There’s something that, no matter how often I write or speak about it, remains one of the biggest mistakes I see anyone who attempts to leverage content marketing to grow their business makes.
Here’s what usually happens: advisors or business owners read up on some kind of new tactic or growth hack. They’ll see a video or read an article or listen to a podcast that proclaims “you have to start doing X, Y, and Z to grow your business!”
Those things you “have” to do vary, depending on whatever you’re interacting with. Sometimes, it’s “you have to get on [insert newest social media platform here]!” Other times, it’s “you have to start using paid ads on Facebook!” Or it might be, “you have to start creating videos!”
These are all pretty plain vanilla examples, and I use them because most of the time some “new” tactic is a spin on one of these old favorites.
There’s no shortage of people shouting from all directions, telling you to use this tool or that platform or all these tactics. And if you pay attention for any amount of time, you’ll notice the shouting never changes — it’s just a new variation of a “must-have” or “must-do” thing.
Chasing Marketing Trends? You Might as Well Chase Your Own Tail Instead
People shout about what’s trendy. As a result, marketing becomes this overwhelming proposition that’s impossible to tackle or keep up with.
And it never ends, because there will always be a new trend. There will always be a new growth hack promising to deliver you a business breakthrough. There will always be a new tactic to try that promises radical results.
Getting caught up in this whirlwind puts the focus on exactly the wrong thing. None of those tactics or hacks matters if you lack the foundation required to successfully put them in place and use them well.
Yet most advisors continue to make that very mistake: they focus on the tactics and they fail to create a content marketing strategy or construct a system to successfully implement them in a way that delivers results.
The Two Key Elements of Successful Content Marketing (That You’re Probably Ignoring): Strategies and Systems
If you only focus on tactics, you will constantly find yourself throwing something at a wall and hoping, eventually, it sticks.
That might not be an issue if you were disciplined enough to throw one thing at a time. If you did just the one thing, you could potentially experiment with it because you might have more control over the variables involved.
But here’s the problem: rarely do people try the one thing thing at a time. We’d rather do ALL THE THINGS. Entrepreneurs are particularly bad about this; I don’t think there are many among us who can claim they don’t suffer from some degree of shiny-object syndrome.
What’s more, there’s a catch-22 when it comes to content marketing and experimenting with stuff in a controlled environment: rarely do content marketing tactics work in such a vacuum. When you run a good content marketing machine, the whole is usually greater than the sum of its parts.
So what are you supposed to do to find the tactics that actually work?
You have to take a step back from the tactics altogether. It may sound counter-intuitive, but, at least to begin, you need to stop asking “what should I do to market?” Instead, start with your strategy.
Your strategy gives you all the information you need to make an informed decision on precisely what tactics you should use. Your strategy will give you the answers to the “what should I do to market my firm?” question.
Your job is not to figure that out. Your job is to work on your strategy and you’ll find that answer is revealed for you.
What’s the Difference Between Your Content Marketing Strategy, and Your Tactics?
Of course, this assumes you know the difference between a marketing strategy and marketing tactics. Here’s how I like to define the two:
- Your strategy is how you show up in the world. It’s how you position yourself. It’s your brand and your messaging. It’s the promise you make through the services you provide. It’s the people you want to reach, and a deep understanding of those people.
- Your tactics are the actions you take to execute your strategy. It’s the specific things you do to bring your strategy to life, to share your message, to deliver on your promise.
Another easy way to know if you’re talking strategy or tactics?
Your tactics are everything you can Google. Here’s a list of stuff you can Google endlessly and find the answers to ANYTHING you want to know about each topic and how to do it:
- SEO (or just take my SEO course; it saves a lot of Googling)
- Facebook and Instagram (along with Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Pinterest)
- Email marketing
- Facebook ads
- Traditional advertising
- Sales funnels
- Webinars (or in-person seminars)
- Community building
- Reddit and Quora
- Event sponsorships
…and the list goes on. If you can Google it, it’s probably a tactic.
Your content marketing strategy, on the other hand, is not something you can Google. Google can’t tell you anything about:
- How you should position yourself in the market
- The voice and tone you should use when creating content or communicating with your audience
- The mindset and worldviews of your ideal client
- Why you do what you do (and why you serve who you serve)
- What you believe as a business, and the values you uphold (side note: things like “honesty” or “puts customers first” are not values; those are table stakes for running a good business and should be a given)
- How to articulate your philosophy
- What messaging guides your brand (and your branding itself)
- Your story
See the difference?
If you start with your strategy, so much becomes instantly clear. Your strategy will answer almost any question you have around what tactics to use, because the right tactics depend on who you are and more importantly, who you want to reach.
Everything revolves around that. Get your strategy right, and the tactics take care of themselves.
Your Strategy Determines Your Tactics, and Your Systems Organize Those Tactics into the Right Places
Once you have your strategy, picking tactics becomes much easier. But even with a strategy to guide you, you can end up firing things all over the place in a decidedly unstrategic matter if you lack a system to tie everything together.
If your content marketing was an actual machine, your strategy would be the engine and the frame. Your tactics would be all the specific little parts that you need to bolt on and screw down to complete the machine. And your system is the energy that makes it run.
In most cases, your system is your marketing/sales funnel. It maps out how everything fits and flows together, and what tactics need to go where (and how each interacts with the whole).
At a minimum, your marketing funnel should include defined top, middle, and bottom sections. Here’s how these could break down:
- At the top of the funnel, you might use social media content (organic or paid). The goal of this content is to drive people back to your site, and the middle of your funnel.
- Blog content might live in the middle of your funnel. Social media, SEO, and other tactics help people reach this point — and the goal of this stage of the funnel is to convert site visitors into email subscribers.
- Once someone opts in to your email list, they enter the bottom of the funnel where they can interact with your automated or drip lead nurture campaigns. Eventually, you can include calls to action to do something like schedule a prospect call with you.
This is just one simplified example of what a funnel could look like. You might replace “blog content” with “landing or squeeze page” and maybe instead of getting people on an email list you want them to sign up for a webinar. In either case, the idea here is the same.
Your system should help show you how to align your tactics the right way to get people to continue moving through your various marketing efforts, all the way to the point where they can convert from prospect into client.
Without a content marketing strategy and a system, you might find yourself flailing around with your content and your marketing as a whole, constantly wondering what’s next and what’s working. Don’t rely on tactics or hacks alone if you want to develop a pipeline of prospects.
Be strategic. Leverage a system. Both will help you get better results.