These days, anyone with an online platform, something to say, and something to sell can call themselves a content marketer. There are enough tools at our disposal that the barrier of entry for basic content marketing is as minimal as having an internet connection.
That said, finding an audience and turning content marketing efforts into conversions and customers is another story. Digital marketing efforts can often feel like shouting into the void, greeted by the hollow sound of nothing but your own echo.
Even when your content finds an audience, it can be hard to quantify your results. Because the game is so deceptively easy, many content marketers jump right in without putting together a strategic plan for how their content marketing will be implemented and, even more importantly, measured.
Marketing is most effective when we can measure, analyze, and interpret the results of our efforts. To do so, we need to work from a clear content strategy plan that incorporates specific business objectives and measurement tools.
Not sure where to start? Go back to the basics: direct mail marketing.
Direct mail tactics are tried-and-true practices for content development, audience segmentation, and targeting, among others. If your content marketing feels more like shouting into oblivion than facilitating real conversations, try incorporating some direct mail tactics into your content marketing strategy next quarter.
6 content marketing lessons you can learn from direct mail:
1. Be strict about ROI – Yes, it costs nothing to send a tweet or post an Instagram. But just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s worth your time. Because gaining access to marketing platforms costs next to nothing, it can be tempting to jump in feet-first, attempting to be everywhere and do everything at once. In direct mail, there are more production and postage costs involved so decisions about what to send and who to target have to be much more calculated. Even though social media is free, the same principle should be applied to your content marketing efforts. Being everywhere online is a waste of time and resources that spreads your efforts too thin. You’ll see more ROI if you concentrate on one or two platforms that have proven success.
2. Maintain high standards of quality – Because the process of writing up a blog post and hitting ‘publish’ is so simple and costs nothing (other than time invested), it can be easy to become sloppy with your quality. Many novice content marketers subscribe to the fallacy that more is more and that quality isn’t as important as frequency. This is a mistake. Content that doesn’t speak to or provide value to your audience will be ignored, and you won’t gain any traction online. Because there are realcosts involved in putting out a direct mail campaign, direct mail marketers are rigorous about quality. Every mailing is carefully calibrated to its mailing list, designed with targeted offers that compel recipients to take action immediately.
3. Know your audience – It would be impossible to launch a direct mail campaign without defining the target audience—even if just to identify the geographic area encompassed by the mailing list. You should approach your content marketing with this same principle. The quality of your list and how well you know your prospects directly impacts how effective your marketing is. Before embarking on a content marketing campaign, take time to develop buyer personas for your target audience. These personas will direct which channels you invest your content marketing efforts into, what tone you use, and what kind of content you create. The more thorough you are, the more effective your content marketing will ultimately be.
4. Get your timing right – Many direct mail campaigns coincide with meaningful moments in a prospect’s life such as holidays, seasons, or other calendar-specific themes like back-to-school time. Designing your content to coincide with events in your audience’s life immediately renders your content more relevant and valuable, making them more likely to take notice. Always be on the lookout for ways to link your content to what’s important in your prospect’s life at the time. Calibrate campaigns by season and don’t be afraid to latch onto current events.
5. Always think a step ahead – While favorites, views, and shares are all evidence that your content is getting attention, these things are not an end in themselves. Ultimately, you want to turn that social engagement into sales. That means thinking ahead to what comes next. Once you have a prospect “in the door” with a piece of content, how can you leverage that engagement to move them further down the sales funnel? Direct mail pieces always contain a clear offer or call to action that motivates prospects to take the next step. Your digital content can and should do the same. Encourage readers to visit your website, download a long-form version of the content, follow you on social media, or sign up for your newsletter. Every piece of content you create is an opportunity to deepen your relationship with your audience; don’t waste it.
6. Measure, measure, measure – The best way to improve your marketing efforts is to analyze what works and what doesn’t. Direct mail pieces are usually linked to campaign-specific response channels, such as a source code, customized URL or phone number, to discern the segments responding to a specific campaign. The Internet gives us many powerful tools to translate these direct mail strategies to measure content marketing ROI. Every content marketing campaign should be integrated with a designated landing page, downloadable offer, or promotional code. Whether you track downloads or email addresses, you should set a goal and create a plan for measuring the success of each new campaign.
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See also: Ways to Track Marketing ROI