For 18 months I’ve been working exclusively with brands in Asia to launch content marketing strategies and campaigns. It’s been an exciting time, but not always an easy one. The challenges are varied and even big companies are learning them the hard way. So if you want to skip a little bit of pain, I encourage you to take heed, and don’t make these mistakes.
1. A Lack of Content Hubs
First and foremost, if you do not have a destination for customers to visit, you are wasting your time. Content must have a home. Your customer likes your story, they want to come back for more, but where is “back”? Don’t make them work hard to find you — they have other options, after all.
Also, how do you get a consolidated view (aka the Return on Investment) without a content hub? So, the first thing you must do, if you are serious about content marketing, is build a content hub for your business.
In Asia, you can be part of a global hub, but it’s extremely challenging to own that asset (and it’s slow to get your content up), so I encourage you to build your own site, or at least build your regional site within the global hub. Too many marketers in Asia feel powerless within the global business set-up. We need to change that because while global content is relevant, local content is when you really see an impact. Of course, it’s expensive to do multi-language sites, so start with English first if this is an issue.
Another important point when designing a hub is that traditional website companies are not necessarily the best equipped to build a content hub. They can do the backend, but you must have people who understand content sitting at the front-end — driving and collaborating the design.
Here are a few of my favorite content hubs.:
- Adobe’s CMO.com
- GE Reports
- Gap Gemini Content Loop
- IQ by Intel
- Think With Google
- and ANZ BlueNotes for a regional example
2. No CTAs
Once you have your content hub, you want people to do something else — read more, call you, attend an event, download a whitepaper, subscribe to an email, and more. So please make sure the customer can do something else, but don’t expect them to become a lead after reading one piece of content. Do you become a lead after one piece? I think not.
Customers and prospects may come back time and again to read your content before they do anything, so make sure you are aware of what they are up to and what they are interested in. Then drive them in that direction with great content, not sales! Keep them on the site, keep them engaged, keep them coming back, but focus on delivering value first. In short, focus on tantalizing them. Sales are for later.
Also, when working out what to measure, think about how content is consumed, versus what is currently measured. This Outbrain piece “Why Time on Page Is a Broken KPI for Content Marketing” is a must-read to ensure you don’t think you are failing when you are actually succeeding!
3. A Weak Content Strategy
It’s well documented that companies who fail do not have a content strategy. Defining this up front is critical! Who is your customer? What do they care about? Read this Marketing Insider article: “Why Customer-Focused Content Should Be A Priority” for more on that.
Right at the beginning, work out who the human is at the other end of your current marketing/sales programs, and then define a strategy that is going to help that person be successful and build their loyalty to you.
There is loads of information on this, but for two examples, look at the Adobe site I suggested earlier, CMO.com and L’Oreal’s Makeup.com. Adobe sells to CMOs and it owns the CMO conversation on this site. Read the content — it’s about helping CMOs be successful. L’Oreal’s Makeup.com teaches customers make-up tips, and does it well.
Neither starts by directly selling to customers, but you bet they get there in the end. And why wouldn’t you buy from them if they made your life better, easier, more fulfilled, or whatever other goal a brand puts behind its content strategy?
HubSpot has always been that brand for me. I’m grateful to them.
4. Fear of Ownership
This is a big issue in Asia. Who owns content marketing? Right now, the door is open for marketing and communication professionals within brands to step up and become the rock stars of their business. Because content marketing needs central ownership inside the brand.
You need someone who drives this internally. Someone who chases people across the business to get involved, contribute content, share content, and generally get behind the initiative to make your content successful.
The owner has to have a lot of guts, because they have to stand up to everyone and they have to face the doubters and drive it through anyway. It’s not easy in this region, but that’s how it succeeds. So whoever is the owner, your first job is to get the top boss’ ear and convince them this stuff works. They need to champion what you’re doing, and then you need to be insanely focused on ensuring you are successful. It’s a wonderful opportunity for anyone with big goals and big dreams for the future.
Oh and don’t think an outsourced agency can do this bit. They can’t. You need an owner inside, and you need a powerful and supportive partner outside to deliver content and to back you up.
This is your opportunity to shine. Go for it. Have you got the guts to be a star? We’re waiting for you.
5. An Obsession with Projects
The madness of the projects has to stop — it doesn’t work. You can’t test this stuff over small amounts of content and over short periods of time. The cyclical, quarterly business model is the way marketing used to be. It’s all changed now. Define your audience and build a relationship over the long term. It’s the only way it can be successful and a project is not going to help you “see if it works”.
Need proof of success? Give the guys responsible for OpenForum at American Express a call. Has this small to medium business site been successful for them as a business? You betcha!
6. Fear of C-Level Buy-In
I talked about getting the boss’ ear earlier, but the reality is, you need the entire C-Suite on board. You need to get them excited. You need to turn them into your biggest fans. If you do not have their buy-in, you can do okay at content marketing, but seriously, do you want to be super proud of the work you’re doing and win global awards? Well that’s the difference between doing it all yourself and getting the whole business behind you.
It has to start at the top and they need to show real support for your work. You need your C-Suite to become content marketing leaders for your business and industry.
7. Weak Employee Advocacy
Harnessing your C-suite leads me into employee advocacy. Get your C-Suite trained on content marketing and personal branding first. Get them committed and involved. Then, get your entire employee base trained and launch an army of employee advocates for your business.
The average person has 500 connections, so if you have 500 employees reaching out on your brand’s behalf to their 500 connections, that’s the ability to influence 250,000 people. Get them doing it every week and we’re really talking impact right? But the content has to be good. They have to be proud to share it. It needs to reflect well on them.
An example this week. If you know anyone that works at Microsoft right now (and I’ve got a lot of them in my network), chances are you saw them share this great piece “Microsoft employees transform lives and strengthen communities in biggest year yet for charitable giving”. And why wouldn’t you? It’s a great piece and something to be proud of.
A product pitch — only your unthinking employees share that stuff!
8. Unfocussed Social Media Assets
Another challenge in Asia is social media and integrating this team into the content marketing strategy. None of this can be separate, and the gutsy owner I was talking about before needs to make sure this happens.
Also check out your social media assets. Is the content good? Do you have an 80:20 ratio of 80% valuable customer focused content versus 20% sell? I can almost guarantee you don’t and the majority of brand social assets I review are not that interesting for customers. Take a hard look at your social sites, have clear goals for what you want them to achieve and then deliver great content, mostly about the customer.
Finally, this all takes patience. You won’t see ground breaking results quickly. You might get lucky for sure, but usually it takes a lot of work, focus, persistence and absolute determination. You’ll have your nay-sayers around you — they’re always there, right? But you must understand true content marketing success takes patience — and a lot of it.
And you must make sure your bosses get this important point too. Otherwise you will quit before you even get started, heading back to the old way of doing marketing. And you’ll probably be one of those companies predicted to be out of business by 2020.
So, these are the few lessons I have learned. What would you add?