3 Rules for Content Marketing Success (that most brands get wrong)

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In B2B marketing, the biggest trap that companies fall into is the pursuit of the "One True Way" of developing their content and reaching their audience. Someone on the team - maybe even a leader - heard, read, or listened to something that sounded like a good idea and now wants to base your entire strategy on it. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, the problem is that strategies tend to be static, while marketing tends to be mobile - literally, in some cases. You can't pin down something that needs to change with the times by adhering to the same tactics over and over and over. 

That doesn't mean that there isn't a great deal of guidance and leadership to be found from experts in specific marketing niches, but for a message that really resonates, there's nothing quite like a little DIY. Finding out what your audience is looking for and what they like is time-consuming and uphill in some places, but ultimately it's a rewarding journey that will reflect in your bottom line. 

So how do you avoid falling into the "One True Way" trap in your own content marketing strategy? Start by following these three simple rules when developing your content.

Rule 1: Accept that you don't intrinsically know what they want.

The best you can ever hope for when forecasting the demands of your buyers is an intelligent guess. Whether you base your approach on past sales data or market conditions is entirely up to you, but if accuracy is on your wish list, you'll need to ask them directly. After-purchase surveys are an excellent way to accomplish this data gathering, particularly when paired with a free giveaway or discount code as a thank you waiting at the survey's end. Alternately, connecting directly with your audience on social media (take detail-rich conversations to direct or private message to safeguard security) is another great way to get the unfiltered truth about their experience.

Rule 2: The "If You Build It..." strategy is usually a needless risk.

If you're building a structure and need to find good quality lumber, would you pick up an axe and head for the nearest forest, or ask around for a good lumber wholesaler in town? While original ideas should definitely be a component of your overall strategy, there is an ideation-rich world out there at your social media-savvy fingertips. What are your client prospects talking about lately? What kinds of questions are they asking about your products or services on the internet? The momentum is already there, you just need to position your company as the target with the answers to those questions. If you need a good place to start your research, something as simple as typing in "What does [your service]..." or "How do I use [your product]..." in Google search and scanning the auto-fill results will put you on the right track. 

Rule 3: Don't Stay Rooted

Some things shouldn't change: a dedication to customer service, integrity, a focus on providing quality. Others, like house guests and the kitchen garbage, shouldn't be allowed to linger too long. Make a habit of checking and recording metrics like engagement, quote signups, inbound traffic from unique URLs, and so on: a dip in numbers will signal a need to shift content gears. Experiment to determine where your content marketing success  "sweet spot" is, whether it be in videos, DIY-style posts, top 10 lists, tweets, posts, or pins.

Stay versatile, pay attention to the impact - or lack thereof - that your marketing inspires, and listen to what your customers really want to read, watch, or reference in terms of what you offer. The "One True Way" mindset will only lead to stagnation and the temptation to put your marketing on autopilot - keep it fresh, and your customers will sit up and take notice. 

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Aleks Vizulis

As operations manager at 21 Handshake, I bring an analytical perspective to the discussion table. My vision is to take projects from 'just strong' to superb. Often you will find me capturing behind the scenes photos in the 21 Handshake office or at a clients location. I play a fierce round of 18 during warm weather and catch me on the slopes during the other months of the year!

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