"Marketers always ask me how to make more or better content, and it's almost always the wrong question. The right question is: 'How do I get my content in front of the right people?'"

-       Joe Chernov, Content Marketing Institute's 2012 Content Marketer of the Year

According to a 2013 Forrester report, failure to achieve success with content marketing is most often linked to the failure to reach target audiences through effective distribution--not to content quantity or even quality. Putting distribution at the heart of content marketing efforts is essential to generating predictable results and returns on investments.

Here are three fundamental rules of content promotion that will help your marketing team understand what goes into achieving wide online publisher coverage of content resources.

Promotion starts with audience and media research

Generating consistent success with content marketing is done through research rather than intuition. It is very tempting to run with an idea that just feels like a winner to everyone involved. However, most marketers who go down this path end up mistakenly concluding that content marketing just doesn't work--when in reality, it was their lack of research that set the project up for failure.

Upfront research might just be the most important step in your content marketing efforts. It doesn't matter if you are able to develop a product and reach a large audience if you are promoting a bad idea (just ask the folks behind Crystal Clear Pepsi).

A thorough research process needs to answer a few key questions, such as:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are the top trending topics among your target audience members right now?
  • Where do your target audience members hang out online?
  • What publications are the most trusted among your target audience?

Answering these questions and others will help your team to understand what content to develop and where to promote it.

Focus on creating utility

The two most common hooks for successful content marketing resources are utility (usefulness) and  humor. Unless you are in the comedy business, your company is much more likely to generate consistent results by trying to create a helpful piece of content that solves a user's problem. Truly solving someone's problem isn't easy, but if you are in business, then you solve problems--so get to it! 

Promote your content as a contribution

Make sure your content marketing efforts develop a contribution to your community rather than just another marketing campaign. Doing so will increase the likelihood that your content will be endorsed by high quality publications.

A contribution is:

  • Something that has not been done before (or is an updated or expanded version)
  • A helpful utility that solves a problem
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Well researched with citations

 A contribution is not:

  • An advertisement
  • A product/service promotion
  • A one-and-done effort

A genuine community contribution will earn more online publisher placements as well as prospect downloads. Never forget that the root of content marketing is adding value and helping customers--not selling. This process is the most effective way to generate a ton of brand awareness and fill marketing funnels for your organization online.