Have you ever hit your knee on a misplaced piece of furniture because you didn't turn on the bedside lamp? It's a jarring experience, literally and figuratively. Not knowing where you're headed or how you're doing until it's too late can hurt -- whether that's your leg on the corner of your bed frame or your resources when it comes to your content marketing strategy.
For many leaders, content marketing starts as a fumble-in-the-dark journey. Once you hit your stride, content can feel like magic, but seeing truly meaningful ROI takes time and commitment to content in the long run. In the present, that leaves your team with a few solid benchmarks to help them at least figure out whether what you're doing is hitting -- or missing -- the mark.
Whether you're new to content, you're ramping up your strategy, or you've been at it for a while but are struggling to track ROI, you don't need to keep stumbling around in the dark. It's time to shed some much-needed light on the subject. Here are three key signs that you're on the right track with your content marketing:
1. Your content process works, and key players are ready to go.
Is your content humming along week after week, breaking down industry trends, and addressing your audience's most pressing needs? Are you sticking to your calendar and maximizing your efforts through effective content distribution? Fantastic.
If not, this needs to become a priority. Why scramble every few days to brainstorm last-minute content ideas when you can put a process in place that keeps everything moving? Usually, too much scrambling is a sign that your team isn't very engaged in the process, which will spill over into your content and result in lackluster audience engagement.
To get your content on track, establish a workflow that's easy to follow and disseminated to all the need-to-know players. This will also let everyone breathe a sigh of relief -- reliability will never be an issue because everyone will be headed in the same direction.
(Bonus advice on content production: Be sure to follow a content calendar with hard deadlines to hold you accountable, and don't get too hung up on the word count -- it's more about the value you're offering than how many words you use to deliver it.)
2. You have an expert voice that resonates with your audience.
Why do we love the original brand voices of certain companies and leaders? Because they've mastered the art of nailing down a specific voice and tone bolstered by tons of industry knowledge. There are only so many times your audience members can hear the same thing regurgitated by yet another "thought leader" before their trust barriers get so strong that you almost can't break them down.
Your objective, then, is to provide authentic thought leadership, exploring important issues within your niche in a voice that's relatable, trustworthy, and individualistic. Every piece of content should be straightforward and consistent but not boring or wavering from the tone that makes your voice unique in the first place. If you're delivering that level of content, you're definitely moving in the right direction.
Have a whole team of thought leaders? Lucky you. Each one of them can cultivate his or her own expert voice that resonates with different segments of your audience so you can connect with even more people.
3. Your content keeps getting better with time.
Is your content doing the whole "fine wine" thing and getting better with age? Can you see how it's organically evolved thanks to your audience's feedback and your team's ability to adapt? This is a sign of content done right. If you're only doing content because you think you're supposed to and you're not thinking strategically about how to improve it, it'll be hard to get where you want to go.
Not sure you can see the difference between your content from one year ago and your content from one week ago? Take your last 10 articles and read them thoroughly. Is the rhythm dull and uninspired? Are you using the same words or corporate jargon until it's meaningless?
Ask the hard questions of yourself and your team: How could you improve the content? What is it missing that would make it fresh? Your answers will probably elicit plenty of "Aha!" responses and give you the boost you need to constantly improve.
Patience may be a virtue, but it's tough to practice when you're the leader of a growing business trying to navigate content marketing. Still, do your best not to expect too much too soon out of your content pieces. Content marketing isn't a one-and-done approach; it's a constantly developing bridge between you and your audience. Ensure it's well-lit so your content creators and audience can traverse it effectively.