Great content delivered to an engaged audience can be rocket fuel for sales. But when that content is delivered into a vacuum, it’s a waste of talent, effort and money.
4 Best Practices for Producing Great Content
1. Choose a primary destination for your content, then repost to as many places as possible.
2. Decide on a cadence for your content.
3. Pre-load content; have at least six high-quality pieces ready to publish.
4. Consider adding podcasts and/or video to your lineup of written content.
In order for content marketing to lead to sales, it has to perpetually attract a growing audience while at the same time educating, engaging and building trust with that audience to convert them to customers. This kind of cycle does not happen automatically, nor does it happen overnight.
But it does happen.
In my last post, I covered how to create content that leads to sales, including how to build a perpetually growing audience of potential converts. In this post, we’ll talk about the execution of a content marketing plan, tracking the results and expanding that audience as it evolves into a community and then a market.
Implementing the Plan
I already covered choosing your publishing platform, settling on your publishing cadence and pre-loading your content. Now let’s talk about how to make the pieces work together.
Choose a Primary Destination
You can and should repost your content to as many places as possible, but you should always choose a primary destination for each post, whether that’s a publishing platform like Medium, a social network or even a guest post in a third-party publication.
The primary destination doesn’t have to be the same for every post, but for the sake of SEO, there should be a single primary destination for each post, and you should include a canonical reference to that primary destination every time you repost.
On a side note: When a third-party publication agrees to post your content, let them know about your intent to repost. Beyond wanting a short period of exclusivity, like a week or two, most publications won’t have a problem with this as long as you're not reposting to other third-party publications.
Your website should include links to the posts on their primary outlets, and maybe the SEO description or a couple paragraphs of preview. You can repost entire posts on your website if you wish, but there’s more SEO power in drawing traffic to a single source.
Choose Your Cadence Carefully
There are two ways to think of cadence:
- How often do your subscribers want to hear from you?
- How often can you put out quality content?
I’m sort of notorious for being prolific. I’ve been publishing posts at the rate of two a week for four years now, including a number of publications where I’m a regular contributor. But for me and what I produce, twice a week is the limit. If I go three times a week, it tends to push more subscribers out than bring new subscribers in.
Aside: I’m often asked how I got to be so prolific. I honestly could write five posts a week and suggest most content creators follow the reasons for this:
- I don’t consider myself a writer, I’m more of a communicator. I don’t try to write, I try to communicate.
- I write what I know. Most of the time it’s exactly what I’m working on at the moment.
- For most of my work, I have an experienced editor who makes me sound far better than I deserve. If you don’t have an editor, you may think about getting one.
Pre-load Your Content and Stay Ahead
You should have at least six high-quality pieces ready for publishing before you publish your first post, and the more the better. I’ve found that if I stay ahead of the game, for me that’s about 30 days, I’m not forced to produce on deadline, which almost always results in lower quality. On the other hand, anything longer than 30 days feels a little stale by the time it gets published. Your own results may vary.
Podcasts and Video
Speaking of quality, the only difference between what I’m saying about written content, and what you might consider for podcasts or video, is the degree of difficulty. Podcasts are much harder to produce than written content, and video adds another degree of difficulty over a podcast. Both require much more production time, preparation time, and post-production time. This means that pre-loading content is much more critical here.
Track the Results
Once you start publishing, every post presents an opportunity for improvement. Remember, your primary goal is not readers, not reposters, not even subscribers, but sales. So make sure you’re tracking the right KPIs.
Start With Revenue and Work Backwards
Not every content marketing plan ends in a sale, but if this is your only content marketing plan, it must end in a sale. So like writing a great story, you start with the ending and work your way backwards — because there’s nothing worse than an ending that doesn’t pay off. In this case, that’s a literal statement.
That ending is at the bottom of your sales funnel, the actual sale. So the end goal, all the way from the title of every post, is a very prominent Buy Now button on your website. When someone clicks that button, you should know if they got there from a post, which post got them there, if they’re a subscriber, and which post they subscribed from. Any combination of bulk emailer and website analytics can do this.
Then work backwards.
Track Backwards From Email
At a minimum, the email to your subscribers should include a preview of the content and a link to its primary destination, the Buy Now button, and links to a handful of the most recent published posts on their own primary destinations. With each post, you’ll track the number of times these links were clicked, and you’ll also want to track them over time and as your audience grows.
Again, the sale is your goal, and the way you encourage the sale is the very premise of your content marketing: To educate, engage and build trust.
Clicks to the Buy Now landing page mean your prospect is trusting, and they’re likely to convert. You might still have some education and engagement to do, even once they become a customer.
Clicks to the current post signal both education and engagement, while clicks to previously published posts signal education but not necessarily engagement.
High opens and high clicks are what you’re striving for. When that happens, do more like that.
Opens will also tell you about the interest level of your audience. High opens and low clicks mean you’re building interest with your titles and SEO descriptions, but your content might not be as educational and educating as it could be. You might be doing a better job of attracting prospects than converting customers. High opens and high clicks are what you’re striving for. When that happens, do more like that.
Finally, unsubscribers shouldn’t cause concern on an individual basis, especially if they have low click rates or low open rates. People change and their priorities change. However, if you notice a rash of unsubscribers from a single email, you’ve probably done something within that content to encourage a negative response. Furthermore, if you start to see a pattern of unsubscribers with high click rates and/or high open rates, you’re losing educated and engaged prospects. Change your vibe.
Expand Your Audience
Your emails go to subscribers who have already signaled some interest in what you’re offering, and that data tells you how much progress you’re making in pushing prospects down the sales funnel. To understand your progress with attracting new prospects, you need to look at the data from your posts, especially from your primary destination.
Publishing platforms and some social media networks offer this data in a limited, but usable format. If you’re published in a third-party publication, ask about the availability of this data before you’re published and ask for access to it about a week after you’re published.
Track Backwards From a Post
It’s difficult to write content that attracts new subscribers at the same it pushes existing subscribers further down the funnel. As I mentioned in my last post, the easiest way to do this is the title of the content itself. Well-written titles attract more high-value prospects. Poorly written titles attract no prospects or the wrong prospects.
Views will tell you how well your title is doing in terms of attracting prospects, while reads or reading time will tell you how valuable those prospects are. High views with low reading time suggest a poorly-written title.
But like the email KPIs, clicks reign supreme for the post’s analytics as well. Ideally, your content should include links to your Buy Now landing page, your Subscribe landing page or both. Ultimately, these numbers will tell you how effective your content is as a marketing tool for building an audience.
Don’t Give Up
First, don’t give up on your plan, especially at the beginning. It takes time and a lot of disappointment before you can build an audience, especially one that trusts you enough to subscribe, let alone buy.
But also, don’t give up on low-click, low open subscribers or even unsubscribers. I’ve got plenty of examples of how prospects viewed my products changing over time, and a lot of their lack of engagement was due to their circumstances, not my offering.
The great thing about content marketing is that as long as you’re not moving backwards, you’re moving forwards. There may be viral ebbs and flows along the way, but this audience is a community, and one that has some investment in your offering, That alone has quite a bit of value.