A couple of years ago I went looking for a lake. I had heard that not only was it a beautiful spot, but the fishing was supposed to be excellent. In short, it sounded like the perfect spot.
So I did my research, plotted out my route, got up early and spent hours driving in a circle, not quite lost (I knew how to get back), but not really sure of where I was going. I kept ending up back at the same five corner intersection, not sure which road I should try next.
Eventually I got frustrated and went to my backup lake for a few hours of the same old, same old.
Content marketing can be a lot like that. You drive around in circles for a while, thinking you’re on the right track, but it never quite works out the way you think it should and you end up stuck in the same place you started, not sure which road I should try next.
As frustrating as it is, going back to the same old, same old probably isn’t helping your business all that much. Especially if you’re hoping to find your lake, that perfect place for your business that makes you happy.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Having a content marketing strategy that isn’t quite working doesn’t mean you should just give up. A not-quite-working strategy is still better than starting from scratch. Here’s why.
1. You Have a Roadmap of What Doesn’t Work
Knowing what doesn’t work is ridiculously helpful.
For instance, when I made my first attempt to find my lake, I knew that when I hit the five corners, going left was wrong.
Instead of starting blind and using trial and error (which is probably how you wound up here in the first place), you can now start again knowing exactly what doesn’t work.
Being able to streamline your efforts away from things that aren’t working, like whatever you’re doing now, is going to help get you one step closer to content marketing success.
Sometimes, you get lucky and it’s a simple thing. Maybe you’re just not promoting your content enough. If that’s the case, get out there and promote. There’s some excellent suggestions for promoting your content over at Moz. Try a few of these and see if you notice any changes in traffic or engagement.
Sometimes, though, it’s a little tougher than that.
The best way to start here is to try different topics. If something isn’t resonating with your audience enough to get them clicking/reading/engaging/whatever, then chances are your topics just aren’t quite the ones your audiences want to read about.
The best advice I can give here is to look at everything you blogged, emailed or posted about in the last 6 months or so (feel free to go back longer) and stop posting about them. Sit down and brainstorm new ideas.
If you’re having trouble figuring out new topics, spend a bit of time on your competitors’ websites and see what kinds of topics they’re writing about.
2. You also get insight into what does work
Even the worst attempt at doing something can result in some successes. Sure, I may not have found my lake, but when I stopped to talk to some loggers while I was out there, I figured out exactly where I’d taken the wrong turn. The next time I went out, I went the other way and got a little closer to finding my lake.
Chances are, you’ve done at least something right. This is a good time to look at your stats. For blog posts, look at the posts people that get the most clicks. Those topics are what your audience wants to find out more about. If you’re not getting any, then you topics are all wrong. Either way, this is helpful.
Knowing the topics that interest your audience is about as good as it’s going to get when your content marketing strategy hasn’t been working for you.
It tells you, if nothing else, what people want. From there, it’s just a matter of figuring out how they want to engage with your content.
If you’re doing emails, check your open rates. Again, these are the subjects your audience cares about. Go back and write about this stuff more. If you’re not seeing any clickthroughs, either your call to action aren’t strong enough, or your stories aren’t compelling.
Usually, in situations like this, when people are clicking on your links or opening your emails, but their engagement stops there, your content doesn’t match their needs. It’s either not the tone of voice they want, they don’t like the stories you’re telling or your information is just way off base.
3. You might realize you’re closer than you think
Here’s the thing. The whole time I was chasing my own tire tracks around the bush, I was so close to the lake I could almost see the water (not literally, but you get the idea). I just didn’t quite know the right path to take.
Content marketing is the same way.
Chances are, you’re not that far off at all. You’re just haven’t taken the right path yet.
It could be your tone of voice is off.
There’s also a chance you’re voice and topics are bang on, but your storytelling is lacking.
Or, maybe your topics are all wrong.
Whatever it is, taking a step back from the project and even seeking a second opinion is probably what you need to do here.
A little perspective, either from another person or just from taking a break, goes a long way when you’re trying to re-engage your audience. Reaching out to other content marketers is a great first step. They can give you the insight you might be too close to your content to see. Not only is possible they have some great ideas, but you might even have a chance at scoring a guest post.
Fresh eyes on your words is always a good things.
4. Gives you an excuse to experiment
Here’s where things get really fun. Once you’ve been doing something for a while and you haven’t had a lot of luck (and you’ve taken your step back to look at things), you can start experimenting.
I tried quite a few different paths and approaches to my lake and each one took me closer to finding it.
Here’s a few things you can tinker with to see if you connect with your audience more:
- Change the frequency. You could be posting too much, or even not enough. Try fewer posts, but make them longer. See what happens.
- Change when you post. Believe it not, this matters. It actually matters a lot. The time of day you post matters just as much as which day of the week. Kissmetrics does a great job of explaining this.
- Change the format. Are you sure you’re producing the kind of content people in your industry are interested in? If blogging isn’t working, focus more on email. If written content isn’t working, try infographics. You might even find video blogs or podcasts the way to go.
- Change your audience. It could just be that you’re targeting the wrong people with your efforts. Trying focusing less on new clients for a while and see how you can better serve your existing ones with your content.
This is my favourite part of trying to re-engage your audience. Not only can playing with the above be a great way to see what your audience wants, but being able to play around with things like tone of voice or even using different approaches to storytelling is just fun.
You never know which change is going to be the thing that sparks a surge of interest from your readers. It’s always fascinating when you discover what it is.
5. Lets you engage with your audience by talking to them
Another great thing about a less than successful content marketing strategy is good is you have a chance to reach out directly out to your audience.
Sending out short surveys to you audience is a great way to not only found out about what they want to be seeing from you in terms of content. This gives you a chance to really dial on your efforts to what people are looking for from you and, most importantly, establish that connection you’ve been looking for.
If you’ve got the time, schedule short interviews with past customers. This is another great way to generate content ideas around what people come to you for.
I’ve always found the challenge that comes from not succeeding at something exciting. It’s the reason I take the time to learn really complicated pieces of music on the guitar or continue to look for something long after I should give. Heck, I all but shut down if you ask me a question and I know the answer, but I can’t quite think of it. My eyes glaze over and I sit there quietly until I suddenly burst out the answer (usually 20 minutes after everyone has forgotten all about it).
Being able to deconstruct the attempt and try something is one of the best ways to really learn how to do master something.
Eventually, I found the lake I was looking for (although it took two more trips, several wrong turns, and dragging a canoe over a kilometer through the bush to do it). As frustrating as it might have been in the moment, every aspect of the search for that little slice of heaven was worth it.
It would have been very easy for me to just shrug my shoulders and look for something easier, it always is. The trick, I find, is to use that failure as a motivator to find a new approach.
If you’ve been struggling to find the right path to make your content marketing efforts work, I’m here to help. Contact me today.