pixel tracking actual conversions) these companies profit primarily from boosting and tracking higher metrics numbers - not from visitors moving down your funnel.
When we pay for ads to promote our content, we're trying to buy something that will move our visitors down the funnel, but that's not what's being sold. We're really buying higher metrics numbers, which, in and of themselves, don't help us.
What’s the fix?
The solution for metric-focused content strategies is essentially to reverse engineer your process. Start by deciding what you want the piece to accomplish in your sales funnel, and work your way backwards from there to determine how to craft content that supports your endgame.
To read in detail on how to reverse engineer your content strategy, check out my next article in the series: How to Set Content Goals That Support Conversion.