Let me run you through a hypothetical.

A team of content strategists runs into a meeting room (if this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, that's because it kind of is). The meeting room has everything they need: a whiteboard for lots of brainstorming, sticky notes, one of those massive legal pads propped up on a mount, a whole bunch of dry erase markers, and comfy chairs for them to sit in.

The girl, the one wearing a lipstick-red top, walks to the white board and says, "Alright team, let's strategize for the coming month. What do we think?"

One of them shouts, "Well we have to have the newsletter go out on Monday."

Another, "I have social media posts scheduled Monday through Friday all month."

The girl at the board starts writing these things down, as if they are of the utmost importance.

"Good, good," she says. "Anything else?"

Their squad of three looks around until one of them says, "I don't know, we could start a blog?"

The saddest part about this scenario is that it happens every single day. I would know, I consult teams just like this.

You're a small business. You have three, probably two, maybe even just one lonely person running your marketing. Or you're an aspiring entrepreneur, trying to do everything yourself. Or you work a 9-5 while trying to build a successful side-hustle. Regardless, you're struggling. Your content isn't working. You aren't growing as fast as you'd like. You don't understand why people are paying attention to everyone else except you.

Let me explain, in detail, why that's happening:

1. You have absolutely no idea what your target audience is actually struggling with.

This just in: People don't Google, "Companies that send out newsletters every Monday" or "Companies that post on Facebook every day."

What people search for are questions. Problems. Obstacles. Things they're struggling with. So when your "content strategy" is focused around platforms and mediums, opposed to the pain points of your consumers, you've lost before you've even begun.

If you want your content to convey your value as a business, if you want your content to attract an audience, and most of all, if you want your content to actually get found, then you have to answer a question. This is what years of writing on Quora taught me.

Before you can even start thinking about what you're going to post or share, you have to first understand what the people you're trying to attract are asking for.

2. You are mistaking "tactics" for "strategies."

Newsletters are not a strategy. Posting on social media is not a strategy. Running Facebook ads is not a strategy. Those are tactics.

A strategy is a larger idea. It's a movement, a feeling, a mantra, a mission. It's what you stand for. It's your message, your unique expression. That's what ends up attracting a crowd--and interested clients or consumers. Not the act of you posting regularly on Instagram.

3. You aren't providing enough value (you aren't good enough).

Let's say you're in the business of, oh, I don't know, window repair. And you decide, "We should start a blog!" You title your first post, "Everyone needs a new window!" and then proceed to explain for four and a half paragraphs (all of which contain grammatical errors) how awesome your company is and how everyone should absolutely buy themselves new windows.

This might seem like a poor example, but the sad truth is that this sort of content exists. If it's not a poorly written, overly promotional blog post, it's a horrifically lighted photo of two team members at a convention posted on a business's Facebook page with the caption, "We love our team!"

I hate to break it to you, but that content isn't helping anyone with anything. Maybe it has a place on your personal Facebook, you know, where you tag co-workers in albums and celebrate your amazing work-life balance, but it has no place on your business page.

People follow brands and businesses that provide them value.

So, if people aren't paying attention to you, then here's some tough love: you're not good enough at providing people value.

4. You aren't even close to consistent.

Do you want to know what consistency looks like?

Consistency is sharing something of value every single day. Consistency is promising that you're going to put out a high-quality YouTube series with episodes airing every Monday morning, and you sticking with that for two years straight. Consistency is writing so many blog posts that you have lost count. Consistency is collaborating with influencers long enough for you to become an influencer yourself. The truth is, 99% of people, let alone their businesses, have no idea what consistency actually looks like or feels like over a long stretch of time. And as a result, efforts are abandoned.

Your content strategy isn't working because you aren't sticking with it long enough. And when I say that, I don't mean doing the same thing that clearly isn't working over and over again. I mean giving yourself time to learn, adjust, grow, improve, refine, build, and continue to share.

This isn't about just putting your nose to the grindstone. It's about being deliberate, each and every day, to improve your efforts.

5. You are where your target audience is not.

And of course, the greatest mistake of them all: giving a speech in an empty ballroom.

It amazes me how many businesses hop on board with the newest social platform or marketing channel (remember Pokémon Go?) without first asking themselves, "Wait, is this where my target consumer is? Do they hang out here?"

Now, look, if you have an unlimited marketing budget with endless resources, then put yourself everywhere. But most of the time, that's not the case. Businesses, even large ones, have tight marketing departments with employees who all wear multiple hats. So the question isn't, "How can we be everywhere?" but rather, "Where can we be that will drive the largest return for the smallest time investment?"

So, with that said, if you're in the B2B business, why on earth are you spending time on Snapchat? Because it's cool? Because it's trendy? That's not where your target buyers are. You're better off on LinkedIn, grinding out posts that have the potential to get pushed through Pulse.

Before you go spending time and money on marketing yourself and your company, do yourself a favor and get a firm understanding of where your ideal clients or consumers already are.

Published on: Mar 30, 2017
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