How to Waste Less Effort on Your Content Marketing

October 11, 2016 Jay Baer

Just about every marketer with a keyboard is creating more content this year than in any prior year. But an enormous portion of that effort is wasted.

Nowhere is that more true than for blogging. Not all that long ago, blogs were consumed consistently and comprehensively. A blog was a comfortable slipper of information that fit into your daily (or near-daily) pattern because you were “fed” updates via RSS and/or email. Your favorite blogs (and you could rattle off that list of favorites on command) were oft-updated collections of content from writers you felt you knew, about topics you embraced.

The unit of information was the blog itself, the same way that the unit of audio in the same era was the album (or the CD, to be more precise). You were loyal to a blog and a blogger, the same way you were loyal to an artist and an album. You might not love every post (or song) but you kept coming back for more.

But the “album era” for blogs went away when competition increased and Google Reader was overtaken by Twitter and Facebook as a curation mechanism. Today, it’s all about the hit singles. A large percentage of the traffic on this Workfront blog, as well as my Convince & Convert blog, comes from a small minority of what’s published. The same is true for your blog, guaranteed.

Content Doesn't Come Cheap

For Convince & Convert, an analysis we did last year showed 70% of our traffic comes from fewer than 25% of our blog posts.

This is a challenge because every blog post you create comes with a cost. In some cases a direct cost, and most definitely an opportunity cost. I did an exploration of this concept, and I estimate that for most B2B companies, a blog post costs a minimum of $900 to produce. (Your mileage may vary.)

So if you’re spending $900 (or more) to publish a blog post, and most of those posts don’t move the needle on your traffic or desired customer behaviors, you need to be spending some serious time imitating Adam Levine and Simon Cowell—trying to craft a higher percentage of content “hits” and a smaller percentage of content “misses”.

Relevancy Is the Killer App

Content marketing isn’t a fine arts class, and a blog certainly isn’t, in particular. You shouldn’t be blogging based on great ideas, your passion, or your inspiration. You should be blogging based on your customers’ demonstrated information requirements.

Remember, the goal isn’t to be good at content marketing; the goal is to be good at business because of content marketing. And that requires content that is strategically and methodically aligned with customer questions and needs.

Here’s some truth talk.

ALL content marketers tell themselves the same lie:

“The reason most of our posts don’t work is because our audience is just too busy to read the blog all the time.”

Wrong. Don’t delude yourself. The reason most blog posts don’t work is because they aren’t relevant enough to the audience.

When you give your tribe the information they want, in the format they want, at the cadence they prefer, the time they need to consume that information magically appears, like a wizard in a puff of smoke.

Relevancy always wins.

How to Increase Your Relevancy

To increase the relevancy of your blog and craft more “hits” that drive traffic and clicks and leads and conversions you have to be more strategic and methodical in what you create, why, and how. You need to map your blog content to specific customer journeys.

Here’s how:

1. Determine your customer personas.
What are the archetypes that represent your common customer use cases? Often, you’ll have three to seven of these “fake real people” whose amalgamated biographies add clarity, relevancy, and specificity to all marketing, communications, and customer service activities.

In our example here, let’s say you have five key customer personas.

2. Understand your funnel.
Next, determine the stages and steps your prospective customers must traverse before making a purchase from you. What is the “funnel” for your business? Classicists may want to use the AIDA(r) process: awareness > interest > desire > action > retention. Modernists may want to use some version of the “moments of truth” construct: zero > first > second > third moment of truth.

Either will work—or substitute your own schema—as long as you have a concrete and codified understanding of each of your stages of purchase.

3. Identify customer questions.
Now, determine customer questions that must be answered for a prospect to move to the next stage. What does a potential customer need to satisfactorily understand to move from interest to desire, for example? Price? Size options? Reliability confidence? Industry trends information to position you as a thought leader?

Every persona has questions at each stage of the consideration funnel. Some of those questions will be the same for every persona, others will be unique to a particular customer type. Regardless, your job is to fully understand what all the questions are at each step, for each persona.

Mapping Content to Customer Journeys

My consulting team and I recently mapped content marketing to customer journeys for a large financial services firm. They already had personas established, and they had a pretty good handle on decision funnels. Our job was then to interview many actual customers and prospective customers—as well as in-house customer service and sales representatives—to create the master list of questions, organized by persona and by funnel.

For their five personas and five funnel stages, we uncovered a total of approximately 125 questions (five personas x five stages x five questions per stage). Of these, around 50 questions were common across all personas, leaving us with a pool of 75 unique customer knowledge points.

As a content marketer, your first priority should be to cover all of those knowledge points with easy-to-find content. Blog posts at a minimum, and multi-media and other formats for advanced practitioners. So, that’s 75 pieces of content in the queue.

(You can perhaps see now why a robust productivity suite like Workfront comes in mighty handy when trying to organize and execute on this much content)

But you no doubt have some content already created that satiates a portion of those 75 inquiries. That’s why you must first do a content audit and gap analysis to see where you have holes within the sphere of customer questions.

We found approximately 45 holes, and then created a content road map for how each knowledge gap would be filled.

That’s how you stop random acts of content, and map what you make to what customers actually need, and how you dramatically enhance the chances that you’ll have a blog post “hit” on your hands.

About the Author

Jay Baer

Jay Baer is a renowned business strategist, inspirational keynote speaker, and the New York Times bestselling author of five books who travels the world helping businesspeople gain and keep more customers. Jay has advised with more than 700 companies since 1994, including Caterpillar, Nike, Allstate, and 32 of the FORTUNE 500.

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